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13 April 2007 @ 04:08 pm
Dashes Of Swirling Wonder [Prompt Thirty-Two]  
Title: Dashes Of Swirling Wonder
Universe: Far Away
Prompt: Salmon, fall [Prompt Thirty-Two]
Rating: PG-13
Summary: The need to hunt, to steal, to constantly take flowed in his very blood. It was an urge that he was hungry, happy for.
Note: Okay, remember Before The Beginning? Remember Wallace Englehorn? Good, because this is about a journey he takes in April 1912. We join our...uh...hero in his new place of employment: a German bar.

Crossposted to spinsterwriters and 100treasures.



“Wallace!” The language was German, but the firmness in tone could be understood by anyone. Jack, the village bartender, strode into the kitchen, wiping his hands on his leather apron. Wallace Englehorn, sitting on a stool in his work clothes—a gray shirt and brown suspenders that the last boy had left—rose as fast as he could.

“Sir?”

“Go tune the piano, boy; I want to be sure it is ready for tonight’s customers.” He smiled that sly grin Wallace was just now getting used to; Jack glanced at him knowingly. “You wiped that man’s vomit off the keys, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir, salmon chunks included,” Wallace chuckled. Jack raised his eyebrows.

“You could tell what the poor drunk vomited?”

“No, but I know it was fish of some kind.”

“I need to stop offering goddamn fish on the menu… Go tune that stupid piano, boy, and then finish cleaning those mugs.”

“Already done, sir.”

“You ain’t lying, Wallace?”

“By God’s good graces, I ain’t.”

Jack roared with laughter. “Ah, get out of my kitchen.” Wallace did so, but Jack called his name again. “Wallace! You don’t seem the godly sort.” The boy just grinned, not bothering to mention that he had been raised by Catholic nuns until the age of thirteen, until the Barlows, until Lily. He and Jack got along because, truth be told, the bartender wasn’t the religious sort, either. That was just fine, as far as Wallace was concerned.

He approached the piano just like he’d approached Lily four years ago: slowly, carefully, cautiously. Sister Rebecca, the head of the orphanage back in England, had not bothered to teach them about musical instruments. Music didn’t interest him at all; he’d only look stupid if he turned round and called to Jack, “What do you mean, ‘tune a bloody piano’?”

So, Wallace cracked his knuckles in preparation and sidled onto the bench with false ease. The instrument didn’t smell like the insides of a man’s stomach anymore, so he took a deep breath…and timidly pressed down on a few keys with his right hand. They had made a noise that made sense in his brain, so he tried one more time. Again, it made a noise; he was no Bach, but the piano was making music, at least.

“It works!” Wallace called, rising from his seat lest his “playing” singe his employer’s ears off.

“Good,” Jack replied with assent, not overly pleased or angry, just indifferent. Wallace was used to this because their leader had been… “You can do what you like for the rest of the afternoon, just return before six o’clock.”

“Yes, sir!” Wallace answered, dashing up the stairs, banging open the door to his tiny room and grabbing his hat from the bedpost. “Doing what you like,” Wallace knew, was usually the perfect way to get out and steal items. The need to hunt, to steal, to constantly take flowed in his very blood. It was an urge that he was hungry, happy for.

It was raining, or at least beginning to rain, when Wallace dashed downstairs with his cap in hand. “I am going to the shops; do we need anything?” he asked, goodwill masking his true intent.

“No.” Wallace slammed the door shut and took off running, his heartbeat the only thing he truly heard. He was always aloof around the villagers, saying as little as possible—sometimes even ignoring them—when he met one of Jack’s customers in the street. Despite this, he found that people who knew Jack were easiest to steal from. They trusted the “boy who worked at Jack’s bar” after all; Wallace was betraying that trust and…oh, this game, this act amused him so!

The rain was on his lips as he lifted his face to the sky and laughed—much like Charley Bates from Oliver Twist; Charley was the only decent character in the novel. “Strange boy,” muttered a passing woman, pulling her shawl closer. Wallace laughed under his breath at her and kept running. Under the awning of a clockwork shop, he paused, grinned and went in.

“Pardon me, sir,” he said in fluent German, addressing the man at the counter. “My employer’s sick, but he absolutely needs a new pocketwatch.”

“You’re Jack’s worker boy,” said the elderly man. “What sort of watch is the rascal after?”

Wallace hadn’t thought of that. “Any working watch will do fine.”

The man went into a storeroom he unlocked with a tiny bronze key and returned with a simple watch. This watch was for Wallace, not his employer. “You think Jack would like this?”

Wallace nodded, but froze when the clerk asked, “When do you think he’ll pay me?”

“I don’t know. I will ask, thank you!” Out the door Wallace went, trying to hold in his laughter. Of course he wasn’t going to ask Jack about the damn watch; it was his! It was symbolic of what, at present, was working for and against him: time.

At night, when he’d watch Jack’s customers, the messy, slurring drunks and their lady friends, fall over each other, the pocketwatch’s ticking echoed in his mind. Time would aid him in getting to Lily yet.
 
 
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