I was sitting around my office smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes, re-reading old newspapers, when an alert came over my phone notifying me that a friend of mine had updated his Facebook status. Being a man of few friends, I’m not one to take these matters lightly, so I yanked the device out of the desk drawer, flipped it open, and scanned for the new information.
I guess I don’t have a head for business, because if you gave me all the tea in China I’d be like, “What the @#% am I supposed to do with this?!”
I started to leave an angry comment: “Well, guess who does know what to do with it, mother fucker?” but instead of posting, I just sat there fantasizing about what it would be like to be a tea baron presented with the entire supply of a precious commodity that’s coveted by a thirsty nation with semi-porous trade barriers. Sometimes, a little thing like that can get a guy’s gears spinning. I started to feel strange, or more accurately, the room started to look strange. I don’t know if it was a mirage from the oppressive heat or if the walls and furniture had actually started bending back and forth, but there was some sort of visual, wavy transformation in that room—a phenomenon which I had learned from every ’70s and ’80s sitcom to mean that a fantasy sequence was coming on. Before I knew it, I was tramping around a tea plantation on an island just outside of Chinese territorial waters wearing a light seersucker suit and Panama hat. When I looked past my hands down at my feet, I noticed that both were tea-stained, like I had been crawling around in a vat of steeped leaves. I could also smell sunscreen emanating from my exposed skin because no proper fantasy has ever started with melanoma.
There were crates of tea stacked fifty feet high to my right and left, and my first thought was that they should probably be in an air conditioned storage facility, like the Mr. Cube storage place up the street from my mom’s house, but my assistant—a sharply dressed Asian man whose name I learned was Mr. Lin—assured me that the product would hold up until we were able to move it offshore and the next supply came in. So, this was to be an ongoing operation, I thought. Not only do I have all of the tea from the oppressed and often tyrannical nation of China, but my stock would be routinely replenished. The first thing to do was to fill the void created by my windfall.
“Find out the name of the Chinese president or prime minister or whoever is in charge and tell and get him on the phone,” I ordered Lin. In those first hours, I feel that I may have been overly bossy. I was still insecure in my new role as the overlord of a leafy empire.
Within five minutes, I was talking to 韩长赋, who is the current Chinese Minister of Agriculture and who told me to call him Han. “I want your boss, Han,” I said sharply, and mentioned that I would deal with Mr. Lin’s incompetence when my business was concluded, but Han advised me with a great deal of conviction that he had the authority to negotiate the price of tea and tea related products.
“I’m prepared to offer you market price and take the entire inventory off your hands,” 韩长赋 started.
“I’m not an idiot. I sell you all of this tea, you flood that shithole of a country, and then the price drops to nothing. Then I’ve got Russia and India breathing down my neck. I’m prepared to sell you ten percent of my inventory at a price of seventy-five thousand per kilo. That’s U.S. Dol— ” I trailed off when I noticed Linn waving his hands frantically. “Hold on, Han,” I said covering the mouthpiece.
“This isn’t heroin. Only tea,” Lin rasped.
“Well, what is an outrageously tough price that doesn’t make me look like a complete fucking buffoon, Lin?”
“Forty dollars per kilo is very expensive. That’s an eye-gouging price,” Lin said with a greedy nod.
I uncovered the mouthpiece. “You there, Han?”
“Did I hear you say $75,000 U.S.?” 韩长赋 asked.
“No, that’s ridiculous. I started to say “seventy-five, clownhead,” but my assistant has a soft spot for the Chinese people and talked me down to sixty per kilo. My assistant also informed me that ‘clownhead’ isn’t really a thing in tea discussions. My bad.” With this, Lin threw his hands up in the air. “That’s for a tenth of my inventory.”
“You are a cruel and heartless tea master. My people are poor working class folk and cannot afford such prices. We are a desperate nation,” pleaded the frantic 韩长赋.
“Then your people will hang you and your cohorts from your commie flag polls when there is simply no tea to be had at any tea at any price.”
“What would you do if we landed, say 50,000 of the People’s marines on your beaches and took your tea?”
“Don’t play tough with me, Han. I so much as smell a Chinese junk within three miles of this island, I’ll blow the tea to kingdom come.” I looked at Lin who was just shrugging his shoulders in an “I have no idea what you’re talking about” gesture.
“You are right, and there will be riots in the streets, but there’s no way that I can present this to our leadership.” 韩长赋 sounded dejected.
“There’s ten million grams of tea in it for you if you close this deal on your end. That goes for each yes vote on the cabinet or whatever you guys call it.”
“This may be acceptable, but why did you use grams instead of just saying ‘ten thousand kilos?'” 韩长赋 asked.
“I wanted to make it sound impressive. Mr. Lin will hash out the details with you.”
In addition to settling the deal with the terms I had negotiated, Lin told them that they had to pick up the tea in a Jin-class nuclear sub, and that I was to be given a tour. I was so pleased with Lin that I made him a junior partner earning 5% of the profits and an accelerated incentive program. His first assignment as a junior partner was to cut the dock workers’ benefits to pay for his promotion.
I lived on that plantation until far into my old age, but when I woke from my dream, only a few minutes had passed. My office was just as it had been before, except for a single item. Someone had placed a clown’s head shaped mug on my desk filled with piping hot coffee. Tears filled my eyes.
I was home.