So, Spring is waning fast, but summer’s not an event that just happens — it sneaks up on us like a barn own gliding past in the night. No, now we’re in the golden eternity, that endless perfect afternoon that arcs from June to September, a rainbow in every shade of heat. The air smells of forges and plums, cool water becomes a lover, and the best room in any house is the bower under a tree.
The oaks are favoured for the best shade, one of the apricot or peach trees for snacks, or the rose arbors for the sheer overpowering delight of the perfume. With, of course, a book or three. It’s that way here of course. Most of the staff, including the Several Annies, are either out under the trees all day, or down in the cellar making sure the ale doesn’t evaporate in the heat. Reynard says that’s both a public service and a public trust, and tries to restrict it to his own staff; but when the heat hits triple digits, a lot of us turn dwarf and head for that little iron-bound door to the down-below beside the bar.
In defense, Reynard has posted the score sheets for the Summer Reading Club on the cellar door. MacKenzie is the judge, of course. He keeps a special cart in the hall outside, filled with select and unusual volumes: that’s the trick, see, you have to read and review whatever he selects. MacKenzie, I think, is trying to educate the lot of us. At least I think that explains the Baba Yaga stories in Russian. One got points for finding a Russian fluent staffer and providing the proper bribes to get their cooperation.
Next to drink, the regulars in the Pub like books best, so there’s hardly a one who won’t pause before he tries to dive down the stairs to check his standing in the ranks. There are dozens of little leather wallets hanging on that door, and every one in the Club has personalized theirs some way: poker work, horse brasses, Avery labels, glowing eldritch script. When someone finishes a book, they add a review to their wallet. Scores are kept for quantity, of course, but also for quality — a thoughtful analysis of my little monograph on pumpkins suitable for use in ales got twice the points garnered for someone’s exceedingly detailed review of the complete correspondence of Lady Raglan. And of course, a lot of the non-drinkers — well, people who drink somewhat less, anyway — are usually popping in to check their scores as well, so there’s a sort of automatic defensive cordon in front of the door.
And not only are all the readers checking the master lists to see who has read what and how long it took them, most of them are trying to peek in someone else’s wallet to check out their latest effort as well. It’s all anyone can hope for to get an ale they actually ordered! Of course, we all manage. You can’t keep us away from books or ale, not if those delights were guarded by the Queen of Air and Darkness’ guards themselves! I’ll keep you informed on the contest as it evolves over the Summer.