It Could Happen, Actually. I Read an Article.
It was showtime. The cameras rolled. The classical music was piped in and the director cued the talent to speak.
"Hello, and welcome once again to Tea Time for the Pleasant,” said the man in the sweater vest sitting at an oaken dining table. “I am your host for today’s tea, Grady St. Paul. With me today is a very special guest and one of my oldest friends, Lynette Van Ott, the curator of fine teas at the Paris Annex of Gentle Sigh University. Lynette, it’s lovely to see you.”
Lynette smiled. “I’m delighted to be here, Grady. Do you realize we haven’t seen each other since Earth Day?”
“That’s very true, Lynette. Thank you for pointing that out.” He gestured at the several teacups placed before them. “Now as you know, I’m very excited today because you’ve brought with you some teas which I have not stopped talking about since the Twinings Taste-Off in Nantucket. The first one I cannot wait to try is Lemon Dusk, which won the 1997 Legion of Loveliness Award for Quality Teas and hasn’t been tasted in this country for seven years. Lynette?”
“That’s right, Grady,” said Lynette as they both dipped their teabags. “It was originally brewed in the Hudson Valley, but was found mostly in Quebec for many years and was sadly unavailable to us until now--and I don’t know about you, but this absolutely makes my decade.”
“Shall we?” Grady asked, removing his bag.
“Indeed,” said Lynette, removing her own.
They both gently sipped their tea with silent anticipation. A moment passed. Then Grady spewed the tea out of his mouth in disgust, spraying it the full length of the table. Lynette gagged and dropped her own teacup in revulsion.
“My GOD!” Grady said, wiping his mouth and grimacing. “What was THAT?!”
Lynette couldn’t speak for a moment. She looked around for a rag to brush her tongue with.
“That is the WORST taste I’ve ever had in my mouth!” Grady proclaimed. “It’s like licking a stop sign!”
“Ah...perhaps we should move on to the Paris series,” Lynette said, trying to keep her composure. “I’ve brought it from over two thousand miles away.”
“Let’s do that,” Grady agreed. He moved on to the next teacup and Lynette did likewise. “The Paris series consists of several highly acclaimed teas endorsed in the pages of This Week in Steeping. The tea we’re most interested in sampling today is called Vive La Soleil--loosely translated, meaning ‘Long live the sun.’ Some say it was the favorite of no less a dignitary than Prince Mahibna of Ivory Coast. Lynette, are you ready?”
“I am, Grady,” she said hopefully, lifting her bag and placing it daintily beside her cup. “This should be super.”
In unison, they sipped the contents of their fine china cups. Instantly they ejected the tea into the limpid air with the force of an anti-aircraft missile, their taste buds lashing out in terror against the accursed liquid. The mist hung in a cloud for several seconds while Grady seized the tablecloth so as not to fall backwards out of his chair. Lynette clawed at her throat like a vampire suddenly exposed to the sun.
“Good god, woman, what are you trying to do to me?!“ Grady shouted. “Where’d you get this, a dead goat's kidney?!”
Lynette settled herself, regaining her on-camera persona with great difficulty.
“Ah...you know, some teas just aren’t suited for all palates, I suppose, um...”
“This crap isn’t suited to paint my Prius!” Grady yelled.
“Look at that color—-I know CORONERS who would get the creeps over this!”
Lynette pushed on. “Yes, ah...I was going to save the finest tea I have for the end of the show, but I think you deserve a little treat now, Grady...let’s play a game: can you name a tea that was actually honored by Canadian Parliament?”
Grady stared daggers into her, nodded threateningly. “All right, I’ll play your little game, sis. Is it Earl Sunflower?”
Lynette attempted a smile. “No...”
“No...this tea was featured in the motion picture Breakfast at Tiffany’s...”
Grady closed his eyes, exhaled bitterly. “Island Mist?”
Grady slammed a fist on the table. “OH CHRIST, YOU SLAG, JUST TELL US THE BLOODY NAME!” The teacups rattled.
Lynette cowered. “Why...it’s Tangerine Dreamer...it’s in the cup beside your elbow. Shall we...shall we give it a whirl?”
“All right,” Grady said with menace. “All right. But listen, if I send THIS one back out of my piehole, I’m hurling myself across this table and strangling you with your own phony accent, understand?”
She nodded defensively. The teabags were removed. The cups were placed to their mouths. In less time than it takes a pretty hummingbird to flap its wings but once, Grady dropped his cup on the floor where it shattered.
“Look at this!” he cried. “There’s a RAZOR BLADE in this!!”
“Oh my goodness,” Lynette whispered. “It must be a new derivative of a classic—-”
“RAZOR BLADES IS NOT A DERIVATIVE, SLUT MONKEY!” Grady shouted, waving the object in her face. “RAZOR BLADES ARE RAZOR BLADES!”
Suddenly Lynette grinned strangely. “That’s right, Mr. St. Paul,” she said, standing. “Razor blades are meant only to put an end to your reign of tea tyranny!” She yanked off her wig in one violent motion. Grady gasped. “We, the People of the United Front of Leisure Time Beverages, declare your hosting days over! No longer will this publicly-funded PBS station be a slave to your pedestrian palate! I, Hortense Mozart, will be taking over! Henchmen, seize him! Seize him now!”
“I’ll die before I let you tell our viewers what to drink, Nazi cow!” Grady cried. The oafish, lumbering henchmen were not quick enough; by the time their simian hands brushed his vest he had put a couple of cyanide-tipped slugs into each of their patellas. He turned his revolver on Hortense.
“Don’t do it! We can rule together!” Hortense pleaded, backing away.
“Rule THIS, assneck!” he declared, and took her out with his dead aim. Then, for reasons which would remain unclear for months, he leapt out the closest window, screaming out his love for the fatherland as he descended to the unforgiving pavement below.
An absurd dream or a cautionary reality? When viewers like us fail to meet our moral obligation by making good on pledges to local PBS stations, funding problems can lead to our favorite shows getting lost in the shuffle, or even the ghoulish deaths of their hosts. Please stand up, be counted, donate generously, and everything should be all right come the harvest.