Click has vanished again. I expect he’s off with the library woman, helping her torment some poor soul with her cryptic messages and his bizarre babblings.
No matter. I made sure Caligula was well fed and secure in his room and made my way out to visit the pub. It has been a long time since I sampled Angus McSquirty’s Bowel Purger or a fine pint of Bucket Filler at the local hostelry.
These are local brews, made by some mysterious (and probably quite dark) arts in the back rooms of our only pub, the Throat and Razor. Located on the edge of the town, it always had that rustic air about it, an atmosphere of cattle-shed stench combined with the likelihood of imminent collapse. I hoped it had not turned into one of these new gastropod pubs I hear so much about in the news. Having it covered in slug slime would spoil the ambience somewhat.
As I neared the boundaries of Little-Shithole-in-the-Swamp, I noted a few tattered posters stuck to trees. They advertised a coming party. It was to be this Friday and I was delighted to see that they were celebrating me, their favourite doctor.
‘Dume – A Celebration’ was the title of their party. I was quite touched. I’ve been completely absent from the town for over two years. As far as they knew, I might have been dead, and yet here they were throwing a party for me.
So it was in high spirits that I entered the pub and acknowledged the respectful silence that the villagers have always accorded my arrival. They did look quite surprised to see me but then it has been a long time. A few were so overcome that they swooned. Some of them looked quite pale, almost as if they had seen a ghost. They should visit Morag McQuackery for a tonic prescription.
Anyhow, the pianist eventually started up again and the villagers resumed their hushed and urgent conversations. How they do that all the time is beyond me. It must be quite tiring.
I took a look at the beers on offer at the bar. “No Bowel Purger?” I asked of the barman. He was new, but then he would be. They don’t last too long in here. A few Saturday nights is usually enough to finish them off.
“We haven’t had that for over a year,” he said. “You might like a Skidmark Bitter, it’s very similar to the old brew. Not quite as strong though.”
“I’ll give it a go,” I said, and dropped a doubloon on the counter. “Keep the change.” Those posters must have affected my thinking by putting me in an exceptionally good mood.
“Actually,” he said, “a pint costs two of those coins now. We have a new Wicked Witch in government and she hates pubs.”
“Really?” I dropped another doubloon into his greasy little hand and took my beer to a quiet table.
I had hoped to drink in peace but was soon joined by a young lady I hadn’t seen before.
“Do you mind if I sit?” she said.
“I don’t mind if you do handstands while juggling plates,” I replied. “Although sitting is less likely to give me a headache.”
She laughed for some strange womanly reason and took the seat opposite. “Are you new in town?” was her first indication that she expected conversation as well as sitting.
“No,” I said. “I’m old in town. Truth be told, I’m old wherever I go.”
Another inexplicable laugh. “I’ve only been here a week, The locals can be a bit weird to outsiders, I’ve found. Are you local?”
“I am when I’m at home.” I took a drink of the beer. It was awful. Just like the old brew.
I had the distinct impression she was infected with a giggle virus.”You’re not like the others round here,” she said “What’s your name?”
Reciting all my names could take a lot of time so I just settled on the most commonly used one. “Phineas,” I said.”Phineas Dume.” Then, for no logical reason I could deduce, I added “Doctor Phineas Dume.”
Her eyes grew wide. ‘You’re the one they talk about? The one in the castle?”
There was a surge of pride. “Yes, that’s me. Going to the party Friday?”
“No, it’s not my kind of party” She looked away
I finished my beer. “Well, I have to go. If you ever feel like seeing a castle, just let me know.”
“How about now?”
“Now?” The eagerness in her somewhat wild eyes took me by surprise. “Well I suppose I could show you the castle now. I’m going there anyway.”
Caligula will need breakfast, I thought, so I took her home.
On the way I noticed that the party posters had ‘cancelled’ stamped on them
Pity. I was looking forward to that party