I’ve been in lots of places like this one, some better, most worse. The place was cleaner than most and still lightly smelled of old ale and wood smoke. A rough planked floor, worn smooth by countless boots was dappled by the morning light coming in the open shutters. I was glad for that because this place would have been dim with only the banked fire lighting it.
It had less than a dozen simple wooden benches and tables, stained by years of use, but scrubbed down so they weren’t sticky from last night’s service. There were some small racks of antlers from deer mounted on the walls, low enough that they looked to be used instead of just decoration. A stuffed moose head with an enormous rack was mounted above the door, obviously the reason for its name, “Moose Lodge”.
A single massive oak slab topped the bar and was beautifully oiled and polished. Behind the bar the customary casks, tapped and untapped were stacked one upon another. A boy sat on a high stool behind the bar looking at me as I was taking in the place. When he saw I was finished, he spoke. “Pa’s busy in the back, but I can help you traveler if want a room or a meal.”
“I want both, but I can wait on the room while I break my fast. What are you offering?”
“Ma made bread yesterday and there’s still several small loaves. There’s thick porridge this morning too. Pa said I was to offer a bowl of porridge with a drizzle of honey, a small loaf, and a mug of local pale for a copper penny. I’m to see your penny first.”
I walked up to the bar and dug into my small purse. “That’s right and fair, here’s my penny.” As I placed the penny on the bar I saw that the was missing his left leg from the knee down, I didn’t see a crutch.
The boy scooped up the penny and looked at the edges. He then turned and threw the penny up towards the roof above the casks to an iron box I hadn’t noticed. I then heard what sounded like wind chimes. It wasn’t loud, but with no other noise in the room, it was noticeable. He looked at me and smiled. “About two years ago a clever tinker set up the chime box for my Pa. The coin falls through a maze of small copper pipes and lets those in the kitchen know there’s an order so we don’t have to leave the bar. It’s much louder in there so they can hear it even when they are making a racket.”
“That is indeed quite clever. I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“That ain’t all. I spent some time learning from him and I’ve made a few things you’ll see when ya get your room. Grab a bench, Molly will be out right away with your food”
I did as the boy suggested wondering what other interesting things this place was going to have. If nothing else, I would be remembering this stop just for the ‘chime box’.