Tea Leaves

Chapter 3: Hanging on

Ding!

Clack

Stepping inside the bar, Albert walked towards the bar where an old man was cleaning the table. There were only a few customers, mostly male, who each drank silently. He sat down on one of the high chairs, staring at the selection of beers and wines.

”Ill have whiskey please. Just keep them coming. ” Albert slid a fifty dollar bill towards the bartender, the only person working at the place.

Taking the bill, the old man silently took out a glass cup, pouring ice and whiskey in. He slid it over to Albert, who took a sip, then another, and another.

”Haaaaa. ”

The whiskey was dry and spicy, stinging his throat as it went down. There was a slightly oaky aftertaste, reminding him of the bitter events that went down in the morning.

Clank

Albert put the now empty cup down, taking a breath. He pulled out his phone, sending a message to someone.

By the third cup, all of the customers had left. The old man could only watch as he tried to suppress his emotions, eventually failing as he burst into tears after drinking the fifth cup. Sighing, the old man prepared another cup of whiskey, holding it in front of him.

”You just got fired, right? Either that, or your lover left you. Which is it? ”

Slightly drunk, Albert muttered ”job ” before downing the whiskey. He stuck out his tongue a little as if he was trying to air out the bitterness of alcohol. ”More please. ”

The old guy sighed, pouring him another cup.

”What are you gonna do about this? ”

Albert finished the cup in one go, causing his face to scrunch up as the strong whiskey taste overwhelmed him.

”Cry. ”

He crossed his arms, placing them on the table. He lowered his chin towards his arms, staring at the old man. His eyes were red, and his cheeks were wet with tears, holding the freshly refilled cup

The old man could do nothing but watch as Albert stared at him, hoping he would say something. Sighing, Albert simply sipped the whiskey, spilling a little bit on the table.

”I know you
e a customer and Im earning money off of this, but you should probably stop drinking. You
e gonna have a massive hangover in the morning. ” The old man held the cup, unwilling to pour him more.

”I know. I don care. More please. ”

The old man sighed again, placing extra ice into the empty cup.

”No more, okay? You
e still young, you have a lot of options. Go find some other job to do while you sort things out. ”

”But college debt… ”

”Everything is expensive these days. Don worry about it. Youll eventually pay it off as long as you keep working. Its not the end of the world. ” The old man poured whiskey halfway up the cup, then handed it to Albert.

”My reputation though… ” Albert gloomily took a small sip, then stuck his tongue out slightly.

”What about it? ”

”She said shes gonna make my life a living hell… which means making everyone hate me. Uaaaghhh ”

Samuel looked at Albert, slightly surprised he could think to this extent after drinking so much. This man… is he actually drunk? Or does he still function well after drinking? This is indeed a noteworthy achievement for him.

For a few minutes, there was an awkward silence. Albert slowly drank the whiskey, tears streaming down his cheeks. Since there was nothing that could be said to comfort him, the bartended opted to stay silent.

When Albert was finished, the old man collected the cup and went to the cashier, giving Albert $20 in change.

”But Mr… ”

”Davis. My names Samuel Davis. ”

”Uh. Mr. Davis, the last two cups… and taxes… and service fee… ” (1)

”That last cup wasn even a full cup so I can really charge you for that. Ignore the rest. You
e gonna need the money to pay off your debt. ” Samuel answered, giving him a soft look.

”But what about you, Mr. Davis? You also need the money. ”

”Pah, forget it. I don need much at my age. This place is gonna shut down soon, so it doesn really matter how much I get. Socio-whatever it is covers my cost of living. You, on the other hand, need as much money as possible to survive. ” Samuel gave him the money, refusing his multiple attempts to drunkenly give it back to him. Samuel helped him out of the seat, forcing him out of the bar.

”Go home. Its way past closing time, and I need to sleep. Sort out your life, then go find another job. Youll have one hell of a hangover tomorrow. Ive already called a taxi for you, so youll be fine. ”

Just as Samuel finished speaking, a taxi arrived in front of the shop.

”Take this young man home please. ” Samuel said to the taxi driver, helping Albert inside.

”Where does he live? I won be able to drive him home without a location, Mr. Davis. ” The taxi driver asked.

”Where do you live, kiddo? ”

”Xx street, xxxxx road xxxxx ”

The man driving the taxi took out his phone, typing in the coordinates.

”All set. ”

”Make sure he gets there safely, mk? He has $20, which should be enough for the trip. ”

”Haha sure. I will. Take care, Mr. Davis. ”

”Sure sure. Don spend all your money on drinks again. ”

”Haha. I hope business isn too hard for you. ”

Samuel froze, creating an awkward tension. The taxi driver knew he messed up. After a short few seconds that felt like eternity, Samuel sighed, helping the almost asleep Albert into the car.

”I might be closing up in a month. Business is slow, and the alcohol is expensive. The customers say I just don get them. I don think Im cut out for this job now that Im old. ”

”Oh. ”

The taxi driver sat there in silence, unsure what to say.

Tak tak tak

Honk honk

”Its fine, Carl. Ive been doing this for so long. Its time for another person to take up the job. ”

”There won be another bar like yours, though. ”

”I know. Everyone has their own way of doing things. ”

*muffled noises*

”Have you thought about hiring someone? ”

”Maybe. It wouldn help if there were no customers, though. ”

”True. youd just lose more money like that. Have you considered handing it over to someone else? ”

”Yeah. bars like mine aren popular nowadays. I think I should close this one. ”

”Maybe thats for the best. Hows the tea shop, by the way? ”

”Ah, the side project I was working on? Its surviving. Business is slow, but customers come. I wish there was a bit more variety, though. Its all old folks like me. Some of them complain that I don get the teas right. ”

”Such a shame. I thought there would be more customers. ”

”Haha, not at all. Its hard to attract customers, especially the stingy chinese customers that always complain that I keep making it wrong. ”(2)

”Yeah. Its hard to open a tea shop if you don know how to make good tea. Why did you open it in the first place? ”

Samuel froze for a moment, hesitating, coming up with a lie. This, of course, did not go unnoticed by Carl, who decided to play ignorant to spare the old mans feelings.

”An experiment. Plus, its interesting, no? Different people have different tastes, which can help signify what type of person they are. ”

If it were anyone else, Carl might have believed it. Samuel, though? Carl knew that the old man would never do something like that, even though he was filthy rich. But he knew he would never get a proper answer if he kept questioning Samuel. It was best to wait.

Albert, who was in the backseat, started snoring a little. The two sober men sighed. Carl the taxi driver started the car, preparing to leave.

”Well Ill be off then. Stay safe, Sam. ”

”Take care, Carl. ”

The taxi drove off, carrying Albert home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Notes:

(1) Whiskey usually costs $2.50, although Im not sure if the price rose due to inflation. He drank 12 cups with the last one being a half cup, but hes too drunk to notice.

(2) based on experience lol. Of course Im exaggerating a bit but I have heard my grandparents complain about the tea(albeit quietly) and I myself have silently complained once in a while.

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