Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Monthly Archives: December 2014

Five: We Have All The Time In The World

  1. We Have All The Time In The World, Louis Armstrong (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). If you haven’t watched the movie, you probably can’t understand why this song is here. Go watch it.

It was Louis Armstrong’s last recorded song, and at the time did not chart well. Cover versions of it have boosted its popularity, especially a cover by My Bloody Valentine used in a Guinness ad, and it is now considered “among the finest of Barry’s songs for the franchise.” By this poll as well.

(In addition to My Bloody Valentine, “We Have All the Time in the World” has been covered by Iggy Pop with soon-to-be Bond composer David Arnold, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Vic Damone, Michael Ball, Amalia Grè, The Puppini Sisters, The Fairly Handsome Band, and Tindersticks.)

Fiction: We Have All The Time In The World

 

Tianora had perfected the art of distilling time into vials and her workshop overflowed with them. Minutes as thin and delicate as pencils, stout hours in test tubes and Christmas ornaments, days bottled and sealed with wax and foil and spellcraft. Colored glass sparkled in the sun’s beams through the skylight, and any visitor to Tianora’s shop had the impression of walking into an ancient temple, with the witch behind her counter at the center and candles lit on either side of her, her robes almost liturgical.

Tianora herself was no priestess. Olive-skinned and raven-haired, she wore dresses and shirts and skirts as bright as her bottles, festooned her hair with jeweled barrettes and her ears with silver spangles, wore antique pendants and old ivory-carved brooches, and if ever she came out from behind the counter, her feet were always seen in tanned, dyed leather. She laughed often, joked with the people who came in often and warmly greeted those who didn’t. To the people who decried her trade, she made a free gift of a minute and received in return a customer.

There was no money exchanged at her counter, no gold nor silver nor promissory note. The price of a stolen vial of time from Tianora was double that time from the end of your own life. An easy price to pay, because who values an hour in their dotage more than an hour with their sweetheart with the flush of youth still strong in their cheeks? A drink of Tianora’s potion and you would find the world stopped around you, the sun and moon’s dance arrested for your pleasure. If another had drunk at the same time, then you would both experience the stopped time (more than one vigilant parent kept a stock of Tianora’s potions for nights when their teenaged children went on dates), but otherwise the world would be frozen.

(On occasion, unscrupulous people used this power for robbery or worse, but Tianora always knew when someone had taken one of her potions and pointed the constables unerringly in the direction of the perpetrator, whereupon they made restitution, with the help of a resurrectionist if necessary. Many people used the power of stopped time to play pranks, and Tianora not only seemed to enjoy this, but actively encouraged retaliation.)

When she’d first discovered this magic, she’d traded out of her cottage. Word spread quickly, and soon she moved into an abandoned alehouse, using its wine cellar for storage, its upstairs bedrooms for their original purpose when couples who had nowhere else to enjoy their stolen time sought her out. In time, a quiet young woman was seen in the shop, fetching bottles and dusting. Her name became known as Jewel, and as Tianora left her shop less and less, Jewel scoured the town for new gems and finery to wear, though she herself wore only grey and beige and flat sandals. Rumors spread, of course, but if Tianora and Jewel shared a bed at night, only the two of them knew it.

“What will you do with all of this time?” Kor the baker asked her on one occasion.

“Don’t you think time is worth saving?” she replied.

“You’ve sure got a lot of time here,” Alasia the seamstress said cannily on another.

“A stitch in time saves nine,” Tianora said with a bright smile. “And how is Ferdinand doing?”

“If you ladies would like to attend the social…” Mayor Brandon took great delight in planning town dances. “I could use another day to set it up.”

He was hoping for confirmation that the ladies were a couple, but Tianora just smiled and passed him a day bottle. “Thank you for the invitation,” she said, “but I believe we’ll stay home that night.”

And then came a day when Davrim had the bright idea that he would take one of Tianora’s potions at night and under cover of stopped time, steal many of her bottles. Not many people would even conceive of stealing from a witch, and fewer still would put a plan into action, but it should be said that Davrim had indulged from many non-magical bottles over the previous weeks, and it was his idea that it would save him a great deal of money if he could but stop time while drunk, postponing indefinitely the arrival of the price of intoxication. What was more, he had an intimate knowledge of the old alehouse from its former life.

So Davrim traded two hours of his likely cirrhosis-plagued old age for an hour of crime, and returned when the crescent moon was high. The wine cellar (he happened to know) could be accessed through a back door which itself could be jimmied off the latch inside. His fingers were not as sure as they’d once been, but memory served where dexterity had failed, and soon he was inside.

His first surprise came when he stumbled down to the wine cellar. His memory filled it with bottles, and he had expected to see a similar sight, only in many different shapes and colors. But the cellar stood empty, the wooden racks stretching bare to the back wall.

Davrim’s torch shook in his hands and flickered too, and so with the dancing shadows it took him a good several minutes to determine that indeed, the bounty of bottles he had anticipated was nowhere to be found. Well, he thought, there had been plenty in the shop upstairs when he’d been in that day. They’d be missed sooner, but he couldn’t come all this way for nothing.

Upstairs, he hummed to himself as he walked along the corridor to the main room, and stopped with one hand on the door when he realized that he was humming along to music he could hear. The rest of the night had been so still—no animal sounds, no wind, no creaks of settling wood—that he hadn’t even registered the music at first. But it was there, a bright, happy tune reaching through the door to draw him out.

He pushed slowly on the door and was greeted with his second surprise. A player piano tinkled the music he’d heard, and in the center of the floor, Tianora and Jewel danced.

They spun around, laughing gaily together, and they wore similar simple white robes which flowed and waved above their flying feet. Their hands rested on hips, on shoulders, and their eyes never left one another.

Except to settle on Davrim, both pairs of eyes, when their feet stilled and their smiles faded. Neither of them spoke, so Davrim supposed he’d best say something.

“Fine evening, ladies,” he said. “Sorry to intrude. I—heard the music. I’ll be on my way.”

“Oh, Davrim, you old drunk,” Tianora said. “Why don’t you come on in?”

Her voice, still light, held steel below it. Davrim did not want to come in, but his feet shuffled forward and his hand let go of the door. It swung behind him and shut with a click. “I didn’t mean no harm,” he said.

“And yet you’ve caused it.” Tianora glided toward him. “You’ve disturbed our privacy.”

“I won’t tell nobody.” He looked earnestly between them. “Nobody’d care nohow. There’s Fannie and Jellinda and they walk together hand in hand.”

“We don’t care that people know.” Jewel spoke in a low voice. “We like our privacy. We can be together, alone, with all the time we need.”

Davrim’s hand shook so badly he dropped his torch. “I’ll leave,” he said. “I’ll never come back.”

Tianora’s fingers touched his brow. “Yes,” she said.

He was old and had indulged often, so there was no particular surprise when Davrim’s body was found that morning. “He looks so old,” Timony, the stable boy who found him, said.

Mayor Brandon shook his head sadly. “Let this be a lesson to you on the perils of drink, Timony,” he said.

In the course of his duties, he returned to Tianora’s shop. She greeted him in a sober black dress. “You must have heard the news,” he said. “Well, as it happens, I will have to have his funeral…time is so short…perhaps a day for me and one for each assistant?”

“Such a tragedy,” Tianora murmured. “Jewel, please fetch three days for the Mayor from the wine cellar.”

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