All the roads run parallel in the Berzin Straight and are fastened from the slick-black pebbles that bed the Salted Sea. Their dark surface vacillates under the heated nausea of a summer’s day, so from the apartments above you can imagine yourself drifting down Black’s River. Each road is separated from its neighbor’s by towering beige apartment buildings, which themselves are separated within—by thick plaster walls—from the residents of the other through-roads, so as to maintain the ‘integrity’ of each diverse culture.
Cobblestern Road is the fifth and final road to the east. We Cobblesterners are merchants; it is our duty to host the Summer faire—the only time residents of the Berzin Straight tolerate each other’s company. As merchants, we have exclusive rights to trade agreements with the other roads all year long, so when the faire comes about, the whole road is filled with tools and resources that the other roaders otherwise have no access to.
But our canvas covered stalls border the road with more than just practical wares. Treats and fineries of the most exquisite taste abound. Look, here, the man with honey coated sticks, from Cherub Road, that turn to warm cream on your tongue. Feyador Chandoa of Coacon, the most delicate chocolatier in the straight, dips fresh strawberries, bananas, and even pickles in a deep brown sauce that hardens in the sun. There is your copper ware; pots and ladles, one of the dozen hatters with caps of every style and color you could imagine, and more often, those you could not. Ghost-silk clothiers, spice traders, jewelers working in pearl and ivory all draw the housemaids, from their gray shutters, to gawk and dream over.
The maids toss laundry lines of twine between apartments, decorated with brilliant red and yellow flags—the colors of the merchant road—and draped with paper clippings in the shape of every god. The less-festiv-i-al maids go about pouring buckets of dark water down tin shoots, beating ornately decorated carpets, whipping the dirt from their husband’s trousers, but nonetheless adding to the spectacular arial display for the shoppers below.
Traveling merchants from outside of Berzin Straight compete for the surging crowd’s attention. With invisible thread, the gypsies cast webs; playfully ensnare passersby, then not so playfully snip their wallet strings. Others manage seemingly impossible feats of physics. See this stout dark boy balance three solid-gold trunks atop his head—no hands for support. Watch this woman float through crowds with ease, arms embedded with potions and poisons numbering in the thousands. And there! watch your feet there! The wild mutts bring their wares as well.
Every road is plagued with some pest or another. The wild mutts on this road range from grayish-blacks to tawny browns, and from every size and shape, but wholly similar in the pathetic condition of their coats. Their brows sag, oily and matted, hiding all but their teeth. Some boys make it their job to catch and train the beasts; send them out to steal baguettes and turkey sliders, then quick disappear under the legs of countless shoppers. So I guess that makes two types of beasts to watch out for in the straight, but to tell you true, not more than ten years back, Captain Moore pulled me out of the pebbled road…but that story I save for friends over drinks. What do you say? My treat.