Don Quixote’s School of Regret

Dulcinea squashed the little fly that landed on the second wart on her third chin; smiling, she licked her fingers clean.  “Eh?” she barked, punctuating her question with a decorous belch.  The strange man who stood before her had introduced himself as the servant of a nobleman, so an attitude of decorum was clearly in order.  “You say your master attacked a windmill?”

Sancho Panza shuffled his feet, uneasily.  “He did,” he agreed, with an apologetic cough.  “Most certainly, he did!” he added, defiantly.  It wasn’t always easy explaining or justifying the Don’s behaviour but Sancho unfailingly gave it his best.

“So,” Dulcinea nodded.  She hated windmills, too: nasty, noisy, spinning places that made her dizzy to look at; and all the grain in them made her sneeze great green globules of snot down her dress, ugh!  It was on the bare, dusty floor of a windmill that she conceived her fourth bastard, she remembered.  When the man shot his seed in her she’d sneezed right in his face.  Then she tried hard to remember if she’d wanted to be part of that particular frolic on that day, or had she tried to fight him off?  It was tricky: the idea of consent didn’t usually have much bearing for a girl sent skivvying back and forth across the country from one down-at-heel tavern to the next.  Dulcinea soon gave it up, without coming to a decision; it wasn’t worth wasting any more of her time thinking about the matter; it was years ago now, and bastards come and bastards go was all.

So why bring it up?  Why set her to thinking about such dog-eared old memories and the like?  Who was this smart-dressed, too-polite stranger who wanted to speak with her so late at night, banging on the tavern door and getting her out of bed against her wishes?  Eyeing the man warily, Dulcinea scratched a voluminous buttock and kept her wits about her.  The villagers often sent someone along to tease and harry her when no better entertainment presented itself.  So, was this just another bored stranger who was in on the joke and set on taking the piss?  Hmm she reached for the broom that leaned against the wall by her side.  Its handle was sturdy and she’d happily batter anyone with it if they stepped out of line.  “And your master sent you to me because…?”

“To pledge his allegiance to your standard and to seek your blessings for his quest as a lone knight shining a light in the dark lands of giants and monsters,” Sancho delivered the message entrusted to him without a quiver of emotion.  As he’d journeyed to the tavern he’d been careful to rehearse and rehearse it in order to prevent himself from giggling as he finally spoke the words for the benefit of its intended audience.

“Hmpff!”  Even Dulcinea accepted that her standards had never been the highest, so why any nobleman should want to pledge anything to them left her at a loss.  “So, where is this fine master of yours?  And where did he learn about all these fancy lands you’ve been waking me up to go telling me about, with shining knights in them who go chasing after monsters?  I never saw any of the like and I’ve been travelling far and wide for as long as I can remember.”

Again Sancho shuffled his feet, uneasily.  He loved his master dearly, honoured him and his lineage; was stoutly proud of his service.  Yet it couldn’t be denied that at times the Don was the most maddening of masters, whose whims had the capacity to make Sancho’s position almost untenable at times.  “Well…” as usual, Sancho eased his way into the confession, “it was in books.  That’s right!  In thousands upon thousands of books where are listed the histories and glories of the finest knights from all across the wide world.  It was in those books my master discovered all there was to learn about every magical land in the world, with their great heroes and battles.”

Dulcinea nodded, thoughtfully, hawked up some phlegm, spat.  “No, I never saw any lands the like of that anywhere, not once in all my days.”  Dimly, she mulled it over: if maybe it was the only thing she regretted in her life, being barred from such places of wonder?  Then she slammed the tavern door shut on Sancho Panza and went back to bed.

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This story was written in response to the speakeasy writing prompt #169 – You must include the following sentence ANYWHERE in your submission: “It was the only thing she regretted.”

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