NOTE: I don't know what this is. But it might be related to this and this and could definitely be related to this. You never know.
Widdershins of the Mountains of Stone, yonder of the river Lage, and a half hour north of the village of Splut lies my misery.
It sprawls on the leeward edge of twenty acre of meadow, rock, swamp and forest. Twenty rooms it has, each less grand than the last and only six of them with running water because the thatch there is a bit thin and the rain gets through.
The Spoon and Carrot, my inn.
Well, I say ‘my inn,’ but it belongs to my father. He says I’ll inherit it one day, but Mam says I’ve enough misery in my life he’s not to say such things when I’m within earshot.
Misery includes my older brother Hamlet, whose straw stack hair resembles the thick thatch on the roof of the inn.
You might wonder why Hamlet won’t inherit the inn, being the oldest, and a boy. Life works in mysterious ways, my father says, and when he says that Mam says good thing, leastwise he never would’ve found anyone willing to marry him. Then he says oh ho woman, there’s mystery too in a man who can put up with a born spinster like thee, and that’s when they usually tell me to go slop the pigs.
And I go, not because I don’t enjoy hearing them fight – anyone with a room next to theirs would be a fool not to spend nights with their ear clamped to the wall listening to them fight and talk and carouse and then do what sounds like making the bed all night (that’s usually when I get bored and go to bed myself). I go because the pigs need feedin’ and Hamlet’s probably out there counting the chickens and he gets upset if he can’t get to thirty.
But back to Hamlet, speaking of the pigs.
Mam says he’s simple. Father says he’s daft. All I know is his days are all off if he can’t go into the swamp each morning and count the snails before he starts his chores.
Twenty-eight he counts each day, and I have a hard life replacing those the birds et or the ones who get sick of being counted and slide away. But a Hamlet who has counted only twenty-seven ere the morn comes is a Hamlet who steps on the chickens or upsets the pail under the cow’s udder and the world’s not right in that endless head of his until the twenty-eighth is counted.
That’s why father says the inn is mine, if I want it.
And I want it.
First thing I’ll do is change the daft name. Whoever heard of the Spoon and Carrot, with the idiot sign carved in oak of the loony man holding a carrot behind him and a spoon afore him, as if that’s a sign of good food and hospitality. And the men laugh because they say the carrot looks like those the Widow Sharp grows in her garden, the one she shows to the young ladies before they go to their wedding-beds. I don’t see what’s so funny about it, but the men – specially the old ones – laugh so hard they end up coughing up their beer.
I won’t have them about when I own the inn, drinkin’ beer and pissin’ it out and doing nothing all day but that. That they occasionally remember to scrape a coin across the bar is a miracle, Mam says, but Father, well, Father doesn’t mind because he says they lend color, and color is what the regular guests of the Spoon and Carrot seek.
Now here I have to be careful. I have to count to twenty-eight myself and make sure Mam isn’t listening.
Because the Spoon and Carrot’s regulars ain’t exactly regular.