[Note: the characters Michelle Hadar and Nancy Lu play major roles in my thriller novels NOT SO GONE
and NOT SO DEAD.]

“Refresh your thirst and achieve enlightenment.” – Nirvana Soda

Read the Label

Nancy pulls a soda can from the cooler at Hook’s Deli near Dumbo in Brooklyn.
“Just try it,” Nancy says handing the faux tie-dyed colored can to Michelle…

Hooks Deli- Charles Levin Author

“No! What is it?”

“It’s just a soda with a little extra.”

Michelle rotates the cold, colorful, yet otherwise ordinary-looking 12-ounce can.

She reads the front of the label out loud:
“Enlightenment in a can! Refresh your thirst and you may see new worlds at the same time. Many have achieved a new level of consciousness. When imbibed regularly, your life could be extended, possibly forever.”

“What a load of crap,” she says.

Nancy laughs, “You’re such a stiff sometimes.”

Michelle turns the can over and continues reading:
“Each Nirvana drink is infused with 99 mg of premium X22 isolate. Our isolate is made from all-natural, celestial products. We blend our isolate with natural flavors to create one tasty, transcendent beverage. Nirvana is made in a state-of-the-art, food-grade production facility with the utmost care for the safety and satisfaction of our customers.”

“More bullshit! But wait, here it comes, the disclaimer.”
“Although studies are underway, results so far are anecdotal. This product is relatively new – so life extension cannot be verified for several more years. Note: forever is a very long time.”

“First thing that makes any sense,” Michelle convulses with laughter.

A Wonder Drink?

She wipes a tear from her eye, “OK, how much is this wonder drink?”

“Dunno. Let’s find out,” Nancy says.

Cigar smoke wafts through the air of the landmark deli. Michelle looks down at the worn oak floors as they approach the counter. When she looks up at the cashier with the shaved-head and fish-hook earrings, the source of the cigar smoke becomes evident.

After studying Hook for a moment she raises the can and asks, “How much?”

Hook grins and chews on the cigar, “Only $9.95, but you can buy a case for a hundred bucks. Save $20.”

“You’re shittin’ me,” Michelle says, “Ten bucks for a lousy soda?”

“You’re not just buying any old soda, my friend. You’re investing in a chance for enlightenment and a shot at immortality. That’s a helluva bargain, don’t you think?”

“He’s got a point there,” Nancy says…

Michelle snorts, “Even if I believed these crazy claims, what guarantee do I have that I’ll transcend this life?”

“Hey lady, it’s only a ten-buck soda and I said you’d have a chance. Look, I can’t keep this stuff on the shelves. You see this,” he says, pointing to the lottery machine. “I sell thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets a day. Nirvana soda is just like that. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t. But as they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it.”

They both giggle. “It’s like a tax on the stupid,” Michelle says.

“Which, the lottery or the soda?” Nancy asks.

“Look, girls. I’ve got payin’ customers waitin’,” Hook says motioning them away.

As they move to the side, a tall, muscular man with tattoos festooning both arms drops a case of Nirvana soda on the counter and pulls a c-note out of his worn jeans. He slaps it on the counter. Hook punches a key on the antique register. It chimes and the drawer opens.
“Thanks, Joe. See you tomorrow?” Hook says.

“You can count on it,” Joe says. Lifting the case and grinning at Nancy and Michelle as he brushes past.

“Unbelievable,” Michelle says.

Nirvana Soda - Charles Levin Author

“Joe swears by the stuff – one of my best customers. So, whaddya say?” Hook says. “You get a good drink out of it. And maybe… well, you never know.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Nancy says,” You never know.”

Michelle hesitates and then digs a ten-dollar bill from her shorts., “OK, it’s a hot day. I could use a drink. I’ll pay my tax.” Cold beads of sweat form on the can. She pops it open and takes a tentative sip, then a few more enthusiastic swigs. She offers it to Nancy, “Taste it.”

Nancy raises her palm, “I’m already hooked on cigarettes and alcohol. I don’t need to add to the list. It’s all yours.”

Hook displays a Cheshire cat smile, “How do you like it?”

Michelle smacks her lips, “Not bad. At least it’s cold, but I don’t feel any different.”

“Give it some time.”

“Like forever,” Michelle snickers. “What if it doesn’t work? Like no enlightenment, no transcendence, yadda, yadda?”

Hook cocks his head towards the lottery machine, “Then you buy another one.”

You Never Know

“‘Scuse me, folks.” A man in black shorts, black t-shirt and black ski-mask pushes them aside. He’s sipping a Nirvana soda, looks at the label and throws the half-full can at Hook, barely missing his head. Brandishing a .38, the man shouts, “Transcendence, my ass. Empty the register.” He waves the pistol, “Now.”

Michelle and Nancy slowly back away and then crouch behind the display of Ding-Dongs. Hook hits a button on the register, which dings as the drawer slides open. The intruder reaches over for the cash. Michelle spots a fifteen-ounce can of Cento Crushed Tomatoes. She slowly rises, winds up and throws a fastball striking the man between the shoulder blades. He’s briefly stunned. Hook seizes the opportunity. He slips his left hand under the counter. In a flash, he fires both barrels of a 12-gauge shotgun into the robber’s chest at point-blank range. The blast hurls the man against the Twinkies stanchion as if he were a rag doll, knocking over the display and spilling its contents onto the floor.

A deafening silence fills the air, along with smoke and the smell of cordite. Nobody moves. Blood oozes out onto the floor from the man’s still-warm body. Michelle and Nancy rise tentatively from their hiding place.

Hook drops the shotgun from his trembling hand, “Are you ladies OK?”

“I think so.” Michelle is breathing heavily. “Are you?”

“Yeah, I’m OK.” Hook blows out a long, slow breath. “Like I said, you never know.”

Nancy looks down at the motionless corpse. “The soda didn’t work for him, I guess. ”

“Then again, maybe it did,” Michelle says and takes another sip.

—End—

Disclaimer: there is no such product as Nirvana Soda. Any similarity to actual products is purely unintentional and accidental. But wouldn’t it be cool if there was such a thing?  This story post is meant as a parody inspired by the profusion of new drugs and drinks making extraordinary claims.

P.S. My original fast-paced thriller NOT SO DEAD and the new techno-thriller, NOT SO GONE, are now available on Amazon. Read more about it. Better yet, buy a copy?
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