It was one of them times when the mood just sort of strikes ya and you get this weird hankerin’ for somethin’. Now, with me it’s usually somethin’ delicious that I don’t have too often, like barbequed steak, or some of Tommy’s smoked moose meat, or a big feed of codfish or somethin’.
Anyways, I went over Cyril’s to help him build his baby barn (which is really just a code word for playin’ with tools), and on the way home you’ll never guess what I got the weirdest cravin’ for – a cuppa tea. That’s it. Just a regular cuppa tea like I drink ten or fifteen times a day. I dunno why, but for some reason I could just taste it.
So I go in the back door and Minnie’s at the sink doin’ dishes, and I look at the stove and say – Good! Ya never dumped out the tea yet.
See, Minnie got this weird idea that if there’s a bit of old, cold tea in the pot, she should spill it out and make a new pot if she wants tea. Most of the time, even if I’m in the livin’ room, I know when she picks up the teapot to go dump it because the little metal ring it sits on on the burner makes a little jingle.
Hang on! I’ll yell out to her and bolt out of the chair. That’s what microwaves are for, Minnie! I’ll yell. We don’t waste tea around here!
Now this is where the star of the story makes his first appearance – I got a favourite coffee mug and his name is Walter.
Yes, I said his name is Walter. I’ve had him for years and years. He started out as some kind of promotional mug I got for free at the gas station, but whatever logo was on him wore off years ago, and he became kind of this worn-down white colour. I like him because he’s a big fella, and I can get all four of my fat fingers around the handle, like a beer stein or somethin’. I can’t say I remember where the name Walter came from – just seems like he’s always been Walter to me. And the best part of it is, even though he’s a coffee mug, he don’t mind one bit if I use him for tea.
So I came in the door just hankerin’ for a cuppa tea, but there’s no Walter on the kitchen table. Musta left him in front of the TV, I says to myself, but I go in and there’s no Walter there.
You’re not washin’ Walter, are ya?! I say to Minnie. Because I forgot to tell yis, Walter absolutely hates gettin’ a bath. Minnie knows damn well I don’t like my mug to be washed, but every once in a while when I’m not home she’ll give him a dunk.
Nope, Minnie says to me, without turnin’ around from the sink.
So I look back at the kitchen table and back at the end table in the livin’ room. I only ever sit in them two places, and there was no Walter to be found.
I don’t know where I put him, then, I said, and I started mutterin’ to myself, thinkin’ about what I was doin’ before I left, and then it hit me – what Minnie said was, “Nope.” And if you know Minnie the way I do, you know that means she’s lyin’ her face off. It’s the one tiny bit of information that I know about Minnie that she don’t seem to know herself – the only time she ever says, “Nope” is when she’s tellin’ a fib or tryin’ to hide somethin’.
I stop mutterin’ and look at her back from the doorway.
Minnie, I say. Where’s Walter?
Oh, cripes, it was like somethin’ from a movie. A showdown between the hero good guy (me) and the rotten, rotten kidnapper (Minnie).
I threw him out, OK?! I threw out that filthy, scummy mug! It was all stained on the inside from you microwavin’ it all the time, and it had long caked-on dribbles all down the side of it. There was a scummy brown Niagra Falls of filthy tea and coffee stuck to the side of the damn thing, so I threw it out before you catch the heeby-jeebies for cripessake!
I stood there, mouth hangin’ open. Minnie glared at me over her shoulder while her hands washed the dishes like nothin’ was happenin’.
You can’t get rid of Walter! I said. He’s part of the family, Minnie. The first cuppa tea I had after you and Little Bill came home from the hospital, Walter was there. Every Christmas morning while the kids were rippin’ the wrappin’ paper all to hell, Walter was there. And that time I sat right there at that table and won $5 on a scratch ticket, Walter was there. No way, I said. Walter stays, Minnie. That’s just the way it is.
Tuh! she said, which is really just a noise she makes with her mouth that means, “And don’t you think you’re somethin’?”
But then she smirked. She put her soap-bubbled hands on her hips and turned around and smirked.
I’ll give you Walter back on one condition: you wash him every night and put him back in the cupboard like a normal person. I’m sick of findin’ that thing stuck to the top of the flyers or pasted in a sticky ring on the table cloth.
Fine! I yelled, in a way that told her I thought she was mental.
She pointed her head sideways, and there was Walter, sittin’ on the dish tray with all the regular dishes. I picked him up and all the stains were gone from the inside. He was scrubbed so clean I could almost see my reflection in the side. I’m tellin’ ya, it was disgusting.