“What is it?” asked a passerby.
“What does it look like?” said a grizzly, overalled Brit sitting on a bench.
“A train,” was the American’s curious response. “Not like any I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s because it’s not a train,” the Brit said gruffly. “It’s a trolley.”
And indeed it was. A curious contraption to boot; instead of cars and compartments, it was three brass trays synced together with various clockwork gears and turbines. If one were staring at it from afar, they would’ve seen a go-cart or a push-table. But no, it was an actual trolley of weird and rare design. Like a table on railroad tracks. People milled about, all with teacups in their hands, some in their nicest finery, others in their pajamas. it was a bizarre sight to the newly-arrived American.
“What are they doing?”
“Tribute, I think.” It wasn’t a question.
The American left the gnarled Brit to his sitting and approached the crowd. Various women and men – some in Victorian attire, others in modern garb, and others still yet identifiable – were crowded around the odd locomotive.
Then, as if by some invisible chime, they raised their teacups to the sky. Not a word was spoken. Any murmuring ceased. The American was at a loss, for he didn’t have a cup to raise…nor a reason to raise it. He was confused by the entire display.
“Here,” came a sing-songy voice from behind him. “I have an extra.”
A slender, middle-aged woman in a bonnet and a sweater adorned with the British flag had her hand outstretched. Funny, since she didn’t sound British. He accepted the cup gently and graciously.
“What is this for?” he asked.
“That?” she said with a giggle. “It’s for the tea trolley.”
“That is a tea trolley?!” he exclaimed with a furrowed brow. “Isn’t it…”
“Rather large?” she offered. “Oh yes. Wouldn’t have it any other way. How else can you have tea if you can’t travel?”
“So…it’s a trolley…in the shape of a trolley.”
“You catch on quick,” she said wryly.
“Why this display then?”
She sighed, “Because the tea trolley has ceased its run. All these people were once her passengers.”
“A eulogy,” the American said.
“No, a celebration,” she laughed. “Eulogies are far too dour.”
“Were you a passenger?”
“I better have been,” she said. “I invented it.”
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, Mrs…”
“Just Milly,” she smiled.
The former passengers still had their cups raised. None seemed to be tiring with their arms outstretched, or if they were fatigued, they didn’t show it. Probably couldn’t.
“Well, are you going to join in?” she nudged.
“Should I?” he asked nervously. “I mean…I was never a passenger.”
“Don’t be silly,” she assured him.
With that, he reluctantly raised his dainty cup.
“You already are.” Her voice trailed on the wind with an echo.
The American looked behind him…but she was gone.
Author’s Note: Mildred P., a.k.a. @MildewPea (on Twitter) – or simply Milly – was one of the first people I ever talked to when I joined the site o’ Twits back in 2009. She was almost TOO wholesome and incredibly witty. It took all my gumption just to keep up with her.
One of the fun little games played on Twitter was the addition of “#TheTeaTrolley”…and me being the idiot I am, I thought it was an actual trolley. I never let on that I had no clue what a tea trolley even was, but I still considered myself a happy passenger.
R.I.P. Milly, you taught me how a Tea Twit should conduct themselves. Here’s a cup to ya.