The Curmudgeon


Monday, November 05, 2012

5 November 1605

It was nearly the hour of closing at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Hooligan Motts stood behind the bar with a napkin, polishing his lilac jowls. "Fifth of November sixteen oh five," he said. "Nearly closing time." In the darkened corner where Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett pursued their engimatic interests, an enigmatic nod was just about detectable. From elsewhere came splutters as the card-players tried to shuffle with Limbless Fred.

Nearest the door, Granny Forbus glowered and sucked her teeth, though not too hard in case she aspirated another of the real ones. The last time that had happened, Granny Forbus had ingested a premolar, not her cleanest by a long way, and from that day forth had complained incessantly of being eaten away from the inside. It was in vain that Limbless Fred pointed out that one tooth chewing was like one hand clapping, paradoxical; it was in vain that Mr Blodgett, or possibly Mr Boggust, offered the use of twenty feet of rubber tubing and a good quality cork. The complaining only stopped when they landed by chance in the twenty-first century and Hooligan Motts was able to pilfer enough SweetiFizz™ to de-fang the population of a small city. After several not altogether voluntary gallons, Granny Forbus had pronounced the pain dissolved.

Now she glared dyspeptically at the desperate stranger who rushed in through the open door. He was wild-eyed, ruffed and bearded, and as soon as he had stumbled into the bar he turned and tried to force the door closed behind him. Observing his efforts from each of her bilious orbits in turn, Granny Forbus slurped a mean little cackle into her drink.

The man turned and stared at her. "They're after me," he cried. "Sanctuary, in God's name!" He fell to his knees and clawed at the skirts of Granny Forbus.
"What's that?" she said.
"Sanctuary," said the man. "From the servants of the tyrant. At least close the door and let me hide."

He was clawing smudges of black powder all over the slightly off-black skirts of Granny Forbus. "Smutty-fingers," she said, knocking out her pipe on his knuckle-bones; whereupon a series of small explosions added their contribution to her wardrobe's general disrepute. "Oh, get off with you," she said.

The stranger had recovered from his initial desperation long enough to look about him. "What is this place?" he inquired. "I have been many times on this street, yet I never saw this house before. Is it sorcery, or a miracle?"
"It's nearly closing time," said Hooligan Motts. "What shall we do?"
"Sling him out," said Granny Forbus. From the darkened corner of Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett, there were sounds of affirmation.
"Bugger him," said one of the card-players.
Draping the napkin over the tap of Old Groveller's, Hooligan Motts came out from behind the bar and took the stranger by the neck. The stranger was wearing a cloak, but Hooligan Motts preferred the neck because people rarely flee leaving their necks in a captor's hand.
"Mercy!" choked the stranger. "In the name of the Blessed Virgin - "
"Get off with you," said Granny Forbus coquettishly.

Hooligan Motts flung the stranger into the night, where several beweaponed friends greeted him warmly, and the door of the Gallows and Glockenspiel closed upon the scene. There was an ominous rumble as they left, but Granny Forbus said it was just gas.


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