Thursday, May 15, 2014

(Prose) - Tea (James Mogford Prize Preliminary Idea)


Dewford shivered as he tugged his coat tighter around him, bracing against the faint breeze that came from the air-conditioning. It was a cold Wednesday afternoon, and the usual London shower had left the roads outside unpleasantly wet and miserable.

Shifting in the old ornate wooden chair he was in, Dewford pushed away the thought of who might have sat on the dirty and faint cushion that now provided minimal comfort to his aching body. The only thing that was preventing him from exiting the café was the cheery cup of black tea that sat snugly on its saucer in front of him. Its light wisps of steam enticed Dewford as he gingerly reached out and took a sip.

Ah, how rich the tea tasted! How it teased and caressed his tongue! Dewford let out a contented sigh as he swirled the rich fluid in his mouth, letting each flavour tingle his taste buds in a dance of enrapturement.

The bell chimed as the front door of the café was hastily pushed open. Dewford nearly choked on his tea as he recognised the person who came in. Quickly averting his eyes from the door, Dewford willed himself not to be seen as he tried to shrink into the seat cushions…

“Hey John, what a coincidence meeting you here!”

Dewford groaned internally as he turned to face Max who have plopped himself into the seat on the other end of his table. A cup of coffee and lemon biscuits were promptly placed before him. Drat, he had wanted the afternoon to himself.

“Oh, such a pleasant surprise to meet you here Maxwell. Such a small world, isn’t it?” Dewford’s words deliberately oozed with sarcasm, which failed to have any effect on Max, as he continued to smile brightly.

“Right you are, John. Hope you are doing fine. What brings you here this afternoon?”

“Oh, nothing much. Just wanting to have a quiet afternoon alone by myself,” Again, Dewford’s attempt to chase Max away had fallen on deaf ears. Max bit down noisily on a biscuit scattering crumbs messily onto the table, much to the distaste of Dewford.

“Want wonn?” Max offered, his mouth still working on the lemon biscuit. Dewford promptly declined. “So wut ‘ave ou ‘een oing since ee ast met?” Oh, how much Dewford would pay to knock an indent into the head of the buffoon before him now.

“I’m working as a free-lance writer as well as a part-time lecturer of Philosophy in a university. What about you, a desk job, perhaps?”

“Mmmpphh. I’m a manager of my own private firm. Ever heard of Stickfast Solutions?”

“No I have not,”

Dewford took a sip of his tea. The warmth it gave him cheered him a little from this unexpected and unwanted meeting: at least some things in this world were worth living for. He added two teaspoons of sugar for good measure: the tea was starting to lose it taste.

A brief silence fell over the table as Max searched for topics to start another round of conversation. Dewford took this opportunity to snatch another sip of his tea, and nearly gagged. Too sweet.

“Read about anything interesting lately?” Max piped up.  “Heard they found another dead body just down this very street. Who do you think the killer might be?”

Dewford’s tongue ran dry. What kind of table talk was this? He gave his two-cent’s worth into a half-hearted shrug that swiftly ended the conversation. Max slurped loudly at his cup of coffee. Dewford winced.

Increasingly wanting the fool before him to leave, Dewford tugged irritably at the teabag in an effort to thicken the tea. A small sip proved the effort having some success, the tea having returned to a minimally acceptable level of sweetness. The beverage, however, was starting to lose its warmth in a losing battle against the air-conditioning. This fact annoyed Dewford considerably; his afternoon of peace was ruined. Waving a waitress over, Dewford watched as she refilled his cup with hot water: hopefully that’d get the tea hot again.

“So, how’s your mother doing?”

Dewford sputtered. Drops of hot tea stained his well-starched shirt and he fought to swallow the sip that had burnt his tongue. No one had mentioned his mother in ages.

“She…she has already passed on,”

“Oh, I’m sorry…”

Dewford sucked on his burnt tongue, almost at the threshold of his limits. The twit has been ruining his efforts for an afternoon of peace, and even his tea, the one thing he had been looking forward to all morning, was ruined by him. His tongue was numb from being burnt now, and he could barely taste the much sought-after lingerings of the tea on his tongue.

“I’ve got to go now,” Dewford said, dousing the rest of his tea into his mouth. Without waiting for a reply, he hastily left the café.

The tea tasted stale in his mouth, bitter and acidic.

Initial piece done for the second James Mogford Prize. Was scrapped due to the lack of direction, and was too short of a story, in my opinion... Final Piece coming out in the next post soon! :)

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