#NaNoWriMo Day 23: Bit o' Craic Part 2
Drinking is a serious profession in Frewyn. Men work hard when the sun is up, but once evening settles in and the skies begin to exhibit their altering hues, slanes are lain aside, shovels are put down, kilns are extinguished, and every man with a parched throat wanders to the local tavern, to have their ears amused, their opinions heard, and their thirst satiated. Visiting the tavern for a bit of craic is a time-honoured tradition in Frewyn, so much so that those who don't indulge in this pastime are considered blasphemous.
The old man returned presently to where the commander was standing and raised his newly acquired glass in her honour, proclaiming “Here’s to you, commander: may ye win our wars by the might o’ your shoutin’.” He enjoyed a draught in propination, sighed and slottered and admired the amber swill swirling about his glass, and then, realizing and looking horrified, he gestured toward the commander and said, “Sure, and where’s your pint, girl? I don’t see a glass on ye. Ye never left it at the counter, did ye?”
“I left it in the cask, and that is where it ought to be for my sake and for everyone’s really.”
The old man was agape. “Ye don’t drink at all?” he exclaimed, offended and aghast. “I never heard this in all me life. And how’s that, a Tyfferim girl without a drink for her work? That’s ingratitude for a good life, if ye don’t have a drink over it in the name o’ the Gods. How can ye be so ungrateful, girl?”
“I think the Gods are rather in favour of my sobriety, for I seem to offend the ears and rile the sensibilities of everyone around me when I do chance to have something somewhat fermented. I should be afraid to have anything even mildly intoxicating for fear of the ill effects it must evince.” She paused and looked askance. “I tend to sing when a drink that is put in my hand is half gone—and sing badly, I may add, before you conjure any ideas.”
“I’d buy ye ten jar, commander, if it means ye’d sing me a song or two, but I haven’t a copper left.”
“Excepting the ones in your pocket. You would do better to save your coins than to waste them on me.”
“And nobody else can be troubled to buy ye a drink?”
“The few people in my conversancy who are prone to drinking themselves into a riotous gaiety are thankfully not present. My stepbrothers will give you ten songs without being asked, and will sing you still more once they have a glass to wave about.”
“And ye should take after ‘em, I don’t mind tellin’ ye.” He stared into his drink and shook his head. “Never heard o’ this, a Tyfferim girl not drinkin’-- Where’s your Da, girl? I’ll tell him how he’s raised his daughter crooked.”
“I think you will find him rather unconvinced, as I have seldom ever seen him with a drink in his hand.”
The old man snuffed. “He’s a farmer.”
“He is,” said the commander laughingly.
“And the man don’t know what a drink is?”
“He gets acquainted with a glass from time to time, but he and the drink are certainly not frequent friends.”
“Ah,” said the old man, his aspect fraught with lamentation, holding his drink to his heart and raising his head to the skies, “that’s what the marryin’ did to him, sure, for nothin’ll stop a man’s drinkin’ faster than a woman. The strings on the purse are always tight when there’s a woman to pull ‘em, and children’ll cut the strings altogether.”
“I don’t think my father even knew what ale or spirits were in the many years before he met my uncle Shayne.”
“Aye, he’s a wood and leather worker. I know him well. Sure, he taught your ol’ man what’s good in life: a few drams, a good dinner, a song and the stews.”
“I’ll grant you the former three. I have little idea of their ever visiting the Finnucha Gwyn, however. My stepbrothers followed your instructions for an excellent life without deviation. By the time they were seventeen, they were well known in Tyfferim as being the most dissolute, salacious, and hard working men in the fields.”
“The Donnegals,” the old man rasped. “Aye,” raising his glass, “I know ‘em well, ‘em two oldest ones, and the younger one what lives in Farriage. I took some o’ his sheep last spring. I’m a sheep man meself, reining ‘em in and helpin’ the stockmen round here to lamb ‘em. Stay awake for two days straight, have a drink and a dinner and a song when the business is finished, and then to sleep to do it again in the mornin’. ‘Tis a life well spent, I’m tellin’ ye that, commander—“ He suddenly pointed across the way. “And there’s your Da with a pint. Good man! What’d I tell ye, girl? When the wife’s not mantlin’ him, his purse is open. Don’t ye go tellin’ him to mind himself, now. Ye let him have a bit o’ craic before he’s gotta trundle back to the warden.”
“She is no warden, I assure you. She rather encourages my father to go out, as she prefers staying at home. Poor Calleen had a trying time in her younger years, and again when her first husband became ill. She has learned to enjoy her time in a quiet house, as her own with eight children and an invalid husband was a shambling wreck. She was too busy taking care of her family and the house to enjoy any semblance of silence. She likes to be home with only the pigs and cows to plague her. My father is so easy and good natured that he would not disturb her while she is doing a piece of needlework or reading the by the fire, and she is so even tempered and adoring that she would never suffer my father to sit at her side all the evening. Shayne and my father go out very often, and my father comes to see us nearly every day. There is no need for him to escape to a tavern when he might enjoy a nice evening by the fire in the commons.”
The old man doubted this. He pursed his lips and glared suspiciously at the commander. “Ye got somethin’ to drink at that keep o’ yours?”
The commander’s cheeks crimsoned with broad smiles. “And if I should say no, you would declare that we are unlawfully keeping him away from his rights as a man.”
“I would so, girl,” the old man humphed. “Your Da’s got his glass now.”
“And you will notice how well he enjoys holding it. I think he’s put it by twenty times since it was given him.”
The old man narrowed his gaze and observed, through the leaping dancers, that Jaicobh’s glass was full. “Borras,” he scoffed, “the barm’ll settle before he drinks it.”
“You need not mourn over it,” the commander simpered. “I don’t even think it’s ale. I think it might be ginger beer.”Overpowered by his grief, the old man removed his hat and held his next his heart. “Sure,” he said with a sigh, “I’ll mourn for it anyway, for a drink what’s poured and never finished is a Frewyn’s mortifyin’ shame.” He raised his glass and looked to the sky, and after he said a silent prayer bereaving the loss of any drink that should ever come into Jaicobh MacDaede’s hands, he finished his pint in one draught and tripped off to the tap counter, where he waited with wide eyes and deplorable looks, lamenting the loss of his contrived wallet and wondering whether there were any good and decent men about who would show kindness to an old and infirmed man and ”buy a poor fella a drink?"
Enjoyed the story? Enjoy Tales from Frewyn Volume Two!