Long ago, back before you or I were born, back before anyone any of us can remember, even in story, had been born, Rutherford B. Haze lived in our world year round.
He would greet the summer with a smile, and then put on a warmer jacket along with the rest of the folk when the fall breeze swept in. Winter was hard and cold, as it still is, but it was nothing that a few good stories, much like this one, couldn’t get you through.
Rutherford was a friendly sort, the most gregarious of all the beers, even more so than Frank, because you see in those days the beers could take on human form and walk among us. And so Rutherford would spend most of his days talking to people, to anyone who sat next to him at the tavern or crossed his path on the road, and most were happy to be so engaged.
This is not a story about a serendipitous meeting with a stranger, although I have plenty of those to tell you as well. No, instead this is a travel story, the last such one Rutherford had, and I’m afraid I’ll skip to the end and tell you it isn’t a happy one. You see, he loved to travel, because he loved every thing and every one, but his constitution wasn’t much suited for it. He just wasn’t built for long travels, but, Rutherford being Rutherford, that didn’t mean he didn’t try.
On one of these trips he had once again ventured out too far, and had to find a place to rest. He only had to knock at one house before a friendly face welcomed him in and offered him a chair, a meal and a drink.
Rutherford’s feet were aching something fierce, and so he gratefully accepted all three. His host set down a plate and a glass, but before they walked away they smiled and produced a small yellow fruit.
“Around here,” the host grinned, “we take our ale with a slice of lemon.”
Now, our Rutherford was nothing if not gracious and accommodating, and so he figured “when in Rome” — or wherever he actually was. He wasn’t actually sure where he had ended up, if he was being honest, but the food was hearty and the chair well stuffed.
He nodded in agreement and the host produced a small knife from somewhere: both the globular citrus and the means to cut it had appeared as though from nowhere. The lemon was quickly turned into multiple thick slices, one of which had a notch deftly cut into it before being placed on the edge of his glass.
Rutherford took a long pull of the beer, and then, worried he might be considered impolite, took a second, twisting the glass a third of the way around so that the beer flowed over the lemon slice. It tasted sweet and tart, not altogether delicious but not offensive either.
The moment the ersatz shandygaff passed his lips his host’s smile took on a sinister glint. Rutherford nodded sadly, for he knew what had happened.
For you see, he had accepted the native food of a faerie realm, and that is not without consequence. Faeries are not evil, but they are mischievous and greedy, and it is well known that to freely eat the food of a faerie binds you to them. As he had partaken of their lemons, Rutherford was now tied to their land as long as they wished.
So it was that our world lost Rutherford B. Haze: gone was his easy nature and reassuring smile, and after a particularly harsh winter the people feared they would never see him again. Then, on a day quite like today, he appeared at the top of a hill as though he had never left.
The faeries had grown to love him just as much as we do, and had fallen under his charm just as have all of us. And so he convinced them, after a time, to allow him to once again live in our world, as long as he spent an equal amount of time in theirs. So it came to pass that during our warm months Rutherford lives, but once the air grows cold he retreats back to the world of the faeries.
The warm winds blow, dear friends. The time of the faeries is once again coming to an end.