Maritime Mac shifted his position and ordered again.
“One tea, please,” he shouted.
The nice server, his hair all bunned up, grabbed a tea bag and a tricky brown tea jug. He dropped the tea bag into the little jug and poured steaming hot water over the crinkled up bag. Maritime Mac watched him screw the complicated plastic lid onto the jug as he felt the beginning of the jingling and jangling of his nerves.
The server handed Maritime Mac the jug, a tea cup with a spoon in it, and a saucer.
Maritime walked to the counter where they kept the tea and coffee additives. He set down the cup and saucer and the brown tea jug.
He pictured the intelligent folks in other coffee shops, scrunched up around tiny wobbly tables, many with wireless ear buds hanging out of their ear holes, some reading books or papers or conversing with each other about urban topics that were super important for people to know in order to converse in such establishments. And most importantly, all of them knowing exactly how to load, pour and carry their teas and coffees.
He picked up a jug. Tipped his glasses down and searched the container from stem to stern. It was on the handle. The word, ‘milk’, written in ancient Greek script.
Maritime Mac tried to pour the milk. Nothing came out. He spotted what looked like a bear spray can trigger. He pressed it. A little milk peed out.
He pressed harder. Too much milk poured out.
Someone behind him had surely consumed too much coffee, for a stink bomb was now wrapping itself around Maritime Mac’s taste for tea. His tea was paler than he had planned, but he didn’t want to hang around the counter much longer or his tea would have a Flint City tang.
He looked for the sugar. No sugar, but instead a shiny honey container. It had a wee, bear spray trigger. He pressed the trigger. The thick honey crept out of the little honey pot so slowly that he’d have to be fumigated before he got a teaspoonful.
He thought he heard the well-dressed couple chuckling.
He tried to pour the tea. Nothing came out. He spotted an arrow on the plastic top so he aligned the arrow with the spout. Good thinking, Maritime. But nothing came out. He loosened the lid. A pathetic bit of tea wee-wee’d out. He loosened it some more. He poured. The top fell off and into the cup.
He grabbed some paper mop-ups and wiped up the spilled tea. Threw the mop-ups at the garbage can under the counter. Half-point for the effort.
He snatched up a long wooden stir stick that looked like what he should use to stir his tea, drop of honey and abundance of cow milk.
The couple had escalated from chuckling to laughing. Maritime Mac didn’t look up.
He stirred with the wooden stir stick. Was irritated by the spoon that got in the way. The metal spoon which had been in his cup the whole time. He put two and two together as he heard more chuckling. As he had feared, the aroma was sticking to his new winter coat.
“Lord god almighty,” he whispered. He tossed the stir stick at the garbage can. Half point for the effort.
He then slunk to a quiet table in a section far away from the toxic table. He was so relieved that he hadn’t tripped and spilled anything. So happy that he could settle down with his dripping cup of tea, his spoon, his tricky jug, his saucer and ten or more paper slop suckers.
He sat and watched other folks work for their tea. He smiled and chuckled from time to time, just for the effect.
When he’d finished his tea and was heading for the large, darkly burnished front door, he stopped to ask the nice server about the arrow on the tea jug top. Asked, if he lined the arrow with the spout, wasn't the tea supposed to pour out? That rhymed and he damn well knew he’d just made poetry, but the server was a professional coffee shop employee, or maybe he couldn’t hear the full rhyming cadence and so he ignored Maritime Mac’s great poetry and explained to him, in a deafening voice, that the arrows do not work anymore.
And there was a poet I used to know,
Who built a balloon and let it blow
On the curving track of the Southern Trades
That caress the breasts of Samoan maids,
And brush like a lover’s hand across
The great grey wings of the albatross.
And that poet, in his balloon, still flies.
—-And the earth has lost him until he dies.
Farley Mowat, BALLOON SONG
“So screw the arrows, the bear spray milk and the anal retentive honey containers,” he mumbled to himself as he opened the door of his truck. There he was greeted by the ecstatic tail-wagging whirligig of a little dog. Who had been told he was to stay at home, but had, by some sleight of mind, been able to connive his way into this epic trip to a Cape Breton coffee shop.