A Cart Driver’s Creek Street Return

“I don’t know how it happened, Rath. I’m supposed to be in Wetten City tonight. They are expecting luxury goods from Leipzia. They were going to pay me lots of money. Every two months, we go to Wetten and we make a great load of profit, don’t we? Are you listening? Rath! Stop shoveling slime and listen for a minute. This town isn’t our problem! Why are we being forced to labor here? We are trade specialists – the finest in goods operations. I’m supposed to be teaching you what I know. This is such nonsense. I said stop shoveling! How did we end up back in Slumelier?”

“Well, Captain, the little preach made you come back,” Rath said.

“MADE ME COME BACK?”

“Yeah, don’t you remember? He stood in front of the cart when we were just getting on the road last night, and he said in that twanging voice, ‘You, sir, did not pay your employee today. You turned you back on this town which needs your help. Your family, despite your wealth, is disappointed in you.’ I was surprised he knew your family, but then you panicked and…”

“I know what happened! He is a lucky guesser!” Leon exclaimed.

“He got you to unload all our goods into storage for a day, now we’re loading the cart up with mud and worse. Seems to me like your conversation with him convinced you.”

Leon brooded. Rath went back to pitching shovel-fulls of kaleidoscopic filth into the cart. Ozzy returned from lunch and nodded toward Rath, signaling it was his turn to eat. Rath swiped his hands against one another in excitement. Leon sat atop the cart and ignored them. He ignored Rath telling him what he was going to eat. He ignored the many people around town (all volunteers) piling and pushing the refuse into immense heaps, heaps that he was going to cart outside of the town. He ignored the distant sound of Polumet helping the children make their pile and directing people on tactics to keep the piles somewhat solid. He ignored the overcast day and desperate state of the rooftops around him. He sat and brooded on the words Polumet gave him. “Contribute to society and you will make gains. Defraud society and you will find sorrow. Today the grasshopper knows not your deeds; by winter the cricket will curse your steeds.”

Cryptic aphorisms. But Leon had heard words like these many years ago and knew their meaning.

Creek Street 1.3

Ozzy headed toward the risk district. It was called this not because it was dangerous, though it was, nor because it was run down, though roofs did have a tendency to cave in without warning, but because many years ago it was the only place one could gamble, the only place a guy like Ozzy could put something at risk in the hopes of getting some much needed return on investment. What did he gamble on? He bet on his own strength and wagered his good health.

He had taken some bad wagers before—fought three dogs in an arena, headbutted doors off their frames in a competition against some red-headed brute, allowed his back to be tattoo practice for a wannabe sailor. He wasn’t going to do any of that again. Walking down the sidestreet, he thought about what the night would bring. He had to find a quick job, and since it was late in the evening, the better jobs would all be gone; helping build something or looking tough while walking someone somewhere probably wasn’t in the cards tonight. Tonight he’d fight in the ring. His jaw set and his fists became loosely clenched.

Fights were not easy work. He’d have to talk and negotiate. He hated haggling about money with these avaricious types. Talk and haggle, threaten and growl, the absurdest little game of mankind. What’s more, the same tavern masters who made money rigging his fights wanted what small bit of money he made in the fray spent in their establishments. And so even after the fight, he’d fight again, sometimes morally, sometimes physically, against the coercive talk of bullies, gangs, sirens, and said tavern masters. What misery. Strength was his talent, and the risk district was the only place he knew which allowed him to exchange it for coppers late at night.

It was twilight, and a small crowd gathered in the street distracted Ozzy for just a moment from his straight-ahead-dead-pan look which he made when heading into the deep slum. He overheard some words preached in the center of a semi-circle crowd:

“… over these others give me the strength of the wilderness, where the arbors are temples raised by the hand of nature, where weather beaten boulders can be our altars.”

Ozzy stopped walking. He had never heard this preach before.

“Arguments about architecture?” scoffed the preach. “What value are these compared to the value of a brook and a wild grove? The whole earth is a temple! Churches are good and necessary for crowded cities; otherwise good people would not uphold them. But why confine ourselves? Why not take to the streets and throw up our hands there for all the town to witness? How powerful would that be? While crimes and myths are told in the streets, should not truth also be declared there? The good do good in secret and feel alone. Mothers work in their homes. Fathers toil in the secret struggles outside the home. But the evil collude and steelman each other’s brazenness. Let us not be blind, as so many priests today are. We ought to give our cares to the joys of life: wine, conversation, moderation, and prayer.”

