I’ve heard tell that the jingling of the bells is irksome to some sleigh drivers, but I’ve never minded it myself; in fact I find it kind of soothing. Once you pass north of the Dairy farmlands you got yourself hours of solitude to ponder life. I find the bells to be what them in the east call ‘meditative.’ Besides, the bells cover the snorting and farting of my horse Clyde. It ain’t no fault of Clyde’s, mind you, he’s got that irritable bowel that gives him a hell of a time. I put a little honey that my bees make from the purple kine in with his oats and that helps soothe him a bit. Purple kine grows wild in these parts, the flowers make good honey but it has a reddish-pink hue to it that throws some folks.
Running the Curdles Way ain’t for the inexperienced; Curdles Way, for them that don’t know, is the farming road we in the north use to deliver our produce down there to New Babbage.
Winter is the best time for running deliveries what with the ground being frozen hard. Only fools travel Curdles Way in the spring and in the summer and fall it’s all full of them buggers, the highwaymen, though to be fair they usually give us farmers a free pass and go after the city folk instead.
I’m digressing from my main point. As I was saying, I was in New Babbage this weekend past; come in on Friday and left this morning. To begin with, Friday was one of them buggers of a day, the kind where you should just stay in bed and wait for the next one to roll around. I was running my sleigh up Prince Dakkar Boulevard and caught a runner in them frigging tram tracks, snapped the front clean off. I tried to fix it on the spot, took off my coat for just a second on account of I was working up a sweat and didn’t some kid run off with it. Frigging snotty-nosed thieves; had my satchel of quats in the pocket too, which left me short of cash.
After Clyde and I hauled the sleigh out of the way, I took a break in the bar there on the corner, a place by the name of the Gangplank. They had a fire going which was right nice and it was pretty quiet. Just me and a little guy with big boots to patronize the place. Naturally enough we struck up a conversation. When he heard I run a sleigh up the Curdles he asked me if I ever make it as far as Owl Harbour. Now as a rule, I don’t. Ain’t much call for commerce up that way ever since the big storm that raged through there a couple of years ago that buggered their oyster fishery.
Here’s the point of my story. Seems this fellow with the big boots has a thing for oysters and they have to be Owl Harbour oysters as I offered him some cheaper oysters a friend of mine gets from the Rocky Isles. But he weren’t biting, so I says, them oysters are at a premium and he says fine, so long as I get them by Christmas Eve. Told me to come to the foundry on Monday morning which was today.
I showed up at the foundry early and to be honest I was a little relieved to see him as I was flat broke. And here is where my luck changed. He was waiting for me with a winter coat, hat and gloves along with a brand new set of runners for my sleigh and enough quats to cover black market oysters.
So that brings everything up to date. Me and Clyde are just passing through Dairy where we’ll stop over for the night. Maybe do a little trade before I head out tomorrow. Ain’t no rush, see, I got til Christmas Eve. Ain’t no way I’ll be late.