by Thane Thompson
The maître d' at the upscale tea room gave the man a glare that threatened to crack his tuxedoed and bespectacled façade; but he snapped his finger at the waiter who was hovering nearby like a tremulous hummingbird and stomped back towards the kitchen with the faux bone china cup firmly in hand. "Considering that he attempted to sell me an $8 cup of God-knows-what made from second-rate, bag-derived leaf fannings that were doing a miserable job masquerading as a quality Darjeeling," the would-be connoisseur blustered, "I thought I was well within my rights to return that over-brewed cup of dishwater." He went on, saying, "I suppose I may have gone a bit far," acting like he was holding court with his overly-loud voice, "by asking him if he would know a well-cured leaf of camellia sinensis if it bit him in his bony ass; but if he's going to try to fob that dreck off onto me, I might as well just stay home and brew a cup of PeeGee from the hot water tap." When the waiter returned, I sat back in my chair, hoping that the movement would distance me from the petty, disgruntled little man as the other clients darted angry glances at him; though what may have kept us from acknowledging and even supporting his little... scene could have been our frustration and self-blame at over-paying for a commodity that we knew too little about. The waiter placed the man's new cup on the table with a flourish, then rasped out in an icy, French-derived hiss, "As monsieur has requested; a cup of hand-harvested, Competition-Grade Makaibari Silver Tips, graded 'Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.'" The snooty little man gave the waiter an ingratiating nod and then began to "ooh" and "ahh" to himself, mumbling about the heady floral scent, the bright coppery liquor, and the lively muscatel finish, though, more and more quietly, until his hand finally went to his throat and his last breath came in a strangled rattle; making me realize that I wasn't just imagining the not-so-subtle scent of bitter-almond that was wafting over to me from his dainty white cup.
Thane Thompson, author of Contemplating Kant and Trophy Wives, writes literary prose and poetry, fantasy, and science fiction. His work has appeared at The Writer's Eye Magazine, Pen Pricks Micro Fiction, and is forthcoming at Tiny Lights "Flash in the Pan." He lives in Ohio with his wife, daughter, and two highly opinionated cats. He freely admits to liking cheap wine, expensive movies, and hand-blown glassware.