What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor
Never split up the party, unless everybody wants to see different things at the Ren Fair. Like last year, the wizards gathered at my house for Thanksgiving. We gamed, ate frozen pizzas and somehow talked about colonialism and the negative impact on indigenous people without pissing off my wife, Rain, or causing an incident with the police. Again.
Today, we’re at Ren Fair on Black Friday. We agreed to dress up as Hogwarts students. Except me. Instead, they glued a large googly eye to my eye patch. So today, I am Mad Eye Moody. The womenfolk have gone with Rain to look at daggers and swords. The menfolk have rushed off to look at swords and daggers. Leaving me, Alex Rune, alone to entertain Yasunori.
I’ve heard masks are normal in Japan, but theirs has a voice modulator built in. It’s not like listening to Darth Vader, but sounds like a whispery and mysterious tin can. Yasunori says the least, so I really don’t know them. I’m sticking with the they/them pronoun because Yasunori is asexual, from what I can tell. I saw an episode of Bones with a Japanese character like that, which sums up everything I know on the topic. I could worry about what I don’t know, but I bet they simply want to see cool stuff and maybe eat a turkey leg like anybody else.
So that’s what we did. Yasunori tried on a dragon puppet, ate a scotch egg, and watched a Fakespearian rendition of Romeo and Juliet 2.0 by Sound & Fury. I laughed, I cried. Yasunori observed. I might be failing at this. A good host supplies what their guest wants. I should ask.
“Yasunori, what do you want to do next?”
The echoey voice replied, “To see.”
Okay. We swung by the broom maker and watched them work for a bit, then over to the turkey leg stand for lunch. Those things are huge, so I got the sausage on a stick, instead. Much faster to eat. By this time, my right knee is killing me. I found us a bench to sit at and watch the people pass by. Parents with babies in costume. Adults in costume. A centaur passed by. Then the princess dropped her cotton candy in the dirt. Five second rule doesn’t work here. Her parents shifted nervously as tears streaked her dusky face.
I realized I forgot my staff when my knee reminded me as I knelt down in front of the girl. Her eyes lit up as I pulled a shiny gold coin from her ear and twirled it across the backs of my fingers. Simple coin manipulation and oldest trick in the book, but it works. For my next trick, I reached down and lifted the sad candy floss and frowned. She frowned, but wait, there’s more. I made a show of having an idea and with coin in hand, squished it all together until it vanished. Showing her my hands were empty, I brought them together in a loud clap to reveal a perfectly serviceable Harry Potter wand that came with my costume. Her eyes lit up, the parents smiled, I bowed and limped back to Yasunori.
They handed me a napkin, and I wiped the sticky off my hand and coin. Then came the question. “Why?”
What do I say to that? There’s a reason Yasunori is confusing and they’ve embraced being vague and mysterious. The best way through is with truth. Not my favorite given what wizards do, but amongst each other, it works.
“It’d be easy to judge them by skin tone, but I could see it in their faces that this trip was expensive to them. Five bucks adds up. Nobody should have their fun ruined by that, especially a kid. Also, I hate wands. Useless. Too small to embed any useful tech or enough power.”
Yasunori finished the turkey leg and seemed satisfied. We made our way to the new quiet garden path. I imagine Japan had lots of quiet, meditative places like this. That’s probably a stereotype. But Yasunori seemed happy as they sat at every other bench along the walk. The birds quit chirping when Yasunori said, “We are followed.”
I checked both ends of the trail and sure enough, there’s a big dude with jeans and sweat stained t-shirt walking towards us. He belched and said, “Hey, I gots a question for you.”
Normally, people might ask questions about our costume, or where the restroom is. I had a feeling his would suck. My grip tightened on my staff and I lowered the tri-pronged head toward him. “Not all questions are worthy of answers.” It might have been more intimidating without the googly eye swirling around.
“What is your girlfriend?”
There it is. I wanted a normal day for Yasunori. A day where differences isn’t a topic of interrogation or harassment. I shifted my thumb to the right pad on my staff and an arc of electricity flared between the three prongs at the end..
The big guy had a friend. They always do. Smaller. Sneakier. Always on my left side. The staff fell from my hand as he put me in a headlock. My hands flailed and slapped at his head. Maybe if I had a wand, I could have jabbed him with it.
While I fumbled with my assailant, I learned a valuable lesson in Japanese culture. Not every Japanese person knows karate. But Yasunori does. They sent a flurry of kicks at the giant’s ribs. He grunted and took a step back. There is one problem with this fight. Direct force from a small opponent against a larger one isn’t a fair match. The two fighters circled. Most fights end up on the ground. If the brute got ahold of the Japanese wizard, this would end badly.
I had one more trick up my sleeve. Well, actually in my coat. I twisted and strained to reach, and got my hand into the pocket stitched in for vanishing stuff. Then I jammed the candy mess into my opponent’s eye. He screamed. I dropped to the ground as he released me.
My hands found my staff and I traded places with Yasunori as they rushed with a flying kick at my smaller foe that I forgot about. Stupid blind-spot. That’s alright. He doesn’t stand a chance. The big guy lunges in and I do what I’m good at. The head of the staff connected with his throat and the maximum legally allowed voltage for a taser flowed into him.
In short order, the sack of potatoes lay on the ground twitching. I might have jabbed TaserThroat a few more times. The other guy joined him, holding injured parts of his body close. Then the pirates showed up.
“Well, well, what have we got ‘ere!?”
“Looks like some drunken sailors, cap’n.”
The captain looked around and motioned to his men. “Aye, that it does. Pike and Bristle, go close off the trail up ahead. Tiny, escort these two wizards to the front.”
Tiny, the largest of the pirates wore lipstick, and a flat bra and open vest over their hairy chest. They motioned for us to come with. Yasunori looked back at the fallen pair, and asked, “What will you do with them?”
Tiny smiled, and sung as we walked,” What do you do with a drunken sailor, what do you do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?”
And the crew called out behind us, “Shave his belly with a rusty razor!”
The bedlam behind us carried on as we returned to the bustling fair. Tiny stopped at the path entrance and turned a few people back, saying the path was closed for clean-up. In a softer voice, Tiny said, “Please enjoy the rest of your day. There’s room for everybody at the fair, but not the likes ‘o them.”
Yasunori and I walked over to a shady tree where a minstrel sang about a green shirt she was keen on. What happened back there wasn’t what Yasunori should have had to experience. “Hey, I'm sorry about those guys back there.”
“I know who you are. We knew who the bad guys were.”
“And they fell with a satisfying thump.”
“Yes.” came the wispy reply.
I don’t always get in a fight when I go to Ren Fair, but I know who's got my back.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This prequel tale is from the 2007 annual gathering of technomages. Alex is a little wiser, and we see the beginning of a tradition. If you missed last year's Thanksgiving story or other snippets, click the link below: