November 12, 2018


The Aser Stories 30: The Perils of Sympathy


There was a strong scent of mint around the oak half-barrel of Garfer Miller's remains. Instead of pushing up daisies, I figured Garfer could make his ghost useful by fertilizing an herb garden in return for me saving his grave from further desecration by his irate heirs. The smell of horse on the air in front of my house was an indication that I'd had a visitor while I was at the tavern, having the Twosday night beer.

"Why is there a ghost in this planter?" asked Dan Ur-Jennan's voice in the dark.

"Ol' Garf has political views that I get a kick out of," I replied. "What's up, Danner?"

"Political views? All I've heard from this spook since I arrived are dirty words and accusations against his family. If he wasn't in your front yard, I'd have given him ten inches of cold steel and to Hell with him."

"That's why he's still hanging around. When he gets over his snit, he'll move on. In the mean time, I can't see letting his grandsons defile his burial more than they have already. You didn't answer my question. And now I'll ask another: Where's your horse?"

Danner pulled her staff out of the planter. "Melvan's staying with a farmer on the outskirts of your village for the time being. Can I stay here with you tonight?"

My eyebrows rose. "Sure. Make yourself at home." I opened the door and Danner strode past me, pulled her boots off, and wrapped a blanket around herself. "Right here will be fine," she said, and lay down facing the wall. "Yeah, this is more like it," she mumbled, and pretended to go to sleep.

I made a twig fire in the fireplace to take a little chill off the room, and thought about what I know about people who show up on your doorstep and ask for room on your floor.

First, few people would truly prefer sleeping on dirt in a couple cave-like rooms under a tree. From this I can surmise that Danner wasn't here because the dirt is less dirty than the dirt where she has been living.

Secondly, visitors don't normally show up unexpectedly at dusk to sleep on your dirt floor. So perhaps this means that Danner's travels weren't fully planned ahead of time.

Thirdly, when the surprise visitor arrives at nightfall to sleep on a dirt floor and immediately shuts up and pulls a blanket over her head, I must assume that Danner's arrival was not because she was interested in playing pinochle at the tavern or because she was burning with curiosity to hear about my many adventures or shopping experiences.

Lastly, Danner wasn't cursing up a storm, so I knew she hadn't been run out of some town for shooting off her big mouth or knocking someone for a loop with her staff.

The sum of those clues adds up. She'd had some kind of domestic argument with Cloudraft, the wizard to whom she'd been apprenticed, I'd even have bet my own money on it.

One of the greatest stresses friends put on each other is telling them their problems with boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, parents, co-workers, bosses ... the friend will frequently feel sympathy for the teller of the sad tale, become biased in favor of the friend, and offer advice. The sympathy part is all right, and listening to friends talk is kind. But that's where the good part tends to stop.

The goodwife weeps on her neighbor's kitchen table. "My husband is so awful I can't take it any more!" she howls, and her neighbor pats her shoulder. "He never helps around the house, he stays out until late boozing and schmoozing, and forgets all my birthdays and anniversaries!"

"You poor thing, I had no idea! What an idiot he is!" observes the neighbor. "You ought to kick his miserable lazy butt right out the door."

Next thing you know, the husband and goodwife have patched it up between themselves, and the goodwife remembers only that her neighbor called her husband an idiot. And how dare her neighbor call her spouse lazy? Whoops, so much for that friendship. "Why aren't you friends with our neighbor any more?" asks the spouse. "Because she called you a lazy idiot, that's why!" More ill will in the neighborhood.

For this reason I am not going to ask Danner what happened. I'm sure she'll tell me as much or more than I need to know, and while she does, I'm going to listen in silence. And when she's done, I'm going to pretend I never heard anything and wouldn't remember it anyway.

