Saturday, December 05, 2009

That story I promised

Okay. For those of you who don't know, Flatiron City was built just outside of Boulder, CO in mid 21st century. It's a giant city-in-a-building that with three towers that rise nearly a mile over the earth. Several platforms span between the three towers, as well as trams that allow for easy commutes to and from each building. Hanaka Nippon Tea Gallery is the first location that I actually created for this world, and it's been one of my favorite things to write about over the years.

This particular description is written from the point of view of Henry Slade, the protagonist of the Flatiron Mysteries that I plan to write when my YA series is sustainable. It's not a short story, even though there is a pseudo back-story at work. Enjoy:

Hanaka Nippon is an anomaly of Flatiron City because the kid who runs the joint happens own it. Not only does he own the building the shop occupies, he owns the property it sits on, too. And the property takes up prime real estate in the Skyview Courtyard of the west tower. I heard a rumor a few years ago that FC’s owners owed the kid’s dad a few favors which is why this store is the only property in the city that isn't leased. Although, I hear the proprietor owns a penthouse in Mountain View West.

The famous tea gallery that attracts students from CU Flatiron in the north tower is a squat building fashioned to look like an ancient Japanese-style teahouse. Little trees and patches of flowers surround the shop, and the paved walkway that winds through the park leads to the front doors from three directions. The curved, sloping roof is tiled in red clay, and the builders actually managed to make the plaster walls look like real paper. Red bamboo squares complete the exterior, and at first glance, I would have sworn the place was shipped in from Okinawa. Of course, that was before I caught sight of the swinging glass doors.

When I walked in to the warm building (it’s always a little cold on the upper levels of the city), the lanky Japanese kid behind the counter almost sneered at me. “Look,” he said in a thick British accent, “I keep telling you guys: I’m not selling. I’m still on good terms with the city’s owners, and I’m not giving up my shop.”

I looked myself over, decided there was no way I looked like an organized-crime thug, and then smiled cheerfully. “My name’s Henry Slade. I’m head of security for the city.” I held out my hand and waited for him to shake it.

The kid raised a skeptical eyebrow at me and then slapped his palm into mine, shaking it briskly. “Katsuro Hanaka,” he said at last. “Sorry ‘bout that. There’re some people who want me to sell my store, and they send someone at least once a week to try to get me to leave.”

“Don’t worry about,” I shrugged.

“I wasn’t planning on it,” he replied. “Is there something I can get for you?”

I glanced over his shoulder and tried to decipher the menu board, but three hours of sleep tend to make my brain forget what words look like. “I need something to wake me up,” I chuckled.

“Done!” He ducked beneath the counter and reappeared a second later with an armful of masonry jars. He set them all on the counter behind him, filled up an electric kettle, and then started mixing contents from the jars.

While he worked, I leaned on the counter and took a look around. Even though the outside of Hanaka Nippon looked like a traditional tea house, the only features of the interior that shared the theme were the faux-paper walls with their lotus and swan water-color scenes that invited guests to sit and enjoy themselves. The tables, on the other hand, looked like any other steel-legged slab of wood that restaurants and cafes have used for over a hundred years. Simple black and white tiles checkered the floor, and orange glass orbs glowed in the beams of the roof to provide light for Katsuro and his patrons. It was a simple design, but very comfortable.

A few minutes passed as I took in my surroundings, and the water behind me rumbled in its kettle. I turned around and saw Katsuro switch the kettle off as he deftly picked it up and emptied it into a single-serving teapot. When the near-boiling water washed over the concoction of teas, herbs and spices, a flowery aroma filled shop and took me right back to my first trip to Japan . “It’ll be ready in three minutes,” the proprietor announced. “It’ll keep you up for a few hours, and you shouldn’t crash when the caffeine wears off.”

When Katsuro handed me my paper cup of tea a few minutes later, I breathed in the scents of green and black teas with spearmint leaves, a hint of cinnamon, and several other flavors I couldn’t place. I frowned at him, unsure of how pleasant the mixture could possibly taste. I took a quick sip, decided it didn’t taste half bad, but if it didn’t wake me up, I probably wouldn’t get it again.

Edit 1:35 pm: Thanks to my mom for showing me some mistakes that I missed in the editing. It's been an exhausting week, so my brain isn't quite up to speed.

1 comment:

  1. Unable to resist, I've emailed an edited copy. I delight in seeing the growth & depth of your writing.