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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 17 page 02

fiction

bookcase with honey jar

Tea Time

by Alexander Jones

“Don’t let him have honey,” is the last thing my grandmother told me, catching my eye as she left to run an errand in town, and I nodded.

As soon as she was out the door my grandfather emerged from his den, leaving his precious games of chess, swiftly shuffling into the kitchen. The gas hissed as he turned on the stove and then struck a match on the sandpaper tacked to the wall beside the stove. The teapot chugged as it filled.

When the kettle whistled and the water was poured and the tea had steeped he said “Getch me zeh honey.”

I’d turned my back to him, hunching my shoulders, anticipating this. “Grandma said —”

“Grenma is gon. And I von’t tell her. Our secret.”

He was diabetic. Poisoning yourself seemed like poor chess strategy, and the tea itself was nasty stuff that made my lips curl and my tongue scrunch up when I’d tried it. When she denied him the tea itself last Christmas he threw a temper tantrum that outdid all the tantrums that I was capable of. I was younger than ten, he was over eighty.

“Zeh vater is getting culd.”

Grandma claimed she needed the honey for cooking, but she’d put it out of reach on the top shelf of a bookcase in the living room, skipping up and down the ladder a couple extra times to tease him because he was terrified of heights and wouldn’t climb the ladder himself.

I was going to get the honey for him. His expectant expression, with just the hint of that Battle of Stalingrad stone beneath the silk glove of his better nature told me so. Probably grandma knew it, too. But this way she could experience disappointment, the honey in her own tea.

Grandpa watched as, grunting, I positioned a big, heavy ornate chair from the living room set beneath the bookcase.

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