Chapter three

Going into the city is something that Paul always enjoyed. When it got close to dinner time, like now, things settled down. During midday, however, one never knew what one would see. On a particularly sunny day, Paul had once even seen a camel being lead around by a man wearing what appeared to be a black dress. He had asked the man if he could pet the animal, but the man replied in a language Paul couldn’t understand. Shaking the thought from his head, he went over to Fran, the baker, to ask her for a loaf of bread.

“‘Fraid I don’t have anything fresh” said Fran, slapping her hands together to remove a bit of the flour from them “but I could give you this loaf of pumpernickel for... ah, let’s say three pennies.”

Paul couldn’t believe his luck. He suddenly thought of putting the remaining two pennies in the bank to acquire interest. All rich men must start from somewhere he thought to himself. Immediately he felt horrible for the thought. This was his father’s money, and not his to invest.

He was just about satisfied with finding his own morality, when he spotted the inn. Two pennies would buy me a cup of beer and I really am thirsty he thought. “I’ll be right back” he told Fran and headed off to the inn.

The door to the inn squeaked on rusty hinges as the most amazing smells met him at the entrance and bade him to enter. Spiced meat and peppers made his mouth water, while something foul and unwashed from the corner caused his stomach to churn.

“The piece of pork rides in, and scrapes the side OF THE BARREL!!!!!” exclaimed a dirty fellow that seemed to be the source of the gut wrenching stench.

“Shut your mouth, crazy man! You’re crazy!” a hansom, but businesslike man from behind the bar wagged a finger at the disheveled chap. Glancing over at Paul, he waved the boy over to a seat at the bar. “Don’t mind that crazy guy in the corner. He’s loud, but harmless”.

Paul thought it rather rude  to call the man crazy, yet it would have been equally rude to mention the bartender’s rudeness. Getting into a quarrel with a man who was about to serve him some beer seemed to be a bad idea. “I would like a cup of beer, if you please”. He placed two pennies on the bar.

“The pennies fly and squawk, but don’t put ‘em on your EYES!!!!” here the man pulled at his stringy, grey hair, lifting it up to resemble a hat.

“I’m warning you, crazy man!” the bartender gave him a dirty look as he poured Paul his beer. The cup was of brown pottery and a trickle of foam ran down the side.  He gathered up the pennies and placed the cup in front of Paul. “Would you like some bread with that?”.

“I’m afraid I can’t afford any bread. I only have three pennies left to buy a loaf of pumpernickel from Fran” said Paul sadly.

The bartender closed his eyes, smiled and turned his head to the left. “On the house my friend, on the house.” He reached under the bar and tore a piece of fresh, crusty bread from a large loaf and offered to Paul.

“Th....thank you, sir! How... how can you give away bread for free?” he suddenly realized that this was a very improper question and tried to recover from his mistake “um, that is, if you don’t mind me asking, sir.”

“I don’t mind at all. You see, I have all the bread I need. I have a magic bread jar.” As if to prove such a marvelous claim, he produced a rather ordinary seeming glass jar.

“Magic.. bread jar?” Paul raised one eyebrow.

“I know it sounds too good to be true, but let me demonstrate this for you.” he placed the jar on the counter and stared intensely. “Magic jar, give me BREAD!” commanded the man, while gesturing wildly.

Suddenly, the door to the inn opened, and in marched the university of Arizona’s marching band. They stomped around the inn, the drum major raising his staff to the music while the band played ‘Eye of the Tiger’. The patrons in the inn seemed more annoyed than surprised, and raised their voices to continue any conversation they were having. The crazy man in the corner removed his shoes and balanced them on his shoulders while clapping frantically. Paul had never seen anything so amazing. He bobbed his head, and pretended to direct the music with his two forefingers. The band finished playing and exited the inn as suddenly as they arrived.  Sadly, Paul turned back around to regard the bartender.

“Whatcha think?” the bartender smiled and pointed to the jar, which was now stuffed full of bread.

“That... that’s amazing!” exclaimed Paul, his eyes as large as saucers. “How I wish I had a jar like that”

The bartender gave Paul a friendly smile and laid a hand on the boy’s arm. “You know what? I really have all the bread I’ll ever need. I could sell you this if you’d like.”

A sudden vision of himself selling bread in the market, for half the price of Fran’s bread filled Paul’s  thoughts, but he quickly came back down to Earth. “I’m afraid I’d never be able to afford such a wonderful jar” he said sadly.

“Nonsense!” the innkeeper protested “I told you, I have all the bread I need. The knowledge that I am doing a good deed, and well, let’s say three pennies, is all the payment I’d ask”. He crossed his arms and smiled.

Now Paul isn’t a dumb boy, but his mind was clouded with thoughts of becoming rich and he wasn’t thinking very critically.

“Can’t have the flavor of the sand crab, if you don’t eat it!” the dirty, stinky man hopped on one leg, his shoes tumbling from his shoulders to the floor.

“Damn it! I’ve warned you enough, old man!! Stop bothering my customers!” the innkeepers smile had turned into a snarl faster than Paul had thought possible.

The crazy goon’s words tumbled through Paul’s head. Taste of sand crab... eat it.... I know! He means that if I don’t risk buying this jar, I won’t be able to reap the rewards!!!! “No, sir. He isn’t bothering me at all. He’s brilliant”. He gave the bartender the three pennies and claimed his prize.

Before leaving the inn, Paul braved the crazy man’s stench to go over and thank him.

“I can take my pants off, and make you read ‘em like a book!!!!” said the man.  

Paul smiled, left the inn and headed home.

The End

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