Sitting on the pavement outside the Absinth Cafe the boy brought his tale to a conclusion to the admiring crowd of urchins gathered round, magnificent tail curled belt like over his middle. Two dock workers sitting at the closest table grinned to each other and clapped a story well told, then one leaned forward and commented, “Well done lad, entertained us fair well, yer did, but yer got to watch yer history, that Epicurus and Hippocrates blokes lived at different times.”
The Workers Educational Insitute produced a rather well informed working class, though sometimes the emphasis on Ancient Greek language and history produced some interesting discussions……..
“Ha!” a half sozzeled engineer at a nearby table exclaimed to the men, “there were more holes in that account than one of your cargo nets!”
He then directed his attention to the lad, “You don’t speak a word of Greek, do you boy, neither Ancient or Modern?”
Tepic looked up at him and shook his head sadly.
“There, you see, and as for meeting up with all those mythical ceatures and gods, well, clearly impossible!” he continued, despite the shushing signals the dockmen were giving, seeing the boy look more and more despondant.
“As for travelling in time, well, modern scientific thinking has shown the absurdity of that, despite Mr Well’s fantasy writtings, don’t you agree?”
This last was directed at the assembled patrons of the Cafe, several of whom looked away and ducked their heads, gving a picture of total inocence regarding time travel.
“See?” the man blithly continued, “Look at that supposed tail, nothing more than a scrap of fur tied round his waist, why the urchins of the City persist in trying to immitate those filthy moreaus I don’t know!”
From several tables there was the sound of chairs being pushed back, as persons with slightly more fur than usual started to rise, only to be restrained by their friends. Other patrons examined the lad more closely, some seeing as the engineer, most seeing a well crafted piece of engineering, a fine example, but with a clear mechanical source. For the urchins, and a select few of the adults, the tail was a magnificent reality with a twitching life of it’s own – in truth perhaps reality is but a matter of perspective….
The engineer waved a hand dismissivly, and with the imperiosity of the partially drunk ordered “Away with you brats now, and let your betters socialise in peace!”
The urchins fled the scene, but at the tailed youngster was about to vanish behind a corner, he turned, and a high clear voice called out a phrase that was not in the native tounge of New Babbage. The dock workers turned to each other in amazement, they had both understood enough of the words, not from their classes, but from many years working with sailors from Athens.
“Do you think he knows what he just called that chap?” one asked, in a hushed whisper.
“I hope not, inocent young lad like that, and that inflection on the third word, the way it changed the meaning to….. well, that had to be an accident…. errrrr…..”
They looked towards the engineer, who had turned an ashen white under his ruddly complexion, glanced at each other, then sniggered. The stricken man rose unsteadely and left, watched by all the patrons, it would be a cold day in hell before he could show his face in the Cafe again.