Walter didn’t want to get out of bed that morning. A light drizzle misted the windows, blurring his thoughts. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t remember what it was. Suddenly it came back to him. He’d run out of teabags and the shop was three minutes walk away. How could he embark upon such a trek with no tea in his system? He had to get help.
He rang his mum. Surely she would drive down the motorway to rescue him in his hour of need? He listened to the dialling tone, repeating the mantra over and over; “Please pick up, please pick up.”
Eventually, on the third ring, he heard her voice at the other end. She sounded out of breath, and began saying something about Uncle George in Scotland. Walter cut into her words mid-sentence, blurting out his desperate plight.
“But Walter,” she said, “I was trying to explain. Your Uncle George has run out of sugar, and my car won’t start. When I left the house to go up there I accidentally locked myself out and then realised I’d left my debit card in the house, and only have enough small change for the sugar, so I’m having to run all the way from Nottingham to Glasgow to deliver some to him. I’m very sorry but I can’t be in two places at once. Why don’t you make yourself a nice cup of coffee, and I’ll try to get down to Dorset when I leave George. It may take a few days.”
Walter slammed down the phone, just in time to miss hearing the sounds of his mother gasping for air. She clutched her heart, feeling the tell-tale pain down her arm. She should have listened to the doctor. He warned her not to over-strain her heart, after the last time, when it had been touch-and-go. She sank to the ground, past feeling the cold wetness as it soaked through her clothes.
Walter spat out his words. “Coffee, indeed!”
There was nothing else for it. He would have to ring his father in Australia. He would be able to get to Weymouth sooner than mum if he caught the next plane.
His father answered the phone at the first ring. “Help!” he screamed, “I’ve toppled off the edge of a cliff and if someone doesn’t do something soon I will crash onto the rocks below.”
“Hell’s bells. Dad won’t be much use,” he muttered as he put down the phone. “Of all the stupid, selfish things to do. Hanging about on the edge of cliffs. Why can’t he be more careful?”
Three phone calls later he had learnt three things:
1. His older sister was trapped under a man eating tiger in a zoo. She had the nerve to ask for his help!
2. His twin brother’s Wayne’s life support system had just been switched off. Why had Wayne not bothered to inform Walter that he would soon be out of action?
3. His younger sister was lost in the Sahara Desert and expiring from heat and dehydration, or whatever it is that people die of in the desert. Her phone went dead before Walter had a chance to slam his down in fury.
Walter had to think fast. There would be used teabags in his bin. Maybe just this once he could fish one out. It wouldn’t taste THAT bad, surely?
He dashed through to the kitchen and tipped the contents of his bin onto the floor, smashing an empty marmalade jar and scattering slimy vegetable peelings and leftovers around him. There were several teabags amongst the garbage.
Waste not, want not,” he muttered as he pulled them all out, carefully examining each one and picking off odd stray hairs and fruit pips. He didn’t know why this economy hadn’t occurred to him before. He carefully stepped round the rubbish while he filled the kettle, put it to boil and searched out a suitable container for the used teabags, after placing one in a mug.
He added one-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar and waited eagerly. The kettle boiled. He left the tea to steep, then scooped the teabag out; would it do for a third cup of tea, he wondered. He left it on the work-surface to consider later. He had got the milk out of the fridge, all ready for the final touch, and now he added it. He’d had a tiresome morning, but thanks to his enterprising brain he was about to reap his reward.
Walter was very excited; so excited that he forgot the floor was strewn with slimy trash.He picked up his mug of steaming tea.He stepped eagerly towards the living room, beckoned by his comfy sofa – and he slipped on a chunk of greasy pork chop, thrown away because it had been gristly. As he fell his mouth opened in shock, and a slop of tea sploshed into it. He had enough time to register that the liquid tasted of bleach before his head hit the floor. Fortunately it was cushioned by a clutch of soft, rotting bananas. There wouldn’t be too much of a bump, not that Walter was likely to notice; The broken marmalade jar had pierced his neck, puncturing the jugular vein.
At least he was saved the disappointment of having to throw the contaminated teabags away.
©Jane Paterson Basil