Rare Ben

A man named Benjamin Jonson was sitting in the Mermaid Pub drinking stout and writing poetry. His clothes were brave and gay so as to attract only the attention of fools and women. These flamboyant clothes were wrapped around a portly torso, fat arms and two lifeless gnarled stumps that were off duty from carrying the former obesity. Ben's face was no more the less round and chubby. Given brief glance he appeared to be smuggling two billiard balls in his mouth with his upper lip concealed by a bushy curly tipped blanket, which created a puppet face for Mr. Jonson when his mouth was in operation. And everywhere he was present it seemed as though he came in from a violent shower which lasted only ten seconds. He was a moist man, and had been most of his life.

Despite his unflattering outer layer Ben's anima saw himself as a pleasant person. He was pretentious, proud and overly friendly with anyone that provided conversation. Loud in everything, in which he was employed (and to say loud is only being modest) and his regular friends had a general uneasiness when they were in his company.

So, Ben sat nested in his own fat, writing his poetry, and minute and a half he took a sip of his glass and surveyed the pub inspecting it's patrons. Though, once of the many times he patrolled his eyes, a certain man came through the doors of the Mermaid. It was William Shakespeare, a friend of Ben's only by name and relentless force, for William was a man that studied others for their characters whether he could relate with them or not. He was a socially minded business man. "Billy!" Will heard the beckoning call of his ball and chain he called a companion and saw that everyone had submitted their attention to the two and their relationship, which existed on opposite ends of the Mermaid. "Billy, come on over!" Will prepared himself with a long sigh and knew he would now attempt to maintain his bright attitude he had gained earlier. Will turned around and saw very excited, bloated Ben drastically leaning forward over the table with a smile that would frighten any non-perfidious child. Will resisted his temptation to run and decided he should talk to Ben so that people in the pub could return to their business.

"Billy, good Billy! How is my most enjoyed play-write friend?" Said Ben. "Your ONLY play-write friend is well, Ben. I see that you are attacking me with flattery Mr. Jonson; it suggests that you have had good fortune since we last met. Perhaps you have gained a mutual love so as a maiden could tolerate, or you have found graces with the Queen, as did Walter." Ben gave a roaring abrupt laugh that again startled those in their work and said, "It's got no connection to love, and you should know that I don't want what Wally's got, Billy." William always got bad indigestion when Ben addressed him by "Billy" in sequence. But he became ill worn to correct Ben anymore and let him proceed. "Not at all; I am merely excited to see you, friend. I have not accompanied anyone yet today. In fact, I knocked at Bacon's door for a few minutes but he did not answer; no matter the force I put behind my fist. I suppose he was either gone or he had hit the bottle hard, after a long train of thought had conquered him; probably, no one was there to strike him upside the ol' noggin." It was a strange thing for Ben to suggest that Fancis Bacon would drink himself into utter stupor, since William had much respect for Bacon, and saw him as completely honorable. "I am happy that I may bring you joy, Ben; I am also sure that Francis was most likely out of his home."

Ben released a benefit-of-doubt grunt as though he knew Bacon better than Will. He did not. "If you believe he was, so be it. Have you any fresh work you wish to share with your undocumented editor?" If the soul could regurgitate in it's own mouth, Will's certainly did at hearing this statement. William had seen Ben's unedited plays and hoped that nobody ever hired him as their own personal con-editor. Will responded, "I don't have it with me, but I'm working through Henry V, and I cannot seem to create an interesting character with a healthy number of flaws; this would be easier if I was not doing it specifically for the Queen." "Well there's always the aristocrats, of whom to make fools, right Will! They are too easy since you can just write them into a play." Ben said this with his most condescending tone, and William responded, "You really should remember that the Queen is friends with those aristocrats, and whether or not you fancy them I'd say you best stay on Her pleasant side. Though I do think I have been stricken with a fine idea for my character Fallstaf." Ben peered at William, curious to hear Him continue speaking. When the silence was strung out too long, Ben broke back in and said, "I do believe then you owe it me this brilliant idea as I have clearly been a contributor to your man Fallstaf." "Oh yes, you have helped with it, but you will have to see the play at it's premier." Ben became disappointed and exerted a complaining sigh, but soon he had forgotten about it; Ben Jonson was also famous for a wavering attention span.

Seconds after, another man walked through the doors of the Mermaid. He was a tall, slender and handsome man that stood straight as though he deserved the right. No one in the Mermaid noticed him, as he was a man that did not live by his advertisement. It was Jonson's and Shakespeare's friend, Walter Ralegh, and he was holding something between his arm and torso. Ben did not find it necessary to call his friend over; Walter had already noticed them (or at least William) and walked his way toward the two. Ben and Will both stood up to greet him since he had recently returned from his second colonization of Virginia in America.

