Teacup

Raj sat cross-legged in bed and drank his tea. This was how he started his day always: slow and civilized. Then it was off to work at the popular tea, coffee, and whisky merchants, Brown Stuff. He was going nowhere there, but it was a steady job.

Raj couldn’t handle coffee in the mornings – it was way too harsh. He would lose his sleep immediately, and with that the crazy wonderland between sleeping and waking that produced his best ideas. He rationalized this as unstructured thought – a Rubik’s cube of possibilities that you solved in reverse. You started with the colours aligned, and twisted them into any arrangement that pleased you. That, rather than uniform colour blocks, was somehow always the answer.

“Good morning!” said a cheery British voice. “May I help you?”

“Huh?” said Raj. He wondered if he was still dreaming, or sick, or hung over. His “whisky tasting” had gotten a little out of hand last night.

“Hey! I said good morning!”

Raj had been sipping his tea with eyes shut, and now opened them wide. Had he left the radio on? Maybe the television? Or Skype?

“What’s wrong with you man! Did nobody teach you manners?”

Raj shook his head and blinked hard. The sound was very near. It seemed to be coming from his teacup. “Getting warmer!” said the voice. “By the way, I must commend you on that. You warm the cup first. I know it’s not quite a pot, but it makes such a difference. These North Americans murder tea. They have no idea.”

Raj peered into the cup, almost expecting to see a little person in there. A sort of lep-tea-chaun. But there was nothing there, just a few drops remaining, and a shiny bottom.

The voice continued. “Let’s get this awkwardness over with. Come on, look deeply into the cup. That’s it. Don’t be shy, put your nose in. Don’t breathe so hard, you’ll fog things up. Now can you see me?” Raj mumbled something, peering into the black shiny teacup. “I’ll take that as a yes. I know that I may look like a creepy reflection to you. Believe me, I’m not too happy about it either. But that’s the best I can do right now. People have been doing this for hundreds of years – looking into tea leaves – and sorry about the C-word – coffee grounds. And studying goat shit and cattle guts – you have to admit I’m better than that.”

Raj was speechless. He could see something moving at the bottom of the cup. But it held only his distorted features.

“Look, I know that you could throw a dice, flip a coin, open a book to any page, or see who comes along next. But stick to the old ways, my friend. They’re tried and tested. The Way of Tea has been with us from the beginning. Think of India and China. And look at the nations promoting it in recent times – Britain and Japan. Both world leaders! Now who pushes – sorry again about the C-word – coffee? Italians, Indonesians, and Ethiopians. All disasters! Need I say more?

Raj nodded his head, forgetting it was still in the cup. He banged the bridge of his nose and top front teeth. He pulled away and put down the cup. He held his nose and teeth.

“You have been initiated my friend. Let’s get to work.”

Raj thought of taking the day off – he was clearly unwell. But he couldn’t stay here either. He needed to get out. So he showered, dressed, and left.

He was drawn to the office kettle. It was in an offset kitchenette, where two was a crowd. A foxy brunette from Sales almost came in, but saw him and retreated. He returned to his desk with his first cup of tea. He was somewhat fearful, and nervously gulped it down.

With his last mouthful, he heard a kind of throat-clearing. “About time too!” said the voice. “What kept you? Anyway, I’m here for you my friend. That sweet lady back there – your heart jumped. You like her, don’t you? Well that’s hardly a challenge, but we should start slowly, so you can build confidence in your new buddy. So look, here’s what I want you to do. Next time she comes in, offer to make her some tea. In fact, insist on it. Say it’s a new blend that she just has to try; her customers will love it. Leave the rest to me.”

Raj made the foxy brunette some tea. By the weekend she was in his bed.

“Next up, my friend, is to strengthen your position here. I’ve noticed that new guy makes you uncomfortable. Why do they keep bringing in consultants? Overpaid buffoons. I know he’s examining your department, looking for cuts. Make him a cup of tea.”

The consultant realized that Raj’s team were the key drivers of profitability within the business. He recommended cuts in the coffee team.

“You are going places, my friend. But your boss has been in that big corner office for far too long. Wouldn’t you say it’s time for him to move on? Let’s give him a good brew.”

The boss announced that he was taking early retirement. He would sail to Kenya with his wife on a tea clipper.

“Sorry for the C-word – coffee is not good for you; it’s got thrice the caffeine of tea. And when you ask for a double-double grande soya mocha frappuccino, who knows what other junk? And whisky is a toxin. It’s not even brown! Just caramel colour. Call a board meeting, and let’s serve them a cuppa.”

The board agreed with Raj’s mantra that there was “No C in Strategy – No W in Future – But both contain T”. Brown Stuff sold their coffee and whisky businesses, and used the funds to buy other tea companies. They became North America’s biggest tea merchants.

Sitting cross-legged in bed one morning, Raj looked into the bottom of his teacup. For a moment he saw his own clear reflection. Almost immediately it was replaced by the distorted version. “You have a meeting today with a scientist who says that tea increases the chances of throat cancer. Make him some tea. Then in your desk drawer, you will find a handgun…”

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2 Responses to “Teacup”

  1. Of my two favourite tea shops, one is based in B.C. Murchies, in case you’d like to check it out. Can’t live without the stuff…

  2. Milk and sugar?

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