Now, what is he on about? Tebo wondered.
At the top of the tall stone tower that dominated the harbor, he could see Johnny flapping his arms and waving. Even at this distance Tebo could could tell that Johnny was excited about something.
Tebo waved back and chuckled, his breath condensing in the brisk morning air as he did so. He shook his head and smiled as he thought of Johnny but didn’t slow as he set the kegs and rough wood planks his father and he used as shelving for the small outdoor stall where the sold various goods. His back and hands were used to heavy work, so his mind was free to wonder what Johnny was up to. Tebo wasn’t sure when it had happened but at some point, Johnny had stopped being an oddity and become a friend. There was a special quality to Johnny that was hard to define. There was no malice in him. He was openly friendly, trusting, and generous in a way only common to young children.
There was also a keen and observant mind behind his friend’s awkward speech. Johnny wasn’t ‘simple’ or ‘addled’ as some folks said he just saw the world differently.
Tebo placed baskets of various sizes on the shelves that his father would fill with the assorted items he sold or traded. Satisfied, he stretched, yawned, and looked around. There were a few other vendors roasting various food stuffs and the pleasant smells of roots, nuts and small bits of meat being cooked intermingled with the smells of fish guts and garbage. Most of the stalls carried few goods in winter, unless a ship was wrecked or Duar traders arrived. Tebo couldn’t wait until the warm weather a greater variety of goods would fill the stalls. His stomach grumbled and he looked towards the store to see if his father was done.
Garrun was using his massive arms to roll out and position the last barrel of smoked fish. He looked at Tebo, and his broad bearded face lifted in a small grin. It’s like watching a rock smile, Tebo thought. He smiled back. A hairy rock.
Garrun looked up at Johnny still capering madly on the stone tower and shook his head. With fingers as thick and sturdy as spear shafts he pulled on the small strap securing the barrel lid, then reached in and pulled out a handful of dry apples. He tossed them to his son who snatched them out of the air with deft movements. “You’d better get that fool boy off the tower before he hurts himself.” Garrun stepped into the small lean-to at the center of the stall and pulled out a fistful of burlap bags. “Fill these with a mix of whatever nuts and dry berries we have left and run them out to Josef. Tell him I expect no less than ten loaves, and he can throw in a couple of sweet rolls if he wants me happy.” He grunted at Tebo’s smile. Josef was an incredible baker. Garrun scratched his beard as he looked at the tower. “And if Johnny doesn’t fall before you get there, take him with you. Tell him he can eat with us tonight.”
Garrun looked at his son, then gave a short nod and winked as he hurried over to assist the widow Yglara. The old woman wore a look of dissatisfaction and was jabbing at the oily fish in one of the open kegs as if they had somehow offended her.
Tebo chuckled and grabbed the bags, snagged some cheese from one of the crates, then dropped in the apples. He loaded Josef’s goods into one of the carrying baskets, tossed in his food and slid his arms through the harness. Tebo bent his legs and lifted the large pack and grinned as his father rolled his eyes at him. Yglara was a character, that was certain. She was up before any of the merchants and had a tongue that could peel the bark off a tree.
Tebo rapped lightly on the counter of the adjoining stall where Herog was busy flipping skewers with small bits of marinated fish, and starchy roots, and held up four fingers. The vendor quickly bundled fish and roots with sea-bracken leaves into four thumb-sized, then held out two fingers of his own indicating the cost. Tebo paid, added the bundle to his pack, and nodded in thanks as he swung it onto his shoulders.
As he turned, he realized he could no longer see Johnny’s red hair which meant that Johnny might be standing near the front edge of the tower and there was probably ice up there today. Worried now, Tebo set off at a jog.