George Pullman pulled into his driveway at the end of a long day’s work, three days after his vacation. It took a day and a half for the sheen of his time in the islands, that post-vacation euphoria, to evaporate in a cloud of reports, statistics, ratings and fiery circumstances allowed to develop in his absence that needed his immediate attention.
Fortunately, for him a gift awaited on the front step of his house, a gift to himself that he hoped would continue to connect him to the peace and tranquility of those glorious days in paradise, five cases of Manticoopa. Manticoopa was an island favorite and George fell in love with it the moment it crossed his lips. It wasn’t really a soda and it wasn’t really juice. It tasted heavenly any way you served it, straight, on ice, or as a mixer. In one case, he enjoyed a delightful dinner of delicate field quail marinated in Manticoopa and served with a light island fruit chutney.
Manticoopa held within it, the essence of the islands. A delicate balance of fruits mixed with a mango base that was never too sweet or too dry. It had a pleasant, light orange color, an ever so light effervescence so as not to disturb the flavor and the subtle scent of coconut reminiscent of the island breeze. Just thinking about it, he could almost feel himself drifting back to heaven.
His mood perked up considerably. The day might not be a total wash after all. He parked the car, rushed inside and brought the cases into the kitchen. The cost to bring these five cases to Cornington was ridiculous and impulsive. But he so wanted at least the notion of his vacation to continue that he was willing to do the work and pay the cost. One afternoon, he found a distributor willing to ship to the states. George made all the arrangements so that the shipment would arrive safely after his return so he was there to receive them. His work quickly consumed him and he nearly forgot that the cases were on the way.
Now, safely in the privacy of his own kitchen, he prepared to transport himself back to tranquility. He put on some island music, another small gift to himself, a CD of the hotel house band’s most requested songs. He pulled out a special glass intending to highlight the color and let the delicate beverage breathe. He opened case one and pulled out the first of 240 cans that he planned to meter out over the next few months, or whenever he needed a quick escape. He closed his eyes and breathed deep with anticipation as he snapped the top open to release this glorious nectar.
The Manticoopa tumbled from the can into the glass, a bit darker than he remembered and with a bit more foam. The expectation of a subtle essence of coconut seemed lost in a cloud of fizz, but no matter, this is what he was waiting for. He let the beverage settle before bringing the glass to his lips and taking a full, deep sip. He held the fluid in his mouth and awaited the magic.
His pursed lips that held back the fluid puckered. His eyes, once closed in anticipation squeezed tighter together as his brain tried to weed through the bombardment of messages coming from the mouth.
His mouth filled with a sour flavor half-reminiscent of a plum well past its prime and a healthy dose of a lemon based furniture polish. Whatever the taste, an immediate flood of saliva mixed with the unsettled concoction and forced him to move the fluid around in his mouth. Pushing it into his cheeks, the flavor transformed again into something more beer-like than fruity and the ever-present essence of stale, wet paper.
George forced himself to swallow. The after taste that coated his mouth forced him to run to the fridge, pull out a beer and cleanse the residue from his palette. He slammed the beer can down on the counter. He looked at the can of Manticoopa. He looked at the full glass minus one healthy swig. He looked at the expensive cases holding the 239 remaining cans, cans which he knew in that moment he would never drink. He looked at the floor. His vacation was truly over.