Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day Five-Fifty-Two: Crackin'

"What ho! Dragomir!"

I'd been out on a walk, my diary tucked between my arm and my side, when I heard the call. My head immediately perked up, though I didn't recognize the voice.

"Dragomir! Here! Over here!"

I followed the sound. My eyes soon alit upon a paunchy old farmer, standing in his field and waving at me. I waved back, quickly recognizing the man as Peter. A lifelong acquaintance of my dad, Peter even, if they did compete a lot in the eel business.

He shook my hand as I walked up to the fence around his field. "Ahh, Dragomir. Saw ya come in the other day. Been hopin' to say hello. Gods, how you've grown! Not much since ya left, I guess, but I got memories of you 'n Robert as kids. Always muckin' in my field, little bastards. How're the folks?"

I felt calmed. Reassured. Wasn't sure why. "They're fine, last I saw. Went through a damned siege, but they're healthy. How's your wife? Medi?"

"Mindy." Peter drooped. "Died last winter. Was a rough year 'round here. She got sick… didn't come outta it again. S'life, I guess."

I patted his shoulder. "Sorry to hear it. 'n sorry I brought it up."

"You couldn'tve known." He smiled, then brightened. "But hey. Care to help an old guy out? I need somea your family's muscle, 'n since your daddy ain't 'round…"

I slipped under the fence and joined Peter. He led me across the field, speaking of old times, and I laughed along with him. Everything seemed secure, safe, proper. We even joked about my last visit, and how much he wished we hadn't taken Bora with us. (Another pervy old farmer.)

Peter led me to the rear of his house. Back here, as I recall, he used to have a big shed for his eels; since then, he told me, he's moved out of the eel business, and wants to expand into something more profitable. When I asked him what, he got a giant grin on his face.

"Urchins, m'boy. Urchins." He pointed at the beginnings of a hole where the foundations of the shed had once stood. "Urchins are big right now. Delicacy in the cities. Traders goin' ta Bottomless come through here all the time, 'n they're always askin' me when I'll put urchins on the trading list. So, hell, I got rid of the shed, 'n I'm gonna make a pond."

"Good idea, I guess," I said, scratching my head, "but why not just use the shed? Ain't urchins bred underwater like eels?"

"Sure, sure, but you need soil!" Peter jabbed at the hole a little more strongly. "Soil's key! Urchins won't grow in tanks. S'common sense. You need fresh soil."

"Yeah, sure, common sense," I muttered under my breath.

"Yup. So I need me a breeding pond. Run into a bit of a snag, though, 'n that's what I figured ya might be able to help with."

Stepping into the pit, he grabbed a shovel and started poking around. The quiet shuffle of dirt was soon replaced by loud clinks as the shovel hit dirt. A few minutes later, Peter had uncovered five decent-sized boulders, wedged into the ground. He then looked back at me expectantly.

I shrugged. "Okay. What? Want me to help you dig them out?"

His face fell, just a little. Then he laughed. "C'mon! You kids used to do this all the time. Well, you did, anyway. You were always the strong one. Oswald'd have you out doin' this half the week sometimes, pickin' away at people's fields for 'em. Always said it'd be good for your future guardin' duties. Surely ya haven't spent so much time politickin' that you've forgotten how to use your arms!"

It's true, my dad made me work a lot. A lot. But… digging up rocks in fields? I couldn't remember doing that.

Grimacing inwardly, but wanting to accomodate the man, I accepted the shovel. Surely, I thought, I would at least be stronger than some 60-year-old farmer. I began to dig into the soil around one of the rocks, straining to fling the dirt out of the hole.

Peter frowned. "Huh. Ain'tcha gonna just break 'em up? Should I get a pick, maybe?"

I peeked at him over my shoulder, sweat already standing out a bit on my brow. "Say what?"

"Well, back in the old days you'da just wedged the shovel right into the damned thing. Crack it in half with a couple swings. Looked more like you were going at it with an axe than a… uh… you tired already, Dragomir?"

Mention of the axe did it. The shovel slipped out of my hands. 

I tried to help. Really I did. I went at the soil with my fingers, scrabbling around the rocks to pry them free. Didn't manage to get a single one up. My frustration was sufficient that I thought the blazing red thing in my hands might make an appearance, but no such luck. Might've accidentally sliced Peter in half had I done that. After twenty minutes of useless work, I apologized and beat a hasty retreat.

I don't remember cracking any rocks with shovels.

I didn't. 

I didn't.


Dragomir the Wanderer

1 comment: