Friday, October 11, 2013

Day Five-Hundred-Fifty: Tonight I dine on mud bat soup


Huh.

I was excited when I woke up this morning. Ecstatic. I felt really, really good about the prospect of setting this years-long wrong to rights. Indeed, I could barely contain myself from running out of my room in The Hog's Bed, dashing over to Gus' store, and picking up the shoes as soon as I woke up. I was so giddy as I went about some chores in the place that Bora, who's temporarily back behind the counter, told me to calm down.

(I threw her the finger. After that thing with Tobo, small though it mighta been, I retain my utter lack of trust of the woman. Maybe I should leave her here…? These farmers like her well enough…)

Gus is like most old people in that he wakes up at, like, 2 am, so the shoes were ready and waiting for me when I arrived at the shop, nicely and neatly packaged in a box with a bow on top. I thanked him for his swift work, tossed him another gold, told him to lay off the goats a little, and dashed out of the shop.

Cybil lives in a small corner of Villeinville, which is quite a feat considering the town is a big circle. Her shack is pressed between two much larger farms, and she has a small field of her own jutting out the front of her homestead. It's here where I found her, knee-deep in two adjoining rows of mud, her arms rooting about in sticky brown.

I waved to her. "s'cuse me! You Cybil, ma'am? Mornin', by the way."

Cybil raised her head, a strand of mud clinging to the brim of her sunhat. "Yep, s'me. You come for some mud bats? Got a fresh batch. Comin' along nicely, I reckon."

"Oh!" I cradled the neat little box in my hands, almost afraid to give it to her. "You out of the turnip shrimp business, then? I, y'know, I kinda lived 'round here as a kid. Remember you were always dealin' in those things."

After several nosedives into the mud, Cybil managed to wade her way to dry ground. She carried with her a bucket of mewling, muddy bats. "Ack, gonna need a lifetime 'o showers. You say turnip shrimp, lad? Never sold no turnip shrimp. Been a mud bat farmer all m'life."

I flinched back a few feet, hoping to avoid being coated in sludge. "Oh. Well. My bad. Um, anyway, no, not plannin' on that. Kinda… kinda got you a present."

Cybil straightened, the web of lines on her face contorting into a wrinkly smile. "Ooooooo! I gotta suitor? Been a dozen and ten score years since that happened. Lookin' ta woo this fine entrepreneur, son?"

I laughed, holding the box up. "Umm, no. See, I… well, see, when I used to live here -"

"Lived here, eh?" Cybil made a poor attempt to scrape mud off of her arms. She merely spread it to untouched areas. "Where 'bouts?"

I pointed. "Over there. Other side of the village. Dragomir. I'm Oswald's kid."

"OH!" The old woman brightened. "I heard you were back in town! Good to see ya. Don't think I caught sight o' ya more 'n a dozen times when you were growin' up, mind, I'm so busy with m'bats, but I remember. Put Cannonbottom in a tizzy, ya did, son. Surely."

"Yeeeeeah, that'd be my… ride, I guess." Stealing myself for the inevitable muck-up, I handed the box to Cybil. "Here. This is for you. S'kinda a peace offering."

She shook the box experimentally, delighted. "Fancy. Sounds expensive, eh? Don't remember ya wrongin' me, though."

I explained. I went through the whole affair: the plot, the sneaking, the dipping her precious shoes into oil, the stealthy escape. In short, the betrayal. I apologized most eagerly at the end, praying that the shoes I'd just bought her would make up for that pair which she'd obviously treasured so much in days past. Cybil listened in silence, occasionally screwing up her face to recall the past.

When I'd finished, my head bowed in apology, she opened the box and looked at the shoes. "Real pretty."

"Yes, I got 'em from Gus."

"Ah, Gus. Fine man. Bit weird. Got a thing about goats."

"Yeah."

"Get all my boots from Gus. Every pair." She pointed at the hip waders on her legs.

"Makes sense. Only one who does footwear 'round here."

"Yep." She smiled ruefully. "Only ever gotten boots from 'im. Nuthin' else."

I blinked a few times. "Oh. So… those shoes… guess you got them from somewhere else, or…? That makes sense, I remember you talkin' to my mom at the market once, 'n you were real proud, showin' 'em off -"

Cybil cut me short with a curt shake of her head. "Never owned no shoes, son. Not one, not two, only none. You musta mistaken me for somebody else 'n this rathole."

I took a few steps back. "Huh? Well, uh, no, I mean, I remember the shack, and I remember… uh… well, hell, we snuck through the fields…"

Cybil motioned to the mud. "You think I'm gonna bother wearin' nice shoes in there? I'd be pickin' filth outta my toenails every ten minutes. I buy boots 'n I wear boots. Got nuthin' to prove t'anybody. Now, I do remember this one time when some bastard set a pair of 'em on FIRE, 'n they were a step up from the norm, but…"

"But… no shoes."

She handed the box back to me. "No shoes, son. 'ere, take 'em back. Give 'em to somebody else. I'll just ruin 'em. You okay? Y'look a bit pale."

I was pale. I could tell. The blood had rushed out of my cheeks, replaced by a confused palor. I quickly excused myself, stowed the shoes away, and retreated from the shack, leaving the woman to her mud. Several mud bats leaped out of her bucket and escaped as I ran away, and the last I heard of Cybil was a few curses.

I forgot. Or I mis-remembered. I already mentioned that the memories of the old times are… hazy. Fairly hazy.

But…

Fuck. It's just a pair of shoes. Or boots. One or the other. What does it matter if we doused a pair of shoes in cooking oil or set a pair of boots on fire? We still did something stupid, and I apologized for it. I apologized.



Why does this feel so important?


4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Nope. He meant Bora helping Lito the mailman escape.

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    2. Wasn't the mailman called Tito? And Lito's full name Litobora? I made a connection between Litobora and Bora and try to keep track of possible connections generally, I think I would have noticed if the mailman had the same name.

      Delete
  2. HA. Shit. I did fuck it up. Mailman's name was Tobo, not Lito. Edited. woooorst writer eveeeeeer

    ReplyDelete