Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 151



Are You Talking About What I Think You’re Talking About?

“Don’t go staring at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about!” she swore.

Dmitri looked around the room as though hoping to find some support, but he was alone in the common room with the bartender, as well he knew. His mouth opened and shut and for the moment he was at a loss for words. One moment he and the bartender had been exchanging pleasant enough words about the old man in the chair. Maybe there was something addled about his brain after all, Dmitri had thought as he watched the gray beard edging closer and closer toward the fire in the hearth. He replayed the events in his head quickly. He’d come down the steps to the main room. The bartender (what was her name, again?) was cleaning. He’d heard sounds from some of the other men in the rooms upstairs, pained stirrings. He’d felt the same and even now his head swam slightly to the right. Mostly he remembered feeling more charitable toward the bartender when he’d seen her this morning (Morning? Was it already afternoon?). More charitable than what? Than last night? Than he’d expected?

His familiar ire rose in the face of his confusion. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Last. Night.” Her voice was a too-soft hiss, loud enough for him to hear, obviously quiet so that no one else would. “Or this morning, whenever it was.”

He cast his mind back to the night before. The storyteller, naturally. The bets. Losing a case of his merchandise to the… “I brought that case in myself!”

“That’s not what I’m talking about!”

There was the spitted pig, but that was Yevgeny’s. Unless it was Sergei’s. Blast it, why was the end of the night so dark? He thought he remembered Sergei’s excitement at some part of the old man’s story, but his recollections were decidedly fuzzier around that part. “I fell asleep there!” he exclaimed, pointing at the bar where he’d sat most of the night, except for that period when cursed Yevgeny had dragged him into the cold.

The expression on the bartender’s face was a strange mix of bemusement and scorn. “And I suppose you woke up there, as well.”

“I woke up in my own bed!” Dmitri began, but the excuse died on his lips. How had he gotten from here to there? He had slept sound and woke hard. Of a sudden, he realized what must have happened. “I didn’t!”

“Oh, didn’t you?” she challenged back. “What exactly do you think you didn’t do? Seems to me like you’ve got a fairly decent idea after all.”

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