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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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The Lonely Kettle


by Charles Daly




            After the Teapot had been washed, dried, and emptied of her dregs, she was placed in her favorite spoton the counterbeside the Electric Kettle, her spout nuzzled against his middle. That night she and the Kettle were kept up by the shadows of moving boxes, packing tape on toothy spools, and the shadows of some things staying and some things going.

            The Electric Kettle had some verses for the teapot about leaving home, and some others about lovers separated by circumstance. He could recite poetry in four languages (all the tongues of his owner’s manual plus some Greek.) And it was for this, and the sensitivity, wit, and disregard for coolness that come with such a talent, that the Teapot loved him. He was so unlike the loud and sloppy blender.

His schooling in poetics was thanks to the Lady who, lucky for the Kettle, read while she cooked. She would thrust the pages his way when she’d bend to her cooking for a taste from the wooden spoon. The Lady had exposed him to all the great works of the last few centuries and none of the junk; a whole set of classics with ribbons for bookmarks. His favorites were the 19th century masters because they wrote so much about tea. He learned of flirtation, romance, deceit, and jealousy; all served, over teacups and biscuits. And it was his love, the Teapot who explained the tea of this century. For instance, the Lady’s daughter would be going off to college soon. And the neighbor was asking for a divorce. For the gossip the Kettle would always trade verse he’d blow, in steam, from the depths of his aluminum insides and heating coils in a voice scratched with lime-scale and rust from his long life of boiling.

Their last night together, the pair remembered the last time she went away; the day the Lady stuck a few fresh flowers in the Teapot’s spout, and made a decoration of her. Every morning the Kettle looked out into the dinning room watched his love’s white china turn blue and her blue china turn purple, in the image of the tones of pre-dawn. The flowers came into bloom, and survived a day or two of compliments and bumblebees before dropping their petals all around his one and only beauty. He thought how the poets had reasons to go on about the ‘thorns of love.’ Having seen a sight as beautiful as his Teapot, he didn’t need to live one day more and couldn’t anyway without her. He missed her painfully and unpoetically. He missed the simple things like the feel of her china against his crude aluminum. And he missed filling her up twice every day, and those wonderful scents like flowers but more flowery than flowers, that would steam out of her, and how her china would soften when she was full and warm.

They thought of what to do. Their first thought was suicide. She’d nudge herself off the counter and he’d follow shortly with a short-circuit through his ugly chord. And with any luck they’d meet again someday in the same land-fill, him burnt through his once sonnet-sounding coils, more ugly than ever, perhaps with his lid broken, full of rotten fruit or tampons; and her in a million pieces as he’d always teased her she’d end up, to which she’d say ‘don’t joke about that.’ And suicide didn’t seem like such a bad solution in light of another memory.

One morning after breakfast the Teapot disappeared. The Lady had left town and there were parties in the flat all weekend. The guests lingered in the kitchen with those chats and whispers the Kettle needed his Teapot to make sense of. A  born wall-flower, the Kettle was lucky to be plugged in where people thought they were alone. Where champagne bottleneck’s foil floated on the counters awash with drink poured over red plastic brims untold. The overnight guests drank their coffee black from the cheap mugs like #1 Dad that had been dishwashed to read more like ‘dud’ with half the ‘a’ missing, while the fine teacups, the Teapot’s cousins, had been mistaken for ashtrays.

On Monday the girl came into the kitchen with the Teapot; scrubbed her, dried her, and put her back in her place beside the Kettle where, with a little lipstick on her spout, she pushed herself against the after-warmth of the his morning boil and told him everything: her china had been rattled by the music and she’d been rolled around in a game of spin the bottle. She’d never been dizzy, she’d never been spun. Her cap was missing. “It was awful,” said she, “just awful.  They were horrible.” They’d filled her with gin and drank from her spout. Worst of all, they’d made an ashtray of her: they dropped smokes, still aglow, into her, stuffed them down her spout where they’d scorched her insides before smoldering in the puddle of gin.

The world, that would be separating her from him, had confirmed, for the Kettle, what the world’s letters had already taught him about how one should expect a beautiful thing to be treated. Better to go on to beautilessness than watch beauty mishandled as beauty always is.

But beauty had no legs with which to walk off the counter.

A long time ago they’d planned to run away to the coast. Of course this would have been no more possible than suicide, but they had talked like they might book a sleeper-car on the next train (another of their dreams). He’d told her how they’d float in the sea and she’d told him he was crazy, reminded him that he’s electric. He’d told her there probably weren’t any outlets on the beach, and besides Kettles have no hearts so they can’t be shocked…

In the morning the moving-boxes were blue, and for the last time for him, so was her china. In a few hours she’d be packed with forks and mugs, and the electric Kettle would boil for instant oatmeal. She hoped her destination, the daughter’s dorm-room, would be full of books; and he hoped the Lady would keep flowers in the kitchen. The Teapot would return in four years and the Kettle’s warranty would run out in two.