Sunday, August 1, 2010

Guest Submission by Kaputt

The PPI isn't normally a place for short fiction, but Larisa specifically asked if any of you out there in the internet tubes have anything to say, and along came Kaputt with a short tale of a drunken Dwarf (short... dwarf... c wut i did ther?).

I tend to think of the Inn as a bar or tavern; a place where conversations get started. Narratives tend to be one sided affairs for the most part, but I liked the theme, and I hope you'll agree it certainly fits the motif that Larisa has built up here. If anyone else has any burning questions they wish to ask their fellow patrons, don't be shy. is open 24 hours a day. Perhaps I can put together a consolidated list of snippets, or perhaps you have a full post outlined in your head?



A dwarf is sitting in a corner. Not old, not young and certainly not sober. He drinks one ale after another and if it would be not for his impressive record of nights like this at the inn, worries might be in order. But alas, he can certainly make the impression of being a friendly fellow to some and not being a troublemaker to others. Likely because of his eyes, in which a sad friendliness can be found if one wants to see it there.

He is quite disturbed to find out that his ale will be served by new hands for the time being but intends to make the best out of it.
"Anyone want to hear a story?" he asks. Well, at least he tries. "Anyoan wannah hee er stoay?"

He looks around and finds out that, no, not really. Nobody is interested. He takes it with dwarven pride. As he takes another sip of his ale he notices that somebody carved a smiling face on the side of the table he is sitting at. Vandalism!

He stares at that smiling face and cannot help but wonder why somebody would do that. He did his share of vandalism in his life, but he did not carve friendly faces out of wood. Quite the contrary: He preferred to smash some and to carve obscenities.

"You wanna hear a story, Woodface?" The friendly visage just smiles at him. The dwarf, as dwarves tend to do, stared back.
"You are one silent fellow, are you not?" The face keeps smiling.
"You making fun of me?" Still no answer, no motion, no sound from the smiling face. Just a presence of friendliness.

No, it is not making fun of him. Not at all, not even a little bit.
"You are puzzling, you know that?" The dwarf asks. "Why are you here? Where do you come from Woodface?" Silence between them, banter everywhere else in the inn.
"Oh come on! Open up a little!"

The longer the dwarf looks at the face the more he gets the impression of wisdom.
"What are you smiling at?" he wants to know.
You know that; the face seems to say.
"No, I don`t!"
Yes you do.

The dwarf can not shake of the impression that this discussion leads absolutely nowhere which aggravates him.

"You are sometimes angry?" he asks. "I am often angry."
Of course.
"Sadness. You know sadness? Regret?"
Yes. Everyone does.
"Yet you keep smiling."

The dwarf looks around. He does not care too much about the opinion of other people but he is fully aware that he is talking to a stupid table, which nobody really has to see or know.
"This stays between you and me, ok?" he whispers.

"So, who made you? I really want to know."
You already do.
"You are a cryptic one, are you not?" the dwarf asks, grinning. He does not expect an answer to this rhetorical question but he gets one none the less.
No, I am not. If he were not absolutely certain that it was impossible the dwarf could swear he saw the smile broadening.

"How do you do it?"
"Smiling. All the time. No one ever sees you, nobody knows where you come from."
It is what I do.
"What is your purpose?"

No answer this time. The dwarf sighs, sits back and lets his mind wander.
He thinks about the smiling face. Carved in wood, lifeless, a lingering shadow of a long gone patron. It should be meaningless, he thinks. There should not be anything to it, it is just some missing splinters of an old, dirty table.
Yet there it is, smiling at him and unquestionably raising his mood. On the one hand clearly mocking him, on the other hand it seems as if it is trying to tell him something.

"I am missing the point, right?"
"Am I doing something wrong?"
I will not tell.
"You are useless!"

The dwarf notices what is happening. He suddenly becomes aware of how drunk he is, how he tries to find answers in a smiling face, carved into his favorite table. He comes here nearly every other day and he did not see it until now. How could he miss it? He looks closer and makes sure, but yes, it has to be at least months old. Yet he never noticed.

He starts to smile himself, he cannot help it. He just has to, as he begins to follow the lines of the face with his stubby fingers. He is fascinated by this, this message of happiness that has some strange beauty hidden in its crudeness.
"You need no reason to have that stupid smile on your face, so why should I?"

And then, finally, he bursts into laughter. The first time in centuries it seems. He laughs, loud and thunderous as only dwarves can do. The face joins in with some silent smiling itself. He laughs because he notices that the only thing he was waiting for was this, a friendly face listening to him. Sometimes that is all you need. He laughs because he starts to see how ugly that stupid face really is, probably carved by some drunken idiot. He laughs because that is not important at all. He cannot stop laughing as the thought, that maybe he did it himself when he was smashed, crossed his mind.

As the laughter subsides the dwarf starts looking for other things he missed while looking too hard. He never noticed how friendly and inviting some of the other patrons seem to be. He did not see how lonely some of the other ones are, longing for a smiling face themselves.

"Thank you stupid Woodface." he says. He looks at it again, very closely, wanting to feel its magic again but to his surprise it is gone. The face itself is still there, but being just that, a face. For a moment he is sad but then he feels that he himself is still grinning.

Laughter, again. What a night! he thinks. "Wisdom can be found in the most unlikely of places." his grandfather used to tell him but until now he did not understand what that was supposed to mean. A decision formed inside of him, a knowledge of what to do with that present he found. To pass it on.

"Come here folk!" he yells. "I have something to say to everyone who wants to listen!"
People turned around curious, some annoyed.
"I want to tell you a story of a smiling face. It is a new one, it got told to me just recently."

Many people left the inn smiling that day.


SpiritusRex said...

I, too, will be leaving the Inn smiling today. Thank you for the nice story.

Anonymous said...

Indeed this little tale makes one smile - and could those little tales do anything more commendable?