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June 20, 2022

The Aser Stories 17: Point of View

By Sand Pilarski

If you're hot and thirsty, the best thing in the world is a glass of ice water. If you're stranded in the snow, you'd just as soon be having your eyebrows scorched off at the seat next to the fireplace.

One man's glory is another man's curse, the saying goes, and how true it is. What one person loves and enjoys could be a lingering hell for someone else. Walking through the marketplace in the early morning, I can see evidence of the abiding wisdom of the saying on every side. Some lizard-femmes are haggling over net bags packed with crickets for their day's main meal, while averting their eyes from the cages of chickens, which they consider to be distantly related species. A couple tradesmen hold their noses as they pass the specialty booth for orcs, who savor a certain stew made from gone-over meat.

You find the saying in just about all the languages of creatures in the world. The lizardmen say, "One man's parasite is another man's dinner," and the farmers say, "One man's fish is another man's fertilizer," and the orcs, "One man's pet is another man's polenta." Similarly, down south they say, "What waters one field floods another," (very pessimistic people there) and in the deep forest, dwarf-kids sing, "I hate the snow when it freezes my nose, I love the snow when it freezes mosquitoes."

"What suits one, spites another." Folks in the far north rely on the cold to keep their food preserved over the long, long winters there, but you get us coastal folk into that climate and it kicks up the arthritis something terrible. Put the norsemen into the eastern desert, though, and they get heatstroke if they walk from the tent to the latrine. The desert people can't stand staying in one place for more than a week at a time, and yet I've seen mountain villages where no one in them has been farther than a day's journey from where they were born.

I was watching a bunch of children playing in the puddles and mud left by last night's rain, all kinds of splashing and laughing and mudslinging going on. They were a mess, and having a great time at it. Then a coach came rumbling by, drawn by immaculately groomed white horses, gold trim on the woodwork, gleaming all over with polished wood. Purple and crimson curtains swished richly in its windows, giving glimpses of a fine and royal lady inside with a gemstone tiara in her glossy hair.

The street-players stopped and stood, gazing with awe at the beautiful horses and elaborate coach, the opulence and the shine. They looked at each other, all muddy and grimy from head to foot, and one little girl tried to wipe her hands clean as they watched the carriage go by. Someday I'll get to ride in a coach like that, you could just about hear them thinking. Someday I'll have a horse that pretty.

As the coach passed, the curtains in the back window parted, and a boy and a girl thrust their faces out to see the children in the street. They watched them there in their muddy crowd, with their homespun clothes wet to the knees, and such a look of longing was in their eyes of those noble children that you could just about hear them, too. Someday I'll get to play in the marketplace, too. Someday I'll throw mud and run in the street and laugh until I fall down.

Just think of it, a gemstone tiara first thing in the morning. Well, you know what they say: one man's palace is another man's prison.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-06-18
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