Ozzy did not understand what this strange, twanging cleric said, but it sounded… interesting. It sure didn’t sound like slum talk. He reset his thoughts—back to business. His jaw set , his fists clenched, Ozzy continued on his way.

After a few steps he was stopped.

“Polumet.” The cleric extended his hand. He was a foot shorter than Ozzy.

“Ozzy.”

“Ozymandias Hobgoblin, right?”

“That’s right,” Ozzy wondered how he knew his full name. He did not like his full name.

“A cart driver, whom I met as I was coming into town, told me your name. You prefer Ozzy, though. How are your fights?”

“Okay. I need more work.”

“It’s excellent what you do, mmhmm. Is your right hook as mean as they say?”

There was no trace of sarcasm or small talk about it. So Ozzy replied. “It can hurt some people. Doesn’t feel so great to me neither.”

“Hurts your shoulder, does it? Well, I imagine that growth there isn’t all sweet.” Polumet gestured towards the slightly raised lump above Ozzy’s back right shoulder.

Ozzy eyed him, saw he was wearing black boots worn grey, a torn grey robe with a brown hood hanging on his back. The cleric’s hands were tucked into the sleaves of his arms, and one hand fiddled with an object there. Ozzy wondered if it was a knife.

“Your jaw, son, looks as purple and tough as amethyst,” said the preach, pointing towards a discoloration along Ozzy’s chin. “We’ve got some amethyst back in the Auring.”

“The Auring?”

“The Auring Forest, 12 days south, if one makes good time. It’s a beautiful place and tough. But I won’t leave here until we help the spirits of those who need it, hmm. And tomorrow I’ll teach you how to shoulder roll in your fights.”

Polumet then took off and reaching behind him pulled a small book out of his hood. He opened it and started reading to himself as he walked away.

A phrase had stuck in Ozzy’s mind. He strode quickly down the street, encouraged, more ready to do what he needed—make a deal for a fight, promote the fight himself, fight the fight, and go home. His younger siblings and mother, all of whom he helped support, were waiting for him. He turned down an alley thinking to himself that phrase the preach had said, “the strength of the wilderness.”

Meanwhile, The Algardi’s had invited Gerard over for dinner. Antegenor was in town, so Gerard was beaming and ready to ask him about bardic life. Gerard liked the Algardi family a lot; they were kind, intelligent, and intense. They didn’t seem poor to Ozzy. They lived in a way that even the richest people would envy—dinner together, conversation about art and literature and life, peacefulness in arguments, fire in enthusiasm. It was genteel poverty. In other words, the Algardi family had higher aspirations for their spirits than for their pocketbooks.

The Algardi kids: Antegenor, Via, Alexi, and Lorenzo. Mr. Algardi brought the last dish from the kitchen to the table, and, once everyone was seated, he pronounced, “Thanks to the toil of time, the luck of the season, and the labors of your mom, we are free to eat. Bon appetite!”

For a few minutes everyone quietly enjoyed the meal: golden peppered hen, buttered bread, and pea soup.

Mr. Algardi began asking questions. “Lorenzo, how was your day?”

Lorenzo was six, “Good!” he squeaked. “Mom showed me, uh, how to sail a ship!”

“How did she do that?”

“With a map!”

“What was on this map?” Mr. Algardi asked very seriously.

“Stars,” replied Lorenzo.

“Do you know the names of any stars?”

“Umm… there’s the north star… that’s all I remember.”

“But Lorenzo, how can stars help you sail a ship?”

“They tell directions, Dad.”

“That’s interesting. We will have to talk more before you go to bed.” Mr. Algardi turned the Mrs. and smiled.

Mrs. Algardi smiled back to her husband and turned toward Gerry, “Gerard, how was your show today?”

Gerry was not expecting a sudden question. Food was crammed in his mouth. He chewed. Panicking at the delay, he chewed faster. Remembering that he saw David Lamb and that a real member of the bards, Antegenor, was sitting at the table staring into his pea soup (probably thinking about some brilliant story) Gerry panicked a bit more, swallowed his mouthful of food, and croaked, “Good.”

“What were the shows about?” Mrs. Algardi asked.

More questions! Gerard thought. Can’t she see I’m suffering?

