The Beer Queendom...
“Drain the moat!” The Queen thundered. She was perched on the parapet of her castle, a beautiful stone structure that rose high above The Beer Queendom. The sun was rising and while she should have been in a good mood this morning—what with the plate of fresh strawberries delicately glazed with Hanssen’s strawberry lambic sauce—she was grumpy. Her coffee had arrived late. Worse, it had been served at the wrong temperature, which was enough to put her in another of her morning moods.
“How low this time, your highness?” Border Collie inquired. “Should we take him down to the mud?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” The Queen replied. “I’ll let you know when to stop.”
Border Collie nodded and ran off to comply with The Queen’s wish. She loved The Beer Queendom. Her job was so much more concrete than the years she had spent doing social work, where bureaucracy got in the way of serving her fellow humans. Here you took an order and made it happen. Start to finish.
At the same time, Border Collie felt a little uneasy about lowering the water in the moat. It made life uncomfortable for the moat dweller, who was a friend. Or had been.
But it wasn’t as if he hadn’t brought this upon himself, she thought. He could have stayed in The Beer Queendom. He used to be one of The Queen’s shining stars. He was even offered an apprenticeship in the Master Beer Taster Program. But instead of working, learning, and drinking the best beers in the world, he had rejected the Queen’s offer. All he would have had to do was give up drinking those nasty wheat beers. That wasn’t much to ask in return for a plum position in The Beer Queendom.
Border Collie suspected that the moat dweller had rejected the offer because of the Master Taster. It was widely known at the time of his banishment that he coveted the position. He had complained often that the Master Taster didn’t deserve the title, that he no longer traveled the world. How could he discover the world of beer from his living room? An image of the Master Taster sitting in his easy chair watching the Travel Channel while drinking a Belgian lambic and eating frites formed in Border Collie’s mind. She brushed the image away, chuckling. The moat dweller’s envious portrayals had to be exiled along with his wheat beers.
Moments later, Border Collie was back at the parapet.
“Why are you disturbing me?” The Queen demanded, eyeing her like she was the last morning strawberry on the plate.
“Pardon, your highness, but I found this notice taped to the handle of the drainage lever.” Border Collie handed The Queen an official-looking piece of paper. It read:
By order of the International Tribunal of Justice, you
are hereby enjoined from draining the moat until the
legality of this act has been fully deposed.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara
Minister of Justice
Vanguard of the Revolution
P.S. Long live the Moatdom! Viva la revolucion! Long live wheat beers!
The Queen frowned, then tossed the paper aside like another discarded boyfriend. ‘This has no legal standing, it’s not even written correctly. Look at the beer stains! He probably wrote it in a drunken stupor, hallucinating that he was Che, then spilling wheat beer all over himself.” She bent down, grabbed the paper and smelled it. “I can smell that banana/clove aroma anywhere. A wimpy wheat beer!” Crumpling the paper, she threw it over the parapet.
The small white note sailed through the air slowly until it hit the moat water, sending small ripples across its surface. The idiot was probably still asleep in his underwater cot. Snoring, although she hadn’t heard him yet this morning. After he drank heavily—every night—you could hear his snores all the way up on the parapet. When she first heard the noise, she thought it was an engineering flaw in the drainage system. Her lawyer, Honeyman, claimed the noise shook the cinder blocks in his living quarters.
“Start the drain,” she commanded as the ripples spread. Border Collie leapt to follow her instructions. “And send me Honeyman!” The Queen yelled after her. Just in case, she should check on the legalities behind the ridiculous note.
“The moat is draining, your highness,” said Border Collie.
“Not fast enough!” The Queen snapped. She had changed into her mid-morning kimono and was having her hair done. Just to be sure, she waved the hairdresser aside and hit the elevation button on the side of her easy throne. Air hissed as the throne rose. “I don’t see enough drainage! Where are the engineers I hired to widen the sluice gates? Am I always to be surrounded by incompetents?”
Border Collie shifted her feet uncomfortably, remembering the last time she’d had this conversation. “Remember what they said the last time they visited,” she began, unsure if this was the best approach. She was met with silence and a demanding stare, meaning she should continue. “They said there would be problems with the drain pipes above the cellar, where the beer is stored. And you would flood the Master Taster’s quarters.”
“Right, right, I remember,” replied the Queen. The memory wasn’t what it used to be. “Where is the Master Taster anyway? There was too much glaze on my strawberries!”
“That must have been the cook,” Border Collie replied.
“That’s the fourth…”
“…I said fire him!” The Queen interrupted. “And where is Honeyman? I asked you to send him to me!” Her eye caught a flash of white on the moat below, the paper that had disturbed her morning. The paper would have been snapped up already if there had been any fish, but the only ones left in the moat were bottom feeders. Including the humans.
“Honeyman is taking his morning shower,” Border Collie replied.
