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July 15, 2024

The Aser Stories 05:Habit and Stubbornness

By Sand Pilarski

Namb Jubeth still hasn't figured out how to act even after he got killed for it. And like many people with bad habits, he doesn't care if he ever will.

By the time I got to the mountain village of Swale, I was pretty tired and hungry. An occasional spider would climb out of the bundle of firewood I had gathered along the way, and would try to crawl up my sleeve -- why do they feel compelled to do that? The ghost of Namb Jubeth answered automatically, "They are instinctively seeking higher ground, and darkness in which to hunt vermin. You could take off your tunic."

I stopped and stared at what was left of him. "Jubeth, this is exactly why you're still stuck haunting this road. Do you remember why your body was strewn all along the road for thirty-odd miles for the scavengers to carry off? Let me remind you. Goosing the girlfriend of the Black Knight from the Coast was THE least wise move you made in your life. Continued lewdness will not get you moving on to the next world."

"I don't care. I like it here. Pretty women pass along the road, and the occasional entertaining seer or wizard or shaman converses with me, what more could the next world offer? Peace? Boo. Peace is for warrior spirits. I only had one moment of violence in all my fleshy days, and never enough excitement." His image changed moment to moment, from chopped and disjointed skeleton bones to a hint of a face, and then a misty human shape, and back to bones again, rarely in the proper order.

I needed to find a place where I could rest and do a little barter for food and a blanket, so I rummaged in my pouch and found a bit of rosemary herb and dropped it on the road. Rosemary is for memory, and Namb Jubeth paused above the sprig, became engrossed in recollections, and faded from view.

Even as a ghost, Namb the Lecher won't change. Some people just never will.

Twenty-odd years ago I had a young wife ask me how she could keep her husband from leaving dirty underwear all over the floor. We went through all the textbook solutions: explain to him that you have many tasks to do, and picking up his own underwear would be such a help; that bending is more difficult when you are pregnant, and you'd appreciate the extra effort; have a heart to heart and bring him to the understanding that being expected to pick up dirty underwear every day when the clothes basket is right there is somehow demeaning; that you married him to be his wife, not his body-servant, dammit!!!

The husband was sympathetic while she talked, and nodded his head kindly, and continued to drop 'em wherever was convenient before he went to bed.

So she tried just letting them lie there, and didn't wash them. He didn't care, he just picked them up and put them on again, and dropped them on the floor as always. The smell eventually bothered the wife so much she washed the drawers, and then vowed that she would throw them out the window if she had to pick them up again. Pretty soon he had no underwear, and once again, just wore his trousers and dropped them on the floor, and they went out the window, too. The next day he put on one of her skirts to work in the field. A case of simple consideration became warfare over the course of years, and even after she gave up and just picked the undies up and put them in the clothes hamper herself, he would pull them out and hide them so that she couldn't wash them anyway. How they fought and reviled one another over such a stupid issue!

How would I personally have handled the issue? I'd like to think I'd have found out if my prospective husband was that stupid or inconsiderate before I bedded him. And if not, I'd have hired a maid to tidy up after the lout, and the husband could subsist on soup on the reduced household budget.

The husband hid his dirty knickers, and the woman found them and burned them, and then his pants, and locked up her skirts in a chest, and he went to the field to work with a naked ass, and was locked up himself by the local magistrate, and she enjoyed the ninety days free of his smelly underpants so well that she hired on as a cook in another village and took the kids with her and he had a devil of a time finding new clothes, because every woman in the village thought he was a pig and refused to make any for him for any price. His remaining days he spends alone, reviled, a smelly old joke about whom the village children make rude chants and rhymes.

Habit and stubbornness.

One of these days Namb Jubeth is going to cootchy-coo a seer with a dissolution spell and cold steel and that will be the end of his life as a revenant. Probably the only way to change his behavior, and it'll serve him right, too.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-03-19
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