Story of the Day: Rotten Potato
My mom used to tell me lies like this all the time just to get me to eat different things. Didn't work then, and nothing has changed since.
Beryn waved to the boys as they hastened over, their arms laden with biscuits and buns wrapped in brown paper and their faces alight with exuberant smiles. They called out for their uncle and hopped up and down beside the jaunty until Beryn pulled over to the stall at the side of the assembly hall and leapt down from his seat.
“Well,” he said, leaning down and lifting the boys up over his shoulders, “didn’t think I’d find my supper so easy. Two boys and a few bags of biscuits oughta do me right well.” He made a monstrous growl and gnashed his teeth as he began to tickle their stomachs.
“You can’t eat us, Uncle Beryn,” Little Aiden cried, giggling and squirming about.
“And why not?” Beryn wrawled.
“’Cause Ma and Aunt Tris’ll cry if you do,” was Little Adaoire’s laughing reply.
Beryn tormented them for only a moment more and then set them down again. “Well,” he said, adjusting their hats, “can’t have your Ma and Aunt cry, can we? I’ll leave you be and just eat these buns you got. Sure smell good too.” He reached down to claim his prize, but the boys clung to their packed biscuits and turned away to keep them from Beryn’s large hands.
“Ma says you can’t eat only bread,” said Little Aiden.
Beryn fleered. “Sure you can, if you’re a professional bread monster. It’s hard work eatin’ so much bread as I do.”
“Ma says if you eat only bread, you’ll turn into a rotten potato,” said Little Adaoire.
“Well,” said Beryn, remarking himself, “Sure am a great big potato. Ain’t too rotten, though. Maybe I ought have some more bread to ripen me up and get my sprouts goin’.”
The boys giggled and ran about Beryn in circles, leaping away from his tremendous swipes and shrieking at his bellowing roars as he reached once more for their packages.
“We need these for supper, Uncle Beryn,” said Little Aiden as he caught in his uncle’s arms.
“I never heard this rule about young boys needin’ bread for supper,” said Beryn, plucking the package from Little Aiden’s arms. “We rotten potatoes need bread ‘cause we’re beyond all help, but you boys got vegetables enough.”
“Aye,” said Little Adaoire, leaping up and grabbing at the biscuits in Beryn’s suspended hands. “but we don’t like vegetables.”
Whist his brother distracted Beryn, Little Aiden latched onto Beryn’s arm and began climbing to his hand. “Ma says we gotta eat our vegetables if we wanna grow up big and strong like Da and Uncle Aiden.”
Beryn’s lips pursed with a smile, and his heart warmed as he returned Little Aiden to the ground and gave him back his biscuits and buns. “Can’t wait to be like ‘em, can you?”
The children made demure smiles and their cheeks crimsoned over.
“Da said that if we work real hard, we’ll be full farmers soon,” Little Adaoire beamed.
“Aye,” chimed Little Aiden, “today we learned about sowin’ and boradcastin’ and harrowin’, and the morra, Da and Uncle Aiden promised to show us muckin’.”
Beryn’s eye crinkled as he endeavoured not to laugh. “You boys know what muckin’ is?”
“No,” the boys sweetly sang.
“Well,” Beryn simpered, “once you learn, you might not be so excited as you are now.”
The boys looked at one another bemused, and then gave Beryn a sideways glance.
“But Da said that muckin’s important, Uncle Beryn,” implored Little Aiden.
“Aye, it is. Most important thing on a farm. Keeps the barn and shed clean, keeps the crops a-growin’, keeps the animals happy. Biggest job there is, sure enough, and you boys gotta be right ready to do it first thing every mornin’.”
“We can do it, Uncle Beryn,” Little Adaoire proudly declared.
“Well, then. Better start eatin’ those vegetables and leavin’ the bread to me.” Beryn winked at them. “Can’t be a rotten potato if you wanna be a champion mucker.”
“But Uncle Beryn,” said Little Aiden, giggling, “if you eat so much bread, how can you do the muckin’?”
“That’s what I got Dannig for,” said Beryn smilingly. “I feed him all the vegetables so’s he can do all the muckin’ for me.”
The children laughed and leaned against Beryn’s legs. They adored his height, his strength, and his humour, and though more than half the time they had little idea whether he were being facetious with his claims, they hardly minded his tall tales and half explanation. They loved him without reservation, and though he came to the house oftener than he used to do, they wished he was there always. Uncle Aiden and Aunt Tris lived with them, and why could not Uncle Beryn do the same? Their mirthfulness gave way to a sober affection, embracing their uncle and pressing their round cheeks against his legs. They gazed up at him, their necks craning as they took in the whole of Beryn’s immense stature, and “Are you comin’ for supper too, Uncle Beryn?” asking in a pining and enamored tone was a question to beleaguer Beryn’s heart.
He grimaced and turned aside, their innocent aspects and eyes aglow racking his sensibilities. He knelt and placed a hand on each of their heads.“I’d right love to, boys,” he said, in a mindful tenor, “but I made a promise to my Mer that I’d have dinner with her after my deliveries. Got a special invitation from her Ma too.”
“Aw,” said Little Aiden, with a coy smirk. “That there’s real serious then.”
“Aye, it is. Can’t ignore a Ma’s invitation. If I disappoint a Ma, Gods’ll punish me. Can’t disappoint a Ma, can we?”
“No, Uncle Beryn,” the boys lamented in the same voice.
“I’ll come another day. That’s a promise.” Beryn stood and looked back at his empty jaunty. “If you boys after a ride home, this bread monster’ll sure take you.”
“Thanks, Uncle Beryn,” Little Aiden said, his tiny voice tinkling. “We’re gonna get caramel apples first. Da said we could.”
Beryn raised a brow. “Oh, he did, did he? Sent you to Suilibhan’s too?”
“Aye,” the children nodded.Grinning to himself, Beryn could be under no mistake as to what was happening at the Donnegal farmstead, and though he could spare only a few moments more before the remainder of his deliveries must be got and made, he would delay the boys’ return home if he could.