Non-Required Reading

This section contains chapters that don’t necessarily/directly/literally pertain to the main plot, events or characters—but that were part of my original manuscript. If GFNF ever gets officially published, these may make it into the final version, or they may not; either way, they were part of the book as I originally wrote it, and I didn’t like the idea of entirely abandoning them to the cutting-room floor of history.*

I’ll add them in here as they would have appeared in the book itself; i.e., chronologically. I think they make up an engaging little side-story, the gist of which will, I think, become pretty evident pretty quickly.

To the Delorean…

* yeah, right



Willum stretched his arms behind his head as far as he could make them go and groaned with the pleasure of lazy exertion. The sunbathed grass of the riverbank that cushioned his body was warm and fragrant, the water rolling by sang a soft, soothing ode to mid-day lethargy, and his friend Jacob was by his side.

“I declare, Willum,” said Jacob, opening his pouch to withdraw his afternoon’s repast, “this is the very finest of days the summer has yet placed before us.”

“Without a sliver of a doubt, Jacob,” Willum replied, shaking aside a lock of his long brown hair to better appreciate their secluded tableau. “Verily, this must be nature’s gift to the heavens, and we simply a pair of fortunately positioned yet incidental recipients.”

“ ‘Verily,’ ” Jacob repeated. “Hark at thee! Next thou’ll be calling me a cross-gartered varlet.”

“Hold thy tongue, knave,” Willum retorted jovially. “’Tis but a wayward affectation. Thou know’st me to be but a sheep in wolf’s clothing when it comes to such pretensions. Let us talk of less important things.”

“Pray, let us do,” Jacob chuckled, “’Ere we find ourselves disdaining this humble feast in favor of repast more lofty than begets our station.”

“Amen to that, brother,” said Willum. “Pass us that haunch of boar—when thou hast pulled off the best bits of it, of course. No reason to break with tradition on such a day as this, eh?”

“Fuck thou off, shite-speaker,” Jacob growled. “’Tis but a man’s due, is it not? Full half a day hath I labored under Master Larcombe, the coppersmith. Canst thou not see the blackened palms with which I break this bread?”

“Aye, blackened all right. Blackened with hair to match that of your lonely little hammer, which you punish more during the day than any piece of metalwork,” Willum laughed.

“Ah,” sneered Jacob, “to talk of such misbehavior whilst at your place of work; you, who ‘work’—if it can be called such—at the brewery!”

“Ah, thou know’st full well that I merely apply my maths to the books of Master Stubbs—and him peering over my shoulder at every turn, it seems. Here it is only the Moon’s day and already I yearn for the Sabbath.”

Willum tore into a mouthful of tender roasted boar’s leg, savoring the pungent flavor of its partially desiccated flesh. Despite his day-to-day grievances, he was well aware that his lot was not an unhappy one, to say the least. He was in his twenty-first year, had a thatched roof over his head and a bedroll to call his own, was gainfully employed in the service of a gentleman and there were currently no witches with whom he was in disfavor.

Forsooth, the only aspect of his life in which he felt any dissatisfaction was in the area of romantic pursuits. His japery with Jacob was only halfway heartfelt; his own hammer was easily as lonely as Jacob’s, if not more so. Jacob, after all, was known to be on friendly terms with Katherine, the girl who brought supplies round to the Larcombe establishment, and also, frustratingly, to the public house which was the primary source of Master Stubbs’ revenue (and in the back of which did Willum undertake his daily labors).

Many was the time that Willum’s thoughts had wandered to frolic among Katherine’s petticoats, up along her trim ankles one day; perhaps down amidst her cleavage another. And yet he pined rather than poked, while Jacob had had Katherine from all known angles and probably a few more besides, if what he left unsaid was any indication. Willum couldn’t help but be jealous, even though Jacob was his best friend in all the world.

“Have you any impending, ah, arrangements with Katherine to which you may look forward, mine enemy?”

“I think thou hast mis-spoken, friend Willum,” Jacob smirked. “Dost thou not mean any impending arrangements to which thou may look forward? If it isany secret that my subsequent tales recounting my adventures with the maiden are the light of your miserable life, well, it is a secret only among the two of us— and a poorly kept one at that.”

