7. Four saplings after a wedding and a funeral

aka THE BEREFT YEARS
edited by Calico

I spent the afternoon in a fashion traditional to a grieving widower. When not casting back my handsome head to bewail my fate to the lowering bleakness of the empty sky – I cheered the day with songs laden with scarcely concealed phallic imagery and talk of rising sap. I am, you understand – sappy.

Come evening, I settled my newborn son into the cradle, whittled lovingly from a rare baobab. To cheer his motherless state, I sang a comforting lullaby involving dark forests, death, destruction, fire, pain, suffering, men hanging upon trees and the torture that is human existence. Once having, in this way, ensured his tiny infant mind will sleep quiet and untroubled through the night, I came downstairs.

My evening routine has little variety of late. First, I stand – bereft – with my finely tapered fingers upon the handle of my bedroom door. Entering at last, I stare – still bereft – at my marriage bed. I no longer sleep in this bed you understand – I just stare. Provocatively sensuous quotations fill my thoughts. Once my sap has risen to such a point that my knees are trembling – I leave the room.

I left the bedroom about five minutes ago. Now, I am seated in what is always referred to as ‘my own’ chair, whetting my axe. (Pray be assured – this is not a metaphor. I really do have an axe – and I really am whetting it.) It is sometime before midnight. Mind you – all times are ‘sometime before midnight’. Except midnight.

Suddenly, I am aware of a sound other than the keening of the Kansas winds. Someone is outside. Someone – is at the mock-tudor door.

A figure bursts through the door – almost certainly the same person who was outside a moment ago. It is young Galatea Grant from the local woodcraft emporium. This surprises me, as they do not usually offer a home delivery service. It would be strangely anachronistic if they did – and anachronisms are the first thing to hit the cutting room floor around here!

“Ares,” she cries, her voice laden with passionate yearning, “I vant your baby!”

“You want Hannibal?” I respond, mildly. “He’s asleep right now.”

“Nein, nein,” she protests, shaking her head in frustration – in fact most of her appears to be in frustration. “I vant you to GIF me a baby!”

“Hannibal’s the only baby I have and he’s …” I begin to repeat. Then, I grasp her meaning. I also grasp the shaft of my axe – defensively. “Ah!” I say, kindly, “I see.” Firmly, I continue, “I’m sorry, Galatea – that is completely impossible.”

“How can it be impossible,” she asks, huffily. “Ve are predestined to end up together – Jah? I haf luffed you for years! My budding girlhood has now blossomed into a full bloom of nubile vomanhood. Und – you are full of sap. Vat are ve vaiting for? Let’s go to bed!”

“NO!” I yelp. “Bed is – completely out of the question.”

“Sorry,” she apologises, “I forgot your problem.” A pause. “Ze barn?” she offers, “…Or – is it a stable?”

“Bit smelly!” I demur.

“Ze historically accurate rag-rug in front of ze stove?” she suggests.

“No! Nowhere!” Something occurs to me. “And…Galatea, why are you talking with an unspecific, but clearly phoney accent?”

“I am an immigrant from somevere unspecific in Europe.”

“That’s your parents,” I correct, reaching down the reference guide from its place, wedged between, ‘The Big Book of Tudor-bethan Madrigals’ and ‘Hewing for Pleasure and Profit’. I show her, “See – YOU were born in the US, in the East – moved West as a child. So, no accent.”

“I could have a Vermont accent,” she suggests, eagerly.

“You could,” I agree, hesitantly. “Er…have you any idea what that sounds like?”

“No,” she shakes her head.

“Neither have I,” I agree. “I decided to not to display an accent of any kind – unless you count my beautifully enunciated received pronunciation. It is much easier.”

“Perhaps,” she nods.

“Sometimes,” I offer, “…I say ‘reckon’ and ‘guess’…to show willing. Just to show I live somewhere in All-American America.”

“Uh huh?” she says.

“I say THAT too,” I smile. “Uh huh.”

“Uh huh.”

We seem to have exhausted that particular topic of conversation.

“How long do I have to wait, Ares,” she asks, coming very close and fingering the buttons on my shirt.

I remove her hand, firmly. “Originally,” I say, “…I was toying with impregnating you tonight – what with it being Beltaine…”

“Beltaine?”

“Usually what is now known as May Day,” I translate. “Beltaine – when lovers build bowers and spring flowers fill the evening air with heady scent.”

“That sounds – romantic,” she approves. “Were you going to build me a bower?”

“No,” I say, bluntly. “I was planning for it to happen outside, but, in a manner too spontaneous and unplanned for building bowers.”

“Spontaneous?” she frowns, “You don’t mean – hasty, do you, Ares?”

“Certainly not!” I reply, with dignity. “I fulfil my primary role as a female fantasy figure at all times! You would have been – speechless with ecstasy!”

“Really?”

“I think so,” I shrug. “I planned on being pretty bereft at the time…carried away by my raging masculine urges in the midst of my unfathomable grief … ” Galatea rolls her eyes – not particularly sympathetically. With dignity, I continue, “My sex life is always fairly vague, anyhow. One minute you’ll be twining your fingers in my silken hair. Next thing you know – I’m up and dressed, striding around, yakking about lumber.”

“But now,” her pouting lower lip wobbles, “…what are you planning NOW? How long do I have to wait?”

Once more, I remove her inquisitive hand from my – person. “We have to abide by fanfic rules,” I tell her firmly. “It’s been decided we must get married first. And…” I flick forward in the document which controls our destiny, “…I will – probably – be scheduled to impregnate you with my fertile seed on the wedding night…then again at regular intervals until we have four delightful branches grafted from my fruitful trunk…fair saplings to cheer my future…”

“Does it still happen outside?” she interrupts.

I cast my eyes around warily to check no one is listening. I beckon her close. “Because I’m an outdoor type, I plan for you to conceive in a sun-warmed field of ripening wheat, in the height of summer…stars illuminating the infinite, indigo canopy of the midnight sky, the song of the crickets filling the air…but,” again I check for eavesdroppers, “…that’s a secret – it’s not in the text. Shhhhh!”

“I won’t say a word,” Galatea promises. “What shall we talk about?” An inviting look is thrown at me. “Trees?” she offers.

I blush. Shyly, I say, “Would you like to see my bonsai?”

“Is that a metaphor?” she asks, perking up.

“No.”

Her shoulders droop in disappointment. “If I must.”

THE END

—oooOOOooo—

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