by C. Gregory Thompson
Three-thirty sharp. A shrieking tea kettle. Over the roof tops if floated. A constant in my life. A stranger’s daily routine. On temporary assignment in London, my American company rented me a flat in the East End. Someone living in one of the buildings out my back window and across the garden took their tea at the same time each afternoon. Often I wondered whose kettle it was, and pondered how odd it was to have such a fixed schedule. Then one day the whistling did not let up. Usually it went on for a few minutes and stopped. Presumably the tea drinker was pouring boiling water over tea leaves. After ten minutes had gone by I grew uneasy. I went to my window to see if I could figure out which building the sound came from. I could not.
After thirty minutes a sick feeling in my gut. Something must have happened to the tea drinker. At forty-five minutes the whistling abruptly ended. Should I call 999? Now I watched for smoke. An hour and fifteen minutes later the first wisps. Now, at least, I knew what building the tea drinker lived in. I dialed 999, to report the fire. When I hung up I knew it was not a good end for the tea drinker. I sat at my window and watched the billowing smoke gather in the weak light of late afternoon. Sirens, a replacement for the whistling, sounded in the distance and grew closer. Flames erupted from the tea drinker’s flat. Neighbors all around looked out open windows. I felt helpless. I grabbed my coat, umbrella, and briefcase; late for an afternoon meeting.
The next day neighbors told me that the tea drinker was an elderly woman, Gladys Brown. She’d had a heart attack while preparing her afternoon tea. The firemen handily put out the fire but were unable to save Gladys. Now, at three-thirty sharp I missed Gladys’ screaming kettle. The following week I attended Gladys’ funeral at East London Cemetery. Gladys’ daughter and I were the only two people at the service. She was buried next to her husband, Frank.
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Biography ? C. Gregory Thompson
C.Gregory Thompson lives in Los Angeles, California where he writes fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. He has a BFA in Film & Television from New York University. He?s been known to cook a meal and write about it. His food writing has been published on 100 Miles and Honest Cooking.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal, and The BG News. He has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the medical publishing industry for several years. For the last 15 years Richard has also taught literature and writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. He works much of the time with at-risk students.