Sunday, April 10, 2011

Das Brick Asks For A Coffee

"So where are you headed, Das? Can we drop you off somewhere?"

"No, this is pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I just need to find some paper and a pen or something, and I'll make myself useful."

"You know anything about bees?"

"They dance. They work in groups. They won't necessarily sting you if you drink them out of a can of root beer."

"I'm mostly interested in the honey part. I sell wax and honey in and around Moscow. I keep about 40,000 bees out in the woods here."

"Can I see? I mean... after I get some paper and a pen."

"I don't know that anyone hereabouts would have such things. We could ask Ali at the Kreml'."

"How far off is that?"

"It's a day's drive. I need to check on the bees, and then we can set off for Moscow. You're not needed elsewhere, then?"

"I'm supposed to be at work but I imagine this will do as an excuse. I could also use a coat, or a sweater. It's cold."

They were moving out of the tavern and out into a muddy village street. Afanasy still had an idiot on one shoulder and a bear on the other. Within a few seconds of stepping out into the cold spring air, a cloud of bees precipitated around Afanasy.

"Oh hey! The crowberries are out!"

Looking very animated, Afanasy shrugged the idiot off his shoulder and into the mud. The idiot began to lick the mud off a birch plank, one of hundreds which created an uneven boardwalk through the village.

"Foma! Get the sledge! The crowberries are out!"

Foma, the idiot, pressed his face into the mud and made bubbles. Afanasy, still carrying a very substantial bear, quickly drew a long axe-handle from his waistband, lifted Foma's tunic with the axe-handle, and nodded to the cloud of bees. "Ehmut!" The bees responded by flying en masse into the muddy gown and settling onto Foma's exposed back. Foma quickly set out from the mud, loudly protesting, and disappeared down the boardwalk.

"Das! Would you be a good soul and run back into the Cone? I'll need a vhkhleb of vodka."

"I... I thought this was a fast day. For St Murfrees..."

"Not for me. I don't drink that poison! God forbids it. It's for Boris and Gleb. We'll need to talk to them."

"I, uh, I don't have any money."

"Tell Oleg it's for Afanasy. He owes me."

So I moved back through the ornate carved wood doorframe back into the Cone. The assembled throng was a mass of felt and fur, wreathed in smoke. A dusty stove baked away in the center and a chandelier of antlers hung over the bar with what must have been four inches of dust covering it. There were a dozen figures sleeping on the rush-covered wooden floor with rushes pulled over their cloaks as blankets, in pools of some foul-smelling excrescence.

"Oleg! A vodka please, and a small coffee."

"COFFEE?!" snarled Oleg, all warmth draining from his face. A mass of hairy hands moved to me, taking up fistfuls of my shirt and pants, and I found myself pitched headlong into the mud in front of the Cone. I raised my hands just in time to catch the earthenware jar of vodka which Oleg had tossed through the front doors at me.

"Don't order coffee anymore," quoth Afanasy. He had lit up an incredibly ornate bone pipe, and it was hissing small clouds of sweet smoke. It was just cold enough to see one's breath, and the smoke and bees created an entire solar system moving around his Jovian mass, leaning against a timber frame and patting the drooling bear on his shoulder.

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