The Seven Samovars
by Peter Sursi
SOURCE: Lightspeed Magazine
“The first samovar, the silver one at the end with the little bird perched atop the key, is filled to the top with Life,” she says, “freshly brewed each morning at sunrise exactly. A few drops will perk up most customers on a Monday morning, to be sure. And most of them need it, don’t you think?”
This is what she tells me—the owner of The Seven Samovars—when I arrive at work the first morning. I gape at her. Something like that is way more than a girl can take this early in the morning.
“Just a few drops, mind. A full cup . . . well, a full cup can convince the weary soul ready to close the door and lie down that final time that perhaps there’s a little something left to discover. You will not need so much very often. The last time I served a full cup was nearly . . . two years ago, now, it must be. David: small coffee, black, every morning with his wife, Judith: large chamomile tea with a spoon of raspberry jam. That’s the Russian way to take tea: a spoonful of jam in the tea instead of sugar.
“Every morning for three years they come in. Every morning but the Sabbath, of course. Very proper. We say hello and they sit and read the paper. Together, always together. They came here to live with their son, Paul: large latte, extra cream with a shot of hazelnut syrup. They survived the war, you know. He was a watchmaker, and they got out of Europe in time, but most of their family was long gone. Anyway, three years, nearly every morning, always together. And then one day, two days, three days, nothing. The fourth day, David’s here by himself. What happened, I ask? It’s a stroke, he says. Doctor’s not sure if she’ll wake or if she does, how much of her will be left.
“He stands there, then. The line is out the door, but he’s so lost. Small coffee, black. Every day for three years, but he can’t remember. She always ordered first, you see. So I give him a cup. Full. And you’d have done the same, I’m sure. You can just tell who needs it. I made him drink it right there, never mind the rest of the line.
“And he finished his cup and handed it back to me. He stood a little taller, and got his regular. Small coffee, black. And he asked for one more of those “fancy drinks” I’d just given him. He was going to take it to the hospital for his wife, and see if the smell might not just bring her around.
“A solid recovery. That’s what the doctor said, David told me, ‘a solid recovery,’ which made us both laugh. ‘What do doctors know anyway,’ he said. Within a week, they were back to the same old routine, and two years more she lived. They died on the same day, then, in Paul’s house.
“So, you see, you will not need a full cup of life very often, but you will know when it is time.”