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    AC Benus
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Demon Dream - 4. Down to Earth Folks

.

Warmer now, the travelers

Stretched ‘round the robata,

Or the sunken hearth

Of the main living space.

Half the shack was mud floor,

Compacted down rock-hard,

Where messy things were done –

Including the cooking.

Where Yukei and servant

Reclined with outstretched legs

Was where the old lady,

Or indeed everyone

Known as ‘down to earth’ folks,

Spun and smoked; dreamed and died.

Tarogo’s mind drifted,

Seemingly with the smoke,

Up to the charred rafters

Being licked upon by

Feeble light from the fire.

When the old woman spoke,

Both men felt the surprise.

However, her tone stayed

Meek as a mouse and asked,

“May I spin? In this way

I earn my livelihood,

Master, transforming flax

To the yarn my neighbor

Exchanges for the rice

And vegetables I eat.”

Lifting her silver head,

She watched the firelight

Play upon the features

Of the men so different.

Tarogo’s type she’d seen –

An average man was he

Of earth, wind and water –

The kind who’d complain of

Heat in summer, and cold

In every other month.

His ambitions were tied

To the endless cycles

Of his gut and stomach.

But of Yukei, she knew

His mind was more starry;

And more set on finding

What some might call a soul.

“Don’t let us bother you,”

Yukei said graciously.

After she bowed and rose

To bring close her distaff

And bundle of fiber,

Tarogo whispered nigh

In his employer’s ear,

“Master, I think this crone

Is hiding food from you,

So that—”

“If she has food,

I will surely not be

Partaking of any…”

Yukei paused, realizing

The other’s true intent.

He scolded: “Nor will you.

I’ll see to that myself.”

The threat was delivered

To keep his hired man

On the straight and narrow.

Kowtowed, Tarogo bent

His head muttering with

Apologies; all while

His stomach growled insult.

The old one drew up to

The robata once more.

She set about her task,

Spinning a bobbin raised

With her one hand, around

Which trailed loose strands of flax

To be gently drawn by

Her other hand into

Twisted linen thread fine.

This completed product

She’d occasionally

Turn on a wooden spool.

Mesmerized by her work,

The men sat silently,

Helpless to look away.

Knowing this, the woman

Softly began to sing

An ancient fairytale,

Sending her voice up like

Smoke amongst the rafters,

Where it’d eventually

Drift across the fields.

 

“The old man set his trap

And in it an old badger caught,

Whose feet all a flip-flap,

The man to his old woman brought.

 

Badger, Badger,

Tied up tight for the soup,

Unloose the knot

And you’ll know what to do.

 

‘Here!’ He held up his prize.

‘He ate our food, now we’ll eat him,

For every creature dies

Despite brain bright or dim.’

 

‘I’ll place him on the rack

For you to make tonight’s dinner

When I come tumbling back

To feast richer than a sinner!’

 

Badger, Badger,

See, she’s easy to dupe;

You know the spot

To work and slip on through.

 

With that, the old man left

And the woman went back to pound

Wheat with a pestle-cleft.

‘Untie! I’ll help you grind it sound.’

 

‘Think I’m a fool, do you?’

The woman asked. ‘To the field you’ll run.’

‘That!’ said he, ‘I’ll not do.

You’ve caught me fair and square, and won.’

 

Tired old fool was she,

She set the Badger to her aid,

But by letting him free,

It was an awful price she paid.

 

Pestle, Pestle,

Cracked her skull in one swoop –

Badger, Badger,

Go and heat up the pot

And with her stew

The starved old man, his soup.”

 

 

_

Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Hmmm. That song sounds very like the old woman has designs on Yukei and Tarogo! I hope the latter remains watchful for his master. 

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1 hour ago, Parker Owens said:

Hmmm. That song sounds very like the old woman has designs on Yukei and Tarogo! I hope the latter remains watchful for his master. 

Well, the fairytale of the song may be grim (as in very Grimm indeed!), but many of them are. How else is it that children are supposed to learn...?

Thanks for reading and commenting, Parker. You're the best

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Compacted down rock-hard,

Where messy things were done –

Including the cooking.

I wonder what other messy things are done here.

I like that when the old woman asked permission to spin, she took the liberty to spin both the flax and the tale. Like Parker, I also found it ominous and perhaps foreshadowing.

I’m left pondering the old woman’s observation about Yukei’s search for a soul - I wonder what kind of soul he’s looking for, and what he might find.

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On 5/4/2021 at 6:26 PM, headtransplant said:

 

Compacted down rock-hard,

Where messy things were done –

Including the cooking.

I wonder what other messy things are done here.

I like that when the old woman asked permission to spin, she took the liberty to spin both the flax and the tale. Like Parker, I also found it ominous and perhaps foreshadowing.

I’m left pondering the old woman’s observation about Yukei’s search for a soul - I wonder what kind of soul he’s looking for, and what he might find.

Thanks, headtransplant. The next segment I'm posting might address your question concerning Yukei's soul. And I really like the spinning both flax and her tale :)

Next part up in a few mins    

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