“The show was about a bandit, who sneaked into a castle to steal some jewels from a princess’ room, but when he got there he became distracted by all the make-up at the princess’ vanity. He put on a brunette wig, and painted his face to look monstrous, when the nurse came to the room and saw him, she fainted. The princess returned from shopping outside saw the burglar’s face and laughed at him. The burglar apologized, turned to go, but before he got out the door, the princess whacked him upside the head and turned him over to the guards.”

Everyone’s face suddenly looked rubbery, shocked perhaps, then all the kids and Mrs. Algardi laughed, “That’s a good one!” Gerard was relieved. Chatter broke out everywhere.

Via was saying, “…and Gerard threw his voice a few times!”

Gerard felt like a real bard for moment. The praise made him blush.

Antegenor suddenly said, “We’ll see how long your shows keep up.” Quiet settled on the table. “The Orders of Priests and even the Divination Council it seems are increasingly ill-favored towards the arts. The Orders keep preaching anti-bard rhetoric, and the Council has been oddly silent. Some people say a purge is coming.”

Mrs. Algardi said, “Don’t overreact. There has always been some animosity from the preachers towards the so-called “bardic distractions.” It’s not new.”

“This time it’s different,” Antegenor murmured. “There’ve been visions. Either Council sees something which makes them want us suppressed or the clerics have usurped the Council somehow.”

Antegenor was increasing in anger. Suddenly, three figures sitting on chairs appeared on the table before Gerard. As Antegenor described the events and characters on the council, Gerard saw them clear as day before him, but no one else seemed to see. “Amanda Eisen is resigning. Amanda was the best of them—truly worthy of the name divine. The newest member of the Council will probably be Neljä. She’s very young and seems very approachable; obviously, the other two haven’t influenced her yet, Quintus the iron-minded authority, and Hextor who is corrupt.”

“Careful how you talk in front of your siblings, Teg!” Mr. Algardi warned.

“We trust the council because they can see the future,” Via explained to Gerard. “If you shut people who can see the future out of ruling, then you wind up with lots of half-crazed prophets warning of destruction, and then destruction happening. The only reason we have had stability for so long is because three prophets oversee the government and can intervene to avert destructive forces before they become too great. Antegenor thinks they’ve been subverted somehow.”

Dinner went on nicely, but Antegenor was distracted and didn’t want to talk about bardship.

Two hours later, Ozzy’s fight began.

Round 1: Ozzy jabs right. Jabs right. Backs up. Steps right. Steps right. Jabs right. Hooks left. Misses. Is hit on the chest. Lowers his right shoulder. Is hit in the right shoulder. Is hit right ribs. Steps back. Leans in to a jab. Gets clocked in the left side of the head. Stays up. More jabs thrown back and forth.

Round 2: See ‘Round 1’ (plus a few more hits to his chin).

Round 3: Ozzy jabs right. Cross left. Steps left. Jabs right. Is jabbed. Is jabbed. Hook left; it lands heavy on the poor schmuck’s noggin. Ozzy jabs right. Another hook. Miss. Gets two in the body. Moves left. Gets clocked in the right side of the head. Goes down.

When Ozzy made it out of the risk district, money is his pocket, body mildy aching, he turned down Creek Street to get to Kilts’ Quilts where Gerard would clean him up before letting him come home. A small figure was standing at the corner of Kilts’ waiting. Ozzy was tired and did not want to talk to anyone.

“Good fight,” Polumet said.

“Thanks.”

“I’ll show you how to shoulder roll tomorrow after work. You need to learn how to shoulder roll if you want to get better at fighting.”

“After work?”

“Yeah. These streets are terrible, very terrible. How is anyone supposed to live in streets like this?”

“There is no street cleaning in this area,” Ozzy said.

“Starting tomorrow there is. I’ve got this guy; we can load the refuse into his wagon, and he’ll dump it off outside of town. It’ll take a few days, but we’ll get it done.”

“Who is that?” asked Ozzy, wondering who would volunteer his cart for three days to moving slop out for free.

“He took some convincing, this guy named—” I can’t afford to work for free,  Ozzy thought. “Leon,” Polumet finished.

“Leon! He left town already. Besides, he’s a cheapskate.”

“No, I got him to come back and volunteer.”

Then being tired, Ozymandias staggered into Kilts’ where his brother inspected him for bruises and cuts.

