You would have been willing to spare the change if the court jester, in his polka dot jumper and pointy red shoes, hadn’t been swinging a stray cat in the air about your head. The jing, jing, jongling of bells in your ear was annoying. You didn’t want a mangy cat. That wasn’t why you’d come here. It was teatime for Pete’s sake, and the bronzeberry was piping hot and sparkling off your glass eye with an infusion of dreams eternal. Cherubim, Harps, The Works. You’d put in for it­ — keep the pennies and everything — so this time you wouldn’t be tricked, stupid jester. This time, you held the cup in a gloved hand so the periwinkles wouldn’t give you a rash, as you sat, barefoot with Buddha, the air filled with the abundant odor of fetid cheese while aged children sang carols and played hide and seek in the cloud of steam swirling in the ether around you.

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