INTRODUCING SARAH STEINBERG

EVERYTHING IS KETTLES AND TEA.






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Publication: Broken Pencil
Author: Borel, Kathryn
Date published: January 1, 2012

I found a mouse in the kettle today. 1 was looking for my customary morning tea, which on any ordinary day would just appear like magic. Though, to be clear, it is not magic at all but simply the order of things. There was a time, maybe six or seven years ago, that finding a mouse in the kettle would have been a disgusting nuisance. It's either six or seven years, perhaps nine, God, 1 can't remember how long it's been exactly since the order changed.

When the order changed, it was a fucking catastrophe. Everything had turned into kettles and tea.

I'd been sleeping in the night as usual, having my usual dream - the one where I'm colourblind and happy because 1 don't have to fuss with matching my shirts to my socks anymore. When morning came and 1 opened my eyes, 1 immediately saw that our antique dresser was no longer a dresser but a squat, flattish kettle. All objects that had been previously kept on the dresser - pocket change and some old candies - had turned to tea and were dribbling in puddles down the side of the dresser.

Astonished, I sort of fell out of my bed (also a kettle) and crawled to look out the window. The outside was a wretched tinny landscape: the trees all tall Victorian-looking kettles. From them dripped beige dew. A kettle plane whooshed through the wet tea sky, leaving a misty brown contrail. When 1 ran downstairs to tell my wife what had happened, she was nothing but a puddle being soaked up by her hideous tattered dressing coat. Dazed, I wringed her out into the kettle sink.

I explored the streets for a while testing the pools where cars were formerly parked to see if at least the new order had given me different types of tea to drink. But it was all Orange Pekoe, my least favourite tea. Eventually, I developed a routine: sleep, wake, pour tea from the kettlekettle into the more cuplike kettle, drink tea, sit in front of the tea-vee and think of times past, then go back to sleep. Sometimes I'd grow angry - it's rare that a catastrophic occurrence manifests itself with such monotony. The dullness of this catastrophe was a great, great insult to me.

Today was different. There was a queer scratching coming from the kitchen as I approached it in my wife's old dressing gown. Unfazed by the bizarre noise, I thought, "That's it, it has happened, I've finally gone mad from kettles and tea." But when I poured the tea, a mouse plopped right into the kettle-cup and swam around in a calm circle! My heart raced... Had the order been broken? I peered out the window hoping to see a bird but no, no birds, only kettles and tea.

I watched the mouse swim for a while. It occasionally looked up at me with its beady eyes before lowering its head and continuing to waggle its tiny paws. For a moment I'd hoped it was a messenger, but one look at those stupid eyes told me that no, it was just a boring old runof-the-mill mouse.

I reached into the kettle and grabbed the mouse. I squeezed its little body angrily and noticed how its eyes bulged out. I squeezed it again and again, then finally set it down on the tin counter. It found the edge and ran along it. Its movements were making me feel legitimately crazy - I hadn't seen movement like that in just under a decade. My stomach lurched and cold sweat ran down the back of my neck. Grabbing for the kettle-kettle, I took it by the handle and moved toward the mouse with the thing in the air. The mouse stopped running and looked up at me just as 1 slammed the kettle down onto its quivering body with a sickening crunch. For several moments, I stood there immobile, wondering if I'd done the right thing. Finally, I looked over at the spot where the mouse had died.

It revealed no body, no bones, no blood. Only tea. I looked at the clock - it was 3:15. Nearly teatime in the world before this new order of things.

Author affiliation:

This issue we turned the Sarah Steinberg column over to Kathryn Borei Jr. Borei is a Canadian writer living in Los Angeles. Her first book, Corked, was nominated last year for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, an award no one knows about in America.

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