“Still?” The Queen screeched. “It’s been over an hour.”
“He’s talking to the soap again,” Border Collie replied. “And I think he’ll be a while; he just started singing The Internationale.”
The Queen stopped herself from letting out another screech. Dismissing the hair stylists, she dropped her easy throne to floor level and swiveled. Then hit the scenic button. As the chair rose again—the hiss of pneumatics making the parapet sound like a truck stop—she looked out over her realm. The Beer Queendom was benevolent and respected the rights of its citizens. If Honeyman wanted to take a shower all morning long that was his right, even if it complicated the drainage problem. Mutual respect ruled here.
Unlike the moat, where the situation had grown so desperate they were importing people. Last week a letter addressed to the moat had gotten mixed into her mail. It was an overdue invoice from a Russian mail order bride service, threatening action unless the bills were paid. It also answered a question The Queen had been asking herself since she began seeing scantily clad women strutting about the deck of the moat boat: Why did women go there? How disparaging!
The Queen gazed at Border Collie. “Tell…no ask Honeyman if he would be so kind as to pay me a visit when he finishes his shower,” She had a soft spot for her lawyer, even after having spent so many hours arguing with him over travel routes while they searched the world for good beer. If only he had learned to drive and use maps properly, she thought, unconsciously touching herself. Despite the many boyfriends she’d had since then, she still missed his touch. And passion. “And remind the Master Taster of our morning meeting!” she added as Border Collie scampered away.
Several servants approached The Queen’s easy throne wheeling trays of food and drink. Her mid-morning meal always managed to lift her spirits. She chose the foods, which were then wed in flavor by beers the Master Taster picked. He had yet to pick a bad one.
The Queen’s eyes strayed to the moat below and this time she noticed with satisfaction that the drainage had begun to take effect. The banks betrayed over a foot of bareness where the water had been earlier this morning. Perhaps she could avoid those moments of pre-coffee depression each morning if she started draining the moat an hour before she awoke. The sight of the bare bank brought her such pleasure.
A frog jumped from the mud on the bank and into the water. Lucky fellow, she thought. She had heard that the moat dweller and his diminutive band of misfits had grown so hungry that they were eating frogs. In typical fashion, they were trying to pass this off as a delicacy instead of famine. She bet even his wheat beer stash was getting low by now.
“Today, for you, we have a special treat. A Belgian delicacy.” The servant pulled the top off the first tray of mid-morning snacks. “Frog legs, basted in Oud Bruin.”
“You look waterlogged!” The Queen observed triumphantly. Then she cursed inwardly. Despite her feelings for Honeyman, she had never been able to conquer the acid tongue that had led to so many arguments between them. Granted it was easy given that dour look he carried about like a worn John Grisham novel, but he really was a good man. The Dour Dutchman, as the Master Taster called him, was a kind person. He won more cases with honey than vinegar.
“Did you see that paper?” she asked, while at the same time pushing the tray of frog legs at him, motioning for him to eat. “You will be my taster today.”
Honeyman looked at the frog legs that lay glistening before him like day old, dressing drenched salad greens.
“Frogs are amphibians,” she added, knowing his aversion to red meat.
“You asked for me?”
“They’re not going to jump off the plate and into your mouth,” The Queen snapped, then just as quickly regretted her loss of control. This was no way to start a morning with your lawyer. She rewound. “Did you see that scrap of paper from the moat?” she asked, motioning for the servants to take the frog legs away.
“No I didn’t,” Honeyman responded. “What was it?”
“The moat dweller had someone stick a scrap of paper on the drainage lever saying that I shouldn’t drain the moat.”
Honeyman’s eyes flicked toward the water below, then back to The Queen. “I see you haven’t let that stop you.” His answer, too, was sharp. After having done battle so many times the exchanges between the two former lovers would likely never change; old habits died hard.
“Do you think there’s anything to it?” The Queen asked, her attempts at civility putting a little color in her cheeks. Or was it the memories? Or the beer?
“Is there anything to anything the moat dweller does?” Honeyman replied.
“Exactly!” she said delightedly. She knew she could count on Honeyman to back her up.
“Do you have the document?” he asked.
She pointed to the moat below. “See that white paper floating in the water? That ought to tell you what I think of it.” This was not a case for honey. Her lawyer would get eaten alive in the mosh pit of quick victories. What she needed was a pit bull to settle the dispute with the moat dweller and his stay order.
Honeyman looked below, his eyes squinting at the extra energy needed to spot the paper. “I’ll need to get my glasses,” he finally said.
“I suppose I could get someone to fetch the note,” The Queen said, softening.
“I suppose,” Honeyman reflected.
“Bring me a fishing pole,” she snapped at one of the servants. “And get rid of these frog legs!”
Next issue, Border Collie fetches the paper, the Master Taster plans a beer festival, and the moat dweller awakens.
By los Testigos de Cerveza
Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain Brewing News