A light in the window above the stairwell advertised that the Tudor-style cottage at the end of Turl Street had not been completely vacated for the holidays. The window was slightly ajar, and every now and again a puff of smoke was seen wafting over the sill and mixing with foggy mist outside. Muffled laughs and shouts dispersed into the chill night.
“If it’s January 4th, 1913 here at Exeter College,” asked Ronald, “what time is it in Kentucky?”
“Yer sloshed, Ronald,” said Allen.
“Aaaah, tell it to the Jzzhermans …” Ronald slurred.
“Tell ‘em yerself … I reckon you’ll have the chance before long,” Allen replied but immediately regretted stating what was by now becoming horrifically obvious.
“Well, you certainly know how to crash a party, Yank.”
Ronald stood up and walked to the fireplace. He fished out a splinter of wood that still had a flicker of flame on its end and he held it to his pipe. “How ‘bout you tellin’ me ‘bout those neighbors of yours again? I can never get enough of it. Solid English names!”
“Who? The Maggots? The Boffins? The Proudfoots? Or is it Proud “feet” when there’s more than one? I can’t remember … The Tooks? The Brandybucks?”
“Noooo, the other ones … the ones with the big tobacco barns … with the boys who refused to wear shoes … went everywhere barefoot … with the funny name.”
“You’ve just described my whole town, Ronald …” Allen said dryly.
“… the old fellow … who invented that grand new number. What was it now? Aye! Yes! Eleven-teen!” Ronald yelled out.
“Oh! That’s Mr. Frodo you’re speaking of then!” and Allen Barrett once again spent the rest of the evening regaling his friend J. R. R. Tolkien with his tales from Shelbyville, Kentucky.