Part Seven July 21, 2016
The old forest, whose name came from Lady Cranny, had its myths. The only truth he knew for certain was that Billy’ s Tavern remained a well-known place for infamous occurrences. His father once played at Billy’s. For two nights Bran listened to his father’s quips about the patrons of the tavern. Every night his father said, the same couple arrived, full of cheer, but by closing time, the wife was always clobbering her husband in a rage of drunken stupor. Bran grinned at the memory.
Before him stood the guards of the forest, giant red pines that towered over every other living thing. He examined one of the trunks with its reddish-brown bark. With his finger he traced the upright, elliptical design of the bark. He continued through the forest until he came to a stream. As he leaned over the water to take a drink he heard laughter. Looking up he could see Billy’s Tavern a short distance away. He headed towards the entrance of the tavern.
Inside he could smell bacon on the grill and sweet and sour bread rolls. Round tables just large enough for three chairs were cramped near the wall closest to the door. A bar with a doorway behind it took up the length of the back wall. Behind the bar stood a rotund woman with greying hair done up in curls. Two men were at one of the tables their noses red from alcohol. He stepped up to the barmaid and laid down a silver coin. “Today I am a man,” he stated enthusiastically to her. “Can I have a jug of ale and some of your sweet-and-sour rolls?”
She smiled up at him with cool, blue eyes. “Your birthday?” she asked eyeing him up and down.
“You could say,” he replied softly.
She rubbed her wart-covered chins thoughtfully before heading through the back door. Bran sat down at the table farthest from the two men. Staring silently at the tabletop, he waited for his meal. The barmaid brought in a pewter jug and a plate of rolls. She threw down his change. “Good cheer to your awakening,” she chortled.
He dunked a piece of roll in the beer and as he went to bite into it saw rusty brown specks mixed with the amber colour of the ale. It made the bread bitter and sweet at the same time. He didn’t like the taste but he was determined. Plugging his nose he guzzled the beer until it made his stomach turn.
His sight became alive and blurred, images faded in-and-out. He laughed for he thought this must be how the fish saw underwater. Things grew extraordinarily large. Everything became unclear behind black speckles that danced inside his eyes. He got up and stumbled outside. He stumbled into Cranny’s forest.
“Off to the Campus, alone,” he sang boisterously.
Off alone to a place far from here
Where the Bards are
So I can sing to the Earth
So I can sing to the Earth of a love that I don’t understand
Rivers bend and misers take
But I will give the earth my heart
For the one to whom it belongs
I fear I shall never see again
I know her
From her long brunette hair to the tiny freckles around her nose
I am devoured by her eyes
For they are luminous like a pond under gathering fireflies
He continued to sing as he wandered deeper into the forest. He decided to stop for the day when the sky grew dark. Shivering, he lay at the side of a redwood. He drifted in and out of consciousness until he heard cracking twigs.