So who, then, was Erosoi? I was about to describe him as a charming young man of truly noble character before his mother so rudely interrupted. And indeed, he was. But when describing Erosoi, it is best to begin with where the gods began when they began to fashion Erosoi.
When they cut the cloth that was to be Erosoi, they started with his smile and they stayed with it until pleased with its perfection. Every other feature they tailored to suit his smile. Cleena of the Fair Hair, they say, had the final word and when she declared they’d fashioned Ciabhan of the Curling Locks’s reflection, she’d told them to stop.
His was the smile you could see from a mile away. He would greet you with it and, if he knew you, he’d slap you on the back. If you asked him to do something for you, he’d do it and when he told you he was going to do something, you could guarantee it would get done. If he didn’t know you, you’d still see that smile, but you would be on the receiving end of his obeisance. And whether you knew him or not, when you talked to him, he’d make you feel like no one else in the world existed—that there was no one else in the world he wanted to see and no one else he’d rather be with.
Seeing how his smile is the object of our current discussion, it makes sense to continue with that mouth of his out of which, as stated above, words “so far out of character” issued forth. To put things right, prior to his explosion, the worst words to ever come out of his mouth were things like “nipplewhapper” and “nippernuts.”
Erosoi was the kind of guy you either loved or hated. Not because he did anything to you, but in a world where everyone else has their faults, his might be compared to a single freckle amongst countless pimple-ridden faces. Preened or not preened, he was a panoply of aplomb, of probity, of facundity.
He wasn’t the tallest, he wasn’t the biggest, he wasn’t the strongest. But he could hold his head as high as the tallest and he could carry himself like the biggest and the strongest for it was his implacable willingness to push himself that set him apart from others. When, say, he beat most of those his size in a village wrestling contest, he’d take on someone bigger. Or when tossing cables or hurling stones, he’d choose one longer and heavier than recommended for one of his stature. And though he never beat the bigger man or tossed the cable or hurled the stone the farthest, he always won what he deserved. Self-assurance and respect.
As to his integrity, you could attribute that to his taking Cormac’s counsels to heart. Whereas others his age might incline themselves toward teasing those less fortunate in money, honor, physical prowess, age, or clan, he never disparaged the lame though he be fleet; not once did he look down upon the weak though he be strong; and never did he quarrel out of ignorance, shame the unwise, or forsake the fears of the timid, the thewless, or the pusillanimous. All the things Cormac said he shouldn’t do, he didn’t, and all the things Cormac said he should do, he did. Proud with the proud, none caused him to quiver. Talking with the talkative, he earned their respect. And humble to the humble, he achieved his will. Never did he leave one umbrageous.
As to his eloquence with speech, Cormac’s councils definitely prepared him to talk with those outside his peer group and his manner of suaviloquy, thanks in part to his nonpareil vocabulary, was like courtship. Moreover, inventing the shaking of hands was just one of Erosoi’s many idiosyncrasies; he also devised his own manner of speaking with his friends. As a matter of fact, he could be quite ingenious with his making up of words. For example, Erosoi liked to get to the bottom of things. Thus, instead of asking if someone understood something, he’d ask, “you dig?” Or since there are those moments when a single ray of sun breaks through the clouds and illuminates the dark, he referred to ideas or insights into a situation as “rays” as in, if someone had no idea, “he hasn’t a ray.” Those who drank too much were “irrigated.” “Great” was “berries,” for no other reason than berries were great. Sometimes he turned words like “mean” around. Thus when Erosoi called someone “mean” said “mean” person eventually learned to accept the compliment. Then there were his animal terms—bullfrog’s beard, bee’s ankles, cat’s whiskers, snake’s hips, and the like—to describe what he considered extraordinary.
Last but not least, there were his looks. To say he resembled Ciabhan of the Curling Locks was no small matter. He’d heard it most his life and he knew by the way the young Didenai ladies flipped their hair, trundled their hippy hips, sometimes even licked their lippy lips, none would said no to him. But whatever events transpired in response to that kind of attention never, despite many a curious request for the “dirt” (another one of Erosoi’s terms), left his lips.
Even better, because Erosoi lived where he did and attended to the many duties he attended to, he rarely left the village for any extended period of time. Of course most in other Didenai villages knew of him—especially those near his age—and many, male and female, pined to see him. Something about having limited access to Erosoi sparked in them, he would come to apperceive, a curiosity. And when they would ask them what he’d been up to, how he was doing, he’d always keep his answers short and to the point, then ask them the same questions, questions none hesitated to answer to the point of talking his round, somewhat forward-facing ears off. But of course he didn’t mind and he was the kind of guy who would actually listen to you and ask you more questions.
He’d even come to find that those around his age (and especially the younger ones) took to the shaking of hands and even began to make up their own words—he’d heard things like “make tracks” for leaving in a hurry, “feathers” for light conversation, and (his favorite) animal terms such as clam’s wings, grasshopper’s knees, and dog’s ears.
Love him or hate him, girls wanted to be with him, guys wanted to be like him—some even kept their hair like his. They wanted to play with him, engage him, learn from him, talk about and, above all, attach themselves to him. And sure, he could get under your skin, but only because he challenged you, challenged you to be better only because he did the same.