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Green Tea (Part 4)

It’s easier this way, now that I have a job to do. I wasn’t sure how to get out of my seat before, how to get past the two of you and slip out. My hands flex on the great carved claws that form the arms of the Viking chair. I push myself up, careful not to bump Leo. He’s endured enough for one evening. Carefully skirting the heavy edge of your desk, I move toward the tiny room that acts as a kitchen to your office on days and nights when we work in.

“Yes, half a tin at least. Of the tea. Half a tin of green jasmine.” 

Shelli turns at the sound of my voice, her face rearranging itself into the kind of look she saves for the women who work for the men who are her lovers.

“What a good idea, Gil,” Shelli says.  “It’s so damp out tonight…Can I help at all, Miss Harris?”

I smile her offer away, shuddering at the thought of her crimson coat cuffs dangling over the gas ring. An errant spark and poof—she’d kindle like a candle and go up in flames. Too risky to have her kind in the kitchen, even for something as simple as tea. Leo follows me, knowing the fridge holds greater promise than your office.

You settle Shelli into the recesses of your chair; I hear the faint squeak of the leather and the grate of its feet on the floor as you turn it toward the fire. Shelli protests your action with a low laugh, murmuring words that I can’t quite reach. As if I wanted to. Groping with one hand against the cabinets, I bat around in the dark to find the pull-string that turns the light on. Leo inquires of my progress with a single throaty note.

Blink, stutter, buzz—the florescent bulb flutters to dismal life at my command.  The tea kettle is a battered enamel one that I found at a junk shop; its hopeful little pattern of dented daisies made me unable to leave it behind. I imagine it was a wedding present once, boxed and bowed and presented with love to some happy couple. The wear and tear might have occurred over the years, or perhaps the bride pitched it at the groom’s head when he forgot their anniversary.

Choco-licious!

Just trying the new “Choco” theme that was announced today. Not sure if it’s right for my blog, but I really like the look of it so far…makes my blog look like it’s waiting for tea in the library of some grand estate. I wish I’d been invited!

Green Tea (Part 3) (that rhymes!)

“How did Leo get his ‘M’ after all?”

Your hands flow over the cat in question, his striped and spotted fur rippling with occasional pleasure at your touch. Firelight has turned you to rusty gold, Leo to dull pewter.  I think myself pale and clouded as alabaster, the very stuff of paperweights and ash trays and souvenir chess sets.  The kinds of things people bring home from the airport for the people they remember at the last minute. I still have the pen holder you brought me from the Roman dig in York, just last year.

Your office door opens, without warning, with force. Rebounds on its hinges into the far wall and back, just shy of the tiny figure that propelled it. I say tiny only because Shelli makes me feel such a mammoth, lumbering around in a wooly sort of way.  Leo makes his feelings clear; he digs in, you wince, and he launches himself into the dark by the edge of your chair, jangling the fire tools in their stand.

“Gil, darling!”  Shelli’s bright lips frame the words, she arrows for you.  Arms open, coat swinging, all in motion. Rising from your chair, you enfold her, blotting out all but the color and sound of her. I think one of those dead lady poets said it best—the red racing sloop in the harbor, long-neck clams out of season. If I understood it, I could despise her even more. Instead, I watch as you break on the rocks that have lured you to her, as much a siren as ever brought a sailor low.

Leo stalks past my ankles, tail lashing, a cat scorned. I sit forward, soothing and smoothing his fur and his feelings. I know better than to try to hold him; his legs would bow out in scrambling resistance, his back stiffening into a curve of rejection. He wants little of me, except the brush of my fingers along his arching spine.

“Is there any of that tea left—the green jasmine?” you ask, not looking away from the woman in your arms.

(to be continued)

Green Tea, Part 2

Leo, I envy your position, secure atop the wide-wale corduroy trousers your master favors.  You great striped melon of a cat, smiling at me, winking your heavy-lidded half-moon eyes.

“And the landlady of the place kept some little mite in the kitchen—a scrubber and fetcher, I suppose.  Ragged but clean—I imagined her a gypsy, of course.  Not more than eight, I should think, but already wise,” you continue, rubbing your cupped hands along Leo’s jaws, marking him as he marks you.

“Every morning, she—her name was Zylya, I think—have it in a journal for sure—she’d bring a wooden cup to me.  Full of something the landlady brewed herself.  My Romansch isn’t much, mind you, but it seemed to be called ‘heart in a man’ or some such.  And do you know, after I drank it, I could go all day with nothing else till sundown?  Remarkable stuff.”

“And Leo’s ‘M,’ Gil?” I prompt you, curious now despite my intention to remain disinterested.  You always draw me in, always have.  I listen to your stories as often as you share them, resenting the hold they have on me, but greedy for them.

A small brass goddess lives on the fireplace mantel behind you, and I see her smiling down at the top of your head. Like Leo, the goddess has known the whisper of your fingers, touching the secret mark between her eyes. What caste, I wonder, suddenly desperate, must I belong to before you touch me? Which antiquity, which ancient land, which dusty collection would make you see me? Your indifference hangs on me like an albatross.

“So it was my final morning there—my bags waiting by the door—but no sign of little Zylya and her wooden cup.”  Your left hand absently smoothes the almost-sleeping cat.  A fluid line, unbroken from end to end.

