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August 15, 2022

The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?

By Sand Pilarski

For some, pain is their mode of communication and their way of obtaining what they think they need.

About an hour before sundown, the rain begins. After a few widely spaced big drops, the deluge comes straight down and dances off the dirt road and travelers' shoulders to spray back upwards about six inches. This rain doesn't feel like it's falling, it feels more like it's been shot downward from the clouds.

The last hour of daylight is important for people on the move who go by foot or steed or wagon. There's plenty of dark for resting in the wintertime; light is not to be wasted. But whereas with clement weather, folks can keep traveling by torch or lamp or moon, the rain is cursed by all as wheels bind in mud, eyes are blurred by water, and clothing becomes four times as heavy in its soaking. That means that everybody heads for the nearest shelter at the same time, and that means crowding.

My companions and I are all used to rough living, but the road along the stream is going to be dangerous in the dark for some hours due to flash flooding; and I am reluctant to wade through traffic jams of caravans and campaigns and become conspicuous to persons of ill intent. We don't carry a lot of weapons, you see. When we get to the road clogged with people and vehicles at the inn at Six Trees, we opt to crawl under a parked wagon and wait out the crowds.

From the wagon's covered back comes a whimpery child's weeping, not sad as such -- more like the sound of discomfort. We listen as an older child tells the little one to hush or the goblins will steal his shoes, and a giggle as another sibling pulls a shoe off the babe, making him scream and cry in earnest. A mother's voice reprimands them all, promising food and shelter at the inn shortly.

The sounds of footsteps sucking in the mud approach the wagon. A man's voice says, "Innkeeper says 'twill be two hours before we can get a meal, there's that much of a mob in there."

"Two hours! That's ridiculous! Is there no other place for provisions?" the mother's voice asks anxiously.

"The market shut down when the rain began to fall hard. We've no other choice."

"Let's keep going to the next wayfarers' lodging. Perhaps it won't be so crowded," the woman appeals.

"Woman, we cannot! The rain is such the wheels will just bog down and we'll be mired without any hope of food at all!"

"If you had only stopped at the last village, we'd be fed and under covers by now," the woman's voice hisses at her husband. "But no, you had to keep going to make the day last!"

"Look here, Wife," says the man, "I am charged by your father with getting this family safely to Southdyll, and that means I must travel us fast as we can and as far as we can every day. We still had the two hours of road when we met the last village! Had I stopped you would have been beating me for the miles lost!"

"Oh, you're worried about your little feelings when our children are hungry," whispers the wife.

"Your family forced the decision of this move in winter, not I," replies the husband heatedly.

"And now it's my family that's the incarnation of evil," retorts the wife, her voice tensing and rising.

Stupidly in anger, the husband snaps, "Not evil, just impractical stupidity!"

The wife is silent, and I can guess that she has tears dripping from her face with the raindrops. They will wait the two hours, and what meal they can find will be taken in the silence of stones, the children looking from face to face of their parents and wondering which parent was right, and why their wise parents are mute, and learning from the whole exchange how to argue and hurt to a maximum degree.

I wonder frequently about the discord between spouses. They say things to each other they would never say to others. Would you say to the Duke of the city of Great Well: "You're a lowlife loser and we'll never get anywhere on your account"? No, you wouldn't, because to do so would be such an insult that you'd wind up in the dungeon. Why is it then just fine to say to one's husband or wife? Are we not all people? Would you tell the Queen that she never listened to anything you said and therefore you had chatted up the enemy Empress of Cha because she thought you were groovy? Not likely, she'd have your head off your shoulders for treason in a moment. Why then, would you say something like that to your most intimate acquaintance?

The husband and wife argue about the length of their wait for their turn at food, and argue about the weather and the road, and their arguing is so -- easy for them. Pain is their mode of communication and their way of obtaining what they think they need.

I never step into domestic squabbles; there is no point to getting involved, as the couples by and large don't want to re-learn how to speak civilly to one another. But I lie in the mud under the wagon and wonder, why is it someone's fault that the inn is crowded? Who is to blame for the untimely downpour of rain? Must punishment be placed on a particular person's shoulders that a plan agreed upon by all didn't work out in the manner intended?

We all live day to day, and moment to moment, and we do, for good or for ill, what we think we have to do. So long as we are honest and seek good, why then should we cast blame?

My companions and I will move from the road to the wood to find better footing until the rain stops and the ground firms. It's no one's fault that our trail will be roughened. Maybe we'll even enjoy it.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-10-15
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