A WELL-ATTENDED DECISION
By Charles Ackerman
It was all but impossible to not feel the joy surging from the earth. The potency of spring was everywhere: flocks of migrating birds overhead, the air ripe with the warm expectant smell of the soil, the boisterous laughter of youthful flirtations drifting up from the street below. Yet Meyis turned pale when she heard the knocking, for she knew answering was not so much opening the door as opening up the abyss of widowhood.
“Will you get that?” her husband said absently, not even opening his eyes.
The knocking came more insistently. Meyis looked across the small table and over at the man lying in bed. If nothing she had already said had moved him, what would more words do? She sighed and leapt from the chair and went down. She flung the door open and crossed her arms, immediately presenting the visitor with an image of pure fury.
The young girl before her was undaunted. “Sorry to bother you, good lady, but mayhap you have a length of ribbon you could spare? We’re preparing for the mummers’ dance. Preferably not Dsainar yellow as we have plenty of that. Though I see that you are Dsainar — honest merchants I’m sure.” Meyis considered scolding the girl for pounding on the door with such enthusiasm for such a whimsical cause, but then she decided that surrendering a length of ribbon was the quickest way to remove her presence.
“Thank you, good lady,” the girl said when she received the object of her search. “It’s going to be a good year. Why, there are even flowers growing in the Void. I saw them myself.”
Meyis felt dizzy. She had been living in dread of news that the Void had dried out. “Goodness, child, what were you doing in the Void?”
“Me and my mother were looking for flowers and it had been so dry that we kept walking and walking. I didn’t even get mud on my ankles.” She pulled up her dress for proof; Meyis was too surprised to instruct on modesty.
A month after her brother-in-law, soaked by a late winter rain, appeared in the doorway, looking like his soul had been stolen, she was still in shock. His words made little sense: Gerkin’s Tavern, a barmaid, a Maxos, a duel challenge. Exchanging tears for muys wine and a longer explanation helped not. The brother-in-law feebly concluded, “He was in the right, you must understand. The Maxos was roughing her up something fierce.”
“What do I care?” Meyis gasped. “He’s never expressed interest in anyone’s honor before, and now I’m going to be a widow over a barmaid? He told me he never as much stepped foot in the taverns when he made his trips for muys. Now you say he was in Gerkin’s? Even I know of its reputation and I do not go to Pouletan but for once a year! Was he lying to me all this time?”
“No,” the brother-in-law said quietly, “he was not. He always insisted on doing business by the wagon.”
“So what were you two doing in Gerkin’s?”
The brother-in-law shrugged his shoulders in defeat.
As Meyis was closing the door on the girl she heard a horrific shriek. The bird-butcher down the street was doing his business. Meyis grabbed some money and quitted the house.
That night her husband said, chewing absently, “This is the plumpest duck we’ve had this early in the year. It must have cost a goodly coin. What’s the occasion?”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to cook this for you again,” she explained. She burst into tears.
He looked at her helplessly.
Labels: Charles Ackerman