Flash Fiction: The Hippy's Tea
Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Panic jolted Katie’s chest. Dumping the chunky books onto the adjacent chair, she flung open the lid of the washer and exhaled—yes, there were bubbles! Wincing, she picked up her textbooks from the faded rouge and gold chair, which appeared to have never been cleaned since the 1950s. The edges were tattered, and she tried to not look at the stains too hard, lest she start thinking about what caused them.
She hugged the books on her lap but did not open them. She had no memory of adding detergent to the washer. The end of the semester had turned her brain to fairy floss—or perhaps that was the lack of sleep and fun.
The rhythmic tumble and clank of the ancient machines dulled Katie’s thoughts. Staring at the creamy mustard exterior of the dryers, her mind wandered. She took in the old buttons and controls. How many people and fashions had they seen?
Taking a deep breath, she puzzled over the lingering scent of hay and sawdust.
‘Looks like you could use some of this,’ a husky, but young voice said.
A few chairs over, a woman about her own age held out a metal drink bottle for Katie. She wore a peasant skirt, and her buttery hair was twisted around a wildflower crown of wattle and lavender. A second woman sat next to her, similarly dressed.
‘What is it?’ asked Katie.
‘Tea, with a kick.’ She must have sensed Katie’s apprehension, adding ‘Don’t worry, it’s not drugs.’
Katie took the bottle and sniffed. It smelt like tea—and roses. She took a small sip, the liquid tinging softly against the metal. Definitely rose black tea, but there was an extra sweet taste.
‘Thanks. It’s lovely.’ She offered the bottle back to the woman.
‘No, you’re welcome to the rest, I’ve had too much today.’ She smiled. ‘My name’s Sophie, and this is Lila.’
Katie introduced herself.
‘You look like you’ve had a rough day,’ Lila commented.
‘More like a month, but it’s not that bad—it’s interesting.’
The conversation eventually melted away. Katie hauled her clothes into the dryer and tried to focus, but she kept overhearing Sophie and Lila’s stories: reminiscing about places from around the world; speaking of many friends with odd names.
Eventually, they bundled too many colourful clothes into large sacks.
‘Thanks again, Sophie.’ Katie passed the bottle, trying not to stare at the sacks.
‘No problem…Hey, if you need a break, come to our party tonight—look for the lights.’
‘Umm, thanks.’ Katie smiled. ‘I might.’
The women left. A minute later, they appeared on horseback, skirts rippling and the sacks tied on like saddlebags. Katie rushed out the door, hopped on her bike and followed loosely.
The sunset merged to twilight as Katie began to hear folk music and laughing. Spotlights grazed the clouds. Weaving between tents and caravans, Katie realised where she was. Should she run away with the circus for a night?
Written for Australian Writers' Centre Furious Fiction, March 2019.