They really should think about the mugs

They really should think about the mugs they give out in this place.

She thinks this every time she comes.

Her third time now. And each time it’s the same.

Forced to sit here with the rest of them, sometimes not even a curtain’s width apart. With nothing to take their minds off and their eyes away from, the drips and the bags. All of them lined up in this one little bay.

And her head aches with the trying to both smile and avoid eye contact. Desperately hoping that no one is the chatty kind or worse has something pressing, distressing or poignant to say.

Making out she is calm and stoic; just like she promised herself she would be.

She concentrates on the streaky lino, faded blue and curving upwards, ending in a pastel collision with the mint green walls. She looks for a place to drift off to. To find some way of rising above the whirl of machines, the drip of taps and the ever-ringing phone. Staring at the scuff marks where the skirting board should be she tries to picture the place where she is brave and all of this is normal and to be expected. Where everything is all totally fine.


And then, halfway through, just when she has got her sweating and her breathing almost under control, someone bustles in with the tea. Pushing a trolley filled with clattering and highly inappropriate mugs.


Each time she hears it, the chink of ceramic and the squeak of rubber soled shoes, she feels herself tense. Feels her belly flip flop and her heart drop away.

And she dreads what she is going to get this time.


Will it be something cheery, bearing some toe-curling inspirational quote? Something vapid and meaningless about seizing the day?

Or a navy, possibly black affair, plastered with the logo of a medical supplier or some unidentified wonder drug?

Or a ridiculously shaped thing with the handle too low or not low enough? Or worse a cup with a joke, that makes her want to get up and punch someone in the eye.

Last time she got a squat mug, too heavy to lift to her drying mouth with just the one free hand, with an uneven base, that wouldn’t rest properly on the arm of the chair, making her fingers ache with the effort of keeping it straight.

And on the front were thick daubs and scrawls, some heavy black painted symbols she didn’t understand.

And once she started thinking she couldn’t stop, worrying about what those marks might mean. Fretting, tying herself up in silly, complicated knots about whether it was a blessing or a curse. Wondering which woman had last drunk tea from this mug and where they were now.

Suddenly trapped in what happened to them.


All of it down to that one sodding mug.

One mug, it turned out was all it took. To upset her carefully constructed defences; to open up the barely papered cracks and let all the doubts, the ‘what-ifs’ and the bad thoughts in.

Leaving her sitting there so exposed and vulnerable, with poison in her veins, trying to drink tea from a mug she didn’t understand.

One more confusion, one uncertainty too far.

When all she wants is a future filled with tea.

Drunk in silence.

Served in white china cups.

Author Bio: Rachel Canwell is a writer and teacher living in Cumbria. Her debut flash collection ‘Oh I do like to be’ was published by Alien Buddha in July 2022.. Her short fiction has been published in Sledgehammer Lit, Pigeon Review, Reflex Press, Selcouth Station and The Birdseed amongst others. She is currently working on her first novel. Find her on Twitter at @bookbound2019.

Photo by Meg Boulden on Unsplash.

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