Telling Tales 1 – The Poor Inkeepers
The Poor Innkeepers
There was and there was not an innkeeper and his wife. They worked hard to keep their simple inn and perhaps some nights the innkeeper drank too much, but who does not like a drink on a dark winter night? It is a well-known fact that the cold of the season cannot bear the cold of the vodka. This is why you feel warmer after you drink, and it is why the winter fights back even stronger. It is not good to get between two colds. The innkeeper’s wife knew this fact all too well, but her husband occasionally forgot.
One dark night when winter was only beginning to settle itself over the inn, a rare night when the inn was full in a season that had seen the couple struggle to keep the roof repaired and enough food for guests, an old man appeared at the door.
The woman recognized the type. He would have no money.
The man recognized the type. He would ask for food.
Behind the old traveler, the wind howled and the snow blew. His jacket had been thick once, but there were holes and patches at the elbows and on his shoulders.
“I am afraid we are full tonight,” said the innkeeper. “On almost any other night there are beds free, but a group of merchants is on their way to the tsar’s court and they took everything I had left. As you can see, they are nearly done for the evening and about to head to their rooms.”
“I do not need much,” begged the man. “Let me sleep in the stable under the hay. Shelter from the wind and the snow is all I ask.”
The innkeeper’s wife and her husband exchanged a look. They had no desire to have this man under their roof, but they could not bring themselves to throw him out.
“Please,” said the traveler. “I do not have money, but I do have this,” and he took out from the bag on his back a clear bottle. “I can give you this as payment for my night in the stable.”
“Yes,” said the woman to her husband’s surprise.
“Yes?” he asked.
“We are out of vodka and our guests will demand more.”
The innkeeper’s heart sank.
“This isn’t just any vodka,” said the traveler. “I’m not offering you the bottle. I’m offering you a drink.”
The man became angry. “For a pull from your bottle, you would take a night’s lodging from us while we grow poor?”
“I will make you a deal,” said the traveler. “Please. I will tell you how I came across this bottle and what it contains. If at any time you do not think my tale does not warrant the care I give to this bottle, kick me out.”
The man and the woman did not like being in this position, delivering a kindness that might be hard for them, or delivering a cruelty. It is easier to help someone when it costs you little. Had either been alone, the old traveler might have been out of luck, but they looked into each other’s eyes and felt shame at what their spouse would think of them.
“Yes,” said the man.
“Fine,” said the woman.
“Sit here next to the door and tell us about your amazing drink, or you’re out on your own.”
The traveler set himself on a stool with a grateful smile and he held the clear bottle up. “I was a soldier in the tsar’s army,” he began.