The Caballero’s Bivouac

The Caballero hauled his bags from his dusty horse, if one can call such a skeletal mammal a horse, and set up a camp a few feet above the base of a valley. Three stakes he hammered, securing an old sailcloth into the ground. He sighed, remembering when he had seen unfurled sails years ago as a faithful comrade beside him stood. He wrapped himself up in an old coverlet and tried to sleep. But after fifteen minutes of discomfort he gave in to his body’s need for physical comfort and placed a small mat on the ground. It was a small defeat, but a defeat nonetheless.

He slept a lean sleep. And the morning beckoned him to the top of the hill where a small wooden temple looked out over all Leipzia.

Creek Street 1.2

Petty Gossip is the great know-it-all of the world. It gathers to itself tongues and eyes and all manner of discontent.

Via and Gerry’s shows took up space in the central square on Creek Street. These shows slowed traffic, and were performed without permission. It’s dangerous for kids to be in the street at a high traffic time. Twice already this week they had closed off three-quarters of the street so that the little mob of kids they rounded up could watch. They are no-good performance urchins. One has an older brother; he’s good for his strength—today helping Leon unload the fresh timber. And think of Leon! Leon’s cart will be delayed. The poor merchant hates suffering through traffic. Those kids really ought to find somewhere else for their shows… So the murmurs ran.

Indeed, Leon had hired Ozzy to help him unload the cart of timber logs. They would have to unload the cart, lift it over the road-stones and fill it up with linens and jams to take back to the city. Despite the stuffy nose, he could smell the sloshing refuse beneath the wheels of his cart.

A minor headache roamed the crevices of his mind.

While he sat atop the cart on Creek Street, his apprentice, Rath, made small talk with others and went to watch some type of puppet show for a few minutes. Leon just sat, brooding, and wondered how long they would have to wait. A mosquito landed on his left hand. He swatted at it. He sighed.

“Cap-i-tain!” his apprentice said.

“What?” Leon huffed.

“Turns out the young fella doing the puppet show up yonder is Ozzy’s younger brother.”

“Go figure.”

“Figure what?”

“Nevermind.”

Leon started to think about how much he was paying Ozzy for his services, how he had a headache, and was in his least favorite town, how the air smelt bad, how the day was going even more slowly than usual. He took up talking with Henrietta Chib. An incessant gossiper, she only aggravated his frustrations. In the face of knowing the relationship between Ozzy and his present inconvenience his goodly spirit gave out altogether. The shoddily constructed edifice known as “Leon’s Patience” crashed to the ground, and fractured the very foundations of Leon’s justice. He determined that it was all Ozzy’s fault: this delay, this headache, this town, this faint smell in his clogged nose. When it came time to pay Ozzy for his services, he would give him three-quarters of what they had previously agreed—a fitting penalty for causing such a wretched day.

***

As their show ended, Via noticed that David Lamb was watching. Seeing such a well-known musician made Via freeze with bright-eyed surprise. For a brief moment she forgot that she was supposed to be bowing and thanking everyone for coming to the show. She thanked one of the children for his donation of a few coppers as her mind swam. She wondered if David liked the show. She thought she didn’t do half bad playing music during the show. Gerard threw his voice a few times. The children had laughed, at least.

Gerard started putting away their costumes and props behind the box stage. They set up the stage at the highest elevation on Creek Street—where the road waste was thinnest. Via came around to the back side of the stage excitedly. “Gerry! David Lamb was in the audience!”

“Really? That is amazing. Did he stay?”

“I don’t think so. I didn’t see him a second ago. Do you think the show went well? Do you think he liked it?”

“Maybe. We’re not very good—well, at least not yet. I wish we had practiced more!”

“So do I, we have to have a really good idea for next time, just in case he is there again,” Via said.

At that, David came around the stage. They both took half a step back and froze in awe.

“Good work, Thespians! Keep it up. How many shows have you performed before this one?”

“Two,” Gerry said, barely able to form thoughts.

“Wow, I’d wager they were as good as this one too! I liked the way you paired music with each character. The bandit was definitely the funniest, and I appreciated the troll who hoarded make-up bottles.”

“Thank you,” Gerry said.

“Do you have advice for us?” Via asked eagerly.

“Yes. Practice. Don’t view your work as a task to be accomplished. If this is a part of who you want to be, be it on a daily basis. Let it become your way of life. Keep pushing your skill forward.”

“I can’t even go to school or get a tutor. Do you actually think we have talent?” Gerry asked.

David paused a moment and thought. “Seriously, I think you can do it. I’m not much of a cheerleader. So let me tell you, it will require perseverance, and we will have to get you educated. Otherwise, you will never be able to join the guild. Besides,” David grinned, “all experts start out as novices.”

