Sister Enid gritted her teeth as she stared at the contents of her china mug.
“Sweet Mother Mary and Joseph, infuse, damn you!” she shouted at the teabag that was sitting quietly at the bottom of the vessel. She was desperately in need of the calming herbal tonic, not to mention the ginseng buzz she always got from this particular blend.
It had been one of those days. She had been late to work after the cat had puked into her toaster. It wasn’t even her cat. Then, in morning registration, Sarah-Jane Putterly had had yet another nose-bleed. All over little Maria Jones. (Despite her GP’s assurances to the contrary, Sister Enid was convinced that Sarah Jane Putterly’s blood vessels must be connected upside down or something.) Both girls had ended up in tears in Sister Enid’s office while she had to try and contact their parents. Mrs Putterly was at home but Mrs Jones had been harder to track down.
Several phone calls and a box of Kleenex later, Enid had managed to locate her at the local hospital, where she had just taken Maria’s elder sister for what the nurse who had answered the phone described as “self-inflicted shrew bites”. Quite how that could have happened the duty nurse did not know but it was definitely a pygmy white-toothed shrew, apparently.
Once both girls had been collected, Enid had to fill in the required forms but there was only one left. A quick visit to the photocopier turned into a twenty-minute wait for Sister Rachel to photocopy the entire British Library. (Every institution has a photocopying king or queen who itches for any possible excuse to use their department’s copying contraption. Privy to arcane secrets, whispered from one Xerox engineer to another in darkened rooms, these masters of reproduction revel in the delights of double-sided stapled collations complete with different coloured card cover. Whether any of it is really necessary, only they really know. The rest of us just stand and stare impatiently.) When eventually she stopped, it was because the thing was out of paper. Bitch.
Enid closed her eyes for two deep breaths and then examined the mug once more. Finally, it looked just about right. With a well-practised movement, she fished the bag out with a silver teaspoon, engraved on the handle with Rupert the Bear, and dropped it into the bag-lined plastic bin next to her.
Bringing the mug up to her face she took a heavy blackcurrant breath. Everything was going to be all right.