Rory Penlift was happier than he’d been in months.    
     After years of fruitlessly shopping it around from publisher to publisher, his latest book of verse—which was actually four years old now—was soon to come bravely into the realm of visible, above-ground literature where, he felt sure, it was destined to blaze brilliant new trails through the dismal thickets of conventional thinking, swaddled in the shopworn, cobwebby language offered by all the other poets he had ever read.  How weary he was of everyone’s writing but his own!  
     His book was called Dragon Breath, and it was being published in a couple of months by the tiny Seaweed Press in Halifax.  The book—which seemed to him a burning volcano of galvanizing, transformative diction sluiced along in a hot, lava-like matrix of unassailably original thinking—was made up of a protracted sonnet sequence called “Grail Cups,” surrounded on all sides by the pitter-patter of freshly minted lyrical poems—poems he believed to be of stunning beauty.  
     At least he had felt that way about them four years ago when he had finished them.  Four years is a long time for lyrical poems to go on scintillating all by themselves in a dark dresser drawer, but he still had faith in them.  And as for the sonnets—a progression of one hundred of them, each as hard and as unassailable as a clenched fist—why surely they were as relentlessly beautiful and timeless as the Great Wall of China!  
     He held in his hand the letter from the Seaweed Press, which he had received that very morning.  “Dear Mr. Penlift,” it began, “We are pleased to inform you that we have read Dragon Breath with the greatest interest [“interest?” thought Rory, “a rather tepid word”] and           
are eager to publish it….”  “Well,” thought Rory, “eager is a little more like it.” 
     After reading the letter twenty or thirty more times, he decided he needed to leave his room and go out into the world.  He wanted to see if the letter still read as well in the glare of the mid-morning sunlight on Queen Street West.
     Where, he thought to himself, does a poet, in mid-morning, go to bask in his achievement?  Not a coffee shop, not just a coffee shop, he thought, as he passed by two or three of them, each fuming like a standing locomotive, billowing clouds of coffee-steam out onto the street.  Not a coffee shop.
     But, he thought, as he passed the Red Tea Box, a tea house, yes.  And he entered the shop.
     Beautiful beautiful.  Red, warm, with walls of assorted elegant, eloquent teas and shining tea accessories.  He pressed further into the store, finally moving all the way to the back where he unfolded himself at last into a huge antique mahogany chair, upholstered with great delirious splashes of chintz roses.  He was carrying a paperback copy of Evelyn Underhill’s The Essentials of Mysticism, into which he had tucked his congratulatory letter.  He placed the book on a delicate side table and began looking at the menu. 
     Expensive!  Still, how many mornings are there when you get a letter like the one he’d just got?  
     He was ready to order, but apparently the Red Tea Box was not yet ready to serve him.  He waited for what seemed like a conventional amount of time, and then he waited some more—for what seemed like an unnecessarily long amount of additional time.  A waitress—he assumed she was a waitress—hovered quite near him for a moment or two.  She seemed to be plumping up some slightly dusty pink roses in an ormolu vase on another little table.
     “Excuse me…” he began, but she was gone with the twitch of her feather duster.  He was alone in the room.
     He picked up his Evelyn Underhill.  He had placed his letter in the book—at page 65, as it turned out—where he now read “It is coming to be realized more and more clearly that it is the business of the artist not only to delight us, but to enlighten us: in Blake’s words, to ‘Cleanse the doors of perception, so that everything may appear as it is—infinite’.” 
     Rory looked around.  Everything was small and cluttered, not infinite.  How was he to make his world infinite?
     Finally the waitress came. 
     “What do you want?” she asked him—rather roughly he thought.  His first inclination was to tell her he wanted congratulation, admiration.  Then he thought better of it.
     “I’ll have a pot of Sencha,” he told her.
     “What kind?
     “There are kinds?” Rory asked, feeling increasingly out of place.
     The waitress mustered an elaborate sigh.
     “Sencha Ashikubo,” she told him. “Gyokuro….”
     “I’ll have Gyokuro,” he told her happily, liking the sound and unaware that it was twice as expensive as any of the other teas.
     “Fine.”  She turned to go.
     “And,” added Rory, “I want a dessert—a slice of the Vanilla Rose Petal White Chocolate Cake.”
     Rory sat reading his Evelyn Underhill for twenty more minutes.   
     His tea and cake came.  The cake was good, if a tad elaborate.  The tea was peculiar.  Rory figured you had to acquire a taste for it.  The bill lay on a saucer beside the teapot.  It was for $27.65.
     Once again the waitress hovered near him.  He rummaged in his pocket for the couple of twenties he knew were in there someplace.  The waitress watched his fumblings with distaste.
     “I’m just about to publish my first book,” he told her happily, as he lay the two bills on the table. 
     “Is that right?” she said, scooping up the money.
“Will you need change?”
     Rory was so tense he just wanted to get back out onto the street.
     “That’s okay,” he told her, grabbing his book and scrambling to his feet.  Okay?  Jesus, he’d just left the woman a thirteen dollar tip!
     Outside, the sun was shining brightly, generously, he thought—as a kind of compensation for his tea travail.
He walked a few doors east where, in front of the TD bank, there was an array of pay telephones.  He dropped a quarter into the slot and dialed the number of the bookstore where his friend May worked.  
     “Where are you?” May asked him.
     He told her.
     “What are you doing there?”
     “Well, I was trying to celebrate—I just got a letter of acceptance from The Seaweed Press. They’re going to publish Dragon Breath.  So I bought myself forty bucks worth of tea and cake.”
     May giggled. 
     “Drop by the bookstore,” she told him, and I’ll make you a pot of tea for free.’