Tarzan's Tripes Forever, and Other Feghoots

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The Sorry Apprentices

Category: Rated G

This is by Bob Flock. Long and endless with a pun at the end. My type of tale. Thank you.

Many years ago in Olde England there lived a very wealthy and benevolent Earl who had a passion for the finest of everything the world had to offer. His castle was the greatest in the land, made of the most beautiful stone by world renowned craftsmen. He personally supervised its design and construction and that of all the furnishings within and the gardens without. His wife and concubines were the most intelligent and beautiful in the country, his advisors the cleverest and best spoken, his clothes made of the finest and most expensive materials, his carriage the largest and most comfortable ever made. The peasants on his lands enjoyed the best life possible, with rights and privileges unheard of elsewhere. In short, he demanded and received excellence in everything and in those around him.

One evening, during one of the numerous feasts held at his estate, he realized the ale served was not entirely to his liking. As with all else, he decided he had to have the best and immediately the next day embarked on a pursuit of making the finest ale ever bottled. He hired the best brew master in England and traveled the country searching for the best hops and barley. He sent his agents across the land to secure the finest aged oaken casks and the most attractive bottles. He discovered a quick acting sugar which caused immediate fermentation and the formation of just the right amount of alcohol in only a few hours. Most importantly, he spent years searching for the purest and best tasting water in all of England. He found what he was looking for in a village located on the coast at the base of the northern mountains. The local geology was such that the water coming from the mountains, already pure and wonderfully thirst quenching, was filtered through a network of rocks containing a unique blend of minerals. This added just the right touch and the water drawn from the village well was of amazingly superior taste and clarity. The earl bought some land in the center of town, built a small brewery on it, and received permission to run a pipe from the brewery to the town well.

The only downside was that the mountains were fairly dry. The well, while producing plenty of water for the local villager’s needs, could not handle the load of both the village and the newly built brewery. If demand was too high, salt water from the ocean would be drawn into the mix and the well water would temporarily be undrinkable. The situation was quickly addressed by the Earl’s brew master’s decision to only draw water into the brewery’s aged oaken storage casks during the night hours, when the demand from the village was at its lowest. This system worked perfectly. After much additional experimentation (and more than a few set backs), the brew master developed the exact combination of ingredients, sugars, and water to produced an ale of unbelievably good taste in just one night, the likes of which had never before been experienced. Of course, the ale was named “Earl’s Overnight Ale”, after the man whose drive for perfection was responsible for the remarkable beverage. Although “Earl’s Overnight Ale” was printed on each bottle, the name was quickly shortened to “Earl’s” by the brew master and this is how it was known from that point on.

Although it could only be produced in very small batches, word of Earl’s Ale quickly spread through the entire country. Those lucky enough to try it swore it was unlike any ale they had ever tasted. As it’s reputation grew, the demand for Earl’s Ale grew to a fever pitch. Even a rumor of a shipment of Earl’s arriving at a local tavern resulted in lines that went around the block, with people standing for hours to get just one bottle.

Time went by and one day a letter arrived at the brewery containing an invitation for Earl’s to enter the great national ale competition in London. This invitation was a huge honor, as the event took place but once a decade and only a very few breweries were selected from the thousands in existence. The King himself, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the House of Lords, joined the most knowledgeable ale experts in the country to form the Circle of Judges.

Of course everyone at Earl’s was in a state of great excitement. An invitation to the national competition was a career making event for anyone in the business. Winning the competition would put Earl’s into the Pantheon of Greatness, something almost all breweries could only ever dream of. The earl met with his brew master and the top members of his team. Together, they hand selected the best of their ingredients and developed a plan. With the competition scheduled for the following week, they agreed to assemble at midnight that Friday night, make the ale, and get on the road to London shortly after sunrise Saturday morning in order to guarantee that the ale they brought was the freshest and best tasting possible.

The brew master had recently hired two 17 year old apprentices, full of almost too much youthful spirit but with great promise as potential future brew masters of their own. With himself and the rest of the team sleeping through the late afternoon and evening hours in preparation for the hard work beginning at midnight, he asked the two apprentices to clean the brewery during the early evening and fill the storage casks from the well at 9 p.m. (the usual time the water was drawn) just before leaving for the night. While dedicated to their new craft, the two youths were in new and passionate relationships with two ravishing local young ladies. Unfortunately, the girls’ fathers had strict rules about their being home by 10 on a Friday night. The apprentices had promised to meet them in the field behind the hay stacks before 9 p.m., giving plenty of time for dalliance and their ardor to be satiated before the 10 p.m. deadline.

Youthful passion won out over the rules of work and the boys decided that no harm could be caused by drawing the water an hour early. After all, the village stopped using water shortly after 5 p.m. and the wait to fill the casks at 9 p.m. was, to their minds, an overly cautious and unnecessary policy. So, with nobody around to check, they decided to bend the rule just a bit. The casks were filled and the boys on their way to the fields just after 8 p.m., love on the minds and not a care in the world. Unbeknownst to them, that day had been one of unprecedented water usage by the village and a good amount of salt water had been pulled into the system during the late afternoon. This was slowly draining back out to sea but enough remained in the well when the apprentices filled the casks to ruin the taste of the water.

Later that night the earl, the brew master, and the other brewery employees assembled to mix the ingredients. The water was drawn from the casks; mixed with the special sugar, hops, and barley; allowed to ferment for three hours; and the bottles filled, corked, labeled, and wired shut. Just before sunrise the two apprentices arrived back, ready for the trip to London. The carriages were loaded and off they all went. The trip passed uneventfully and two days later the team arrived in London for the competition. Huge crowds had gathered in anticipation of the event and a festive atmosphere gripped the city. Thousands poured into the square as the King, the Archbishop, and the other assembled notables gathered on the stage for the tasting competition. Finally it was time for Earl’s to make its royal debut. A great hush settled as the earl, the brew master, and the other brewery workers, including the two apprentices, came up the steps to be present when the bottles were opened for the tasting. The earl allowed his brew master the honor of opening the first bottle and pouring a glass for the King and Archbishop. The glasses were raised, a short toast given, and the first sips taken, only to be immediately spit out in disgust. “What is this cursed brew that tastes of salt”? shouted the King! ‘Is this some sort of joke visited upon us by you men from the north? By thunder, I’ll have your heads!” The two apprentices blanched, glanced at each other, and started quaking in their boots. Aghast, the earl took the King’s glass, took a sip, spit it out and exclaimed to the brew master “How could this happen? How did salt get into the water? When were the casks filled the night we made this ale?” The brew master looked blank for a moment, then gasped and whirled to face the two terrified apprentices, his face purple with anger.

“You bloody idiots!” he cried. “Don’t you know better than to cask Earl’s before nine?”

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