WEDNESDAY: Coffee Exhibition


This story first appeared in YOU magazine (South Africa) in November 2019. Copyright is held by the author.

JAMES waited for his clients in front of a redbrick building with an emerald-green door. He’d arrived a bit earlier to try to unlock the door; it had taken longer than expected. Once inside he realized he’d forgotten music. Luckily there was a CD in the player. He could only hope the music was appropriate. He stood outside the entrance mentally preparing for his private tour. Glancing up from his watch, a man and a woman stepped out of a taxi. He recognized the older couple from the profile they’d sent him.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Kent.” He shook their hands eagerly with a wide smile. “Nice to finally meet you!”

“Same to you!” Mrs. Kent said as she let go of his hand. “Thank you for taking us on such short notice. We’re in desperate need of some new art in our home.”

Of course, James already knew this; he’d read through their file multiple times. Art was needed for their renovated dining room to impress their friends at an upcoming dinner party. The couple wanted art that would create a homey yet modern atmosphere.

“You were right to call me,” he assured them as they followed him to the entrance. “The gallery is very raw. The owner likes placing completed artwork in uncompleted areas. And this particular photography collection is contemporary yet aged.”

Mrs. Kent smiled; she loved art galleries. Modern artists had a way of twisting their art and showcasing it in intriguing ways that left her in wonderment.

“I’m excited to show you the exhibit,” James said, smiling. He opened the door, showing them in. A plastic sheet hung from the roof, hiding the rest of the room. He motioned them to the left. Paper, cardboard, dust, and pieces of wood littered the cement floor. Classical music filtered through the air. The couple glanced around in awe.

Against the faded white wall hung the first A3 poster-size photo; the scenery of a plantation was in black and white. In the fields, a few people were bent over, harvesting. No information was written next to the photo, so James supplied it himself.

“This was taken in the late ‘80s. The coffee plantation is located in Ankara, Turkey, and still produces coffee. Notice the scenery behind the fields?” He motioned to the low hills beyond.

“It is timeless,” Mrs. Kent said with her hand over her heart.

At this point, the music switched to reggae. The couple glanced at James who only smiled as if the change of genre was planned. Without a word they continued to the next photo, walking around a torn cardboard box.

“This is one of the workers on the coffee plantation . . . Jarta. He spent his entire life working on the plantation harvesting coffee beans. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago.”

“Oh no! How did he pass away?”

James hesitated. “He was allergic to caffeine.”

“That is . . . unfortunate,” Mrs. Kent frowned. “But it is an extraordinary photo.”

“The wrinkles on his face are riveting,” Mr. Kent said, speaking up for the first time. Relief washed over James. have a sale today.

On the wall opposite the entrance hung the third photo, larger than the previous two and featuring coffee beans being roasted. Chipped paint covered the wall behind the photo. In the corner, an old paint can rested on a broad wooden plank, which served as a makeshift table. On it stood the CD player, a kettle, a glass jar of instant coffee, and a beige mug with a dark-brown coffee-bean pattern on it. The personal items added to the ambience of the room and the coffee aroma filled the air, making the photo come alive.

The couple was impressed. James shared more information on the photograph before moving on to the next two photos. At the last one, he gave them time to envision the pieces in their home.

“So, what do you think? interested?” James asked with a broad smile.

Mr. Kent pursed his lips. “I think it would look better in a café than in our house.”

“It would look marvelous in the dining room,” Mrs. Kent insisted.

A moment of silence passed between husband and wife.

“I’ll give you time to discuss.” James stood a few paces away, glancing at his watch. Several minutes later the couple called him over. Mr. Kent nodded.

“You’ll take them?” James asked, just to be sure.

Mr. Kent sighed and looked at his eager wife, a smile forming on his lips. “Yes.”

“Great! I’m sure these pieces will look spectacular in your home,” James said.

Mrs. Kent beamed at him.

“I will however need a down payment.”

“Yes,” she said.

“I assume you read about the deposit having to be in cash.”

Mr. Kent nodded, retrieving a bulky wallet from his jacket pocket. He took out the notes and counted the hefty amount.

James’s palms became sweaty.

“Here you go,” Mr. Kent said, handing over the money.

“Thank you,” James placed it into his folder. “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Kent, it was great doing business with you.”

They exited the gallery and stood on the sidewalk. A light wind swept past, and a car drove by, the driver honking at a friend crossing the road.

“The photographs will be delivered to your address in the next seven days.”

“Thank you so much,” Mrs. Kent said and kissed him on the cheek.

James felt a pang of guilt but pushed it aside. “My pleasure.” He turned around and walked down the street at a swift pace.

Mr. and Mrs. Kent waited in front of the large green door for their cab to arrive.

A man dressed in jeans and a white shirt approached them. He frowned. “Can I help you?”

“Oh no. We just had a private tour of the gallery.”

The man scratched his head. “The gallery?”

“Yes, the gallery,” Mr. Kent said, pointing to the building.

“That’s no gallery. It’s a coffee house that closed a few weeks ago. It’s being renovated into office space.”

“The art . . .” Mrs. Kent said. “The photographs against the wall . . .”

“Oh, that! The owner decided to keep the photos for décor. Apparently, he’s a coffee addict.” He smiled. “Did you actually think it was a gallery?”


Image of Felicia Change

Felicia Change graduated with a BA in Creative Writing and her work has appeared in the YOU magazine and Coffin Bell. When she isn’t carving stories of magic and mischief, she is travelling, exploring museums, or on the lookout for a dog to pet. You can find her @feliciachange on socials.

Twitter handle: @feliciachange

1 comment
  1. Brilliant. So much in there.

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