CABB’s 2021

April 12th Challenge

EXTRAORDINARY VOICES

THE OLD MAN AND THE TEA(CUP)

by Linda S Barth

 

There’s been a rumor going around that people are writing stories about some of us who live down here – and not about the human folks for once. I was pretty sure it couldn’t be true, but when I was sitting on the desk in Vincent’s chamber a few days ago, I asked the clocks, and they swear it’s a fact. They’re a trustworthy bunch, so maybe it’s not just a rumor after all.

So far, I haven’t seen any writers roaming around, asking questions, taking notes, that kind of thing. But I don’t want to miss out on this, just in case it is true, so I’ve decided to write my own story. And I think I’m qualified to do it. After all, I’m a teacup, and people have been reading things “written” in tea leaves for hundreds of years, right?

I guess the best place to start would be telling you how I ended up in the tunnels. I’ve been calling this place home for about twenty years now. One of their Helpers brought a box of my friends and me down here when the gift shop we were living in went out of business. There were never a lot of us on the shelves in that shop – I guess tea drinking wasn’t in style much at the time – and we could’ve ended up in a dumpster. So, we were really lucky we got rescued.

After the kids on kitchen duty that day finished washing the dust off us, one of the girls – a sweet kid named Olivia – showed us to the guy who’s the leader of this community. Some of the cups were much nicer looking than me, but he picked me up right away and said I was going to be his teacup. I couldn’t figure out why at the time. Well, it turned out his real name is Jacob – but just about everyone calls him Father – and I had a J written on my side in fancy script. Most of my gold paint has worn off over the years, but you can still see the J if you look closely. That’s how I got my name. I bet you can guess what it is. Right, Jay. No surprise there!

Anyway, getting chosen like that made me feel really special. All the other cups —

Oh, no! Here he comes with the Earl Grey again! I hate that stuff! Every time he fills me with that swill, I reek of bergamot for hours. I know a lot of people love it. They certainly drink enough of it down here, but I can’t stand it. Seriously, the stuff stinks!

Not that I have anything against tea. After all, I am a teacup! But couldn’t he go for a nice, refreshing cup of sencha once in a while? Everybody knows green tea is good for you, and it’s not as full of caffeine as Earl Grey. And it smells so much better – like grass and sunshine, as if you were picking flowers or going on a picnic in the park.

Although maybe he doesn’t like being reminded of stuff like that. When my friends and I moved in, we heard from some of the older cups and mugs that he had some bad experiences when he was living up there in the city. But that was years ago. You’d think he’d be over it by now. Plus, green tea would be a lot better for his blood pressure.

Oh well, I guess I should be grateful he usually wakes me up with a robust English Breakfast blend. I’m not one to sleep in – hate to miss anything that might be going on — and that stuff can really get you up and running. It evidently has the same effect on him, too, which usually works out fine. But today he should have gone for decaf.

Wow, that was some argument he had with Devin — that’s his son who’s staying here for a few days. I thought the Old Man (that’s what Devin calls him – pretty funny if you ask me) was going to smash me into a million pieces when he thumped me down on the desk. Then, I had to sit there all gross and disgusting with splashes of Earl Grey – what else? – sticking to me for hours. I don’t think the desk blotter or that ledger were any too happy about it either. It’ll be days before they dry out.

Okay, where was I? Right – the early days in my new home. Anyway, the Old Man claimed me, and since that first day, no one else ever drinks out of me. Sometimes his mustache feels kind of scratchy in a tickly sort of way, but I don’t really mind. He’s usually careful with me, except for that one time today, and I appreciate that. A lot of my old friends from the shop are gone now, smashed to bits when they got dropped on the stone floor or chipped and cracked while getting washed in that big cast iron sink. Some of the injured survivors are used for holding pencils or buttons or things like that. No one ever throws anything away down here if they can find another use for it.

You might think my life must be totally boring, being a teacup and all, but it really isn’t. I always try to make the most of what my life has become, just like the human folks down here do. And I’ve learned a lot while living in the study, a whole lot more than I ever did sitting on a shelf in that shop on East 86th Street, listening to rich ladies gossip or tourists ask questions. Like chess, for instance. I’ve watched more chess games than I can count. The Old Man ropes in every person he can find for a game or two. Happens almost every night and I’m always right there with him.