“Thy mother is a poorly kept secret!” retorted Willum, “And thy father is a perfectly kept one, my good Jacob-of-all-tradesmen.” He ably dodged an apple core from his friend’s direction. “I merely asked out of politeness and a profound tedium which had arisen due to your utter lack of conversation.”

“It so happens I’ve been thinking,” said Jacob. He shifted his back against the rigid tree trunk and turned his gaze to the stream, in which the corpse of a deer was currently creating a poisonous contamination.

“Impossible,” said Willum. “You’ve been talking. Don’t try to pack into my ears the kind of shit with which you fill Katherine’s, friend Jacob.”

“Fuck thou off again, friend Willum, for I speak truth.” Below his black, tousled locks, Jacob’s normally bright eyes clouded. Willum perceived some tension in his friend’s small frame. There was an earnestness in his tone which stilled Willum’s tongue and made him listen. The two shared an easy rapport, born of more than a decade’s close acquaintance, and among the many things about his friend that Willum had learned in that time was the fact that when Jacob spoke with sincerity, he—and, he truly felt, the populace of their county itself—would always do well to listen.

“It is, I think, time for us to reconsider our approach with the band,” Jacob said.

Willum waited a moment, but Jacob spoke no further. “How so?” he asked.

Jacob seemed to be marshaling his thoughts. “It seems to me, Willum, that the songs we sing are naught more than superficial tomfoolery, crafted by bards with half our wit and a fraction of our musical talents. Catchy, upbeat and lyrically insipid, they offer naught more than a moment’s respite from the arduous daily toil to which we find ourselves tethered. Surely between the two of us, you and I, we can devise a musical direction that might set our trajectory slightly higher, my fellow minstrel?”

Willum plucked at a stalk of greenery by his knee and began chewing it, moodily.

“Dost thou mean in the manner of Mad Ernest, the bard from three towns over, who has thrown over his lute in favor of a simple patter of doggerel to ape the town cryer?”

“Nay, good Willum, nay; verily, that be not music but simply noise, forsooth. Nay, I have been somewhat inspired by the plays that of late have surfaced with the name of Shakespeare attached to them.”

Willum nodded. He had seen one or two of these. Comedies, both, and good fun had they been indeed! In one, a man had been transformed into an ass—and in another had a Jew pit his wits against a Christian. Truly the stuff of fantasy; yet Willum saw not the relevance to the music he played with Jacob.

“Go on,” he murmured, uncertain; yet, as always, with full faith in Jacob’s instincts.

“It seemeth to me, Willum, that master Shakespeare hath found a way to marry the political and the philosophical; the social and the satirical. His plays speak both to the broader interests of those such as you and I, and also to the more refined intellects of…” Jacob paused, then looked away. “Of those such as I.”

“Fuck thou off, thou posturing turd!” Willum lobbed his apple core at Jacob.

“Thou know’st what I mean, though, Willum,” Jacob replied, with a laugh. “It doth seem to me that were we to apply this Master Shakespeare’s approach to our music, we could advance ourselves to a level of sophistication and import the likes of which this town—nay, this county—hath not seen!”

“Jacob,” Willum said with a heavy voice, “Hast thou been drinking wine again?”

“Willum, of course I have! Thou know’st me too well, friend Will. And yea”—he paused, raising an eyebrow—“verily have I pondered this in my cups. Yet tell me if my words sound false to thine ears, Willum. Tell me truthfully if thou dost not feel the way I feel—that we are but treading water in our musical efforts of late.”

Willum sighed. “Yea,” he said. “Verily.”

“Then let us shine the light of our creative spark into this dark yet dawning new world, Will! At the next practice we shall start afresh. No more ‘Hey nonny nonny’ or ‘With a ting-and-a-ring and a toodle-doodle-doo’—let auld Mitchell the miller play that shite for his family dances. We’ll attract a new audience, off out in the woods somewhere. I wonder who’ll come see us, Willum.”

Willum recognized the expression that was moving across Jacob’s face like a cloudbank before a thundershower. It indicated consternation, but not precipitation; things might be grey for the next day or two, but the sun would eventually shine through and win the day.

It promised to be an interesting experience, as always.