Story of the Day: A Godly Visit
Not everyone has the ear of the Gods. While those who follow the Word, read the Good Book every Gods' Day, and say their prayers to their patron deities might receive a hint or two in return for devotion, there are those who see the Gods more as friends than beings of worship-- or in Gran Mara Connridh's case, beings of annoyance, who exist only to plague her mind and ruin her work in the field.
Baba Connridh trundled about for another half hour, wending her way down the rows, rather hoping the children would come at last as an excuse to make her apron lighter, but the wind changed again,the grass peaking out of the snowmelt bowed to the wind, and the heat from the morning sun instantly cooled. A few mare’s tales drifted in overhead, a gale rippled along the rows, an oppressive silence descended, and Baba’s nose twitched. She righted and listened, her nose hairs standing on end, vibrating as though communicating that something were about to happen.
“Don’t you even think o’ trippin’ me, or I’m puttin’ my knitters through yer neck,” she declared.
Somewhere, a smile imprinted itself on the landscape, and muted mirth caromed across the fields.
There was a pause, and Baba stood with her hands on her hips.
“’Mon, now. Enough o’ this here hidin’ nonsense. I won’t have it. There’s work that needs doin’, so if yer after trippin’ me, you best come here and get yer wollopin’ ro be aff with you.”
A veil of air undulated, and an intimation of a laugh grazed Baba’s ears.
“I’ll put bulbs in this whole field, you don’t go on way outta that galivantin’.”
All blithesomeness suddenly diminished. The air thrummed and swelled, and somewhere someone said, You wanna put bulbs in the field, yer gonna have nothin’ but onions come next winter.
“Humph! Better’n havin’ you make me fall in the furrows. I just washed this here skirt. You make me sully it, you’ll be washin’ so. Aff with you, now, ‘less you mean to help me get this field done.”
Aw, shin. Didn’t even offer me tea and yer already nagglin’ me. This how you treat a visitor?
“Visitor,” Baba snuffed. “I know you came for the craic o’ botherin’ me. Desperate for company, that’s what you are. Smelled the loneliness before you started talkin’.”
Lonely? Pff, sure ain’t lonely. Yer the lonely one, livin’ on this here farm by yerself. How you gonna say that about Aul’ Aoidhe?
A figure suddenly blurred into view. The image of a young farmer appeared, with flat cap, linen shirt, and overalls, complementing the wide shoulders, large arms, and rough hands that only a life in the fields could produce. A blaze of red hair and blue eyes peered out from under his hat, betraying a sagacity beyond what his jovial features might suggest. There was an agelessness about him, a knowingness conveyed in the curl of his mouth, where sat a clay pipe, billowing with coils of smoke as he spoke. “Huh,” said Aoidhe, the bowl of his pipe aglow. “And after I came all this way just to see you, here you are a-hollerin’ at me.”
“You deserve it so,” Baba asserted, with a firm nod. “Thinkin’ o’ trippin’ an old woman. Call yerself the God o’ Justice. Yer the God o’ Japin’ old women.”
Aoidhe shrugged. “’S what I do, japin’.” He exhaled, and smoke seeped through the crack in his lips. “Wasn’t gonna trip you though. Just gonna lift yer skirts with a stick while you weren’t lookin’”
Baba frowned in displeasure. “Just gotta do somethin’, so you do.”
“No use in tryin’ to suppress myself. God o’ Japin’ after all.”
“Aye, and nobody’s immune.”
“No sense in sparin’ anybody. Ain’t fair if I jape some and not others. Gotta jape all our children equallike.”
Baba humphed and kicked a stone aside. “Well, I treat all my visitors the same. So there’ll be nothin’ to eat or drink till yer usesful, and there’ll be no smokin’ that pipe o yers on my land. Didn’t live this long so’s I could be smothered by yer smokin’. You’ll get the embers on the ground and they’ll catch, so they will.”
