Sleeping in Cymbeglis, his small village home, the year 17 in a calendar based on a 19 year cycle.
“You say you have no hope?” As always, the Green One appeared both near and far and as always Erosoi could not determine the details of his face. Distant eyes appeared as slits, yet the Green One loomed as if they stood face to face.
“You say you have no hope!?” Though the violence with which he interrogated did not disturb the impossibly still strands of pearls dangling from his broad black headdress, the two large serpents embroidered about his long emerald robe, roused from their sleep, began to writhe.
“Then be gone!” He heaved his hand forward and the serpents, like banners in a howling wind, whiplashed forward, their mouths, crowded with spiky teeth, agape.
Startled awake, he flung his ratty blankets to the side and checked himself for snake bites. Chest heaving, he scrambled atop the dewy ground, reminded himself he’d been dreaming and remembered he’d slept under the great oak. Still reeling from last night, he rolled up his pallet, and, down on his knees, peered across the valley floor. He saw her, pigging her way towards Oanuava’s to spread, no doubt, her pissing manure. Tucking his pallet under his arm, hanging his blankets around his neck, he, at a crouch, descended the rise and headed “home.”
She told him last night as he lay atop his mattress. She waited until after the celebration was over of course. She wouldn’t want to spoil his fun. Not on Oimelc, Brid’s day, the day of bearing, when the sun was born finally born anew. Of course, it was also his day, the day when he was born. She wouldn’t want to shite on that. Not in front of everyone anyway. So she waited. Waited to tell him, to titter her asseveration. So he left. Trying his best to sleep under the great oak, he’d lay atop his pallet and watched the she-goat star rise. Elembiu was an unlucky month they said. No shite.
He’d stayed awake, thinking of his life, considering it not unlike the very knots he carved into the rocks strewn across the canyon. Back and forth he asked himself “What should I do, what should I do?” Part of him wanted to leave. Part of him wanted to stay. Such was the knot he tied for himself, for when he considered the former, he could not help but feel a little guilt—a lot of guilt. Unable to find a comfortable position, he flipped to his sides at least a dozen times. His mind maffled, his stomach ached; he mused over his conundrum, only to listen to her revelation interrupt his thought process, forcing him to start all over again. He hated her and he almost hated himself.
He’d tried to reason it out. On two points he could not disavow himself: he loved his little village and his quotidian, halyconic existence, where he could be relied upon to do what needed to be done. He slogged his guts out on the farm, with the herds. Who else would castrate the lambs? Who else would hold old Raymond’s hand while he screamed bloody murder as he peed? Or extract the worms from old Moccus’s weeping cysts? They depended on him, the village, the entire geriatric village, where many a Didenai moved to live the remainder of their lives, depended on him.
On the other hand, the news made him feel small, insignificant. And that just wasn’t fair. Everything he did, he did for them. And always with a smile on his face. When someone needed help with something, who did they ask? Him. When it came to prepare the ground for seed, who did the heavy plowing? Him. Always with a smile on his face and never a complaint let alone a sigh. If anything, he was helpful, more than helpful. Helpful to a people who needed nothing more than help. He was needed. And he was successful in fulfilling their needs. And always did he do a nice job.
Now what? Feeling small just did not suit him—this one they called the Golden Boy.
Looking over his shoulder to make sure she wasn’t on her way back home, he ducked inside, dropped his pallet and flung his blankets to the floor. He dug through a pile of clothes, scratched his crotch, found and smelled a green and yellow striped tunic. It smelled good enough. He pulled off his blue tunic, tossed it to the ground, and shoving his fisted hand through his new tunic’s sleeve, struck the wall of his one room round house with enough force he cringed. Seething through gritted teeth, he managed to call the pissing wall all sorts of pigging names.
Before he fell asleep, he’d come to a decision. Maybe that’s what allowed him to fall asleep, for once he decided, his breath slowed, a slow smile graced his lips, and he laughed that shaky kind of laughter when your jumbled mind is finally untangled and all you can do is thank the gods. He would leave. He’d pack up and go.
The answer to “what should I do?” pronounced itself when he realized the reason he felt small was because his world was small. Halcyonic no longer mean calm; it meant boring. Quotidian no longer meant commonplace. It meant nothing would ever change. Not here, not in the canyon where perfunctory predictability was the order of the day. Maybe that’s why the canyon’s walls seemed that much closer of late. Funny thing was, that feeling of being crammed into this scummy morass coincided with the first time he dreamed of the Green One that midwinter night they celebrated the sun’s conception on Yule. Since then, he’d begun to ask himself what the purpose of it all was, and with that simple question, he often wondered what had happened to the Didenai.
He knew the stories of thenadays. He knew the stories well. The stories of Gereint, expeller of enemies, slain in Llongborth, of Kynan the Battle-Defender who bestowed upon his men hundreds of purple mantles and armlets. Of men like Madawg and Eithinyn Son of Boddwadaf. Credig, that indomitable wrestling champion. The spear-wielding defender Gynddwyg. Men who were celebrated, men who were praised. Praised for their exploits in battle and their generous gestures to the men who shed blood at their sides.
But those stories were old, too old, and the Didenai no longer celebrated as such. There were no more heroes to celebrate as such. Long ago they’d put down their arms and the smiths forged more hoes than swords. Thus did young Didenai youth, putting one another to the test, take to seeing who could climb highest on the tallest trees, who could jump from the highest cliffs into narrow rivers where even the slightest misjudgment might bloody a rock with their corpses. Restless youth, impavid youth, steady on their quest for frission wherever and whenever they could find it. And when they found it, they sought more.
