“One medium cappuccino, one medium vanilla latte!” the barista sings, sliding two cups towards me.
I step forward. Martin’s cappuccino has froth towering above the cup’s rim. Grabbing a lid, the barista expertly snaps it onto the cup, and a spray of milky foam squirts out through the drinking slot. The jet shoots into the air, then lands in a bubbly pool on the lid.
The barista grins, mopping up the excess foam with a towel. “I knew that would happen,” he says, gallantly wiping the lid.
I carefully snap the lid onto my vanilla latte without incident. No surprises, no squirting foam. I take a sip. Ah yes, such sweet goodness! I love vanilla lattes.
I carry the two cups to the truck, placing them gingerly into the cup holders between the front seats. I slide into the driver’s seat; Martin appears with thick sandwiches from Togo’s. We are starving after a day of hiking, and still have a long drive home.
Martin unwraps the sandwiches as I merge onto the freeway. Our golden retrievers Jasper and Eddy hear the crinkle of paper, sniff the air and rise from the back seat, watching the proceedings with great interest. Food? Is that food? That looks like food! Both dogs inch forward, jostling each other to place their front paws on the center console. They look back and forth at us, Jasper drooling copiously as we take big bites of thick sandwiches piled high with meat and cheese.
I always give them the last bite. When I am done, I offer a final morsel to each dog. Eddy accepts his politely and delicately, a perfect gentleman; Jasper practically removes a couple of my fingers as he snatches it from me, greedily swallowing it whole. My hand comes away wet with slobber.
I wipe it on my pant leg.
Reaching down, I pick up my vanilla latte and am surprised to see a foamy pool on its lid, like Martin’s in the coffee shop. Huh, that’s odd. Had the cup been jostled? What caused the coffee to be ejected through the drinking slot?
Oh well! I mentally shrug. Weird stuff happens!
Tilting the cup, I suck up the pool, licking all traces of foam from the lid.
Huh, this is strange. It isn’t sweet or vanilla-y at all.
It seems a little slimy. Sour-tasting, actually. The coffee shop back there apparently makes an awful vanilla latte.
It is then that I feel a splash at my side.
Glancing over, I see Jasper still standing over the console, his mouth foamy with saliva. A large droplet forms and slowly lengthens, a long mucousy strand which elongates until it dangles tremulously from his mouth. It hangs there by a thread, shimmering and frothy, before dropping with a splash to the very spot my latte had recently been.
Apparently that foamy pool I had sucked off the lid was not coffee.
There is nothing to be done. I had already swallowed it, had licked the lid clean. Raising the cup to my lips, I drink. Turns out, the coffee shop back there makes a good vanilla latte.
So when I declare that something tastes like dog saliva, rest assured: I know exactly what I’m talking about.