Monday, December 04, 2006
New Beginning 169
A warm rain is pounding on the cobblestones when the mulecar stops in The Balfun's Square. Shipman steps off the footboard, while wagons and horse carriages rattle past on steel-rimmed wheels. He hurries to the sheltered sidewalk at the edge of the square. A hand-painted sign, dimly lit against the overcast by a pair of covered gas lanterns, displays a license number and the image of a bright blue door standing ajar to reveal a pastoral landscape.
Shipman recognizes the sign. By local standards, the tavern looks from the sidewalk to be clean and well-kept, but he thinks the local standards are downright medieval. He fully expects to find the bartender wearing an eyepatch and speaking in a bizarre and incomprehensible pidgin-- and not just for dramatic effect.
Inside, Shipman finds the tavern as he expected: a rough-hewn place, full of the smells of fieldwork. The men are in good humor though, swigging from giant tankards as they laugh and sing.
Shipman strides forward and gains the attention of the barkeep. “A pint of your most popular ale, if you please,” he says.
The barkeep fills a tankard and presents it to Shipman. “This is our finest. We brew it ourselves.”
Shipman takes a draft, and immediately sprays the mouthful across the bar. “Good God, man,” he exclaims. “Do you brew this? Or do you merely cask it directly from the piss-tubes of those mules outside?”
The tavern falls silent. Turning toward a hulking beast of a man who has just walked up from the cellar, a firkin hefted under each arm, the barkeep says, “There’s a gentleman ’ere would like a word with you, Mr. Budweiser.”
Opening: j h woodyatt.....Continuation: Anonymous