UNITED STATES—Now the object of Jeremy’s final gran-slam charity, blubbered. “You must think I’m scum, hovering here all day scamming tourists. I don’t wish this. Believe me. I’m trying to go clean. You know my addiction got me into this dark rocky place. You’re too kind sir, you’re too kind. Giving me 50 dollars to buy all the java I want.”
There were tears in stubble-man’s sun-bleached eyes.

“Coffee got me into a big trouble. I used to be a semiotics professor at San Luis. I had a nice inheritance from my grandparents, who did well in the stock market.

“But it all went to Dark French Roast, and when they started charging an arm and a leg for croissants and cookies, that’s when everything took a dump. Christ, I’m living under the stairway to a real estate office. I have to disappear every morning at daybreak. I’m trying to go clean.” His bony hands were trembling. “Here here,” he reached into his satchel. “I want you to have this.”

It was a booklet. “Take it please, promise me you will read it. It will save your life.”
“But you need it to save your life,” Jeremy countered.

“I’m lost,” said the stubble man, and he slurped down to rich mud of his freshest brew. His eyes flashed madly like Goya’s Neptune, gobbling his children.

Jeremy pushed back and the coffee grifter pulled. They managed to rip the pamphlet in half.

“Look what you’ve done!” said the stubble-face man. “You’ve destroyed the book.”
“You can still read it, can’t you?” Jeremy said. “You take your half, I’ll take mine.

As fate would have it, Ralph ended up with just the self-flagellating part the coffee extorter he needed to read:

I give kicking caffeine two big enthusiastic thumbs up. I slept richly, alright, but I also felt dorky and unsure of myself. I turned a blind eye to what my own brain and body were telling me. There were withdrawal symptoms involved with kicking the most prevalent and powerful legally-available drug in history. I had ADD and lack of confidence.

Caffeine. Here’s a drug we use every day, hidden in plain sight. Shame on you for falling under its spell.

Jeremy, on the other hand, was ready for the puritanical hammer and browbeating. Beautiful surprise when his retinas fell upon this liberating phrase: Folks don’t view coffee as a drug, but that’s exactly what it is. He would wait to get back from his 9 o’clock and continue reading. Jeremy was hooked.

When dropping Sweet Lady caffeine cold turkey I was whiplashed into recognition. The morning cup of coffee was my stepladder to a little dose of heaven. Heck, without java, I couldn’t focus; confidence was blown to the winds. The idea of weaning America off the greatest drug hidden in plain sight seemed like a lame idea.

Thank god, the withdrawal symptoms eased. I endured three long days without caffeine, and slept like a baby, drenched in deep dreamless sleep. Now I’ve gone back to my daily caffeine fix to finish the pamphlet, and I feel a whole lot better.

There’s plenty of baggage attached to the words, drugs and addiction. And I finally went to confession (i.e. shared my feelings in inadequacy after giving up caffeine). Dr. Howard Shultz replied, If you have a steady supply of something, you can afford it and it’s not interfering with your life, there’s nothing wrong with being addicted.
Sweet Jesus. Thus absolved, Jeremy read on.

Jeremy, the big pharma hotwire, was distressed to find that global warming imperiled coffee production. It was downright horrifying. Jeremy had a panic attack when he discovered coffee to be a very demanding crop, and it’s very picky. It has to have exactly the right altitude, water. Like the delicate infestation of human life on the earth’s crust, the slenderest band of conditions allow coffee to grow. The scientists are estimating now that half of the coffee-growing regions from Sumatra to Ethiopia, from Guatemala to Brazil, will be unable to cultivate coffee in the next 25 years. Jeremy was woebegone. We may look back –the author averred— and say we lived in coffee’s golden age. After 2060, it’s gonna all be downhill.

Jeremy’s eyes were open. His chest pulsed. He drove his Audi leased tax write-off wagon, full of drug samples, homeward down 101 to Thousand Oaks. He was a new man. He filled out of membership form for the Sierra Club, said hi honey to Iris, and then made an espresso in his exquisitely complicated Rube Goldberg machine before making wired love to Iris in the sack.

Graydon Miller, the Wizard of Fiction, is author of the nail-biting thriller, “Hostages of Veracruz” https://amzn.to/2CPQISk