Black Tea (A Short and Unfinished Tale)

    Seven cards laid face down on the rotten-cherry colored coffee table positioned in the back left corner of the Gray Day Coffee House. The day outside had no personality, it was not cheerful, it was not warm, it was not foreboding. Beyond the thick glass windows which sported greasy finger prints from unkempt children there was nothing but the gray tide of the sky, flooding the nameless town with a blanket of monotony and shadowing the table in the back left corner of the café.
    It was an off -hour for the Gray Day, customers were few and far between, it was the slow time of the day and the coffee was brewed stronger.
    That’s when the small, rotund Mister Getrith from Stanks, Stumps, Mitch and Getrith Legal House, liked best to come in to the Gray Day. He was four foot and some inches in height, the personification of one of Darby O’Gills little people save that he wore a tailored gray suit and a blazing orange tie that made his olive skin a strange tint round his neck. Each day he’d come in, walk up to the front and tap his smoothly cut fingernails on the counter top like an accountant running the month-end numbers on an invisible calculator. If he was lucky, and the day was going to be a fortunate day for the miniature lawyer, he would be met immediately with the smiling 23 year old with her blond hair and batting eyelashes, ready to chit chat with the dwarf before her.
    If the day was going to be an unfortunate day, filled with challenges and stress, there would be a wait, and one of the other coffee house workers would greet him with their disinterested eyes and witless mouths hanging open.
    Clickity Clack Click Click Clack, sounded his nails as he began waiting but then a girl, no older than seven or eight, popped upf rom below the counter and grinned at him from behind a mess of red hair and bright irish green eyes behind a landscape of freckles. She tapped back the same rhythym with her hand as his nails had just made and then, through effort and diligence, pulled herself up onto her hands so she was hanging off the counter and eye level with him, which was, in fact, not hard for her to accomplish.
    “What can I get for you today, Mr. Getrich?” she asked, smiling ear to ear at him.
    “Getrith.” He corrected, “Where are the others today?”
    “They’re about but not around so they sent me along.” She replied, swinging slightly on her hands, “What would you like, or do you not know?”
    “I would like an adult.” She grinned wider and winked at him.
    “Then pick a card.” She bounced down off her hands and pointed with a chubby finger at the table with Seven Cards.
    “Why should I?” asked Getrith and she looked up, setting her chubby button nose on the counter, her eyes rolling slowly around before fixing on him again, her cheeks fattening so he knew she was smiling.
    “Because the cards have all the answers.” She stared back at him across the counter, smiling at how his face, in appearance for his height, mimicked her own. His fat nose and beady eyes fixing her across the counter with a baffled and slightly annoyed glare.
    “Go pick a card and by the time you walk back across the room I’ll have guessed the number and made what you want.” Getrith turned and walked around the tables, negotiating the maze of wood and chairs. The red tile flowed out like a muddy river bottom towards this table in the back left corner, hovering on the mud under a gray day beyond the windows. There were seven cards. Two lines of three laid out under a seventh card. He reached, instinctively for the top card of the strange pyramid, and then stopped, glancing back at the girl who was watching him from the same position on the counter.
    What was her game and where were the adults? He frowned and then, looking back at the cards, chose the one on the bottom right. He didn’t look at it, only turned and walked back to the coffee counter where the girl was still standing, rolling her eyes left, stopping them, and rolling them right. For a moment he was disturbed by this comical display as he put the card face down on the counter and slid it to her.
    “Not even I know what number or face it is, so what is my drink?” The little girl unhooked her nose from the counter and reached down to bring back up a cinnamon colored coffee mug filled with a black liquid darker than coffee with an acrid, burning wood smell that coiled up in smoke.
    “Black Tea.” She told him and he frowned. Never in all the years from his youngest memory to now had he ever liked tea. Iced or Hot it was simply not his thing, and this acrid smelling stuff before him, whatever it was in its cinnamon cup, was not luring him into trying it. There were sweeter teas with finer aromas that he was more inclined to like than this strange concoction.
    “No, I think not.” She flipped over the card in front of him and revealed that it was blank, there was no number or suite, no face, from joker to ace, it was blank and white. She took up the cup and set it on the card like it was a coaster and she smiled benignly at Getrith.
    “There you are sir, on the house, quite the splendid thing, Black Tea.” She told him and then she reached down and drew up a cup colored like autumn apples filled with the same black liquid.
    “A Cup for You and a Cup for Me. Quite the Splendid Thing, Black Tea.” She repeated and he looked at the cup before him and frowned at the blank card beneath it. What was the point of such a game? He reached down and picked up the cup, and with the other hand, the blank card, and took a sip of the strange concoction, all ready prepared not to like it.
    Bitter like a cold wind on a February day in the chill from the ocean tide, but hot and scalding like the touch of summer concrete on bare feet outside the pool…he almost dropped the cup in shock at the strange caustic and yet alluring taste of this drink. The little girl was at his side, she took his hand and smiled at him.
    “Tastes of life, doesn’t it?”

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