Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Senodo

Senodo wiped the bar once more and admired the grain of the wood.
He had made the bar and all the rest of the furniture here with his own hands. It was a something he still wished he was using day in day out. Helping run the bar was fun at times, but lacked the creative satisfaction of seeing raw wood transformed into something useful and beautiful.
It was a legacy of a former and a simpler life that he missed badly. Senodo sighed. Just as he still missed Messalina. No amount of time could heal that wound.
‘You look sad,’ Vita said as she placed a tray on the counter. Both the jug and serving dish were empty
’We’ve an order for same again – for the two poets over there – although how they can afford it is beyond me.’
Senodo picked up the jug and filled it from the amphora he had just opened. He took a swig from the jug just to check it was still barely acceptable and put it back down. It was a bit rough but the boys drinking it had no idea what to look for and probably didn’t care providing it got them drunk.
‘They’re just kids from rich families,’ Senodo looked across at the giggling louts with something that might have approached sympathy,’ they’re not even real Romans, just locals that have embraced the life,’ he handed the tray over,’ Parents probably own some villa out there with a few head of cattle or sheep; they’ve sent their kids here to get them out of their hair and learn the “Roman Way”. So they come here and drink, and carouse and supposedly compose poetry.’
‘Sounds alright to me,’ said Vita, ‘at least better than being a slave.’
‘I call it mind numbing boredom. Why do you think they come here first thing in the morning and stay for several jugs? They’ve nothing else to do. They are not really enjoying themselves, they are just wasting time. They should learn a trade really, like I did.’
Vita shrugged. The poet’s life still sounded a good deal to her.
‘We’re out of sausages by the way, until Exuperatus gets back from the market,’ Senodo warned.
The girl nodded and took the wine over to the poets.
On the way back they slapped her bottom playfully. Senodo grimaced at the sight.
‘Would you like me to throw them out?’ he asked Vita.
‘No, it is fine, I’ve had worse. I’m just amused that they presumably think I’m a boy. They must be more than just friends, those two.’
Senodo laughed.
‘Well spotted.’
‘Why did you come to Britannia? You’re from Gaul, aren’t you?’
Senodo’s smile faded.
‘You ask a lot of questions, Vita… Vitus – I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘Let’s just say you’re not the only person who is running away from things.’
Vita nodded and put her small hand on the big man’s ruddy fist and patted it gently. She said nothing though. She went back to serving.
The next time the poets made a pass at the “serving boy” Senodo threw them out.
‘They act like they’re Romans,’ he explained to her, ’and that they have become civilised and educated. But we’re still the same savages just under the veneer.’
Senodo patted her on the head affectionately, but his face was grim.
‘You see, it just takes them to get drunk or angry and all the lust and violence comes out. The Empire is fragile façade, girl. We might all be wearing nice tunics and togas now but we’re still only a moment away from picking up our swords again.’
Vita looked at the look in Senodo’s eyes and shivered.
‘Do you have a sword?’
‘I did once. I threw it away though,’ Senodo said, his face set and unreadable,’ too many bad memories.’