In The News (Day 92)
For old times’ sake, I abducted Tarcuna to Stajrnëblottë, on the other side of Strobland. It was an easy sort of abduction:
“Hey, Tarcuna! Want to come with me to Butterboard’s?” Butterboard’s being a famous sandwich restaurant in Stajrnëblottë — so famous that its fame has spread far and wide, and that it is mentioned in nearly all three tourist guidebooks about Strobland.
“Sure! What’s Butterboard’s?” said Tarcuna, who had, evidently, only read the other guidebook. If that.
“I should have expected some such. Can I bring my guards and mentor?”
“Sure, but I’m not carrying them. Or paying for them,” I said. I’ll carry my friends, but not their oppressors.
“I’d better not, then,” she said. “Or maybe we can meet you there?”
So I grabbed her in my forepaws, and jumped into the air, and flew off to Butterboard’s.
“Spotty, you’re going to get me in trouble. More trouble, I mean,” she said, but she was laughing.
So I shouted down to her oppressors, “Meet us at Butterboard’s!” and let them work out the logistics.
Stajrnëblottë is a small, unimpressive city, devoted mainly to fishing, logging, and herding. The buildings are heavy wooden things, mostly not painted except for one red circle on the front of each one that represents having paid the house-tax. Butterboard’s is in one of the buildings, somewhere, but I had to land, shrink to hoven-sized, and have Tarcuna ask a native to find it. They were a bit surprised and a bit scared to be serving a dragon, but if their queen could do it, they could too.
Inside, it’s all very ornate and kitschy, with lots of small wooden or ivory carved hovens peeking at you from lots of shelves. There’s a big table in the middle of the room, where five Great Chefs of Making Sandwiches stand at attention, surrounded by a vast array of breads, meats, sausages, cheeses, pates, mayonnaises, butters, mustards, and spreads. There are a few terrified-looking vegetables off at one end of the table, too. I don’t know what the vegetables are so terrified of. Nobody ordered any vegetables while I was there.
The menu is about half a tail long, listing more than fifteen dozen choices, all with fanciful names. “The Happy Little Gnome” is roast cow and spiced butter and goose-liver pate on dark pumpernickle. “Top of the Mountain” is four kinds of sausage and plain butter on seeded white bread. Why? I have no idea.
You’re supposed to order three assorted sandwiches (they’re small) for a small meal, up to ten sandwiches for a Gigantic Hunger. “Hm … it’s not dinnertime yet, but I’m rather hungry,” said Tarcuna. “I’ll order the Normal Dinner, of five. You’re paying, right? I don’t have any money.”
“Sure, if they take thurnies.” I looked at the long, long menu and drooled.
“Spotty? You may not order one of everything here. You just may not.”
“Pity.” So I ordered two Gigantic Hungers, one their top ten sandwiches of pickled fish and the other their top ten of sausage, and watched with interest as the chefs sawed thin slices of bread with huge knives, and spread and sliced and assembled.
“Actually, I promised you some money and forgot to give it to you.” I took out the greater part of the money I had taken from the paymaster at Churry City.
“No thanks, Spotty. It’ll look like a bribe. That would be real trouble for me.”
“Well, I owe you your tip at least, don’t I?”
“Well, that’s up to you. Usually it’s for good service…”
“And flying into battle on my back has to count on good service,” I said. “So, the full thirty thousand.”
“Well, fine. Could you hold on to it for me?” She obviously didn’t want to be seen taking money from me, so I dropped the point.
Then the sandwiches came. The sandwiches were beautiful (but open-faced! I wasn’t expecting that), long rows of fanciful spirally towers of meats and cheeses and whatnots on thin slices of bread, served on planks. They tasted good, too. Butterboard’s reputation is entirely deserved, and the next time I am in Stajrnëblottë I shall be sure to go back to Butterboard’s, it’s that good. (The next time I am in Strobland and don’t have some other reason to go to Stajrnëblottë, I won’t make a special trip. It’s not that good.)
After Tarcuna had finished three and two-halves of her sandwiches, she said, “I see a copy of the Magic Horn of Perstra by the door. Want to see what they’re saying about us?”
“I’ve always enjoyed having you read the paper while I’m eating, Tarcuna.”
So she fumbled with it, one-handed. “Here we are. It’s yesterday’s, but that’s fine.”