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20 Minutes 3


The room was packed. Every long table was filled, patrons shoulder to shoulder, with innumerable folk standing against the walls or milling about, waiting for a spot to open. And when one did, there was a flurry of activity, of shuffling and jostling and hard grimaces and harsh words uttered to keep away competitors. Through this throng bobbed and weaved the serving girls, light on their toes and seeming to predict every move made by the masses. Not a gal was knocked about, not a drop of ale spilled, no thick stews sloshed. There was the din of hundreds of voices in various state of emotion, but all loud in order to be heard. Smoke from pipes, cigs, and lanterns rose to the ceiling and hung in such thickness as to hide the beams. Most of the patrons were locals, but only a handful from the village. The others were from the work camps to the north. The skin of the miners from the mountains was black with dust. It caked their clothes and hair, too. The men and women from the swamps could be recognized by the stench rising from the wet mud caking their boots and leather, chest-high pants.

[20 Minutes is a self-imposed ritual in which I write, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes a day. No self-editing is the goal. Just 20 minutes hammering on the keys. After the 20 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. 20 minutes a day. Every day. Today is day 3.]


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