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Junie Returns to the Gangplank

Junie returns to the Gangplank

“Good news, everyone! I’M BACK!”

Junie burst through the door of The Gangplank, her arms wide, expecting to see shocked and joyful expressions all around. And maybe confetti. Instead, she saw the bar was completely empty save for Martin Malus, who glanced up from a pint of beer he was pouring just long enough to sneer. It gave Junie a warm feeling in her belly.

“I love you too, Squire, and I’ve missed you so! How about a hug?”

He took a long drink before speaking.

“No hug, we’re out of money,” Malus said flatly. “We’re always out of money. He spent it all to reconstruct the bar and make it all… posh.” He spat out the word as if he had a spider in his mouth.

Junie wasn’t aware that hugging required an exchange of money, unless things had really changed since she’d gone. But the new Gangplank was indeed something to behold. Change in New Babbage was the one thing that was constant, and in its own way, comforting. But of all the places to change in New Babbage, the ‘Plank was the last she’d expected. It felt new and strange and, frankly, in desperate need of a woman’s touch.

She let her carpetbag, suitcase, and umbrella clatter to the floor. Then she shrugged off a large knapsack, which for all Malus could tell was filled with tins, hammers, and broken clocks. He scowled at her luggage and asked ironically, “Is that all?”

“No,” she said as she tugged off her gloves. “My steamer trunk will be delivered later.”

Junie pulled herself onto a stool and tapped the bar for a beer. Malus rolled his eyes.

“You know, we lost our liquor license ages ago,” he said.

She stared at him for a few moments, and then burst out laughing.

He reached under the bar for a glass. “You want beer, whiskey or wine?”

“Beer,” she said. “Who revoked our license? I didn’t even know New Babbage had liquor licenses.”

Malus scoffed as he poured Junie’s drink. “Who do you think? Who has ever been out to close the ‘Plank? Who has always been our biggest competitor?”

“No!” she said in a hushed tone reserved for the juiciest gossip. Malus nodded and slid the pint to her.

“Well,” she said, raising the glass, “this one is on him. Time to balance the books, Squire.”

She took a sip, then reached for her carpetbag, pulling from it a bottle of Chivas Regal. Malus clinked his glass to hers.

“Soooo… where’s the pie?” she asked, scanning the length of the bar and the counter behind it. “I just took a steam ship, a leaky rowboat, two trains, an airship, a saddled North Fellian worm, and a cranky trolley to get here, not necessarily in that order. I spent last night sleeping on the floor behind the coat check counter in The Brunel bar, and I’m starving. It’s the kraken migration, so how about some deep fried suckers?”

“Did you not hear the part about being broke?” Malus asked. “Unless you brought suckers with you, in which case you can fry them up yourself.”

“Pickled tentacle tips?” she asked hopefully.

He shook his head and picked up a bar towel without looking at her. “Not since you stopped preserving them.”

He was sour at her, she could tell. Nothing had changed in their relationship, and that made her happy. She pulled a cigar from her pocket, snipped the cap, and spoke from between clenched teeth as she lit it.

“Sooooo, where is Mr. Lighthouse?” she asked, trying to sound casual.

“Off tilting at the windmill out on The Fells for all I know. He hasn’t stepped foot in the bar for months.”

“Huh.” She was thoughtful for a few moments.

“So why are you still here if he has no money to pay you?” she asked.

“What makes you think he would start now? At least it is a roof over my head. Besides, why do you ask so many questions? You’re gone for five years and then waltz in expecting answers? Grab a damned towel and get to work.”

“As you can see, I’m currently smoking and drinking. This is a sacred ritual, Squire. Maybe later I’ll go to the market and find some late autumn cinderberries for pie.”

He gave her a side glance and she knew she had him hooked.

“With whipped cream,” she added.

“Whatever,” he said, affecting an expression of disinterest. Then, using the old epithet for Brunel Hall’s bar he asked, “Why’d you sleep on the floor of the Mushy Gerkin?”

“Because my house in Academy was demolished, apparently. I’m sure my aunt had something to do with it,” she said bitterly. “Also, Victor has good whiskey.” She smirked.

Malus shuddered visibly.

“And both of them such upstanding citizens. Where is dear old Aunt Mumsy anyway?” he asked.

Junie exhaled fragrant smoke, missing the fine Sagrada Lucias that Emerson used to keep stashed in the lower left drawer of his desk, behind a pile of assorted hookah parts and beneath a stack of finished crosswords, in a box marked “Not Sagrada Lucias.”

“After spending two years with Mumsy at the arsenic springs in Falun, I realized her arthritis wasn’t going to get any better and that it was pretty much just her attitude. So I sent her to live with my sister for a while and went traveling. Lily is sending her back soon though.”

He sighed heavily as he wiped the bar.

“Oh, goodie.”

She continued. “So you’ll need to make sure there is a healthy supply of coal for the steam carriage because I’m going to put her into a house out on The Quarry this time, where she can’t bother me as easily. She’ll need a chauffeur for when she has to come to town.”

“Are you KIDDING ME?” he shouted. “That woman is the nastiest old hag in the city! You aren’t going to get me to chauffeur that crone around doing her pointless little errands just so she can steal towels and hit me with her cane . I’m better than that!”

Junie drew on the cigar calmly and squinted at him. “But she likes you,” she said.

“I’m leaving,” he announced. He threw the towel onto the bar and started walking toward the door. “You can finish my shift.”

She furrowed her brow. “But… smoking. Drinking.”

“That never stopped you before.”

“There isn’t even anyone HERE!” she exclaimed, gesturing to the empty bar.

He shrugged as he put on his jacket, preparing for the gusts that ran along Prince Dakkar Avenue.

“Fine,” she said. She stood, walked behind the bar and grabbed an apron. Then from around her cigar she yelled, “Close the door behind you!”

Malus walked out and slammed the Gangplank door dramatically, turned around and lunged directly into Emerson Lighthouse, who promptly wrapped him in a bear hug.

“Squire, you’ve never been very expressive,”  Emerson said, “but I have to say I really needed a hug just now. Thank you.” He thumped Malus on the back a few times for good measure.

Malus wriggled free from Emerson’s embrace, and as he started walking away jerked a thumb back toward the door.

“Lock up your cigars,” he said. “She’s back.”

Archived Comments (converted from original forum post)

  • September 13, 2019 at 3:24 pm
    Beryl Strifeclaw It’s good to see you back!  It’s been too long.  =^_^=
    • September 13, 2019 at 4:46 pm
      Junie Ginsburg Thanks! It’s good to be back. :-)
  • September 13, 2019 at 4:13 pm
    Philip U Great to see you back Junie. But, um, Mumsy? Is that necessary?
    • September 13, 2019 at 4:48 pm
      Junie Ginsburg Trust me, I ask myself that question every single day.It’s good to see everyone again!
  • September 13, 2019 at 8:58 pm
    Dee Wells Yay!
  • September 14, 2019 at 4:13 am
    Edward Pearse *Blows dust off the welcome wagon*I don’t think we’ve used this in a while. I wonder if the biscuits are still edible?Welcome back!
    • September 14, 2019 at 7:41 am
      Junie Ginsburg Thanks Edward! I’ll try some of those biscuits and let you know.
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