The Most Beautiful Zarf in the World

A short story by Chris O

Waking up in a darkened room, she senses the morning light is slightly beyond closed doors. 

Surrounded by family and friends in the cool abode, China Bone anticipates her owners rising for the day. She knows she is their favourite; built well for the tasks required of her. 

But, more than that, she exudes an elegance unmatched by other in their community. The Bone family is truly a class above the rest, with China being the crème de-la-crème. Always the first chosen by the Master and Mistress of the abode, China inspires jealously in others. Smooth and sleek, China even unearths envious emotions from her best friend Lain Porce. 

Who’s to blame them? It’s not often strength, beauty and performance reside in one place.  

While many may envy China, the individual with the most bitterness towards her remains Mic Cera. 

Not in a position to do anything about, Mic and the rest of the Ceras stay at the back of the room, hoping and waiting for their chance to shine. Unfortunately, Lain and the Porces are next in line after the Bones, so the Ceras rarely see the light of day. 

It’s a matter of genetics (or in this case materials). The Ceras are simply not built to the same standards as their roommates.  

Crudely put together with an obscene appendage protruding from their sides, the Ceras are barely fit to be in the same room as the other clans. 

Sensing her family and friends beginning to wake, China does her best to start the day off right for everyone. 

“Good morning,” she says with a chipper tone.  

While most of the responses are pleasant, Mic can be counted on to try and spoil the mood. His gruff reply emanates from the dark recesses of their room, “what’s so good about it, Ms. Perfect?” 

She doesn’t dignify it with a response – they all know he’s bitter because he barely sees the light of day. Instead, China focuses on being positive. 

“Oh, I hope they’re having a party,” she says. And not being able to resist herself, “maybe even the Ceras will get some work in today.” 

The laughter from the Bones and Lains is joined by quiet snickers from most of the Ceras – who are as happy-go-lucky as you’ll get. The only one who didn’t enjoy the comment was Mic, who remained silent and brooding as he is wont to do. 

China sits contently and waits for the homeowners to arrive for their morning ritual. Soon after the gentle steps of the home’s Mistress can be heard and eventually the alluring aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts into the room. 

“Aaaahhhh, the sweet smell of a strong Turkish roast,” exclaims China. “I can’t wait to get that into me.” 

Lain leans over, “do you think they’ll let us wear the new outfits today?” 

It’s a good question. China has her eyes on a particularly stunning zarf she noticed the Mistress putting away the other day.  

Each time their room opens, China steals glances at the zarf which sits on the second shelf of the tall oak cabinet with glass doors in the kitchen. 

Glistening silver with hints of gold on the handle, the zarf is elegantly handcraft ed with brilliant designs of lotus flowers. It’s the most beautiful zarf she’s ever seen and would be the perfect fit for any occasion; be it morning coffee, afternoon tea or a stirring nightcap. 

“I really hope so Lain, I really hope so,” China finally replies after a few moments of contemplation. 

Heavy footsteps reverberate through the room and the anticipation for the day to begin grows. They get closer and closer, causing a slight rumble in the room.  Eventually, the footsteps stop, and the doors begin to open. 

The Master of the house stands and observes his room full of Bones, Porces and Ceras.  

He begins taking the family of Bones (all six of them) out and placing them on the kitchen table. As he walks over to the big oak cabinet, China watches eagerly as he begins pulling out some of his best zarfs. 

Dressing the rest of the Bone family first, the Master smiles as he sees China look ing her best with the sunlight glowing like a halo around her. He nods and goes back to the cabinet.  

Here is the moment of truth. Sure enough, he pulls out the lotus flower zarf and puts it on China. She beams with pride at the honour of being the first to wear it.  The zarf’s strength and beauty are unmatched by any China has ever worn. 

It’s too bad the Master closed the doors to her room before she got to wear the zarf. She really wanted Lain and the rest of her community to see this, especially that bitter loudmouth Mic. 

Before too long, the warm feeling of coffee fills China from top to bottom. It’s a wonderful feeling which she looks forward to each day. Tea is okay, but coffee is the ultimate warm beverage. 

Once morning coffee is done China is taken out of her zarf, washed and they go to their separate rooms. Barely settled, China is almost accosted by Lain, “so, did you get to wear it? Did you?” 

China calmly replies, “oh, you mean the new zarf. Yes, and it was okay.” 

Mic grumbles something inaudible from the back which everyone ignores. Then Lain pushes on, “Just, okay? Come on, we’ve known each almost our whole lives.  What was it really like?” 

“It was the greatest zarf in the history of zarfs,” gushes China. “Everything about it was wonderful, the feel, the look … everything.” 

Lain hides her envy, barely, “I’m so happy for you.” China doesn’t reply, she sim ply sits and imagines the next time she’ll wear the zarf: almost assuredly during that day’s afternoon tea, when most her roommates will be able see her in it. 

A few hours later and China’s imagination proves to be a premonition as the doors open and the Master begins taking out every single one of the communities; yes, even Mic and the Cera family, who don’t require or ever get to wear a beautiful zarf like the Bones or the Porces.  

It’s afternoon teatime and the homeowners are hosting a big crowd. It was the perfect opportunity for China to don the new zarf and show off to her family and friends.  

However, the Master takes out the required number of zarfs and the new one is left behind in the cabinet. China is panicking, oh no, I’m going to get stuck with one of the ugly zarfs. In truth, none were ugly unless compared to the new one. 

He begins dressing the Bones and the Porces, eventually picking up China and putting her in an old, well-worn zarf.  

I wish I spoke human, laments China as she resigns herself to this fate. They’re all going to have a good laugh at me about this one. And I deserve it too for my prideful behaviour.  

He’s about to put her on the table when he stops and looks quizzically. His face says it all; this just won’t do. China’s spirits begin to lift. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll change this old zarf for the new one. 

Sure enough, that’s what the Master does. Now dressed the way she wants to be, China is proud as a peacock as she sees her compatriots’ awestruck glances. 

“That is beautiful,” says Lain. “Absolutely stunning. I don’t think anyone else except you could wear it so well.” 

Mic is awestruck at the sight of China in her amazing zarf. Sitting next to her at the table, he whispers, “you look incredible.” 

It was the nicest thing Mic has ever said to anyone. China almost blushes at the complement and manages to say “thank you Mic.” 

Yes, this was the most the most beautiful zarf in the world; the one which she would be wearing for all occasions. 

About This Story

A Zarf is described as a holder, usually of ornamental metal, for a coffee cup with out a handle by 

I just liked the sound of the word which I had never heard of before seeing it once while browsing ‘Z’ words. It gave me a chance to do what a couple of amazing people once said I could do: write 1,000 words about a coffee cup. 

While it would have been easy to just write 1,000 words on the many uses of a coffee cup, the different materials one could make it with and other typical themes; I wanted to be at least a little bit more creative and write about the day in the life of an individual coffee cup. 

Perhaps the character names are a bit simple to give away the fact China is indeed a cup, but this was more about utilizing the word “zarf” and writing about a coffee cup from a different perspective than anything else.

The Most Beautiful Zarf in the world was first published in Random Words, Random Stories. For more info, email

Illustrations by Anwyn Westgarth.

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