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#23 The Hare and the Drop
Good morning and welcome to the 23rd tale from Story Press! This week, a group of young conservative men face their liberal nightmare.
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#23 The Hare And The Drop
Hidden between broad hills, beneath flecks of cloud, and awash with fresh country air, lies the scantily settled village of Lithe. It wears red-fluted rooftops blended distastefully with rickety Tudor house faces traversing the old cobbled high street that rides up and down with a wink to the surrounding hills.
I arrived late one night when the streetlights lit nothing but the bumbling insects, when dark passers-by set their eyes on the floor as if looking for a deep chasm in which they might plunge. The stars watched on with the indifferent faces of businessmen at the theatre.
I was with Monty: a broad-shouldered, broad-chested, broad-browed, all but broad-minded man. We had travelled together, far and fleeting trips to an irregular cluster of climes, and had just returned to England. Monty carried a face of long philosophising. By this I mean his forehead bore many wrinkles and he always looked not far from sudden physical altercation. This suited me fine as I detest arbitrary conversation; we made fine companions. In Lithe, we were meeting our friend Hamish who moved here to establish the only solicitors in town. Hamish suggested a ‘ye olde establishment’ called ‘The Hare and The Drop’. Standing opposite this aged, low-roofed building, I made note of the gold typography that stated: c. 1647.
Hamish waited for us by the door, reclining with his shoulders and the sole of his right boot against the chalk wall, cigarette in mouth. He ran a soft hand through his straw-toned curls, and tightened his coat around him.
He clasped both hands round my back and said: “Brother!”
Monty, ahead of schedule, ejected his hand for a firm shake, pleading for nothing more.
In the pub, the air was sooty and warm, a glow had spread, the smell of beer had fermented here for a long time, so much so that individual aromas of hops, wheat, and barley were poised in the wings. We stood three abreast at the bar, Hamish and I discussing personal developments, commenting superficially about the others’ transfiguring. Monty perched on a stool, surveying the room aimlessly.
The pub was sparsely populated. A bald man with a cotton strip taped across his nose looked down into the bottom of his glass so that his face was mostly indiscernible. An old couple stood arm in arm dancing to the poorly performed Irish folk music. The two musicians, the singer and the celloist, looked as though they had been born and raised in a wood. A few other indescribables were scattered here and there to add to the dark, peculiar aura that that place beheld.
Upon requesting three cold beers, the barmaid, a shaggy, toothless woman said, “There’s a cabaret tonight, starts at ten.”
“A cabaret?” I asked, unsure if she spoke with conviction.
“Yes,” she replied brusquely, with a patronising eye that somehow found my questioning suspicious. She promptly discarded me and began serving the man with the strip across his nose.
“What did she say?” asked Hamish.
“There’s a cabaret tonight.”
“That’s in five minutes.”
We three looked at each other.
“Do you want to see it?”
“Might as well. Could be a laugh.”
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We walked, beer in hand, out down three little brick steps into a courtyard where a few tables lay askew. The courtyard was empty due to the mighty cold. The moonbeam rode slantwise like a staircase down into the courtyard’s middle. Toward the back end of the building, from the courtyard side, were more steps up into a completely different room. Here there were many more people, men and women, perched at rotund tables, one end free with a raised step where a band was finishing setting up.
A table lay free for us, two chairs and a backless stool we left for Monty. We laid our pints down. A capering mumble sailed around the room with whiffs of warmth and booze.
“What do you think of the news?”
Hamish was all current affairs nowadays.
“Dreadful,” I replied soberly. It was the only response one could give, whether you thought so or not.
“It’s all taxes, scandals and visions,” Hamish replied. “But what about the economy? I’ve lost £400 on investments in one day.”
Monty investigated our faces, then nodded sombrely.
Hamish leaned in with a deep breath, about to talk, but was stunned back into silence by a baritone thunder that stilled the room. The rifling bass of the voice peeled away the chatter of the people, and a peculiar androgynous wonder pranced between tables toward the steppe.
“I am Celine,” she hummed into a microphone, throwing her hair back and sardonically smiling at the faces around the room. Her hair hung voluminously down, and her eyes bled blue onto a full wan cheek. I had never seen anything quite like it.
A little porklet of a man booed in the corner and chortled in and out like a deflating accordion. Celine looked pleased at the dissent, said: “Be careful honey, you’ll be up here in a minute,” to which many drunken bodies offered applause and there was even a shrill whistle.
Hamish was rigid, his arms folded and, though he was still as a statue, he relinquished an air of judgement, oozing deprecation to what I imagine he’d describe later as ‘this creature of moral turpitude’. The band behind Celine began to play lively music. The lights emitted a dark glow as her features began to mix with shadow and smoke to become a totally new thing altogether.
“You don’t have to be / The only one for me / There are many and more / Rich and poor / But there is no rapport / So great and sore / I want you.”
She scuttled around the room, letting her legs climb onto men’s chairs. She had sinewy muscles. I thought of horse’s legs galloping across fields.
All of a sudden, she grabbed Monty by the hair and pulled his face toward hers as she sang, “I want you…”
I’ve never seen Monty’s face bear such terror before, and I suddenly thought to myself: what am I doing here with these two neanderthals?
Monty begged with his eyes to be freed. I burst into hysterical laughter, as did Celine, and we cackled until we ran out of breath and God knows what happened next…