Teddy entered the cafe and grimaced. He didn’t like pumpkin spice, and here it was on full display. From the pumpkin-spiced lattes to the pumpkin-spiced doughnuts. He stepped to the counter and ordered green tea. It was then that he noticed his co-worker had beaten him there. Charles saw him and waved him over. Teddy let the counter person know where he’d be and joined Charles at his table.
Charles rose from his seat to greet Teddy. “Hey, how’s it going? For a moment there I thought I was going to be the only one here.”
“Yeah, yeah” he replied, taking his hand. “So the other two should be here soon. Tell me, was it their idea to meet here?”
“I think so. It’s a nice place. And look, the pumpkin spice is out.” He sat back down and took a long sniff of his coffee.
Teddy didn’t like pumpkin. He didn’t like the Fall season for bringing pumpkin spice to everything. If it wasn’t coffee it was beer. A couple of years ago a friend invited him and his wife to his home and slipped him a pumpkin-spiced beer. Teddy spat it out, right on their favorite rug. He then threw the glass on the floor, making it shatter and the contents splatter all over the room. His anger at this slight was seen as out of proportion by not just his friend but also by his embarrassed wife, who grabbed his arm and told him it was time to go. That wasn’t the reason she left him, it was just another notch that made it add up.
He watched Charles take a sip of that vile liquid. The look on his face was one of cherubic happiness. It was making Teddy sick.
“That’s disgusting” he said.
Charles looked over his coffee mug at him. “How would you know unless you try it.”
“Oh I’ve tried it. And I find it disgusting. Who started this craze? It’s like you can’t go anywhere without someone trying to put pumpkin spice into everything.”
“Oh your crazy.” And he took another sip of his coffee. Teddy hated being called crazy.
“Oh look” said Charles. “Our team is complete.”
Janet and Milo had just entered the cafe, bubbly and smiling. Although it was against the rules at the firm for co-workers to date, it was clear that these two had something going on. They made their orders at the counter and joined Charles and Teddy, Janet sitting next to Charles, Milo directly opposite her.
“Hey guys, I hope we’re not late” said Milo.
“Not at all” said Charles. “Besides, it gave me time to enjoy my coffee. What did you guys get?”
“Oh we got the pumpkin cappuccino” said Janet. She was fumbling with her bag, pulling out a laptop for the presentation. “Isn’t it wonderful? I love this time of year, and all of the pumpkin spice. It really makes for the holidays.”
Teddy eyed her too happy face. “What are you, a Christmas card? Can we get to work?”
“All right mister grumpy” said Milo. We still have to find an outlet. Oh, there’s one, hand me the plug.”
While Milo plugged in the laptop and Janet and Charles chatted, Teddy looked around for his order. He wanted to be done with this place. The smell of pumpkin was everywhere and he absolutely hated it. He dug into his bag and pulled out his folder with his notes in it. He figured if he dug himself into the work at hand he could ignore the scent. This meeting should only take an hour anyway.
Everyone had their work out and Janet was typing away at her laptop. “Okay folks, let’s see” she muttered. “Ah yes, this is where we left off.”
Just then their orders arrived. While Janet talked about revenue streams Teddy added a little sugar to his tea. Then he took a sip. And almost choked on it.
Janet was the first to notice. “Hey Teddy. Are you ok?”
Milo and Charles looked at Teddy’s strained face. He wanted to spit out that sip, but knew from experience that was bad form. He swallowed hard, took a few breaths, looked at Charles’ concerned face and turned away.
“Excuse me, sir” he said a little too loudly. The counter person heard him and came right over.
“Is there a problem sir?” he asked.
“Yes” said Teddy. “There’s something wrong with my tea.”
“I’m sorry, is it not hot enough?”
“No, there’s pumpkin spice in it.”
“Of course, it’s our own special blend. We have pumpkin green tea, pumpkin black tea, even some chai with pumpkin in it.”
While The rest of the group ooh’d and aah’d, Teddy tried to control his breathing. “Could you take this and bring me a bottle of water?” He maintained an even tone as he spoke.
“I’m sorry if this is not up to your liking. We do have other flavors, oolong, matcha, hibiscus, white…”
“Just the water.” He wanted to be done with this. The counter person took his cup and walked back to the counter, looking a bit miffed at being dismissed.
“Dude, what’s wrong with a little pumpkin. It is the season after all.” Charles’s smiling face was too much for Teddy.