“We could never join the guild!” Via said. “We don’t know anything about the city. Why do you think we want to join the guild?”

“That’s what you want, isn’t it?”

“Yes!” said Gerry compulsively. Via looked hesitant. She looked toward Gerry and her nervous smile faded.

David noticed that something was holding Via back.

“Let’s have a quick test. Do either of you know who is on the Council of Divination?”

A pause. They shook their heads ‘no.’

“How about the three types of prophecy? Or, do you know the names of any famous bards?”

“Oh yes!” They both called.

“Via’s brother, Antegenor, is an official bard.”

“I’ve heard Martialis twice! He’s my favorite,” Via said.

“Aamu Kahvilla writes plays,” Gerry said.

“Okay, okay. So you know of a lot of us. But did you know Antegenor can create illusions, or that Martialis can toy with people’s love and laughter, or that Aamu can make people feel a cold breeze or summer sunshine at will?”

“Antegenor make illusions? My brother? Yeah right!” Via said. “He’d be terribly irresponsible with any power.”

“Unfortunately, you’re right.” David said a little too quickly.

“What do you mean?” Via asked.

“Nevermind, nevermind.” David half-laughed. “As you progress as a bard your ability manifests itself. But you two won’t progress anywhere without more education about the wider world. When you know enough, you can join the guild. More thoughtful and talented people would be great to have. I’ll let you be on your way now. We’ve stood in the street long enough. Look, that cart driver is red in the face. Pack up and get out of here.”

“Thanks for your advice. That’s my brother working with him,” Gerry said.

“Excellent.”

“See you soon!” Via said.

“Maybe, but likely not,” David said. “I must go to the city where a lot is going on… A city is made of many moving parts and some of them create delicious little cheesecakes.”

With that David strutted off. They looked at each other.

“How am I going to get an education?” Gerry said. “You already have a tutor so you don’t have to worry. I’ll be stuck here. I don’t have time for school.”

“Don’t worry. We can figure that out.” But secretly Via didn’t know if they could. Her own education was lacking in many ways, she knew. Her tutor wasn’t that good. Suddenly, she was worried.

“Did you notice something bothering him?”

“I noticed his beard.”

“Who wouldn’t! It’s so thick.”

“Maybe there is a lot of work in the city?” Gerry said.

“Or maybe there is trouble.”

They pulled their stage down the sidewalk and carried their little bag of props. Creek Street was flowing with people and carts and the eternal sludge which slowly oozes.

As they trotted along, people behind them became frustrated at their stage taking up the sidewalk. No one could walk around without stepping into the street. One blue-shawled lady with a large black hat walked behind them exaggerating her pain at their sluggishness. She was about to say something when a large and grim figure gently nudged her aside and grabbed the stage.

“Gerry,” he said, as he lifted the stage off the ground and over his head.

“Hi, Ozzy!” Via said.

“I’ve got to work late tonight. I’ll see you at Kilt’s.”

“Wait, why?” asked Gerard. “Didn’t have a good job for the day with that timber driver?”

“He didn’t pay like he promised,” Ozzy said.

“You should have said something!” Via scolded. Gerard was fuming, but didn’t see any point saying so. Ozzy was not about to confront the cart driver.

“Meet at Kilt’s Quilts late.” And Ozymandias was off to the risk district to find more work.

***

That evening a small preach arrived from the south.

A Cart Driver

“Drive timber here, Leon. Drive timber there, Leon. Well, where are we going this time you might ask? Let me tell you where, Slumpelier—the worst town in all Leipzia. Slum-pell-ee-ay. I hate that town. Trash and refuse in all the streets here, there, and all in the way. And then there’s the garbage. Enormous stones block most of the streets so that the trash, I mean people, can cross without stepping into several inches of muck. The side street I need to get to will be blocked by those stones. I’ll have to pay someone to help move the timber (more coin from my wallet). Of course, it’s not a straight road into the town. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? It has to be a congested, winding gobbledymess. So I’ll have to wait on that sludgy street for an hour or more tomorrow, praying to the stars above that my sinuses stay this clogged.”

“Captain, if you feel sick or don’t like driving in traffic I can do it for you.”

“Traffic is not the problem. The problem is this job.”

