November 19, 2018


The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?


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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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

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