“Nothin’sgrown yet,” said Aoidhe, sticking his thumb in his pipe to snuff it. “Besides, the ash is good for the furrows. Thought you oughtta know that.”
“Ground’s already been limed. Don’t need you ruinin’ the good job the Regent did for me. See that Jaicobh, near my age and always helpin’ everybody what asks him. Whatta you do ‘sides comin’ here an’ plaguin’ me with that pipe?”
“Plenty o’ things. Blessin’ the fields, makin’ the crop grow—“
“Givin’ another wee-un to the neighbours.”
“Didn’t do that,” said Aoidhe eagerly, shaking his head. “Wouldna given those two more than half o’ one.”
“Why’d you let ‘em breed then?”
“To bother you.”
Baba was very ready to put her fist in his mouth.
“Nah, I’m just coddin’,” Aoidhe chuckled. “I’m the God o’ Passion,” taking his pipe from his mouth and pointing to himself with the shank. “THOU SHALT BE FRUITFUL and such. Gotta let folk what love each other go on doin’ it. How they treat each other, it don’t sound like lovin’, but they care more’n they’d ever show you.”
“I could do with their lovin’ each other a little less. Give an old woman peace, and take some o’ their wretched passion away.”
“Don’t have to. It’ll wither eventually. Always does, especially after a few wee-uns are runnin’ about.”
Baba snorted and pursed her lips. “You’re after cursin’ me with those little bastards, all their fightin’ and hollarin’.”
“S’ what wee-uns do, fightin’ and hollarin’ and bleedin’ on the floor sometimes.”
“That what you do with yer brothers?”
“Used to. Frannach needed a good fist in the mouth, and I was the only one willin’ to give it to him. Borras is pretty strong, Menor’s got a good grip to him, but no one settles a scuffle like me. The Aul’ Man won’t let me hit him no more though. Don’t know why. I got what he deserves. Being First don’t mean he’s immune to a tellin’. Now I just ignore him and tell the others to stop botherin’ me whilst I’m givin’ what to Chune.”
“Fah, yer always on about that girl,” said Baba, waving a dismissive hand at him.
“Aye, so? Should be. She’s my bheanrin.”
“You’d do better for her settlin’ down and wranglin’ ‘em wanderin’ eyes o’ yers.”
“Ain’t my eyes what do the wanderin’,” Aoidhe simpered.
Here was a complacent look, and Baba was quite furious with him.
“Ah, gowan outta yer grousin’,” Aoidhe laughed, , his mirth rattling the windows of the house. “Can’t stop bein’ what I am just ‘cause you don’t like it none. It is how it’s gotta be. Gotta SPREAD THE SEED WHICH SOWETH THE FIELDS AND MAKETH THE FRE-MHIN THRIVE and all. Gotta answer all the women what pray to me for babes that are havin’ trouble conceivin’ ‘em.”
“Aye, you gotta answer their prayers. That don’t mean you gotta visit ‘em and do yer business.”
Aoidhe made a curt laugh. “T’ain’t business. That there’s my Goddin’.”
“Persays oughtta be the one answerin’ their prayers. She’s in charge o’ childbirthin’.”
“Aye, but she looks over the birthin’ part. She’s who our children pray to after I’m done answerin’. I’m the God o’ Passion,” he proclaimed, pointing his thumb at his chest. “Passion’s what you get before birthin’, and I’m what happens before. Gotta give those what pray to me a good Tyfferim thankin’, and I’m real thankful for all those prayers.”
“And Chune don’t mind you lovemakin’ all over the place?”
“Prayer-answerin’,” Aoidhe corrected her, smiling and gesturing with his pipe. “Keep all that seedsowin’ for Chune when we bless all the fields together.”
“Well, you keep yer business in yer britches and outta my fields. Don’t wanna be combin’ over the rows and find yer lovemakin’ in the furrows.”
“Already found it. Trod on it too.”
Aoidhe winked and gestured toward the patch of wayward snowdrops lying in the loam, and Baba swore to herself in a strangled voice and tugged on her skirts.