Friday, July 26, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 7.



Episode 7 – Greetings from Grandma

A weather-worn placard hung on the wall by an old wooden doorway reading General Good. It almost looked like some space on the time-tormented title had forgotten a letter or two but Marshall had no way to know for sure. As far as he could tell it could have just been the aged look to the old shop’s sign.

Standing outside the store was a small shopkeeper who looked to be barely 5 feet tall all things told, but older than Marshall was willing to reckon. The grey haired granny moved with strength of purpose as she swept off the outside of her store with experienced ease. There was not even a slight hint of weakness or inability present in the miniature merchant as she carried herself without any pretext of poise. Something silently spoke from her like a slumbering air of simple truth; this little lady was all business and looked to handle the matter masterfully.

She would have to, Marshall thought to himself. Anyone who had survived out here to be as old as this working wonder would have to be about as resilient as those regal ridges surrounding the town. Especially while running something like a business in a town besieged by bandits. While Marshall mused about this mysteriously miniature merchant with mettle he found himself strangely liking her. Although he made a mental note that it might be wise not to make a mention of her small stature.

“Well, you coming or do you plan on sitting out here in the sun all the day long?” The sudden query registered right upside Marshall’s head like he had just been slapped by a school-teacher for daydreaming in class. How had she even known that he had been standing there? He hadn’t even noticed her look over at him not even once.

“No doubt you’re new in town and likely have found yourself without coin needing a place to bunk for a bit.” Marshall got the distinct impression that this wasn’t the first time someone had come to Grandma Grael looking for such hospitality. He also realized quite unmistakably that she wasn’t asking why he was here nor had she directed him to seek his sanctuary elsewhere.

“I, uh,” Marshall began somewhat shaken by her reaction. “I mean to say that Miss Donovaen told me to…” At the mention of the name, Marshall noticed that what the well-dressed woman had said had been proven true. Instantly a pair of sharp cobalt-blue eyes shot up to level themselves squarely upon him. As soon as they did so Marshall could feel a lump form in his throat and his heart skipped a beat.

He started to curiously contemplate how this small shop-keeper could have such an impact on him with nothing more than a directed glance. But then he realized he had completely forgotten to introduce himself as well. There goes my practiced polite presentation he thought to himself and hoped it wouldn’t hurt his chances to earn her good graces.

“Terra told you to come see me did she,” Grandma casually commented before turning to head back inside. “Now that is something then, come on. And unless you’re in the habit of waiting about to make an old lady have to ask you for your name I would suggest you offer one up. Otherwise you might find yourself sorely discovering my disdain for abiding any rude behavior.”

“Yes ma’am,” Marshall tried to find the words to form an apology but instead decided it best to skip straight passed the matter. “My name is Marshall Lawson,” he declared quickly as he moved to follow her inside. “And to be frank, ma’am I wouldn’t have even found myself requiring your charity presently but I used the last of my funds to right a matter of some moral inequity. Otherwise I would have happily paid my due for a room.”

Suddenly spinning on her heels Grandma Grael shot back another stare that might as well have been a gunshot for how it disarmed him. “So you’re a man who lets your heart have the reins instead of your head then?” Grandma Grael once more held the tone of someone explaining a matter more so than anyone asking a question. She also wasn’t about to resist speaking further about exactly what she was thinking on the matter.

“Out here it isn’t wise for any man to ignore his wits to place his decisions to be driven solely by his feelings. Just because you find yourself feeling guilty for another doesn’t mean you need to hand over all that you have to change the matter. While it might be admirable to lend your hand to another who finds theirs empty you have to remember that by doing so you end up allowing your own to become likewise. Now you are yourself dependant on another for a helping hand are you not? And what then if there is no other willing hand to lend to you in aid?”

“With all due respect ma’am,” Marshall tried to interrupt to defend his actions only to be cut off coldly before he could even try. “Don’t you dare even try to ‘with all due respect me’ pup,” Grandma Grael advised. “My point is made, and you would do well to make it a permanent addition to your memory. Now unless you’d like to talk me out of being hospitable then I would recommend you keep your mouth shut and your ears open.”

Obediently Marshall silenced all the rushing words that wanted to find their way out in explanation. If this might be his best odds for finding a place to put his head for the night he didn’t dare ruin his chances any further. Something told him that while he could perhaps find some place to shut his eyes out on the streets overnight that the Sheriff might not think twice about relocating any such drifters to a barred bunk. And he had had his fill of such sights to last him the remainder of his days.

“Here is how it is going to be, so don’t go thinking for a minute that you’re taking advantage of my own charitable nature or going to get a free stay. Most folk manage to make it to Redemption and often enough is the case find their way here ending without funds. So in exchange for a room and some meals you’re going to be in my service for any odd jobs or occasional tasks that need seeing to. Do we have an understanding?”

“Yes ma’am,” Marshall agreed, grateful to accept the merciful token of hospitality. “Good then,” Grandma Grael acknowledged and handed him the broom from her hand. “You can put your things in the room at the top of the stairs on the left and then see to sweeping up outside. It tends to stay fairly dusty around here and afterwards I’m sure I’ll have a few other matters for you to tend to.”

Marshall couldn’t argue as he had already planned on offering to earn his keep even if she hadn’t insisted on it. But he couldn’t help but admit that as charitable as Grandma Grael was there was little doubt that she was just as shrewd. No wonder the merciful merchant had managed to stay in business all these years. He also made a mental note to never ever find himself on the receiving end of her discontentment. Marshall wouldn’t think twice to wager that to those who managed to do so they would be facing something likely fearsome enough it was best left to slumber.