Creek Street 1.1

Gerard Manley Hobgoblin shared a room with his older brother. It stank. His brother’s chest heaved up and down with each breath. Gerard put on a yellowed shirt and his brown vest and went into the kitchen. After he got the bacon sizzling, he sprinkled some brown sugar on it. That smelt much better.

Bacon and milk, a good breakfast for once, he thought. Usually they ate oats, but Mrs. Kilts had given Gerard a pound of bacon for the recent holiday. He knew that both generosity and pity spurred Mrs. Kilts to give such a gift. That didn’t bother him one bit. He did not feel self-conscious about needing a little help. His brother Ozzy, though, did. He did not like asking anyone for help. Ozzy worked, got paid, and went home. If he needed more money, he’d work more. He was not bitter. Instead he was quiet. That was one of many reasons Gerard had reverence for his brother. Despite his loud breathing while he slept, Ozzy had quiet grit.

Ozzy stepped into the kitchen, grunted a good morning, and began to eat. In the back room, their mom was speaking softly with their little sister. Ozzy finished, stepped into the back room bringing a plate of food with him, and kissed mother and sister goodbye. He ducked under the doorway and stepped outside, a few tools on his belt and a few knives hidden on his person. Later that evening, Ozzy would meet Gerard at Kilts’ Quilts, where Gerard would make sure Ozzy was in good enough condition to come home.

“Gerard! Thank you for making breakfast,” their mom called.

Gerard walked out toward work. Small, cramped houses sandwiched a few small, cramped shops. The street curbs were high, nearly a foot high so that pedestrians would not have to step in street sludge. The sludge was nasty. And no one was paid to remove it. Kids told each other rumors about the terrifying things which happened to people who stood in the street for too long: rot-foot, paralysis, zombiefication.

Gerard crossed the street by hopping across elevated stepping stones. The stones blocked transport down side streets but were important for pedestrians. He turned a corner and made it to Kilts’ Quilts. He worked for a few hours organizing, sewing, and cleaning for the Kilts. Sure, kids his own age laughed, and customers raised eyebrows that this large 14 year-old boy was patching their clothes and sewing their quilts, but he had a job. And after five hours of diligent work, Mrs. Kilts would let him leave for two hours—two blissful hours.

When his break came, Gerard scrambled out the door, made his way through some alleys to a neighborhood with many trees. Passers-by thought he was in a panic, a lunatic. He ducked behind a single-family house and immediately climbed a tree—obviously a lunatic. But hidden among these trees was a small platform with low walls. Via was sitting up there with a book in her hand. Gerard climbed to the tree-platform, but did not see her.

“Up here, Reverb!”

Gerard looked. Book in her right hand, he saw too late her left hand flick a nut. It popped Gerard right beneath the eye.

“How do you expect me to read, when you are trying to poke my eyes out?” He shouted back. “And ‘Reverb?’ You’ve come up with better nicknames than that.”

“Oh, please!”

Via jumped from where she was and landed on the platform. Gerard heard a minor cracking sound in the wooden boards. They sat. The book today was a new one, Tales of a Shapeshifter. Gerard read aloud. Occasionally she’d interrupt to ask him if he understood what was happening. Little did he know, she loved to hear him read. Via always chose books with lots of conversation so that Gerard would change his voice to match the characters. His voice was his great talent. He could parrot at any accent, ape any tone, mirror any gesture. Sometimes he would even throw it, making it sound like it was coming from different directions. She interrupted to ask him what he thought about different story elements. It was her way—her contribution. Eventually, the interruptions turned into conversation, and they set the book aside. After about an hour, they jumped down and ran to the central square where David Lamb performed at this time. His songs always told stories about storms, grit, and hardened people. Everyone gave David a few coins, and then he began. The crowd in the square hung on his tune, transported to the realm of thought and memory. They tapped their feet to the beat, looked into the sky, enjoyed the breeze more than ever. When David finished, he thanked them and went back to work, and they sighed.

No one in this neighborhood knew that David was immensely influential in the city and did not need their little coppers. But he took the coins all the same to later give away. David just came, played his tunes, helped the Construction Guild for a few hours, and then left.

“Via, I think I should become a bard like David Lamb,” Gerard said as they walked toward Kilts’ Quilts.

“What type of performance would you want to do?” Via laughed.

“The type… which requires… voice throwing…” Gerard said, and his voice bounced from place to place, coming from one direction to another.

Via laughed again. “Okay, wise guy. I’ve been telling you we should do puppet shows forever.”

“I think you are right. I think I have stories I want to tell.”