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Storms in Teacups (or Teaside Rendezvous)

By David Ronayne

‘All the world's a stage,’ the man proclaimed loudly, attempting to add dramatic impact in spite of his outrageous costume and the combined effects of short-sightedness and the scratchy handwritten script. ‘And all the men and women merely...’ he paused, squinting down at the papers, ‘players.’

The playwright cringed, as the willowy old man patted him gently on the back while the seven ages of man were slowly tortured. ‘They'll improve, Will,’ he whispered through the puking and the strange oaths. ‘Anyway,’ he added, rising to leave, ‘if all this is the stage, I have some directing to do.’

On the stage the actors were finally coming to grips with the scene. ‘Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. For we are such stuff as dreams are made on.’

Professor X - The Sun Tempest
by Richard Terrie

The blank sheet of paper stared up at him from the counter, challenging him to fill the void, make his mark on the open space. It had been like this for two days now, and the hubbub of Ray's present surroundings didn't help; the small, rapidly filling cafe providing plenty of distractions. Still, a man had to eat and the food was cheap. He turned from his sketchpad to menu on the blackboard, hunger temporarily displacing the creative block, not realising that, not very far away, someone else was having a similar problem...

‘Dear Headmaster -’
That was as far as the young teacher could get, anything else seemed inadequate. How do you write off nearly two years of absence? At least he hoped it was only two years; he hadn't been able to get the full date yet. They had arrived earlier that morning but it had taken them several hours to hide the Ship and reset the circuits, sending the alien craft hurtling off into the void, heading on a course of eventual destruction. But, of course, ‘she’ had arranged all that.

‘Ah, Mister Ray! Mister Ray!’ A peculiar little voice rang from the kitchens with the strange tang of Jamaican cockney. The man with the pad turned as the little figure scuttled up to the counter. The wrinkled face smiled at him over the sugar bowl, while the gnarled old cane-cutter's hands waited patiently to scribble down any order.

‘How is our favourite civil servant today then?’

Ray recoiled in horror at the idea. ‘They're a public organisation, but I wouldn't go that far!’ A look of concern crossed his face as he remembered the recent upheavals. ‘Where's John?’

The old man replied with a tired look skyward.

‘Annie?’ A note of panic edged into Ray's voice as he recalled the soldiers, and reports of parts of the city being closed off. There was a tense pause before the old man let him off the hook.

There was an uproar from the counter as a tall, raven-haired woman with a rather dour expression entered the cafe. Oblivious to the cries of ‘Twins!’ and other congratulations, she picked her way through the tables and dropped a paper in front of the young teacher sitting alone at his table. He looked at it blankly as she sat down.

‘The date!’ she said excitedly, prodding the masthead. ‘It's only two weeks after we left.’

But he wasn't looking at this; the headline had grabbed his attention.


‘So, Mister Ray,’ the old man began, once the commotion and promises of pints had died down, ‘What are you up to now, eh? Another lot of antics with that Doctor Quatermass, no doubt...’ he stopped short, noticing the expression on the young man's face.

‘Now look, I had nothing to do with that, it was all well before my time!’

The old man raised his hands apologetically; they had been through this argument before. ‘We had just arrived, we were all very scared.’

Ray nodded. ‘Lots of people were. I think that was the general idea.’

‘You don't understand!’ he muttered, re-reading the paper. ‘You've got your precious research job. The thought of the school, it kept me going, you know, through all -’ he searched for the word, ‘- that.’

She gripped his hand reassuringly. The stress of the last few days had taken its toll on both of them.

The old man smiled. ‘Blocked again?’ he asked, nodding at the blank sheet in an attempt to change the subject.

Ray groaned and buried his head in his hands. ‘Two bloody days! They want something based on a Russian Bal...’ he stopped, noticing a familiar smell from the kitchen. The old man had darted back even before the bell had been rung, and made a mock flourish as he placed the plate of egg and chips on the bench. Creative problems forgotten, the young designer ploughed into his first meal of the day.

The young couple rose to leave; the tea seemed to have had no effect on the young man's drawn expression. As he paid the curious old man behind the counter, Ray grunted a request through a mouthful of egg. Reaching forward, the young teacher shoved a small salt shaker, sending it gliding down the bench top towards him, and as Professor X's companions turned away to start a new life, Raymond Cusick had an absolutely brilliant idea.

This item appeared in TSV 34 (July 1993).

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