Tea Ceremony (story)


boyYoung and cynical, Lucie opened the paper door. 

“Sit,” said the Soothsayer, wearing a phoney Chinese shawl. 

“I believe in science,” said Lucie, “I’m only here to please my mother,” 

“Did you bring the tea leaves?” asked the Soothsayer, 

“Yes,” said Lucie, “I paid a fortune for them,” she threw the bag on the table, a crest from a shop in Chelsea, 

“Be still,” said the Soothsayer, and Lucie sat obediently on a velvet stool, 

A shrill whistle from the back room, as the water boiled on the hob. A servant bought in the kettle, placing it on the table.

The Soothsayer spooned out the tea, black and shrivelled, into an antique pot. “Is that Japanese?” asked Lucie, 

“Does it matter?” asked the Soothsayer. 

They waited. The tea brewed. 

The Soothsayer poured it, and they drank it black, talking of Lucie’s mother and of new scientific developments. 

“I want to be a surgeon,” said Lucie, 

“I can’t turn you into a boy,” said the Soothsayer, 

“I’ll run away,” said Lucie, “dress as boy and become a ship’s doctor,” 

The Soothsayer laughed and finished the tea, Lucie drained her cup. “Don’t mock me,” she said. 

“Look at the leaves, what can you see?” asked the Soothsayer, 

“Nothing,” said Lucie, “just leaves, mushy and dead,” 

“Dead, dead,” mused the Soothsayer, 

This is all nonsense, thought Lucie. “I need to go soon, there’s a lecture at the Medical School, I’m a girl but I want to sneak in anyway, there’ll be a dissection,” 

The Soothsayer smiled. “You want to cheat death, Lucie,” 

“My father died, of a disease, I want to find a cure,” 

“That’s very noble Lucie,” said the Soothsayer, “I’ll help you cut your hair,”

Lucie sat as her hair fell away, chop, chop, curls falling on the tiled floor. “Now you are Lucius,” said the Soothsayer, “go to your lecture.” 

So she went, and watched as the surgeon cut open the corpse, and held up the entrails for all see, and Lucius saw all things in those entrails, and could see past present and future, death and life, in those curls of fat and blood and broken bones. 

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