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Fish Stocks Limited
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“I'll lend you fourpence if you pay me back nine on the morrow,” said Jerry. “I'm
kind like that.”
Peer pressure is a terrible thing. “Go on then,” said Ambrosius, smiling besides
himself. “I don't want to seem rude.”
“Good lad. Now you can roll, Mungo.”
Mungo put his hand over the top of the cup and shook it vigorously, whispering
incantations to whatever passing gods might be listening as he did so. He rolled the
dice, sticky with dregs, onto the mottled tabletop.
“Double two, bad luck matey,” said Jerry, smiling.
“I could win yet,” said Mungo.
Jerry took the cup off him and placed the dice in it. He shook and rolled.
“Four and five makes nine,” said Mungo. “You lucky trout botherer, Jerry.
Ambrosius, you next lad.”
“I don't think I'll beat that,” said Ambrosius pessimistically, but he shook and
“Five and six! Someone's smiling down on you, son. That's your stake back and
eight pennies to boot.”
They played on through the night, Mungo and Jerry drinking first grog to get them
to a certain level of drunkenness and then beer to keep them at that level until the wee
hours. Copious amounts of crushed stone disappeared up their noses, until their eyes
were red and pupils small and glassy. The two seafarers' faces took on a pallor as of
dead men, a fine sheen of sweat beading their foreheads. Ambrosius drank only the
first pint of grog, which he made last through the long night. This was partly due to
his natural restraint when it came to such habits, but was also due to the fact that the
grog tasted so hideous and turned his stomach sour. In truth he did not enjoy such
revelry, but the dice rolled in his favour and time after time he raked in money off his
new acquaintances. By the end of the night he had won just over ten pound.
Ambrosius left the two shipmates dozing intoxicated face down on the table, each
with one hand still clutching a half- full cup. He went to the bar and asked for a room.
“Do you have company?” asked the buxom barmaid.
Ambrosius looked back over to Mungo and Jerry. They would sleep like kings
where they were. “No,” he said.
“Would you like some?” asked the barmaid provocatively.
“Er, no thank you,” said Ambrosius with a quaver.
“Suit yourself,” said the barmaid. “There's a free room up the stairs, first on the
left. I'd make sure you get the right room if I were you.”
“Thanks,” said Ambrosius.
The Smug looked different through a window with glass in it, sort of as though it
were trapped like a fish in a tank. It had been peeping over the horizon as Ambrosius
crawled into bed, now, after a good sleep, the orb was high and fat in the sky.
Ambrosius' teeth felt chalky and his mouth tasted foul after last nights grog, as though
he had been sick. There was nothing in the room other than the bed, so he had to quest
downstairs for a glass of water, which was served to him by a new barmaid with black
flowing hair and an ugly face. The water looked a little like the grog.