Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day Five-Twenty-Four: The National Pastime

When we stocked for this journey, Libby, Plato and I knew that we'd need the essentials. Pubton has proven amazingly abundant in the hands of my mother, and we scraped a massive amount of food and drink off the top of the storehouses back home. I was so caught up in the attacks and the trial and the kinda infidelity that I neglected the crops. No more starving in the winter for Pubton, no sir.

For me, booze is not an essential. I drink it occasionally, but, yuck. It tastes bad and does nothing for me. The other people on board, though… ah, they're another matter. They've taken to our home-grown grain alcohol like sailing shrimp to an orca's testes.

(Sailing shrimp really like orca testes. Nobody knows why. Nobody cares to ask 'em. I certainly won't. I can't even eat sailing shrimp, they weird me out. Mental pictures…)

I was not surprised to see Grylock on the second deck of the Dauphine maybe twenty minutes after we set out, hunting through unopened crates to find the booze. Nor I was surprised to discover him, drunk off his ass and collapsed over the observation deck's railing, later that night. And, once again, I was not surprised to see him sitting in the Neo Beefiary today, a bottle at his lips.

I WAS surprised to see that he had company. A fairly robust company, at that.

"Dragomir Mr. Mayor man!" Grylock called to me as I entered the spacious Beefiary, waving at me with a half-emptied mug from a table. "C'mere! Join in, join in! Have somea this shitty ale with us!"

I approached the bolted-down table with some confusion. Grylock was sitting with Edmund, a Weekendist novice who'd hopped on board for the adventure, a digger and his dog, one of the Dauphine's mechanics, and Morris. Poor Morris was already slumped over the table, burping quietly as he snoozed.

Grylock waved at me again. "C'mon, ya… hick… bastard, sit yer ass doooown."

I wafted the smell of his goblin breath away. "Bit early for this, innit?"

Ed answered, his eyes wiggling under the influence of the alcohol. "T'ain't never a crime / nor nary a place / to have some booze / 'n spit in your face."

"That barely rhymes at all, Ed." I pointed to a nearby porthole. Sun streamed in. "Besides, it's, like, two in the afternoon. I thought I gave you guys stuff to do 'round here. Duties, you know? You done 'em?"

"You ain't my mayor no more!" Grylock cried, a burp echoing out of his lengthy snout and perfuming the air. "You canna tell me what ta do. 'sides, I… yeah. Did it 'n shit."

"You kept watch."

Grylock nodded. His nose plonked against the table.

"You kept watch until six."

Another clumsy nod.

"Even though it's only two."

"I'm good at my job, get off my back!" Grylock moved to undo his pants. I backed away, sensing a golden shower. He cackled and sat down. "Atta boy, Drago, atta boy. Learned ta dodge the bullets, ye did."

I glared at the rest of the table. They were in various states of disarray. Only the Weekendist had the sense to look sheepish, possibly because he'd only had one drink.

"Ahhhh, whattttsssit matter, anyway, eh?" Grylock took a long, happy swig on his bottle. "We're christening the damned thing! This beauty Dauphine! Didn't do it proper before, 'n now we are. Celebratin' our good fortune, 'cause we're movin' away from all the troublestuffs."

I stiffened. I sensed a point coming on.

Grylock continued to rant. "All those… stupid… darky things… they're back in t'other direction, yeah? 'n us, we… we, lad… we're headin' otherways. Elsewise. Celebrate that shit, yeah? Celebrate! 'n when we get back, we'll… we'll fuckin'… we'll fuckin' kill 'em all!"

He raised his glass, spilling the last of the alcohol onto the wooden deck. "Huzzah 'n shit! We'll kill those Non bastards what right for, or somethin'! Manky asshats, I'll piss in their bloody skulls! For Goblinoster!"

Everyone raised their glasses in a toast. Edmund improvised a spectacularly racist ballad about the Non, and soon everybody (save the Weekendist, who slipped away) had joined in singing, their discordant voices carrying well past the Neo Beefiary. I took heart in the fact that everyone else was either busy helping Libby with maintenance, locked in their cabins, or watching the landscape roll by.

I didn't stop them from singing. Knowing that Bora was crammed somewhere in the Beefiary's storerooms and wishing her some small amount of ill favour, I hoped that she felt very uncomfortable about Edmund's horrid lyrics, every 'Smash their blacky faces' and 'Crush their blacky eyes' and 'Boff their blacky dogs'. I wouldn't have been able to stop the revellers anyway - my success rate when dealing with drunks is low.

As I walked away, though, I noticed that the Neo Beefiary had one more tenant. He was a lumpy, squat little thing, squeezed against a wall and maintaining a silence so thick that the drunks had no chance of noticing his presence in the shadow. I saw him, though, and in his dopey, mournful expression I saw the first stirrings of profound sadness. He focused it on a half-empty glass of water, but there it was.

And I saw something else. Something I know was there. Something in his eyes… something that didn't flash, but grew, and lingered, and sat, plump with shame.

I saw green.

We need to have a talk, Plato and I.


Dragomir the Wanderer

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