NATTY DRED'S WHARFSIDE TAVERN
dive  (noun) - First appeared 1700
1 : the act or an instance of diving; b : a sharp decline
2 : a disreputable entertainment establishment
3 : a faked knockout -- usu. used in the phrase take a dive
- Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
the screech of an inbound tern filtered through the majestic silence of night along the wharf, with waves gently lapping barnacle-crusted pillars and the requiem tolling of buoy bells deep in the distance
the light of a waxing moon muted by dirty grey storm clouds on the move, casting the decrepit warehouses and rotting wood of the docks in a wash of pale desperation
even the water that should reflect stars dancing on a glassy surface instead more closely resembles the grime on a tenement window, blotting out the light and holding all the sorrows inside with the fetid air, captive behind a film of city filth and smog residue
Respectable trade has long since abandoned this neighborhood; the boats parked in the marina now are not the noble caravels of spice traders from days of old, or the stout blue-collar vessels of fisherman, but mere broken-down sailing toys with splintered masts draped in frayed and watermarked canvas, their holds straining at the seams and belching contraband while their decks threaten to collapse under the weight of neglect.
The mongers are all gone, but the stench of rotting fish remains, mingling with the brine and stale perspiration in the air. A wooden rail and a slice of paved road separates the water from a row of broken-down buildings that lurch clumsily one against the other, leaning into each other's tired shoulders for support.
At the end of the wharf farthest from the blinding, inquisitive glare of civilisation, wedged between a vacant boarding house and one of the abandoned storehouses (presumably empty, but occasionally a spark of clandestine light flickers in its high windows in the night) stands a miserable little tin-roofed shack, hunched protectively against the coastal cold. Well, it does not so much stand as the panels themselves lean upon one another for support, that they might not collapse, and inside, the overhead beams sagged so perilously low that on any given evening, no less than a dozen stacked felt hats find their way into the sour ale puddling the floor.
The shanty, somehow, for all its loneliness, dwarfed as it is by the buildings around it, exhibits the only regular signs of life the wharf sees on most nights. Sinister half-light creeps around the edges of black paper shades drawn over the windows, framing them in eerily twitching electric coronas, and the steady hum of music floats like a tidal undercurrent beneath the occasional rumble of angry voices and shattering glass.
Inside, the once-soft dirt floors are matted down with dried fish scales and ground shells, even chunks of broken glass, all plastered in splashes of spilled rum and other, far less savory, ingredients. Baked to the consistency of cement over time, the whole of it is powdered over with a layer of sawdust.
The decor is simple - four rows of tables and benches, a makeshift
bar in the corner nearest the door with a few lopsided stools parked before it, and a set of swinging double doors in the back. You won't find the walls littered with stuffed fish or rusted anchors or useless bits of driftwood, or any of the other typical nautical trophies. If anything could be called ornament at all, it is the unintelligible squabble of graffiti carved into the tabletops
perhaps the piece of plank hanging crooked over the door, smeared with the words "Natty Dred's".
Natty Dred's is a one-room dive bar, more shack than tavern, and the only thing about the place that merits that moniker is that all manner of sea vermin are known to congregate here, to drown the profits of their dubious adventures in watered-down swill and the reconstituted dregs from the bottoms of rum barrels.
The original Natty is long dead, and no one can recall how many have taken his place between the first and the current proprietor, but legend has it that each one is a permanent part of the place, buried somewhere in the grounds outside, more likely poisoning the daisies than pushing them up. The current incarnation of Natty Dred is a stubby, chocolate-colored man with a thick French accent, one eye of blazing gold, the other of cerulean blue, and rumor has it that *he* killed the *previous* Natty Dred, and not only took his name and his tavern, but keeps his soul, as well, in a clay jar over the back of the bar.