He came to his decision when he realized who he was. He was a man of action. He needed to do things. He needed challenge. And in realizing who he was, he knew he wasn’t small. The canyon hadn’t closed in on him—he’d outgrown it. He’d outgrown the walls he erected for himself, around himself. His heart leapt in that momentary lightning flash and he wanted to go, go now. But it was late. He’d get his rest before taking on the world.
Everything had straightened itself out.
Things always seemed to straighten out for Erosoi.
Except for the pissing pile of clothes in front of him through which he dug for his cloak. Tunic after tunic, trouser after trouser, he flung each across the roundhome floor, caring not for where it landed. He found it. He stood. He fastened it at the right shoulder and proceeded toward the door where, upon nearing the threshold, he stopped and smacked himself across his prominent forehead. Something about last night’s dream lingered. He couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but there he stood, his clothes strewn about the floor, his lips pinched together, clenching his prominent jaw, his stomach in knots, his chest tight: whatever it was almost turned him into a cowing duffer.
He couldn’t possibly forget his hygiene pouch, home to his trusty comb. So Erosoi being Erosoi took hold of the pouch hanging from a peg on the door frame, ran the comb through his short blond hair, and, upon returning the comb to its rightful place, cinched the pouch around his waist.
What else? He rubbed his square chin. What else did he need? He snapped his fingers.
He laughed at himself and upon taking a long, deep breath, told himself to calm down and focus. He’d be outta here soon enough. He’d need some food and water and a change of clothes. Oh, and a bag to carry it all in. And his book.
He scanned his side of the room where small hills of clothes still loomed over the garments he’d thrown about. Now it should be said that such piles were not the norm for Erosoi. He was the kind to always keep his possessions—what little he had—nice and tidy, but as of late, everything, including even his best clothes, lay in squalid heaps.
He rummaged through a pile at the foot of his rye-stuffed mattress, then one off to the side.
“Fucksocks! Where is that pissing bag?”
Maybe he’d hung the sack next to the door. He looked across his shoulder. Nope. He returned to the first pile and picked up each piece one by one. “Fucksocks! Pissing, pigging, naffing fucksocks!” An obtund irritation rousing him to his feet, he, completely and utterly confuzzled, reigned in some sense of calm with another deep breath.
Bending forward, he lifted the mattress, so old and decrepit it nearly bent in half. “We’ll I’ll be buggered. Stone the crows. There you are you piece of shite. How in the name of the gods did you get under there?” He took to a knee and, holding the mattress with his right hand, pulled at the bag’s strap with his left. But of course, the morning being the morning it decided to be, the bag, playing a pissing game of silly beggars, didn’t give itself up so easily. “So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh? You want to piss on my bonfire? Well pucker up and can kiss my pissing arse!” He yanked the bag again with such force, he heard something tear as he felt atop that arse he’d just threatened his new adversary with kissing. He pulled a strewn tunic from under said arse, threw it against the wall, and plummeted into a complete and utter argy-bargy. He called a pair of trousers a “cumberworld” as he too hurled it against the wall; the next he called a “pissing sharny yeevil” and even, borrowing an Altremani phrase, told a tunic to “pog mo thoin.” And thus did Erosoi litter his clothing across his little round home.
All the pissings and nafflings and piggings and kissing of arses turned so vile that to quote Erosoi festering in such a rage would serve only to impinge upon him, for everything he said, every name he called everything he threw were so far out of character that to do would sully his appeal.
For if anything, Erosoi was a charming young man of truly noble char—
“What’s the matter? Are you okay? Erosoi, are you crying?”
He wiped his eyes before he turned. “What does it matter to you? You are not my mother.”
The grey haired woman’s shabby shoulders slumped and her eyes, those deep downward slanting eyes in which Erosoi used to place his trust, sank. “Oh Erosoi, don’t say that.”
“Me say that?” He constipated his soluble mouth lest he let something coprolalic out, chuckled under his breath, and pointed an aggressive finger. “You said that.”
“Erosoi, I am your mother.” You could crack a tooth on the way she glared at him.
He shook his head. “What!? Don’t you breedbate me woman. You said it yourself. ‘Erosoi, I am not your true mother.’ Have you forgotten already or has your age turned you anile?”
“Please, Erosoi, just listen. Please?”
Erosoi gave her the hand. “Just stop. All I want is my pissing bag and I’m out.” Taking a handful of mattress, he flerked the sharny piece of shite to the side and found his bag caught on a stick at the base of the wall.
“Where are you going? How long will you be gone?”
Erosoi produced a stare so cold and she, having never seen his customary warm and playful eyes brimming with such asperity, retreated a step. “You are coming back, aren’t you? Tell me you are coming back.”
Inspecting where he’d ripped the pack’s strap, Erosoi paid her no mind. “Just my pissing luck.” He checked the second strap, still intact, and assumed filling it with a loaf of two-day old bread, an empty water skin, last night’s tittynopes, and a chunk of hard cheese on top of which he stuffed the first tunic and pair of trousers on which he laid his large bright blue eyes. Last but not least, Erosoi, approaching the door, scratched himself between the legs, took from a peg his loyal dagger and belt, warned her not to follow, and, without turning his head, left his mother.
Somewhere out there a cockerel, abreast to the sun’s rise, succumbed to the vagaries of morning.