Sometimes I dream that I leave you here, among your notes, looking out of your ivy-crowned tower.  Perhaps I’ll lose you in the past; the one place where your rounds of writing and speaking and dazzling the faculty at dull luncheons leaves you no time to be.  Pyramids might help me forget you, or the flames of a gypsy fire might burn you from my mind. Most likely, though, I will continue here, in this heavy chair that once knew a Norseman’s backside, watching you and Leo while I toy with the pearl buttons of my new primrose sweater.

I bought it for me, Gil, not you, I remind myself.  It was on sale, after all, and the day was gray and cold.  The first time I wore it, I put my elbow down on one of your charcoal sketches, erasing the face of the Sphinx more effectively than Napoleon’s soldiers managed to do.  But I digress—the only habit of yours that I am able to share.

(to be continued)

Green Tea (or loose leaves from a loose cannon?)

Just celebrated the end of a very odd, unsettled sort of day with a frosted ginger cookie and a cup of hot black tea with a swirl of milk in it–just the thing to settle nerves and induce a temorary anasthetic for pain inflicted by a Monday that was already off the rails before I left for work. In a fog of  darkly oxidized Camellia sinensis–plus a hint of Edwardian salons steeped in a bluestocking–it seemed infinitely proper to update my oft-neglected blog.

Nevermind, of course, that updating one’s own blog, after spending hours writing other things for other people, produces the following quandary:  I’ve spent all  my words and thoughts already; my mental wordbank is seriously overdrawn…and yet, there are still things I want to write–things that have nothing to do with anything but my own thoughts. (That may be a candidate for “most convoluted sentence ever” award!)

To inspire the smoldering wick of inspiration, I’ve decided to feature another short story through a series of updates. “Green Tea” was published in Potpourri several years ago, and it’s always been one of my favorites. . .Is it based on a true story? Parts of it are:  Leo is based on cat I once knew; Gil resembles a professor of mine who taught Scottish Literature; the iron teapot was offered for sale in a store where I once worked. Is the ending happy? Depends entirely on your perspective and who you’re rooting for, of course.  And so, in sections of approximately 250 words, I present–

“Green Tea”

Shadows lick up between your fingers, Gil, as you stretch your hands toward the fire for warmth.  For all their blunt size, those same fingers are as careful and sensitive as cat whiskers.  You love cats, especially the one in your lap now.  You stroke Leo’s face as if he were of immense value to you—one of your many artifacts that litter the walls, the shelves, the floors of this office.  Leo might easily be a cat of Pompeii, all gray-ashy and immutable.

“Yes, just here.  See?”  Your fingers tremble through the short fur between Leo’s notched ears.  “Every striped cat has an ‘M’ between its eyes,” you continue, smoothing the points of the ‘M’ without quite touching it.

How you always know such things is beyond me, but of course you will explain.

“It was in Romania—oh, years ago, now—I was looking into things there…”

You might as well tell me it was a dark and stormy night, too.  It always is.  If your stories weren’t true, I would hate you for them.  But you do not allow me the dignity of overlooking your exaggerations, and I must hate myself instead.  I listen to your words, absorbing them, because they come from deep inside, rumbling up as you remember.  Leo purrs in perfect contentment, enjoying the heavy vibration of your voice.  Two males in tune, at their ease in the depths of the shabby Morris chair that nothing would induce you to part with, or even re-cover. 

[To be continued…]

Top 10 List (Sans Regrets)

More than eight inches of snow fell in the Asheville area, beginning Christmas morning. We’ve had the occasional “white Christmas” here before, but this amount is a new record for us. It’s beautiful and peaceful (if you don’t have to drive), and–of course–conducive to writing blog posts.

As always, there a were a million things I wanted to get done before Christmas, but there’s only so much time, energy, and money to work with, and some things just have to wait.  Here’s a Top 10 list, in no particular order:

  1. Send thoughtful, well-chosen Christmas cards with a warm, personal message for each recipient, on or before December 12.
  2. Bake cookies , bag them in festive cellophane, and give them as delicious little gifts of the season.
  3. Wrap each gift in pretty paper and ribbons (coordinated, of course), and enjoy the sight of them under the tree until Christmas morning.
  4. Attend a church service on Christmas Eve.
  5. Choose a name from a local “angel tree,” shop for gifts, and help make a disadvantaged child’s Christmas much brighter.
  6. Take time to think about the real meaning of Christmas and be truly grateful for all my many blessings.
  7. Go to at least one holiday event where, as my sister defines it, “a choir wears white tops and black bottoms and sings Christmas songs with an orchestra and maybe handbells.”
  8. Drive through neighborhoods and look at Christmas lights.
  9. Watch at least one classic holiday show or movie and recite the dialogue along with the characters.
  10. Keep the drama (shopping, baking, decorating, rushing around, spending money, battling crowds, worrying, hurrying, scurrying, grinching) to a minimum; keep the joy at maximum (Jesus as reason-for-season, sharing, caring, celebrating, singing, bells ringing, delighting in all the wonder of Christmas).

I accomplished some of these things; others may have to wait for next year. Regardless of whether or not I checked something off the list, though, it was a wonderful Christmas full of the people and feelings I love best.

Happy day-after-Christmas/Boxing Day to all–may your days be merry and bright!

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like A Biltmore Christmas Card!

May your days be merry AND bright…

Biltmore Christmas Card.