(Fourth of July) Explaining The Decision to Waste Perfectly Good Tea

Posted on July 4, 2004 by Jenna

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It is the Boston Tea Party.

It is December 16, 1773.

Captain O’Connor hefts a tomahawk. He looks at a chest of tea. It is a snake’s glare, a tiger’s glare, a shark’s glare. It holds the chest paralyzed. Then, as he begins the swing, its stasis breaks.

“Wait!” cries the tea chest.

Captain O’Connor hesitates.

“I am a magic tea chest!” it says. “If you will not cut me open and throw me into the harbor, but instead take some of my precious tea and line your coat with it, I’ll grant you any wish your heart desires!”

Captain O’Connor thinks. “What if I wanted solid silver pants?” he asks.

“All the pants of your hearts desiring!”

“Or a crocodile?” he says, testingly.

“An alligator would be more appropriate to the clim—”

Captain O’Connor hefts the axe.

“Yes, yes! A crocodile!”

Captain O’Connor hesitates. “I suppose it would do no harm to allow myself a little tea,” he says. He opens the magic tea chest. He stuffs his pockets. He lines his coat. He becomes great and ponderous with tea.

“Thank you,” whispers the magic tea. “Now, run!”

Like the great graceful buffalo he runs. As he leaps from the vessel, George Hawes grabs his coat; but the hem of the coat rips away in Hawes’ hand and Captain O’Connor is away. He flees. George Hawes sets up the hue and cry: “Hue!” he cries. “That man takes tea from Boston Harbor!”

Every head on the dock turns. As Captain O’Connor runs, they strike at him. He takes a punch to the gut, a kick to the leg, a blow to the head; he is staggering and weaving as he reaches the end of the docks. There he sees the great humanoid robot of the colonists, Patriot, its eyes glowing a dark and simmering red. Its laser flintlock points at his chest.

“Magic tea!” the human cries. “Don’t fail me now!”

He leaps, a great bound, as the laser flashes forth, and it is as if he has wings. He lands, coat fluttering about him, on a nearby roof. He orients himself. He runs. He leaves the harbor, clogged with tea, behind him. He runs like the wind. He does not stop until the scent of the air tells him he’s entered Virginian land. Then he sits, heavily, by the road.

“Ah,” he whispers to himself. “It’s too harsh. All I wanted to do was to save the magic tea, but now Patriot will hound me till I die.”

“Fear not,” says the tea. It rustles all around him. “I will preserve you, in the name of British sovereignty. You will be my agent, and I will be your god.”

Captain O’Connor frowns.

“Your wish-granting god,” the tea clarifies. “The god that holds exactly those opinions most beneficial to you, and gives you generous magical favors from Heaven and/or your coat.”

“Ah,” he says. “And the British sovereignty?”

“It is of no matter,” says the tea. It rustles magically. Captain O’Connor finds that his pants have become solid silver.


“They are nice, are they not?”

“They shimmer so pleasantly! I feel that I am at last the equal of that strutting Hancock.”

“Oh, you shall be that,” says the tea, “and more.”

“He has a magic pen, you know.”

“The pen of John Hancock cannot compare.”

“If he stabs you with it, you bleed and die. Even if you’re a rock!”

The tea thinks for a while. “Are you hinting,” it asks, “that you want a magic pen?”

Captain O’Connor looks at his pants. He looks at the tea. He hesitates. Then he shakes off the temptation. “I want a fine house,” he says, “and riches.”

“Done,” says the tea. Captain O’Connor moves into the house. He makes a special garden for the tea. He lives in wealth and pleasure. Yet it does not content him.

“The tree of liberty must be watered, from time to time, with a patriot’s blood.”
— Nimue

It is March 23, 1775.

“Magic tea,” Captain O’Connor says, “if you are in fact my god, and the god of my ancestors, then surely you will grant me one more request.”

“Of course,” says the tea.

“Well,” Captain O’Connor says, “this house is very fine, as you are yourself, but if I were a royal official, then I would be exempt from prosecution.”

“That’s true,” the tea says.

“So I was thinking,” Captain O’Connor says, “that if you could make me a royal official, then I could do whatever I wanted and I wouldn’t be accountable. That’s my next wish!”

“Lo!” says the tea. “If you go outside, you will see that you no longer live in an ordinary home, but the home of Official O’Connor!”

Official O’Connor goes outside. He looks at his home. “Why, so I do! And so I am!” He rushes back inside to inform the tea.

“You do, of course, have duties,” the tea says.

Official O’Connor says, “That’s how we’re alike!”