Suddenly his arm reached out. Teddy grabbed a good handful of hair and slammed Charles’ face into the table. Then he swung an elbow at Milo, catching him on the nose. While he reeled from the blow, Teddy backhanded Janet, sending her flying from her chair. Then he lurched from his chair and turned on the counter person. “You” he snarled, and ran into him, pushing him to the floor behind the counter. Teddy noticed a bread knife sitting on the counter, and before he could think straight he grabbed it and plunged it into the chest of the counter person, again and again while patrons screamed and ran out the door…
“Teddy. Teddy?” Charles asked again. Teddy came out of his dream and looked at his quizzical face, and then the expectant faces of Milo and Janet.
“Earth to Teddy, you alright there buddy?” Teddy shook his head and tried to apologize.
“I’m sorry” he said. “I just don’t like pumpkin spice.”
“Well I love it” said Janet. “It just makes me feel warm inside, you know what I mean?” She took her cappuccino and took a sip, relishing every drop that hit her tongue.
“I know what you mean” said Milo, mimicking her every move. “Anyway, where were we?”
“Oh right, the Simpson account. She pulled up a file for us to look at while everyone else turned a few sheets in their folders.
Teddy rose from his seat suddenly. “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Right now” said Charles. “We really need your input on this.”
“I’ll just be a moment, I promise.” He headed for the back, but not fast enough to not hear Janet say “I guess we can wait. Gives me a chance to enjoy my cappuccino.” He reached the door and entered it with haste.
After locking the door he went to the sink to run some cold water. Dipping his hands in, he brought up a good handful and splashed it on his face. He let his hands rest there for a second, forcing his face to absorb the coolness. That done he grabbed a few towels to dry off. Then he fumbled through his pockets for his phone. Pulling it out faster than he thought, he almost dropped it. He opened it and quickly found the number to his doctor.
The phone on the other end rang once, then the sound of a soft female voice. “Hello, this is Doctor Steven’s office, how may I help you?”
“Oh, uh, hi, I need to speak to the doctor.” Before she could reply he added “This is Teddy Graves, I’m his patient.”
“I’m sorry, he’s in a session right now. Would you like to leave a message?”
“No, no, I need to speak to him right now!”
“One moment”, and he was put on hold. He hated his hold music, soft versions of 80’s pop.
What seemed like forever was only a few seconds as the doctor came on the line. “Hey Teddy, what’s wrong?”
“Doctor, I almost had an episode. I wanted to bash these people in their faces and stab the worker here and I’m afraid that I’m losing it. I just want to scream and hit people…”
“Easy there Teddy. Breathe, in and out, long deep breaths. Ready, Inhale…”
Teddy did as instructed, filling his lungs with air and letting it settle.
“And out…” Teddy let the air escape. He did this a few more times, and it helped relax him.
“Teddy, remember your ANGER. What does it mean?”
“Sure doc, uh, Acknowledge your anger. Never let it consume you. Get away from your trigger. Uh, doc? That’s going to be a hard one. I’m having a meeting with some co-workers in a coffee shop. They have pumpkin spice in everything.”
“Ooooh, I see” said the doctor. Among other things that have left their mark on Terry, pumpkin was one of the top ten. When he was younger he had some friends over. After crashing the car in the garage his mother walked in, very drunk, with a store bought pumpkin pie to surprise him. Her alcoholism left many scars on Teddy’s soul.
“Can you get out of it?”
“No, it’s kind of important.”
“Well, focus on that. When you’re done I want you to call me. Or if you’re in the neighborhood stop by. Just remember to breath. Slow in, slow out. Now where’d we leave off?”
“Right, E. Expel the anger through deep breathing, and Relax my shoulders.” Teddy took a few more calming breaths, then relaxed his shoulders. He felt the rage leave him as he relaxed, and it was just enough to get him through the meeting.
“Thanks doc. I’ll call you when I’m done.”
“You do that. No excuses, ok?”
“Yeah, ok. Thanks. I have to go now.”
“Ok Teddy. Don’t forget to call me.”
“I will, as soon as I’m done.”
Teddy hung up the phone. He was a lot calmer. He looked at himself in the mirror. A much nicer version of himself looked back. He straightened up, and left the bathroom.
He returned to the meeting full of apologies. “I’m sorry guys. Nature called and I’m not willing to not heed her call.”
“It’s ok” said Milo. It gave us a chance to enjoy our drinks.” They had half-empty cups sitting in front of them. That means now their breath was laced with the scent of pumpkin. He saw the water bottle he asked for waiting for him, so he opened it and took a long swig.
Yes, this was going to be a long one.