Big Billy – Fits to a tea

Easter’s over now, so I guess it’s safe to tell yis about how Minnie went nuts when she gave up tea for Lent.

Minnie don’t go to church much anymore, but she’s still sort of religious in her own Big BIllyway. Last year, I remember she gave up chips for Lent. I came home from the store with a bag of chips for her and all she said, right calm, was, No, I gave them up for Lent. And that was it – I ate the bag of chips and everything was fine. The year before was the same kind of thing, only she gave up chocolate. I brought her home one of them peanut butter Oh Henry bars she likes, but she just said, right calm, that she gave up chocolate, so I stuffed my own face with it.

This year, though, I knew things were gonna be different.

Now, my house is probably a lot like most people’s houses – there’s always a big pot of tea on the stove. There’s usually one on in the morning, we drink all of it, and Minnie makes another one at some point. Whatever’s left of it, you just leave it on the stove and heat it up later so there’s always some there if you want it. In the run of a day, we probably go through three or sometimes four pots of tea, eh.

So one night after supper, I’m up pourin’ my tea and I get Minnie’s cup and pour her some, too. But when I bring it in to her, she says – No, I’m givin’ up tea for Lent.

Holy cripes, I says. You’re whuh?

Now, at this stage, it was only a couple of hours since her last cup of tea, so she was able to turn it down right easy. Barely even looked at the cup when she told me she didn’t want it.

But I knew there wasn’t much chance this was gonna go smoothly because Minnie loves her tea.

The next morning, I gets up and puts the tea on, and when the pot starts whistlin’ I get up to get it. I pour myself a big cup of it and come back and sit down.

Minnie was pretendin’ to read the paper, but I could see her sort of eyeballin’ my cup and I could tell she was croakin’ for her morning tea.

You sure you don’t want the tea? I says. You could give up chips again or somethin’ – might be easier.

No, she says, eyeballin’ the steam comin’ out of my cup and watchin’ me scoop in three spoonfuls of suger. No, I can do it, she says.

But the second morning when I came back to the table with my tea, Minnie didn’t even pretend to read the paper, she was just starin’ at my cup the whole time.

Holy frig, I’m croakin’ for some tea, she said. All you had to do was take a look at her and you knew that was true – she was sort of tappin’ her fingers on the placemat and you could see there was kind of a twitch in her face – but she came out with it like she was tellin’ some kind of secret.

Now, by the third day, Minnie stopped talkin’ to me in the morning all together. I was just sittin’ there like usual, drinkin’ my tea, and she was sittin’ on the other side of the table, starin’ at me. I’ve known my lovely wife for years and years, but I never quite seen her like this before. She was starin’ at me, but her eyes were sort of buggy and rollin’ around on their own like the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street.

Are you OK, dear? I says to her.

But she just started giggling and just started scratching the back of her head with a shaky hand.

By the fourth morning, I wisened up a bit. I poured my tea and scooped in my sugar and mixed in the milk. But rather than take a seat with Minnie, I opened the back door and sort of stood on the back step.

What in the hell are you doin’ out there? she yelled to me.

Nothin’, I said to her.

You’re havin’ your tea, aren’t you?

Maybe, I said. (But she knew I was.)

So every day after that, even if it was pourin’ rain, I’d take my tea and go out and stand on the back step.

Minnie started distractin’ herself by takin’ on these huge projects. That morning I came in and she was cleanin’ out the fridge. The next day, she decided to wash down the walls in the living room. Another time she took all the silverware out of the drawer and cleaned the grooves in the knives with Q-tips.

There was no question, she was losin’ it.

Now, I’m terrible comin’ up with gift ideas for Minnie, but when she gave up the tea and was buzzin’ around the house like the Tazmanian Devil cleanin’ everything in sight, it gave me the best, probably easiest, gift idea I ever had for her.

When we got up Sunday and the kids were just gettin’ into some of their Easter chocolate, I led Minnie out to the kitchen with my hands over her eyes and presented her with a big pot of tea. A three-bagger, all for her.

She gave me this look like I just proposed to her or somethin’ and then she burst out cryin’ and spent the rest of the mornin’ downin’ her tea, cup after cup. There was nothin’ right calm about it. Next year, I hope she’ll probably go back to givin’ up chips again. It gets cold out on that back step.

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