The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 17: We'll Always Have Parrots
Before leaving the lorry, the student asks, "Any advice on places to… seek,
or stay away from…?"
"I think you'll find them easily enough. You have a fine guide as it is."
The student thanks him again, steps down out of the vehicle, and looks around Wyndmouth. He makes his way to the triangular village common, with a pub on one edge of it, a church on another, and a narrow road leading down to the sea wall in the front of the beach (shingle). He walks down to the beach. On either side, he can see piers with tubby little fishing boats.
He pulls the bust out of his bag, shows it the landscape, and asks it, "Any opinions?" He puts it back, and tries to make himself receptive to any passing influence. He notices only that the ocean looks brighter and bluer than… it had looked before? He works his way south onto the beach, and towards the two closest boats. Again, he looks around for something – anything – that might be in the least magical.
There's an old guy leaning on the rail of the nearer, larger boat. The first impression he gets is of someone chatting with someone in the water. This has to have been wrong, because there is only the flash of a fish's tail.
He decides to talk to him, so he climbs up onto the pier, and walks along it in the direction of the tubby boat. As he approaches, the captain appears on the near side of the boat.
"Do ships where I could get passage stop here?"
"Some of 'em take passengers now and then, depending on where they want to go."
"Do you take passengers?"
"Been known to."
"Would you take me?"
"Traveling light, are you?" He gestures to the single bag. "I'd gather you wouldn't be working your passage, would ye?"
"Ah, no. I'm happy to work, but I am indeed not skilled. When would it be conven… When are you planning to leave?"
The captain examines the sky and the wind. "The morning tide. … About twelve hours."
"I'll be here then. How much will it cost?"
"It depends on where you're going."
"I'm looking to renew family ties."
"Your family's all at sea, then?"
"They're… on a different shore."
"Ah. A hard shore to come to?"
"Yes. Especially these days." He thinks they understand each other.
"We pass by a few islands and places like that, on our way out to the Banks."
"Ah. The Banks. Thank you very much."
"We'll be sailing out to the north; I have an errand to run, rather than through the Channel."
"That will be fine. It's closer to my home... It you were going South, I'd look to get off at… Passerellance or Ponty."
They bid each other a good evening, and our student heads for the pub. He sees a young woman nearby, carrying a large basket filled with bits of clothing. She nods at him, and enters the pub from the back. He gets closer to the pub, and discovers that there are two back doors. The farther door, the one she entered, is a closed wooden door. The nearer door is a screen door. He looks in through the screening, to espy a small, rather dark bar. He enters. There's a bartender, and a single customer. He looks local. A room to the left has a few booths and another bar.
"What's the most old-fashioned beer you have?"
"That would be Simpson's Old Peculiar. But the cider is older than that."
"I'll try the cider then."
The barman pulls a pint from an unlabeled tap. It's very dark for a cider. He sets it down, and quotes a smallish price in pounds and shillings. Our visitor pays and, taking his cider, carefully looks around the room. He spots the cat, and two bowls next to it, one with former meat and one with milk or cream. Ten feet from there, on a little raised step, there's another saucer, but with no second cat near it. He asks if he can buy the bartender something. The man declines. He then offers to buy something for, and he nods at the other saucer. The barkeep agrees to a "dram".
He orders the Ploughman's lunch, and a saucer. When it comes, he divveys a miniature portion onto the saucer, and puts it and the dram next to the lone saucer. After finishing his supper, the student leaves the pub, and loiters around the back of the pub.
From time to time, he thinks he hears, coming from the area of the western door, the light, soft bell-like giggling of young women. After half-an-hour, the door opens, and two young women appear, giggling. One retreats inside, and the other comes out with a basket of damp-looking laundry. He offers to help her with hanging it out.
"I'm trying to get some news of recent events," he explains.
"Oh, nothing ever happens here!"
"I was trying to get home."
"It's not around here then?"
"No, but my way home is blocked, so I thought I'd make my way to Edgestow."
"But that's well west of here." She thinks more. "It would be a couple of hours by…car. You can flit it faster than that."
"So I could," he agreed sadly, "if I already knew how." He explained. "I couldn't get through up there then."
"Couldn't then, sir? I see. Home is… near Edgestow, then?"
"Well, I haven't heard of any recent troubles."
"Well, thank you for telling me."
The young womanfrowned in thought as she hung a long, heavy skirt. "Can Edgestow be reached by sea then?"
"Possibly. I was thinking I might need to go up by Inglestat."
"I haven't heard of that," she admitted.
"It's up by the Nichtwald."
"That's very far. We're folk of the sea here. If you can get there by sea, you can get there from here, but we're not much for Walds and Stats. I haven't traveled much," she added parenthetically.
"I think I'll be traveling a lot." His voice is entirely gloomy. "I've gotten passage on the Windlass for tomorrow at the morning tide."
"Well, she's a fine tub," said the laundress in a measuring tone.
"Um. I've neglected to find out what the captain is called. Do you know?"
"Well, I've always called him 'sir'."
"Well, so did I. I meant his, ah, name."
"Those who have cause to, call him Captain Jack."