You know, he really needs to broaden his horizons, get out of the rut he’s been in for as long as I’ve known him. It’d do us both a world of good. I mean, just because I’m a teacup doesn’t mean I’m not good for other things, too. I can hold all kinds of different beverages for a whole lot of different reasons, if you get my meaning! Like the other night when he was all worked up over Vincent and Catherine — again.

Vincent – now there’s someone whose lips I could imagine on me. ­­­­­­­­I’d love to pour some hot honey-lemon tea right into his mouth. Watch it swirl around those teeth of his before he swallows. Gets me feeling steamy just thinking about it… I bet with a mellow voice like his, he must drink a lot of tea. His cup has the best job in this whole place!

But getting back to the Old Man — he could have used something stronger than that smelly Earl Grey while he was ranting and raving about Vincent having a girlfriend. Really?! Come on! The guy is gorgeous and he has to be at least 35, so what’s the big deal? Anyway, the Old Man (that nickname makes me laugh every time) should have gone for a nice cup or two of brandy to calm his nerves. I know it would have helped mine!

But don’t get me wrong. It’s not all uproar and excitement down here, although that does keep things interesting. There are times when it’s quiet and peaceful, and I enjoy that, too. Since I’m nearly always here in the study, except for bath time in the kitchen or once in a while when I get carried to another chamber, I don’t get to see a lot of what’s left of the old gang anymore. But I’ve made some new friends and they’re cool.

Like sometimes after dinner Mary stops by for a chat and she usually brings Rose – that’s her teacup – with her. Rose is an older lady; she’s British and still elegant but not a bit snooty like you might expect. I always enjoy hearing the stories about her life in a teashop in Windsor when she was just a kid. She said she saw the Queen once, and I guess I believe her. Now, Mary usually goes for chamomile tea at night, but Rose doesn’t mind Earl Grey, not one bit! She says it reminds her of home. That won’t change my mind about it, but I keep that to myself when I’m talking with Rose.

Another one of the Old Man’s buddies, Peter, drops in now and then. Sometimes he has a cup of tea while they’re chatting or playing chess, but he doesn’t keep a special cup of his own down here, so I’m never sure who’s going to show up. It’s always a nice surprise when I see who it is, and we have a chance to catch up on things. A lot of times it’s Duke. He’s a souvenir mug from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn where the Dodgers used to play baseball. Evidently Peter and the Old Man were big fans back in the day. Duke’s got some great stories, too.

I want to tell you about some of the other things I’ve learned here. Lots of times the kids – and some of the adults – gather in the study and the Old Man reads to them. He’s really good at it, got to give him credit. He lets the kids ask questions and he actually listens to their ideas. He has a real nice reading voice, too. Not as nice as Vincent, of course, but who does?

Sometimes he takes me with him to the chambers they use for lessons. But no matter what, I’m always right there at his side when he’s reading out loud. And don’t tell anybody, but I enjoy it so much, I don’t even mind if he fills me up with some of that nasty blend. Like last week, when he was reading to a bunch of folks after dinner, telling them all about how the Brooklyn Bridge got built. Did you know they used to store wine in the vaults under the bridge? It was called The Blue Grotto, and the temperature was perfect for wine. I bet it was fun to be a wine glass back in those days!

I can see the Old Man setting up the chessboard, which means I’ll be on duty in a few minutes. I wonder who’s joining us for the evening. I know whoever it is will be here soon, because now he’s heating up the teakettle on the brazier and taking a mug out of the cupboard. Yay! It’s Duke! I bet that means Peter will be stopping by. He’s always good company. And Duke will be happy about that. He loves to listen to all those old baseball stories.

But just between the two of us, I was kind of hoping Vincent was coming in for a game. I could even put up with some more Earl Grey for him. Oh well, he’s sure to be here sooner or later, and in the meantime, even a teacup can dream, right?

1 Comment

  1. How pleasant it is to read this. From the point of view of the mug, we can learn so much about Father’s free time, how many games of chess, meetings and conversations. I understand the mug’s admiration for Vincent and the desire to be his favorite, let him dream, dreams are beautiful.

    Reply

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