Tuesday, May 24, 2016
NOTE: Editing continues on Doleful Creatures. This is a possible new chapter, shaping a character whose presentation has shifted quite a bit in this edit. Manuscript formatting stuck in the copy/paste, so I'm leaving it in.
Chapter Twenty-One: Whoso Is Simple, Let Him Turn In Hither
Aloysius hated being the fool.And fool is what Landi would call him.
“But who’s more foolish? The one dead, or the one alive?” he growled. And his world remained dark and small.
“She has forsaken the foolish,” he said quietly. “She deserved the wise.”
As he walked he studied his feet. Quick march down the muddy path, claws raking the dirt. Brush aside the wet grass and fallen branches with his forehead and snout, rarely slowing, always going. Brambles stuck in the fur on his head, and sometimes an eye scratched by a bent nettle.
“Fool,” he whispered.
“A fool you are not,” Landi said.
Aloysius’ eyes stung as he heard her speak.
“You are wise, like your father. Like your father taught you to be. He was no fool. Stubborn, yes, the both of you. But not foolish. Never,” Landi said. “When the ice dam threatened to flood the setts closes to the stream, your father showed his wisdom. Those who didn’t listen and didn’t move are the fools. The poor, drowned fools. They will listen to you, the wise ones. Talk to them, please.”
“But it is Jarrod they love.”
“Nonsense,” Landi replied. “You’ve lived with these beavers longer than Jarrod. They know you. They trust you. And if they love Jarrod, perhaps it is because when they say good morning to him, he replies good morning back, rather than grunt a reply or not reply at all. It is in that you are foolish.”
“My father never taught me to suffer fools.”
“Yet he suffered them all the time, Aloysius.”
“They came to him for advice and he chased them away!”
“As was his way. But he went to find them after, even after your mother died, and they were always glad of it.”
“They always came back. Even if he bit them.”
“I know Jarrod is your friend,” Landi said. “He is dear to me. But the beavers will listen to you as well. They are being foolish, with this scheme of theirs. You know it. Building a dam that big will bring the humans here, and you know what humans can do. Tell them. Tell them and they’ll listen.”
“They will hate me,” he said. “They want this. I hear them talk every night of the deep water. The wide ponds.”
“They may well hate you. But only for a little while.”
“Or for a long time. They fill their heads with deep water, water where the mud settles and where they can swim clear with their eyes open. They will say I, an outsider – even a beloved outsider – robbed them of what could have been.”
“Or revere you for preventing what could happen.”
“Could. Could. Not will. There will always be that regret, in the backs of some minds. The wonder if they had built the dam that long, that tall, and let the ponds fill that wide and that deep; the wonder that man might not come at all and leave them in the deep peace they desire.”
“Will you let them have Jarrod as a hero?”
They both laughed. Timid Jarrod, afraid of the water. Rebekah would dive with the beavers and swim, if only briefly, with the badgers, as fearlessly as she flew with the hawks. But Jarrod jumped still at his own shadow and cried warning if so much as a sparrow flew unannounced over the heads of the kits.
But he flew. Even though he flew neither as high nor in as dangerous company as Rebekah, he flew. And he was male – something the beavers regarded as supernal in a leader. And he told them of man – what little he knew watching the sleepy denizens of Purdy Farm halfheartedly plow and sow and harvest – and allayed their fears that man would come if they pursued their dream of the dam and the pond it would hold.
Aloysius growled and shook his head.If he were here now.
How many times had he tried to kill that flying skunk?
And how many times, at the last moment, had he proved to be a fool and let the magpie live?
“Do we let things live,” his father asked, “Or is it He who lets us live?”
Sparrows shouted alarms and darted from the lower branches as Aloysius again shook his head.
Revenge, he recalled his father saying, is the path that leads from the smoke to the forest fire.
Yet had he talked, they might yet be alive. His Landi might yet be alive . . .
Aloysius felt the smoke in his eyes. It curled about him, whispered in his ears and showered his back with soot as if in a gentle summer rain. He felt each drop, each flake of ash, fall through his fur to wet or burn his skin.
Forsake the foolish, and live. Go in the way of understanding.
His walking slowed as he felt the smoke, the ash, tugging at his skin, pulling on his limbs.
He shook himself yet again but the smoke clung to his fur. As the bellows and screams and laments clung to his ears.
That he had spoken.
That he had spoken.
“Shame,” he said to himself. “Shame and blot!” He rubbed his paws, darted through the brush and stumbled into the creek, rubbing and rubbing his paws. “Shame and blot,” he echoed. “Shame and blot.”
In the reflection in the water, he saw Landi. “Come,” she said. “Eat of my bread, and drink – ”
“Shame and blot!” he bellowed and splashed out of the water back into the brush. “Shame and blot.”