Story for the Day: Special Hearing
Women can hear everything. Remember that when you're planning a woman's birthday or telling your friend how much you dislike a woman's cooking.
|Doesn't look nearly half as appealing as|
The end of autumn brought Meraliegh’s birthday, and though in the Calcannan household birthdays were of moderate consequence, marked with a small celebratory cake and a handmade gift in the true Frewyn style, to Beryn her birthday must be everything. As his parents had rarely left the Dunhuram freehold, any occasion to observe a holiday or commemorate a birthday was always treated with utmost reverence: a favourite meal must be prepared, gifts must be well-crafted, games and songs must be contrived, and upon the whole a birthday must be regarded as the pinnacle of life, celebrating the blessings that the Gods had granted throughout the year and expressing the ambition of their continuance for the year to come.
Meraliegh protested against any such celebration: after having seen Teague in the afternoon and being given heartfelt felicitations, she was only in want of a little quiet cheerfulness at home with Beryn and her mother. A meal and some merriment might do very well, but they must be of a somber hue, one more sobering at least than any that Beryn had been used to observe. She refused gifts, though she knew that this would be thoroughly ignored, and instead prayed to the Gods that any present which Beryn might conjure would not be one that should cost him his good sense or time. She left the chandlery therefore, being to wait for him at her mother’s, and walked home with dreadful notions of Beryn bringing a whole cow as a birthday present.
Her ideas of livestock, however, were not far from what Beryn had intended. He collected and delivered all of his chickens and eggs to their destinations, and came at last to Sheamas’ shoppe where a crate of eggs would secure him the meal portion of Meraliegh’s gift. He drove to the entrance and observed Sheamas saying his goodbyes to a few of his regular customers. The hour was growing late, the temperate hues of a late autumn gloaming appeared, and Sheamas would soon be closing. He waited until the last customer had gone to enter, and with their convivial hellos, Sheamas and Beryn shook hands, shared pleasantries, and exchanged their goods.
Sheamas took the eggs from Beryn with smiling assurance, and after putting them in the larder, he returned with an immense package wrapped in brown packing paper. “Got her right here for you, Beryn,” he proudly declared, “all packed and ready.”
Beryn took the large package from his friend, and the scent that wafted up from the cracks in the paper made him hum in delight. He raised the package to his nose and inhaled, his eyes closing as he savoured the soothing aroma. He exhaled in sighing animation, and smiling at his friend professed, “That’s a right work of art, Shea.”
“Aye,” said Sheamas, with a modest smile. “Took me a while to slow smoke her under the glass, but I reckon that’ll last you a while.”
Beryn fleered and tightly embraced the package. “If she were comin’ home with me, she wouldn’t last long,” he hummed.
“Aye, me neither. One day, you, me, and the Den Asaan should set a table together.”
“Does he like his brined and smoked meats?”
“My best customer,” Sheamas proudly proclaimed. “Since he started sendin’ my sister over, I never have to worry about saltin’ and smokin’ what I don’t sell at the end of the day.”
Beryn’s eyes gleamed. “Does he like a good burnt?”
“That ain’t a flavour, Beryn.”
“Aye, it is,” Beryn asserted. “One of those acquired tastes, you know.”
“Suet pie’s an acquired taste, Beryn,” was Sheamas’ laughing answer, and then in a soft voice and with an arch look, he added, “Which reminds me, got a some left over suet pie for Moraig.”
“Gil still makin’ it?” Beryn cringed, catching the same furtive tone.
“Aye. She’s tryin’ to get my young-un to like it. Luckily, he takes after his ol’ man.” He chuckled to himself and was about to convey the events of last night’s dinner, where Little Jaicobh had kindly asked his mother why he and his father were compelled to go against their Haanta heritage and consume unwholesome amounts of hard fats, when he was silenced by a call from upstairs. It was from Margilesse. She was calling for Sheamas to bring her some salt and brick dust from the cellar. She would go herself, but she was in the midst of cleaning the kettle before supper was to made and could not go herself. “Aye, mho cri, be up in a minute,” Sheamas called back, looking about him anxiously. He hoped that she had not heard his aspersions. He adored her cookery and her baking, and loved every inch of his wife with all the doting affection his dutiful heart could purvey, but suet pie, whether made by her, by Martje, or even by his mother, was never his favourite dish. Parboiled meat and a fat crust could never do for him where savoury smoked ham and fried bacon had done. His wife’s attention to his preferences had never faltered, and he, as an exemplary husband, should never seek to injure her feelings. With a look of escape, Sheamas opened the front door to his establishment and ushered Beryn out. “I’ll help you to the jaunty,” he said, pushing Beryn over the threshold. He quickly took the packed pie from behind the counter and hastened out the door.
“You know women got that special hearin’,” Beryn said, with a wry smirk. “They can hear through walls if they listen hard enough.”
“Frannach, don’t I know it,” Sheamas muttered. “Think we’re safe out here.”
Beryn half smiled. “A man’s never safe when there’s a woman around to remind him of how much trouble he’s in.”
“My Gil’s the best girl there is,” said Sheamas, with a significant nod. “She gave up near everythin’ to be with me. She gave me my boy, helps me with the business-“
“Don’t think she’s listenin’, Shea,” Beryn laughed.
Sheamas stood close with Beryn, his countenance under a thrill of horror. “Is she at the window?” he said quietly, his eyes wide and lips barely moving.
Beryn canted his head and remarked the window above the door of the shoppe. “Don’t see her.”
“That window closed?”
“Aye, it is.”
All Sheamas’ fears were thus assuaged, and now he could resume his usual tone. “She sometimes opens it when she does the washin’. She don’t like the smell of the ash when she’s at the basin.”They talked for some minutes about family, asking how everyone was getting on, how Little Jaicobh was fairing with his tutelage at the keep, how Margilesse and khaasta were enjoying one another’s conversancy. Every answer was amicable and agreeable, each of the men assuming their strident and jovial airs now that the danger of being discovered with the remainder of Margilesse’s suet pie was over. They talked of business, of husbandry, of poultering, of Lochan’s new flocks, of Beryn’s new horse until they came to the subject of Meraliegh. The words My Mer was in every one of Beryn’s phrases, and though Sheamas would not make presumptions about their relationship, he knew by the gleam in Beryn’s bright eyes that he should be making another addition to the farm ere long.