“Espresso?!!” Markus was incensed. “I traveled half the world for a shot of Espresso?”
The old man shook his head solemnly. The wisdom of more than a hundred years twinkled from the creases by his eyes. He poured the dark drink into a vial and capped it, holding it out in front of him as if a moment of observation was somehow changing the contents. He turned it once, twice, and without breaking his gaze, he replied.
“Ground from a bean it was. As bitter the sharpest brew might settle, be not deceived my son. Your journey you made seeking not this elixir, but the secret it waits to reveal. You must bear it in patience for you can only taste what your eyes will allow you to see.”
“I sought to taste what my eyes would not allow me to see!” Markus argued indignantly.
Slowly, the wizened eyes turned to Markus, cold as steel. “The taste you seek, you do not understand.”
“Explain it to me then, old man.”
“The taste you seek is one that has eluded men for all time. You wish to sip from the Fountain of Youth.” He turned the vial once more and then handed it to Markus. “There is but one place where time stands still. No man has ever found it, because it is never in the same place twice. No sooner does the journey begin, than it’s end becomes unattainable.”
“How can a place not be in the same place?”
“Because…” the old man replied in an air of mystery. “The only place time can stand still is the hole in the middle of forever.” He took a long deep breath. “Forever never rests. To taste eternal youth, your tongue must find the sweetest of all tastes. You must learn to taste the hole in a donut.”
“I could buy a whole bag of donut holes! What’s the big secret of that?”
The sage walked slowly to his cottage door and opened it. Flurries of snow howled through as he gestured that Markus’ time was complete.
“Mark my words,” he cautioned as Markus stepped out into the blizzard. “No sooner does the journey begin, than it’s end becomes unattainable. Taste only when you can see.”
Upon his arrival home, Markus sat perplexed. Into the hours of the night he sat and stared at the vial he’d crossed half the world for. The mystery of how this bitter substance could unlock sweetness in anything eluded him. And to unlock sweetness in something as intangible as the invisible donut hole… “Taste only when you can see… taste only when you can see…” He drifted off to sleep.
The tantalizing smells of coffee and donuts woke him in the morning. Anna was happily munching a glazed donut. Fumbling for his vial, his hand found only air. Alarmed, he bolted upright.
“Where is it?” he roared.
“Where’s what?” Anna asked.
“My elixir!” Markus was frantic.
“You mean the espresso? You let it get cold so I heated it up and drank it.”
“No! That wasn’t espresso!”
“Yeah, I didn’t think it wasn’t very good,” she agreed.
“You don’t understand. I traveled half the world to get that!”
“But you can get better espresso at Starbucks. There’s one of those on every corner.”
Markus groaned. “It’s not espresso. It was a powerful elixir.”
Anna looked concerned. “Elixir? What does it do?”
“Oh you wouldn’t get it. It teaches you to find the hole in the middle of a donut.”
Anna stuck her tongue through the hole in her half-eaten donut. A strange look came over her face. Markus watched her expression change in shocked disbelief.
“What… what… does it taste like?” he stammered.
“Like some kind of nut,” she frowned.
“The sage said it would be sweet. What kind of nut?”
Anna took another bite of her donut. She stood and kissed Markus’ cheek. “The kind of nut who travels half the world to get a bad cup of espresso.”
© 2012 Anne Schilde