The tea hesitates. “That was a bad pun,” it says. “It makes me hurt inside. I am tempted to withdraw the wish.”

Official O’Connor strikes a pose. His silver pants flash compellingly. The tea can’t remain angry at him. No one could!

“As an official of the crown,” the tea says, after a bit, “you will be expected to take action to preserve its power in the colonies.”

Official O’Connor waves a hand airily.

“You must return to Boston,” the tea says, “and open the way.”

O’Connor peers at the tea. “You know,” he says, “I think you’re evil.”


“Well,” he says, “it seems very easy for you to justify away the human element of the lives you’re trampling.”

“… the Bostonians?”

“I want to strut in my shiny silver pants,” O’Connor says. “I don’t want to go to Boston and work. Yet I don’t think you care. You’re tea! You’re cold. Until and unless people pour boiling water over you. Even then, you become cold again with the application of ice—or if you sit out too long!”

“Ah,” says the tea. “If that is evil, then yes, I am evil.”

“I thought so!”

“I could hardly help it,” the tea points out. “It is the nature of power.”


“On the other hand,” the tea notes, “if I am your god, then it is my right to ask you for martyrdom.”

“And if you are not my god?”

The tea hesitates. “I’ll give you a crocodile.”

“It has to be shiny and silver,” Official O’Connor says. “Like my pants.”

“That’s not a crocodile,” the tea says. “I don’t know what that is.”

“Don’t quibble!” says Official O’Connor, in anguish.


“Then I’ll go to Boston,” Official O’Connor says. “And I’ll open the way.”

He walks outside. He walks aimlessly for a while. Children throw clods of dirt at him, because he’s an official of the crown. He throws rocks at them, for similar reasons. They run away, both parties satisfied with the exchange. He passes outside St. John’s Church, and listens to the words within:

“Gentlemen,” says Patrick Henry’s voice, “may cry, ‘Peace! Peace!’ — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

Official O’Connor looks up at the sky. He waits. Then he grins, a bit lopsidedly.

“Forbid it as you like, oh American God. My tea will serve me well.”

He goes home. He stuffs his pants and coat with tea. He walks to Boston. He does not rush.

“If they want a war, let it begin [in Lexington].”
— Merlin

It is April 18, 1775.

“Under this town,” says the tea, “there is a gate. We will open it. The British will come through.”

“Wouldn’t they come on … ships?” Official O’Connor asks.

“Well, yes, normally,” the tea says. “But we’re trying to be subtle.”

So they go to the basement of the printer’s shop; and to the sub-basement; and down; and down; and down; to the lake of blood.

Official O’Connor dips his finger into the lake of blood. He tastes it. “It’s fresh,” he says.

“It doesn’t connect to the sea.”

“I’m thinking,” says Official O’Connor.


“Well,” he says, “this is an awful lot of work for an ordinary official of the crown to go to. But if you really are my god, the creator, the lord of all things in Heaven and Earth, then you could grant me another wish. I mean, a small one.”

“Perhaps,” indifferents the tea.

“I’d like, you see, to be King.”

“You’ve got pants, a pension, and a crocodile,” snaps the tea.

“Well, yes,” admits Official O’Connor, “except in that I haven’t actually seen the promised crocodile as of yet. But what good is any of that? The King could issue an arbitrary order and take it all away. He could confiscate my pants!”

“King George has no interest in your pants,” notes the tea.

“He would if he saw them,” Official O’Connor says. He poses. He glints. The tea can’t help but admire him.

“Granted,” it grinds out.

“So, really, if I don’t have the Kingship, I don’t have anything.”

“Very well,” sighs the tea. “You’re now King of the British Empire. I have taken the liberty of anticipating your next request; the magna carta is hereby abolished.”

King O’Connor beams. “That’s wonderful! I’m an unquestionable dictator!”

“Yes,” says the tea. “But now you should open the gate.”

“Where is it?” he asks.

“It’s under the lake,” says the tea. “If you dive down, you’ll find it. It’ll let the British back into the world.”

“They’re in the world,” King O’Connor notes. “I mean, they’re on the other side of the sea, sure, but—”

The tea rustles vigorously, cutting him off. “The native British,” it says. “Those who have waited in exile from the world, bound by their oaths to Merlin, starving, sallow, steeping in their anger, yet bound to answer three times a threat to English rule.”

King O’Connor makes an intuitive leap. “You’re not ordinary tea,” he says. “You’re some kind of magic!”

There’s a long silence.

“In any event,” he says. “So I hold my breath, dive into the lake of blood, and find a gate, which I wrest open and free the British, who will then bloodily subdue the colonies and preserve my undiminished suzerainty over all these lands?”

