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Ben_Sharp's picture

The tea salesman.

By Ben_Sharp in Scare Us

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Johnathan Teller is a tea salesman. He hates his life, hates his job, and above all, hates tea, the insipid beverage that has come to define his life.

When he discovers the strange creature, he allows himself to think, even for a second, that things could be different. But the creature has other ideas.



Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 10, 2012 - 6:01am

I think it begins well, but at times it seems like "fine writing" just for the sake of "fine writing." For me, there's also a disconnect between the tea salesman's delicate and sensitive internal observations and his rough language and behavior, as well as the implication that he has to deal with a sophisticated clientele and so must have a manner to match. Of course, here he's in a grubby little town where all that wouldnt matter, but would he totally shed his uppity persona even then? I guess there's a built- in discrepancy between the classy tea he sells and the shabbiness if his home-made stand and living arrangements in his van, so maybe you could play up a little more the difference between his sales persona and the real him, or indicate a little more from the beginning that this is part of his discontent and not simply his boredom with a kind of prissy job. (I have trouble believing in an itinerant tea salesman to begin with and wonder if this is the best possible setup for a story of man vs. blob, but I am trying to accept the story on its own terms.) Your story gets transformed when your main character meets The Blob. I kept expecting the teen-aged Steve McQueen to rush off to warn the town, but It's kind of fun when your character actually enjoys being consumed by the blob.

SoulBoulder's picture
SoulBoulder from Chicago is reading The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotions July 10, 2012 - 8:37am


I had few bones to pick. First, the narrator never revealed why Johnathan's life was so pitiful. It was stated in the second paragraph but never came back around to any history of his postition as a tea seller. I thought this would invest the reader into empathizing with Johnathan's cynical persona.

Second, some of the writing was drawn out and could me more succinct given some revision. I made some notes in the attached file giving examples, hopefully giving you an idea of what I'm talking about. One example: 

  • '...The fly stopped struggling after only a few seconds, and the whole weird mass of flesh reshaped itself. The legs of the fly extruded from the sides and a vague head shape sculpted its way from one end. The end result was something like the offspring of an inside out fly and a mutant slug. Johnathan couldn't look away. The creature walked uncertainly on its newly acquired legs, wobbling a little and moving to the corner of the box, where it slumped down, perhaps to rest. That fly murder really takes it out of you, you know?'  
  • Try something like:Once the fly stopped its struggle the creature reshaped itself, wobbling on its newly acquired legs, then slumped down. Johnathan couldn’t look away. 

I know it cuts a lot of the action out, but it makes the impact of the action much more digestable.

And finally, there were a few metaphorical verbs that could easily be taken as literal given the context of the story. For example, 'His head throbbed where the rock had bit him.' Did the rock actually bite him? Because there were many other fantastical elements, you may confuse the reader into thinking the rock is a live being.

Beyond this, I think your fantastical elements are creative. I like the ending. (though the image of the final creature could be more crisp considering that is what the story built itself up to). I also liked how Johnathan enjoyed being consumed by the slime.

I definetly enjoyed the read, hope to see another version of this one.    

Ben_Sharp's picture
Ben_Sharp from London July 10, 2012 - 8:57am

Hi guys, thanks a lot for your comments. I will add some back story explaining how our friend the tea salesman came to be, and edit some of the descriptions to be a little more succinct. 

I also agree that the final creature needs a little fleshing out.

Stay tuned for a new version!





bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. July 10, 2012 - 12:25pm

Interesting story.  I like the voice of the tea salesman.  It was bitter and angry, which would only make his job harder.  This shows him causing his own problems.  But there's never a hint at why he's so bitter.  Does he just hate people?  If so, why a travelling tea salesman?  This doesn't need a long explanation, but it needs a little (maybe just a hint).  I could see this guy being an ex-con and being kind-of on the lamb.  Maybe it was an inheritance from his father, who was the charming salesman but an abusive prick after the store closed.  I don't know... but it needs just a little justification for the narrator to be so mad at people and still work a public job.

The narration, coming mainly from the mind of the protagonist, seems a little too educated for his current predicament without a touch of backstory to show us why he uses these words in his thoughts.  An example would be “creasing her ancient leathery face “.  This guy seems like he would say “pinching her face tight like a pug” or something cruder.

The parts where he's 'cursing the day, the year', it wouldn't hurt to hear how well he curses.  “Fucking stupid town, shit-eating people, motherfucking heat.  Fuck this day.  And fuck this year.”  Or however he cusses.  This might show us some of his past, especially if he reuses a phrase that was a favorite of whoever he got this tea shop from.

In your description, you say “When he discovers the strange creature, he allows himself to think, even for a second, that things could be different.  “  But I never get a sense of that.

Craig Clevenger's picture
Craig Clevenger from Joshua Tree, CA September 26, 2012 - 1:36am

Ben, you’re a sick man. And I mean that in a good way. First off, I like the fairy tale phrasing and rhythm of the story, it serves it very well. Little to nitpick, here. Very little, except:

“It was Thursday when it happened.”

I realize that this is the sort of line that’s probably seen in a lot of horror writing, but it’s one of my pet peeves. Saying something happened is superfluous to an entire story, since the story itself is about a thing (or things) happening. It’s the sort of shark music setup like we hear in old thriller films; “and then it happened” and its variants are all verbal equivalents of the “dun dun DUN!” music that beats a plot point home with a sledge hammer. Kind of like I’m doing with my own point, so I’ll stop.

But really, that’s it. I’ll even forgive the murdering of a parrot (I like birds, especially parrots) in light of just how weird and squishy this whole thing is. My only lingering question… why tea? A traveling salesman, especially one working out of a kiosk in his van, hitting the small towns in the flyover states, I can totally believe that. That is, if he were selling hardware, aluminium siding, vitamins, Bibles… anything. Not that selling tea robs the story of anything, it’s just that I’m curious about the choice.

But really, that’s it. Straightforward, unexpected, and gross (the thing made me think of some alien slug, and slugs make me want to barf). Nicely done.

Ben_Sharp's picture
Ben_Sharp from London September 29, 2012 - 3:35am

Hi Craig, many thanks for the feedback. I totally see your point and have instantly culled the offending 'when it happened' from the story, replacing it with just, 'It was Thursday...'

Why tea you ask? Well actually, at the risk of being cliche, 'It came to me in a dream'.

But wait! before you change the channel, I, for some reason known only to my subconcious, had a dream about a travelling tea salesman. And although in the aforementioned dream, there was demons, and no slug-creature, I figured, why not let the tea salesman have his day?

You are right, there are things he could be selling that make more sense, but i wanted him to channel a kind of 1940's travelling salesman type. Also, i needed him to hate his product, and no one is that passionate about aluminum siding. (I am currently living in London, people ARE that passionate about tea)


Anyway, many thanks again Craig. Much appreciated.