Every Wednesday from now until the end of the world, or the blog, I’m going to post a random bit of writing: a rhyme, something from an old folder or a work in progress, or if all else fails whatever random thing I scribbled down during the free-write warm up of my Tuesday Night Writers Club.
Well, all else failed, and at this week’s meeting I channelled a non-existant scene from a three-or-more-year-abandoned children’s story about a revolution in a city of mice. So here it is, split into the two chunks it emerged in, fifteen minutes each at the start and end of the session:
The barmouse looked over at the mouse who had just entered the room, and thought, I know that type.
The newcomer was the kind of mouse that only walked into a bar because he had to. Never because a bar is a place he wanted to be (because they just feel comfortable), nor because he needed to be (because he’s a hard-drinking sort of mouse). No, this mouse was here reluctantly. He’s not social, the barmouse thought, he’s not thirsty. He’s here for some other reason, and any other reason doesn’t earn much cheese for the mouse behind the bar… not without a spot of hard work, anyway.
“Ahoy there,” said the barmouse in a loud and jocular manner. “What can I get you, stranger?”
The newcomer jumped, stammered, then approached the bar, looking most uncomfortable at being made the centre of attention. Not that there were all that many mice drinking at the time (it was a Tuesday, and quite early), and none of those that were there looked up anyway (wisely – this was a rough part of town).
“Oh, er,” said the newcomer.”…um, nothing for me, thank you.”
“This,” said the barmouse, gesturing at the décor and making a show of pride in his business, “is a bar. You should have a drink in a bar. Everyone else does.”
The newcomer took a doubtful look around. At first glance, the place had probably seemed empty. It was dark in the corners, so dark you could be forgiven for not noticing the mice hunched over their drinks in them. But then, the barmouse reflected, these weren’t the sorts of mice a mouse ought to look too closely at anyway – some because darkness was flattering to them, some because you wouldn’t want them to look back.
“Oh, well then,” said the newcomer. “Maybe I will have a, a drink, if you say so.”
The barmouse leaned on the bar with a friendly leer. “Lovely,” he said. “What’ll it be?”
“I don’t know,” said the newcomer. He had a very ordinary face, completely forgettable, and his fur was a dull, uniform brown without any kind of distinguishing pattern to it. “What… er… what’s popular?”
The barmouse gave an expansive shrug. “We have muddy water from the puddle, rusty water straight from the pipe-end, or dew, imported – if you’ve got the money for it, mind.”
“Muddy then, please.”
The barmouse indicated the shelf of thimbles behind the bar. “Pinky, index or thumb?”
“Just a pinky, thanks.”
The barmouse sighed, but took down one of the small thimbles and scooped it full from the brownish pool at his feet, directly beneath the rusty pipe-end it dripped from. A bit of mud took the sharp edge off it, but not many from around that way would touch the stuff in case someone called them soft.
“Here you go,” he said, placing it before him. The newcomer slid three oat grains across the bar, and the barmouse swept them into a big thimble he kept out of sight for just that purpose. Cheapskate, he thought.
The newcomer lifted the thimble in both paws, sniffed the water, then took a sip. He pulled a face, tried to hide it, then put his drink back down. “I wonder,” he said, with affected nonchalance, “if you don’t serve… milk, by any chance?”
The already quiet bar grew even quieter.
The barmouse looked at the newcomer again, this time with narrowed eyes. “Does this look like the kind of place that serves milk?” he asked.
“Oh, er, yes,” said the newcomer, “certainly it could. Sure. Nice looking place like this. Why not?”