Even though I already think he had to have been an idiot.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-10-01

0 Reader Comments
Add your own comments!
The Piker Press moderates all comments. The commenting policy can be found




In the same series:

The Accursed
The Aser Stories: Sidelong
The Aser Stories 80: Cabin Fever
The Aser Stories 79: Just Don't Say It Before Spring
The Aser Stories 78: Judgment Call
The Aser Stories 77: "Are We There Yet?"
The Aser Stories 76: A Bone to Pick
The Aser Stories 75: Coalition Forces
The Aser Stories 74: Flying Monkeys
The Aser Stories 73: Elspeth, Ad Nauseam
The Aser Stories 072: Starve a Cold
The Aser Stories 071: House Call
The Aser Stories 70: Dinner Dates
The Aser Stories 69: Fire in the Hole
The Aser Stories 68: The Silk Fable
The Aser Stories 67: The Simple Life
The Aser Stories 66: For What You're Worth
The Aser Stories 65: Taking a Shot
The Aser Stories 64: Second Chances
The Aser Stories 63: The Second Step
The Aser Stories 63: Second Thoughts
The Aser Stories 60: Fish Story
The Aser Stories 59: Ace in the Hole
The Aser Stories 58: Knowledge is Power
The Aser Stories 57: Animal Tracks
The Aser Stories 56: Oz Can Keep Them All
The Aser Stories 55: Small Comfort
The Aser Stories 54: Letting Go
The Aser Stories 53: In a Spirit of Healing
The Aser Stories 52: Stinkin' Kids
The Aser Stories 51: No Words For It
The Aser Stories 50: The Friend in Need
The Aser Stories 49: Run for Cover
The Aser Stories 48: On the Fly
The Aser Stories 47: Just Thievery
The Aser Stories 46: Take My Shaman ... Please
The Aser Stories 45: Hot Stuff
The Aser Stories 44: Courtesy Call
The Aser Stories 43: Adding Insult to Injury
The Aser Stories 42: Natural Selection
The Aser Stories 41: Funny Business
The Aser Stories 40: Happy Endings
The Aser Stories 39: Working Dogs
The Aser Stories 38: Taking Sides
The Aser Stories 37: Dumb Animals
The Aser Stories 36: Harsh Words
The Aser Stories 35: Endangered Species
The Aser Stories 34: Common Language
The Aser Stories 33: Legal Torture
The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?
The Aser Stories 31: Money Talks
The Aser Stories 30: The Perils of Sympathy
The Aser Stories 29: Raccoons
The Aser Stories 28: The Ghost of Garfer Miller
The Aser Stories 27: Dynamite
The Aser Stories 26: Junk Mail
The Aser Stories 25: Rose-Covered Cottages
The Aser Stories 24: Crime and Punishment
The Aser Stories 23: Image Is Everything
The Aser Stories 22: Is As Does
The Aser Stories 21: Gourmet Dining
The Aser Stories 20: Families and How They Are
The Aser Stories 19: The Difference Between Men and Women
The Aser Stories 18: On a Silver Platter
The Aser Stories 17: Point of View
The Aser Stories 16: Easy Street
The Aser Stories 15: Moguls
The Aser Stories 14: A Mile Toward Change
The Aser Stories 13: The Price of Freedom
The Aser Stories 12: A Question of Nudity
The Aser Stories 11: Rabbit From a Hat
The Aser Stories 10: Awards
The Aser Stories 09: On A Roll
The Aser Stories 08: Raising Children
The Aser Stories 07: Crosspasses Market
The Aser Stories 06: Judge, Jury, Shaman
The Aser Stories 05:Habit and Stubbornness
The Aser Stories 04: The Wrong Question
The Aser Stories 03: The Labor of Love
The Aser Stories 02: Soup du Jour
The Aser Stories 01: Popping the Big Question
The Aser Stories 40a: Customary Behavior
The Aser Stories 36a: Madly In Love
The Aser Stories 03a: Descent to the Underworld

Other articles by Sand Pilarski you might enjoy...

Minestrone At Last
After Life 32
After Life 31
After Life 30
After Life 29
After Life 28
After Life 27
After Life 26
Happy 16th Anniversary!
After Life 25
After Life 24
After Life 23
After Life 22
After Life 21
After Life 20
After Life 19
After Life 18
After Life 17
After Life 16
After Life 15
After Life 14
After Life 13
After Life 12
After Life 11
After Life 10
After Life 09
After Life 08
After Life 07
After Life 06
After Life 05