Advent Day Twenty-Four
December 24 2015
A cup of cold, stewed tea
Harry sips his tea and glares at a glittering purple reindeer, which sits on a shelf above the seat opposite his. It is one of many small and glittery decorations scattered around Maggie’s Diner. Christmas songs are playing through the café’s speakers; not loud enough to prevent conversation, but still obtrusive and annoying. A new song comes on the sound system, lots of sleigh bells chiming and jingling. He’s sure that he must have heard it three times already this morning. Harry thinks that the problem with Christmas songs is that there aren’t enough of them and so they all come round again and again, on repeat, day after day. It’s the same for the whole of December and it happens every year. It occurs to him that a good way to make his fortune is to write a new Christmas song every day. If he starts on the first of January and publishes the whole lot on the thirtieth of November, that will give him three hundred and thirty three songs. If each one averages three minutes and thirty seconds; Harry wrestles with the mental arithmetic, he’s faced with an endless series of threes and keeps losing count. He takes his notebook and the stub end of a pencil out of his pocket and writes the sum down, showing his workings just like Mrs Lettuce insisted. He starts to wonder if Mrs Lettuce is really the name of his old teacher, but then the numbers in his notebook catch his eye and bring him back to Christmas song writing. Three hundred and thirty three, he writes, multiplied by three, is nine hundred and ninety nine; add in the three hundred and three extra sets of thirty seconds and it comes to one thousand four hundred and forty eight minutes and thirty seconds.
Harry looks at this number and decides that it’s a good number. He is on the verge of going as far as to call it a very good number when he realises that it doesn’t mean very much as it is. He needs to convert minutes into hours. Harry feels an initial edge of panic grip him. He’s going to have to divide by a number that is greater than nine. His long division has never been very strong and the spectre of Mrs Lettuce is so real that he can smell the lily of the valley. He is about to give up on the whole thing when he realises that, instead of sixty, he can divide by six and just move a decimal point afterwards and this makes him much happier. The memory of Mrs Lettuce fades and he starts to do the division. Half way through the sum, he stops when he realises that the answer comes to a bit more than two hundred and forty. He moves the decimal point and gets twenty four hours; a whole day. He’s done it!
Harry imagines himself meeting the Queen to receive his OBE and being received at Number Ten. He will be hailed as the man who saved Christmas. Everyone will be so much happier when no song has to be played more than once per day in the festive season.
It is a lovely image and Harry smiles as he pours himself a cup of cold, stewed tea from the white china pot he’s been nursing for hours. The tea doesn’t pour very well, dribbling into his saucer and onto the table top, where it mingles with the crumbs of a sandwich from earlier on.
What the world needs, is a universal spout design for teapots so that they all pour properly.
He imagines himself designing the perfect spout, installing a potter’s wheel and a kiln in his shed. Well, okay, getting a shed, erecting it and then installing them. He’ll have to attend pottery classes of course, but he has no doubt that he will show natural aptitude. How could it be otherwise when he is being driven by his vision of a perfectly poured cup of tea?
Maggie appears at his table and replaces the old pot with a new one.
‘There you are, Harry love,’ she says, ‘that one must be stewed and gone cold by now.’
She turns and returns to behind the counter and Harry watches her go.
A new song comes on the sound system, lots of sleigh bells chiming and jingling. He’s sure that he must have heard it three times already this morning. Harry thinks that the problem with Christmas songs is that there aren’t enough of them and so they all come round again and again, on repeat, day after day. It’s the same for the whole of December and it happens every year.
About the Author
James Phillips is a house husband from Bangor, North Wales. He spends his days writing, drinking tea and avoiding housework and his evenings playing and promoting live music. His blog is at https://jamespmphillips.wordpress.com/
Published December 24 2015
Merry Christmas from all of us at CafeLit! See you in the New Year!