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–
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...]