That problem settled, he shifts his attention to a more immediate concern. "Can I get lodgings here in the pub?"
She assures him that he can, that he can get a wake-up call, and that he wants room number three. He makes the recommended arrangements.
The Tindomë crew and passengers get a good night's sleep. They are fed a good, wholesome breakfast by Cook. The rosy fingers of dawn poke in from above, and deeper red ones enter from below. The lower window is indeed warm. We look out (horizontally), and see a ship's boat being rowed towards us. The man in the prow calls out, "Ahoy the... boat,… ship,… barrel."
Mandorak leans over the side. "Hi. Who are you?"
"I'm Jenkins of the Raven."
"Welcome aboard." The Hremish dwarf gestures invitingly at our landing porch.
Jenkins boards gracefully onto the porch. He climbs the staircase.
"Cook! Jenkins is here for the first part of the payment." She comes out, wiping her hands on an almost-white cloth. She asks him if he has the papers. He looks closely at her, and pulls some papers out of his shirt. "It's not what one of the Brotherhood would do, but He thought you'd want some paper." He spreads it out on the table. Cook squints at it. Eric Wright examines the alleged document. It is more decorative than legible, but he slowly makes his way through it, and confirms that it does sign over the rights to Old Ned's Place to Mrs. Cook. Cook, after consultation with Eric, retrieves a small purse, and offers it (still warm) to Jenkins. Jenkins scoops it up, spits on his hand, and offers it to her. She smiles thinly, shakes his hand without hesitiation, and, also without hesitation, returns to the galley, where we can hear running water. Jenkins returns to his boat, and calls out to his lads, who row him back to the Raven.
Our people head for town, in a rowboat made of water. Mannie and Bay head for the blacksmith's shop. Eïr and Eric lead Cook and her young ladies to Ned's. The diminutive Eïr ducks around a corner, and turns on her distraction. She steps outside and looks around. All she can see is a squirrel, looking around in an oddly searching manner. It sniffs the air, and seems to look around more carefully, but it still does not seem to spot the small woman. She slips back inside, and informs Eric that she's seen a squirrel looking for her.
Eric admits that he has seen squirrels looking at them several times, here in Port Rouge. She positions Eric where he can attract the squirrel's interest, and slips away, unnoticed. She sets out to look at the shops. None of the stores seem to specialize; they all have spices, candlesticks, fabric, etc. She pokes her nose into a few of them. One shop has a nice selection of cutlasses and knives. Oddly, it has only one piece of art: a small bust. She examines it closely. She finds it oddly compelling. In the back, two customers are looking at the cutlasses. They have moved from deprecating the merchandise to arguing with each other.
Other customers are showing more interest in the discussion. Eïr, in the front of the shop, notices that no one is paying any attention to her. The argument is reaching the altercation stage. A punctuating "thump" comes from the rear of the shop. Eïr reaches out to explore the bust. It has a pleasant little tingle. There is another thump, a snarl, and a responding bellow. She tucks the warm little bust into her waiting cloak pocket. With a quick glance to make certain that she is unnoticed, she slips out the door.
There's a squirrel outside. It is looking right at her, and is rubbing its tiny paws together. Eïr looks squarely up at the squirrel, and beckons to the furry beast. He bounds over to her, looking back and forth between her face and her pocket. "Squirrels don't normally come when they are called," she chided it. "I'd like to put some distance between myself and this place." It looks up and down the alley, then back at her. "I'm going back to the ship, unless I can find a parrot."
It looks at her, then scampers down the alley. She follows it to the main street. It trots down a block, then stops and looks up at a particular shop. It has a sign on it, with a crow painted in garish colors. She opens the door. A bell rings inside. The squirrel scampers up one of the few lampposts in town. She steps inside, to find this shop is different from all the others; it specializes. It has books, maps, nautical instruments, and an elderly, balding man. His eyes gleam straight at her. She is certain she is no longer distracted.
She asks if he has a parrot.
"Why, how odd. Almost no one knows that I got Old Nickerson's bird."
"Does it speak well?"
"Not of Old Nickerson."
"I'm in the market for a parrot. It just came to me."
"This one might. It's very annoying. It natters on and on, and hovers around."
"Could I see it?" He leads her into the back room, where the annoying bird perches. Neither one of the humans can tell what sex the bird is, and it replies only with "he or she" in response to her question. "I'll ask the squirrel," she decides. She offers her arm. "Choose. Him or me."
The parrot keeps a suspicious eye on the proprietor as it walks up her arm, and gets a good grip on her shoulder. "Do I pay you or do you pay me?" she asks.
The proprietor offers to give her the parrot for free, if she'll buy one of his more usual offerings. She settles on five maps of a nearby island, one that he claims is "hard to approach." She guesses, correctly, that it is because it floats in the air. He explains that it is inhabited, by humans and other things. (There are two other islands, one more dangerous, and one "very unreliable.") She gives him a bracelet, which he finds more welcome than solid coin. He hands her the tube of maps, then thrusts the bird's perch into her arms. It needs cleaning.
Up in Room Three over the pub, the student opens up his duffle bag, and pulls out a squirrel. "I'm sorry I had to leave you in there." ￼
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.