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Mint Julep

For the third round of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction inspired by this photograph.

Robb Hill/Robb Hill Photo
An open newspaper on a cafe table
Robb Hill/Robb Hill Photo

To be honest with you, I don't like the picture. I'd never go to that coffee shop. And I'd never leave my paper on the table to let someone else clean it up. There isn't even a crumpled napkin left behind, or a ring of cold, dripped coffee that collected around the base of a now-discarded paper cup. No evidence that a person sat there. Except for the paper. But it's too perfect for a person to have left it accidentally.

It was left on purpose.

I have nine silver mint julep cups. They were all given to me as gifts from the same person over nine years. Each has a different engraving, in a different font, and the cups all have different styles. The older ones are now dented, and all of them are slightly tarnished.

Two are in my bathroom. One of those holds hair clips, a tube of Neosporin, and a packet of betta fish food for Fred, who lives in a bowl above my sink. Two are on my home desk. One holds paint brushes that I rarely use. The other holds cloudy water from the last time I used the paint brushes. Two are in my classroom at work. One sits on my desk and holds the pencils and pens I use daily. The other is on the bookshelf behind my desk, and holds the pens I use to grade math tests. Two are on my make-up table at home. One holds my make-up brushes. The other holds mascara, an eyelash curler, and tweezers. The eighth holds pens on my bedside table.

The last, the second cup in my bathroom, remains empty still. I don't know what to use it for yet. It's the newest of the cups. I got it for this past Christmas but it's already showing tarnish. Maybe I've held it too tight.

For the first few years, the engravings were fairly generic. One says "G", my first initial, in script. One says "G" in print. One has my birth date.

My birth date is January 3, 1981.

As years have passed, the engravings have become more personal, alluding to vacations, inside jokes, career moves and life changes.

"Africa 2004"

"And me"

"I need nice things"

"St. Agnes"

"Maid of Honor"

"This, 2009"

Like bookends. "Africa 2004" and then "This, 2009." 2004 to 2009. And a taste of what happened between.

I don't know what to put in that last cup. I'm not ready to fill it yet.

And the paper is still there. On the table. And you are gone.