Fifty Grades of Tay

“I like mine tepid, with a hint of asperin,” I  imagined her saying, as she flung her just-washed-last-Thursday hair away from the craters of Mars that somehow had landed on her face. She had an air of superiority, and wore it well, although her clothes did not show it.

“Do you have any Sassafrass? I really want Sassafrass.”

She reached up over her head, revealing an artistic underarm pit.


“We are out of Sassafrass. You might try it. I think you’ll like it,” she opined.

I had never thought about Basswood- it might make a nice tea. But, I was tiring of the everything-tastes-like-willow-bark flavors I found there. Maybe, if I  tried a fruit flavor…

“Or,” she enunciated, oh so carefully, as if attempting to mimick Joanie Mitchell, “you might try these.”

She handed me a series of paper-stock boxes, mysteriously hiding whatever tea flavors lurked inside them.

“Ah no, I think I’ll just try the regular flavors.”

An eyebrow raised, the craters moved, and she went back to measuring out little bits of tea particles the size of a gram of nitroglycerine. I inspected her hands, and yes,  they did seem a bit ragged, but she did not touch the substance, so  the individual packages must have been safe. I imagined her playing with them, all fifty packages advertised, with abandon…

A young lady perused the Burt’s Bees section, opening bottles to sniff at their contents. I brushed by, inhaling Mary, Kate and Ashley air clouds of perfume. It took me back to an earlier time, a simpler time, and a less expensive time.

The tay sat in rows like bucket seats in a Greyhound bus, with the same kind of earthy smell. From Earl Grey to Willow Bark, they all had their own little compartments. But it was the reddish bark that brought a leap to the storehouse of my heart, and I dug in with both hands…to discover…Sassafrass!

Imagine my joy, if you will, after bantering about with the reincarnation of Joanie Mitchell (except for the pock-marked face, the not-so-after-dinner-mint breath, and the hair that liberated Paris and had not been washed since), discovering this reddish gold…until I stopped, suddenly regaining my post-graduate facilities, to remember that this- THIS- was a SUBSTITUTE!

Now, I know a fine cuppa tay, and I know a fine cup of shavings, and this was a fine package of shavings. Shavings from a cherry-like wood that could be anything from ground cherry wood to dyed fiberboard particles. So…I called her on the carpet…well, the linoleum.

“It is a Sassafrass substitute, cultivated and dug in the Amazon Rain Forest, with similar medicinal and herbal qualities. I am sure you will enjoy it.”

I thought about the fruit and herb tea section and migrated back, passing Miss Air Cloud, hunting for the elusive Bilberry. Surely, the Bilberry would make a fine cuppa…

But it was nowhere in sight. Burdock, Blackcurrant, Basswood, but no Bilberry. Blueberry, but with only flavoring and that nasty sharp tasting caffeinated rubbish.

“I have a new flavor,” she said, startling me like a hyena breaking wind. “It is over here.”

A hint of fish and garlic brushed by.


“It is a simple wild fruit flavor. I think you will enjoy it.”

I took the bag from her hand and turned it over and over…

“And this is from…”

“the Amazon Rain Forest- I believe.”

“I see.”

“But it’s not Sassafrass.”

“No, it is not Sassafrass.”

I purchased my tay like a good little man and walked down the street to my parked car. Inside, I placed my goodie bag on the seat adjacent…and dug in. I pulled out the Burt’s Bees chapstick, the Hello Kitty gum, my Barberry Tay…and Basswood?”

2 responses to “Fifty Grades of Tay”

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