Will started to Walter, with joy and relief detectable in his voice and said, "Good man, Ralegh! So grand to see your face again at the Mermaid. It has been long and I have missed your company and conversation." They shook hands rigorously and Walter added, "Always a pleasure to hear from you William. I'll be in a mood to see what plays you written in my absence." Walter then turned to see a plump Ben Jonson, smiling gleefully as though he were really apart of the reunion. Since last Walter had seen Ben he knew that Ben made no significant lifestyle changes, from his increase in size. "Mr. Jonson, so nice to so you are . . . . living." Walter was finding it difficult to attach another clause, to appear somewhat excited. "You too, Wally! So had you any close encounters with those savage Indians? Any life or death over there?" Ben said, this in robust exuberance. Ben was always a man who wished he had signed up for the Queen's army but knew it would interfere, to his displeasure for his current habits. Walter answered, "On the contrary Ben. In fact, I have adopted a part of the Indian's way. Gentlemen, I present to you - Tobacco!"
Ralegh dropped the package he was holding before, on to the table. It was a rounded rectangle bound together by strings. Walter took a sharpened knife and cut the package open, to let a mess of ground leaves fall on the table. "Walter," said Will, "I am worried for your sanity as you have not brought us anything worthy of a gift, but a landscaper's day's work." Walter did nothing, but prop his hands on his hips and smiled at the product, and then at Will. Ben had not spoken for a near thirty seconds and became worn of his own silence. "Bill has his point, Wally. This is not a spoil I work for, and neither should you work for it. Can I offer a beer and cake for you; Forgetfulness of conventions at home, I believe, is a vice on my standard."

Walter ignored both of their comments and continued to pull out pieces of his coat pockets and put them together to make his pipe. "I was unaware once too of tobacco, and the blessing it is on the world. Let me show with the pipe." Walter packed his pipe full since he was already a regular smoker. As he lit his pipe William had a skeptical eyebrow raised and Ben had his arms crossed with assumed sanity. Though, soon enough a cloud was gathered from Walter's new hobby and the other two men made faces of confusion, but enlightenment was approaching fast for them.

Moments later, William could not hold back his interest for the weed, and broke the silence saying, "Walter, I have undoubtedly been humbled by truth, for I have only had the experience second hand; Could I bother you for a smoke to quench this curiosity I have harbored?" Walter chuckled and reached into the inside pocket of his jacket, presented another pipe and said, "Mr. Shakespeare, I would never in my present life deny a man who petitioned a smoke of me, for it's simplicity in pleasure is to easy for gifts. I'd prefer that I had offered you the opportunity prior to your asking."

Shakespeare lit the pipe and was on his way to ascension. Walter had turned again to see a disappointed Ben Jonson looking down with uninvited defeat. "If I am not mistaken," Walter said, "Ben, it seems as though I should offer you a bit of this leaf. I would would be less of a man if I failed to do so." Ben stared with vague and negative implications on his face, while Walter had his arm extended, with his last pipe in hand. After battling what Ben wanted to be seen as and what Ben wanted to do, He accepted Walter's invitation so that he can gain a closeness for similarity with the other two. Ben lit his pipe.

The three of them sat around the rectangular table puffed out smoke into the air; and although the air was once clear and now was not, the man's brains were operating in a sixth sense despite that they looked blankly at the walls. There nested a play-write who was a man of many words and often of his own. Another who was an adventurer and a poet. He was a man more willing than others to be a servant of those above, but naturally gained followers by giving honor. And one more agent who failed to ever obey an order, and live by social standard; though he quickly picked up any current style that the hedonists presented him. However, all of these contrasting characters were not at odds. In one and a half hours the men had not uttered a spoken word; nor was a grunt of adjustment heard. The smell and taste of tobacco had made them equal, and nothing was said because nothing had to be said. They all understood each other as committed smokers.

Time passed and the three men finished their bowls achieving contentment. Will attempted to give a speech in honor of the tobacco leaf, but all that he could put together was, "Walter, I . . . .I do believe . . . . for this is . . . . if I had . . . ." William sat back down because he already ruined his own moment to display his talent in great poetry. Ben looked on passed his companions, and his eyes widened into clairvoyance of his circumstance. Ben Jonson, for once in his older life, knew the proper thing he should say. He stood erect and seemed taller than he ever had, and gave this to say, "Tobacco, I do assert, without fear of contradiction from the Avon Skylark, is the most soothing, sovereign and precious weed that ever our dear old Mother Earth tendered to the use of man. Let him who would contradict that most mild, but sincere and enthusiastic assertion, look to his undertaker, Sir Walter, your health."

They, after this, drained their mugs and parted ways for other businesses. Walter and William both new that this experience should gain regular occurrence. They never had once enjoyed the company of "Rare Ben" until the Muse of Tobacco kissed Walter Ralegh and William Shakespeare both to a point where patience was no longer required of them. Their thoughts lofted upward and lost all affectation for Mr. Ben Jonson.

- By Evan Gunn Wilson

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