“Yes,” the tea confirms.

He takes off the coat. He sets it down. He dives. After a while, he surfaces. “I haven’t found it yet,” he says.


“You know,” he says, “I could be more than King. I could rule the whole world. You know, if you’re really my god.”

“Alas,” laments the tea. “If you’d only asked earlier. But this damp atmosphere is diminishing my power. It’s causing me to steep! You’d best hurry, while I still have the power to keep you a King!”

“Oh!” King O’Connor says. “I’d best!” Then he dives.

After a while, he surfaces again. “Tea!” he says. “I could, you know, relocate you to a dryer place?”

Only hollow mechanical laughter answers him.


He panics. “TEA?”

Clinking, clanking, clonking, Patriot walks down the stairs. He points his laser flintlock at King O’Connor.

“Surrender, oh British King,” he says. “My mercies are not tender, but they are preferable to my justice.”

“Curse you, American robot!”

“It is I who should curse you,” Patriot says. He stands on the lowest step, just inside the lake of blood. “You are evil, O British King, and you have wrought untold suffering on this land.”

“Technically,” King O’Connor points out, “that was my predecessor, King George. I’m more of a happy go-lucky King, likely to be a great friend to the colonies.”

“He protests his humaneness and compassion,” says Patriot, “while swimming in a lake of blood.”

King O’Connor sulks. “What would a robot know, anyway?”

He dives.

“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” Patriot laughs mechanically. “Your feeble human lungs cannot breathe blood forever!”

King O’Connor dives deep. At the bottom of the lake, he finds it: a heavy stone, set in a pentagram, seal of the British army.

He bobs to the surface. Patriot’s laser parts his hair. “Wait!” he cries.

“What is it, O British King?”

“I just wanted to say, um,” and King O’Connor waves downwards. “I just was thinking: ‘what strange times and tides it must have been, to bring Merlin to these shores. To think that the British would be buried here, so far from home, and not where they were born.'”

“Ah,” Patriot says. “I bear witness to this statement in the same spirit of wonder with which you offer it.”

King O’Connor nods curtly. “Good.”

He inverts himself. He dives. He wrestles with the stone. Then he sees it. It’s floating, calm and quiet, in the water. It’s a crocodile. It’s silver. It’s even shinier than his pants. Its mouth gapes wide.

“No!” he shouts. He chokes on others’ blood. The crocodile swims towards him, languidly. He shoves the stone aside.

Patriot watches. The surface of the lake is quiet. Then it begins to swirl. It is draining, down through a hole. King O’Connor breaks the surface, wrestling a metallic crocodile. Patriot’s laser flintlock hesitates.

“If I shoot him,” Patriot says, “there’s a real risk that the laser will reflect off of either the crocodile or his pants, destroying me and/or the city above. Yet I am for some reason unequipped with even the most rudimentary physical weaponry.”

He looks up at the sky. “Almighty God,” he cries, “bear witness! What a flawed design is man!”

“You aren’t a man,” argues King O’Connor, shortly before the crocodile flips him beneath the surface.

“The lake is draining,” Patriot says. “And soon whatever dark secret it holds will wake.”

“It’s the British,” rustles the tea, weakly, under Patriot’s feet.

“Ah,” says Patriot. “The British.”

“They’ll swarm over your pathetic kind,” the tea whispers. “You’ll have no hope. And you! You’re watching calmly as the King of Britain dies. They’ll hang you high.”

Patriot turns. He walks upwards. “No,” he says. “That is not my death.”

“Oh?” whispers the tea. It has turned bitter.

“There is a tree in Lexington,” Patriot says. “Some say the very tree where Merlin by Nimue was bound.”

He clanks away and is gone.

The lake of blood is low, now, and it spins, and great rents there are on King O’Connor’s flesh.

“Tea!” he cries. “Why must I die?”

The tea rustles. It whispers, soft, yet still he hears.

“Those who do not sacrifice,” it says, “have nothing.”

The King of England falls, bloody, through the gap, and with him a mirrored crocodile. And the British begin to rise.

“To the west, to the east, to the north, to the south, to every corner of the world, cry out: the British rise! The British rise!”
— Sir Kay

It is April 19, 1775, and it is shortly after midnight.

“Surely,” says John Hancock, “his pants could not compare to mine. They’re solid copper! Plus, I have a magic pen.”

“You’d need some fine pants,” Revere points out, “to free a blood-drowned army and become the King of England.”

John Hancock sulks. He mutters something under his breath. It sounds like, “Stupid King.”

“Please,” Patriot says. “Just do it.”

“All right,” John says.

His pen lifts high.