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June 24, 2024

The Aser Stories 08: Raising Children

By Sand Pilarski

They're not pets, they're not a different race. You've got to take into consideration their future and what's good for them, or some shaman might have a talk with you.

There are always trade-offs, I guess. The last week on the road would have been longer and harder if I didn't have the horse, but without a saddle, I've grown so itchy and smelly from riding the thing I can hardly stand not to shout advice to myself about animals and wealth. You see, if I didn't have 500 pieces of ill-gotten (sort of ill-gotten) gold, I wouldn't need either the horse to carry it or the huge bunches of dried herbs to disguise it. And the horse does not like the smell of the herb valerian. I guess I can't blame him, it tends to smell like old rancid pissy things, but there's nothing like valerian for good sleep and sore muscles.

We finally reached the citadel of Great Well, a walled city on the eastern side of the mountains, on an arm that rises high above and perpendicular to the range. The alignment is significant mostly in that the rains still brush over Great Well, making it livable, whereas the rest of the range on the eastern side is quite dry, the clouds sailing too high above it. It's a nice city, aware of its duty to provide water (there are 30 reservoirs within the walls), and well-disposed towards travelers, being a kind of rest stop for a lot of peoples.

With only damned gold pieces as currency, I had no choice but to go to the best inn, where the resources to change them were available. The Commodious Inn was what the weathered, engraved letters said, but painted over them in red paint was "Commie's." Okay, I thought, and went in and sat at the very nice bar: leather seats on the barstools, a clean brass rail for the feet, and a cool marble slab to lean on. I had a gold piece to set on the bar to excuse my travel worn condition.

The bartender came over, looked at the gold, and said, "What'll it be, Shaman?"

"What's the weekly rate for a room, bath every day, and stabling for a horse?"

"One of these every tenday," he said.

"Good enough, and since it's Twosday, let's add a beer to that to start. And some pretzels. And mozzarella sticks."

Supplied with beer and pretzels, I looked around the bar at the patrons. Locals in evening-decent clothes, a couple lizard-men in the corner plotting something stupid, an elf-lord checking his watch every few seconds, and peeking at me around the raucous conversation of some armored warriors was a familiar face. I waved to the face to come join me, as there were empty seats on either side.

"Dan Ur-Jennan! Well met, how have you been?" I gave her a quick squeeze and she wrinkled her nose.

"You stink, Aser, when did you stop bathing?"

"Thanks, I'm making arrangements now. I thought you were in Barcelona, Danner?"

"Ahh, I got into some heat there. You wouldn't believe some of the shit that goes down as a matter of course these days. I was in this apothecary's waiting room to make a sale of herbs, and in walks this burgher's wife with two little teeny fat kids."

"You didn't tell her they were Teeny Fat Kids," I asked -- ahh, not asked, as I suspected that I already knew the answer.

"Well, not right off. There were a lot of people in the waiting room and so it was a long time that we were there." Danner paused for a lengthy pull on her stein. "The whole time I was there, those kids were cramming their mouths with candy, those chewy ugly red gummy globs (remind me of rats' eyes) and chewing and chewing and rattling the paper the candies came in and chewing -- and chewing! FOR ABOUT FORTY MINUTES!!! Their eyes were vacant! All they were doing was chomping on CANDY!"

"Shh, easy there, Danner. You can't make everybody smart in one day." An old platitude of our clan.

"Well, I lost it. I said, 'You trying to kill these kids? Then get the feedbags off their faces, or at least teach 'em to chew with their mouths closed!!!' And then she jumps up with her hands clutching her bosoms, indignant as hell. 'How dare you criticize my children?' she says. I reply, courteously, I swear, 'I'm not criticizing infants, I'm advising their stupid mother! Stop ruining your kids' lives!'

"The fat, pasty-looking kids just watched us and crammed more candies in, their eyes bulging. I swear, if you took their blood pressure with all that garbage going into their bodies they would have shown up as Stage 3 Hypertension. Then some skinny jackass stands up and comes forward and says he's from the Elves Civil Liberties Union, and would she like him to represent her in a class action suit, so I kicked him in the elf-parts and left town. Aser, what the hell else was I supposed to do? Just be quiet and let that woman poison her kids?"

Well, Danner had followed in the footsteps with the Ur-Jennans and the Elves as though it were some contractual agreement. "Danner, our job is to cry outrage when we see it. You're not a shaman to make people feel comfortable with everything they do. There's no good way to tell someone they're doing a bad job of raising kids. If you figure you have to tell them what is wrong, then you have to accept the need to move on when you've done the outrage thing and they take it poorly."

And you know, they always do. Nowadays people seem to have this idea that children are some separate species that has to have special treatment, special food, special entertainment. Somewhere along the line a lot of parents are forgetting that their offspring are immature adults, trying their darnedest to mature. Instead of helping them reach their real goal, they mire them in kiddy stuff, and then are surprised when the children toss the kiddy toys and sprout whiskers and breasts and jump into the adult world with all the sense the Life that Guides the World gave a little six-year-old, because they haven't been expected to mature mentally. Why didn't that dumb mama just teach her kids to sit still quietly, or TALK to them instead of bribing/drugging/indulging them with sugar?

Personally, I think its bad habits picked up from elves, who have about 50 years to figure things out before they're considered adults. Humans, though their parents hate to admit it, only have about twelve to fourteen. You just can't take too much time in teaching the little tykes about living in the real world.

"Hey," Danner said, as the sizzling mozzarella sticks were put on the bar. "What kind of herbs have you been selling lately to be able to eat like this?"

"I'll make you a deal. You can have half the cheese for the name of a reputable banker who won't blab about clients."

"Deal. Sonofabitch, those are hot!" Restraint is not one of Danner's virtues.

Wish I could have been there.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-04-09
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