Thursday, October 18, 2007

Feste's Folly

This is the first part of a novel that I have been working on of which I am going to publish segments sporadically. It is based on the character of Feste the fool from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. When the play begins, Feste has returned from some absence whose kind and duration are not specified. My novel deals mainly with what happened to him during this absence and why he both left and returned.Thank you to my group today for your helpful suggestions.

Chapter 1

He was drunk.

There was really nothing else to it. The young man sat at the bar on his wooden stool, completely and thoroughly inebriated. The barkeep glanced at him and shook his head sagely. These types came in often. Young, idealistic fools disillusioned by love and labor. Some of them went to the bottle and never came back. If he could talk to them in such a way, he would say that the world was bigger than their problems. But it wasn’t his place. He went on wiping mugs.

It is at least fair to say that the man at the bar would not deny he was a fool. He knew it well.

However, right now he didn’t actually think of anything. His eyes dazed into an unfocused cavern of dust and stars. His mind dabbled over physical proceedings like so many strings on a mandolin. A pluck here, a strum there. Lovely music played in his ears. It was the kind of stuff he’d heard before. A long, long time ago. Too long to remember. Perhaps a bit more ale would help him. He held out his hand toward the barkeep.

“Not for you, sir,” the barkeep responded levelly. “Not until you’ve paid for what you’ve had, man.”

The man at the bar swore and wondered why the barkeep’s head kept swiveling. Cursed barkeeps. They just wanted to empty his pockets and leave him in misery. He slapped his hand upon the bar and glared at the keep.

“Now, fellow, no need to get angry. Just pay the money, is all.”

At this point two big, loud townsmen entered the tavern and sat themselves next to the man. They were the kind who liked to show their muscles and demonstrate their belching ability. They spoke with far more volume than necessary, about some girl. Their very presence irritated the young man, and one of them was taking up more than his share of the bar space.

“Get me some ale,” one barked heavily.

The young man was vexed. He clattered his mug on the wood.

“My drink! My drink! I asked y’ for it, before these rascals come in. Come now, fill me mug anon!”

The big man next to him growled menacingly.

“Eh, you there, watch your tongue or you'll be sorry. Now, we ordered first so serve us first, that's right, barkeep.”

The barkeep knew what the start of a brawl looked like, but he had to serve the new customers. He reached for a couple mugs.

“Now!” The young man yelled. “What’re y’ doin’? Fill my drink. Pay no ‘tention to these dogs, these usurpers a’ thrones. Anon!”

At this both big men stood, and the closer punched the young man in the stomach. He was slight and weak and toppled right over.

“Now we warned you! Do you want more of that?”

The man could do nothing. The ale broke in waves over his mind, and the other men’s faces changed. He babbled without a thought.

“You block, you! Mal—you—worms, all y’! T’rrible blockhead. Ah, you, me brother, ‘re ‘n ig—nor—a—mus. Yes sir, signora. That is what be true. Oh what a tune, what a ninny! Ninnies, all. The twelfth day of December, lady, lady….”

By this time, the big men were upon him and he could not defend himself. His head hit the bar with an interesting cracking sound. At some point, he knew he’d been dragged outside because he felt sharp wetness of snow in his lungs. Strange, how he felt so warm and soft while the big man kept hitting him. He thought he might like a nap, just a quick one, sir….

The men finally left him against the side of the tavern, eyes closed and mouth stuck in a screwed smile. The pretty snow floated down and melted on his bloodied body.

A sound came out of his mouth, no more than a whistle of air.

“Oh mistress…mine…where are…you…roaming….”

Then silence.

Inside the tavern, the barkeep grimaced as he wiped blood off the corner of the bar.


Nami said...

Good idea for a novel. I especially like: "It is at least fair to say that the man at the bar would not deny he was a fool. He knew it well."

CDiVizio said...

I like this a lot. You've developed a really consistent tone that's sort of half literary and half silly, and it really works. I have to say that this chapter alone could serve as a piece of flash fiction... :) the ending is pretty conclusive, but I'd be very interested to see what you have coming next.

Jamal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamal said...

Very well done, I'll say. If this is just the first part of a longer story the following comment may be meaningless, but: I'm kind of disappointed that you appear to have killed off the poor bloke at the end. I suppose that goes to show that you did a good job with the character - and I've certainly no qualms about the way you portrayed his death (his last words are particularly well-done). If he's not actually dead yet you may want to consider reusing those last words for when he does eventually die.

One way I can think of to improve the story is to go through and replace Latinate vocabulary with good, hardy Germanic stock where possible, to give it a more authentically medieval feel.

Also, the line about hitting his head with an interesting crack needs to go!

Carolyn said...

Actually, the bloke is not dead. I may have made his roughing up a bit too violent; I admit I do not have much experience with brawls. It's mostly meant to show the unstable state that his life is in at his point and lead to encounters with other characters who are to come.

Jamal said...

If you do get around to making some changes to this story, please repost it!

Or tell me how to subscribe to e-mail alerts. Either works.