General Fiction posted February 25, 2017

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An encounter in a sports bar


by Susan B. Lamphier

"She's a rotten, no good, miserable...." He kept going on, somehow avoiding any of the standard curse words.

"Who, exactly?" I had to ask. This fella sitting at my counter, dressed in high collar and brass buttons, demanded sherry. He frowned when I gave him a Bud. Considering this is a sports bar, he was just asking to get beat up with all that frilly lace.

"Grandmama, of course," he sniffed.

"Of course." I eyed a couple of my regulars watching him from the pool table, and shook my head, no. They snickered a little, but my cocked eyebrow warned them back to their game.

"You do understand, my good wench, whom I mean, do you not?"

"You said something about the Countess of Umber...Umbre...?"


"Ah, yes, of course. Silly me."

He dabbed at his mouth with an embroidered handkerchief. "Well, she very much must be stopped, of course."

"Why ever would you say that?"

"Truly, have you no sherry? Perhaps port? This ale is, well, rather watery...."

"It's what I have. That, or maybe tequila shots?"

"Te...," he foundered. "Te...."

"...quilla. Juice of the worm, so to speak."

He instantly paled and pushed his glass away. "What, pray tell, is that?" He asked, pointing her perfectly manicured finger towards the back of the bar. "I notice you are drinking it."

I shrugged. "I can't have alcohol. I have to keep my wits about me. It's coffee."

"Oooh. I've heard of this beverage, from somewhere near the Ottoman Empire, I do believe. I had an uncle who sailed for the British East India Company. Perhaps you know of him?"

I had to think about where he thought it was from. "Um, yes, we get sailors here often. Was that how you came to be here? By boat?" A crack came from the TV set over the bar, and everyone stopped and watched Dustin Pedroia circle the bases.

"What was that?" my frilly friend asked. "And how does that painting move like that?"

"Um, magic? Would you like some coffee?" I turned to get a mug for the man.

"Oh, yes, please. I have been most intrigued by this beverage. Thank you very much." He sipped and pursed his lips. "Somewhat bitter...."

"Yes, it is. Would you like some cream and sugar?" I dropped a couple of creamers and fetched the sugar packets.

He studied the creamers and the sugars and took another sip. "Well," he said, grimacing, "This does grow on one, does it not?"

"Yeah, you get used to it." I smiled. "So, about your grandmother, the Countess of...of...."

"Umbergenspeil. Yes, well, where to begin. She was quite put out by my relationship with Lord Robert, I will tell you that."

"You don't say!"

"Oh, the fella is quite the scream. She simply does not appreciate his humor. I mentioned him to her and she got all, well, you know, she does dabble a bit in the ...," he looked about, and lowered his voice, "...the black arts."

"The black...?"

"Shh," he said, putting a delicate finger to his lips.

"You mean,...."

"Hush," he whispered, looking around again. "Yes," he continued. "She is a witch."

"Figuratively or metaphorically?" I asked.

"I beg your pardon. Dyed in the wool, my good wench. She is always concocting some potion or other, trying to maneuver people into making assignations, selling love potions, chanting spells and the like. Once," he leaned forward, lowering his voice to a bare whisper. "Once, she made a Grand Duchess drink some spirits with heart of a toad. Of course the magic worked, as it always does with Grandmama. But, alas, there are also consequences. She does warn her, uh, visitors, but they never listen. The Grand Duchess got her man, so to speak, some Marquis de something, very chic, very influential, rather boring. He died at the altar, gave a little croak just after the vows were made and the poor Grand Duchess was left, alone and bereft."

"And happy as a clam."

My visitor started. "I do beg your pardon."

"Nothing. Go on."

"Any who, my dear Lord Richard consulted with her, and told her he would like to be more, uh, 'emancipated,' was his word. He dragged me into his silly scheme, which I thought would be somewhat amusing. Alas, there was a bang, a bit of fire and a sulfurous odor, and, well, here I am. I say, do you actually drink this stuff? It is burning a hole into my heart."

I opened up a couple of creamers and sugar packets and stirred them into his coffee. "Try it now." I watched as he sipped his coffee. His face lit up with pleasure.

"I say!" he cried. Just then, another man walked into the bar.

"William! I've been looking all over for you." He was dressed in khakis and a polo shirt, but his hair and beard were as carefully trimmed and shaped as my visitor's.

"Lord Robert! I have been searching for you. Finally I stopped at this tavern for some sherry, but this wench only had the most ill begotten...."

"Do hush. We need to talk." He pulled on my visitor's arm.

"Have you seen this painting? It moves. And it makes the oddest music, just for a moment or two, showing these carriages which do not need the pull of a horse. And potions, not unlike Grandmama's to cure all sorts of ills! Do come see!"

"We need to leave now. We will return."

"Quite. Have you tried this beverage?"

"Yes. It is coffee. Come, I have a place. Let me pay your tab."

"So, Lord Richard," I asked, taking his money. "Are you 'emancipated'?"

Lord Richard raised eyebrows. "William's Grandmama is quite, uh, accomplished."

I grinned. "Get him off the street. And, welcome to the neighborhood!"

Use These Words writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story but use the following words: silly, rotten, heart, miserable, scream, drink. Words may be used in different formats (for example: drink, drinking, drank)

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