May 21, 2022 at 8:28 am #6298JibParticipant
The Rootians invaded Oocrane when everybody was busy looking elsewhere. They entered through the Dumbass region under the pretense of freeing it from Lazies who had infiltrated administrations and media. They often cited a recent short movie from president Voldomeer Zumbaskee in which he appeared in purple leather panties adorned with diamonds, showing unashamedly his wooden leg. The same wooden leg that gave him the status of sexiest man of Oocrane and got him elected. In one of his famous discourses, he accused the Rootian president, Valdamir Potomsky of wanting to help himself to their crops of turnip and weed of which the world depended. And he told him if he expected Lazies he would be surprised by their resolution to defend their country.
By a simple game of chance that reality is so fond of, the man who made the president’s very wooden leg was also called Voldomeer Zumbasky. They might share a common ancestor, but many times in the past population records were destroyed and it was difficult to tell. That man lived in the small city of Duckailingtown in Dumbass, near the Rootian border. He was renowned to be a great carpenter and sculptor and before the war people would come from the neighbooring countries to buy his work.
During the invasion, crops and forests were burnt, buildings were destroyed and Dumbass Voldomeer lost one leg. There were no more trees or beams that hadn’t been turned to ashes, and he had only one block of wood left. Enough to make another wooden leg for himself. But he wondered: wasn’t there something more useful he could do with that block of wood ?
One morning of spring, one year after the war started. Food was scarce in Duckailingtown and Voldomeer’s belly growled as he walked past the nest of a couple of swans. He counted nine beautiful eggs that the parents were arranging with their beaks before lying on top to keep them warm. He found it so touching to see life in this place that he couldn’t bear the idea of simply stealing the eggs.
He went back home, a shelter made of bricks, his stomach aching from starvation. Looking at the block of wood on the floor, he got an idea. He spent the rest of the day and night to carve nine beautiful eggs so smooth that they appeared warm to the touch. He put so much care and love in his work that the swans would see no difference.
The next morning he went back to the nest with a leather bag, hopping heartily on his lone leg. The eggs were still there and by chance both the parents were missing. He didn’t care why. He took the eggs and replaced them with the wooden ones.
That day, he ate the best omelet with his friend Rooby, and as far as one could tell the swans were still brooding by the end of summer.
May 21, 2022 at 9:34 am #6299
Looking at the blemish feverish man on the camp bed, General Lyaksandro Rudechenko clenched his fists. The wooden leg, that had been the symbol of the Oocranian Resistance for the last year was now lying on the floor. President Voldomeer had contracted a virus that confounded their best doctors and the remaining chiefs of the Oocranian Resistance feared he would soon join the men fallen for their country.
— Nobody must know that the sexiest man of Oocrane is incapacitated. We need a replacement, said the General.
— President Voldomeer told me of a man, the very man who made that wooden leg, said Major Myroslava Kovalev, the candle light reflecting in her glass eye. He lives in the Dumbass region. He’s a secret twin or something, President Voldomeer was not so clear about that part, but at least they look alike. To make it more real, we can have his leg removed, she added pointing at the wooden leg.
She was proud of being one of the only women ranking that high in the military. His fellow people might not be Lazies, but they had some old idea about women, that were not the best choice for fighting. Myroslava had always wanted to prove them wrong, and this conflict had been her chance to rise almost to the top. She looked at the dying man who was once her ladder. He had been sexy, and certainly could do many things with his wooden leg. Now he was but the shadow of a man, pale and blurry as cataract. If she had loved him, she might have shed a tear.
Myroslava looked at General Rudechenko’s pockmarked face and shivered. She wouldn’t even share a cab with him. But he was the next in command, and before Voldomeer fell ill, she was on her way to take his place, even closer to the top.
— Let me bring him to you, she added.
— That’s a suicide mission, said the general. Permission granted.
— Thank you General ! said Myroslava doing the military salute before leaving the tent.
Despite his being from Dumbass and having made some mistakes in his life, Lyaksandro was not stupid. He knew quite well what that woman wanted. He called, Glib, his aide-de-camp.
— Make sure she gets lost behind the enemy lines.July 6, 2022 at 9:47 am #6310
Olek wished he wasn’t so easy to find.
The old caretaker of the shrine of Saint Edigna couldn’t have chosen a less conspicuous place to live in this warring time. People were flocking from afar, more and more each day drawn about by the ancient place, and the sacred oil bleeding linden tree which had suddenly and quite miraculously resumed its flow in the midst of the ambiant chaos started by the war.
It wasn’t always like this. A few months ago, the linden tree was just an old linden tree that may or may not have been miraculous, if the old wifes’ tales were to be trusted. Mankind’s memory is a flimsy thing as it occurs, and while for many generations before, speculations had abounded about whether or not the Saint was real, had such or such filiation, et cætera— it now seemed the old tales that were passed down from mother to children had managed to keep alive a knowledge that had but all dried up on old flaky parchments scribbled in pale inks that kept eluding old scholars’ exegesis.
Olek himself wasn’t a learned man. A man of faith, he was a little — more by upbringing than by choice, and by slow attunement to nature it would seem. Over the years, he’d be servicing the country in many ways, and after a rather long carrier started at young age, he had finally managed to retire in this place.
He thought he’d be left alone, to care for a little garden patch, checking in from times to times on the old grumpy neighbours, but alas, the Holy Nation’s destiny still had something in store for him.
The latest pilgrim family had brought a message. It was another push to action. “Plan acceleration needs to happen”.
“What clucking plan again?” was his first reaction. Bad temper had a way of flaring right up his vents as in old times. When he’d calmed down, he wondered if he had ever seen a call for slowing down in his life. People were always so busy mindlessly carting around, bumping into the darkness.
He smiled thinking of something his old man used to say. He’d never planned for a thing in his life, and was always very carefree it was often scary. His mantra was “People are always getting prepared for the wrong things. They never can prepare for the unexpected, and surely enough, only the unexpected happens.”
That sort of chaos paddling approach to life didn’t seem to bring him any sort of extraordinary success, and while he had the same mixed bag of ups and downs as the rest of his compatriots, just so much less did he suffer for the same result! Olek guessed that was the whole point, even if he really couldn’t accept it until much later in life.
Maybe Olek would start playing by his father’s book. Until he could find a way to get lost behind enemy lines.July 6, 2022 at 11:02 am #6311
Most of the pilgims, if one could call them that, flocked to the linden tree in cars, although some came on motorbikes and bicycles. Olek was grateful that they hadn’t started arriving by the bus load, like Italian tourists. But his cousin Ursula was happy with this strange new turn of events.
Her shabby hotel on the outskirts of town had never been so busy and she was already planning to refurbish the premises and evict the decrepit and motley assortment of aged permanent residents who had just about kept her head above water, financially speaking, for the last twenty years. She could charge much more per night to these new tourists, who were smartly dressed and modern and didn’t argue about the price of a room. They did complain about the damp stained wallpaper though and the threadbare bedding. Ursula reckoned she could charge even more for the rooms if she redecorated, and had an idea to approach her nephew Boris the bank manager for a business loan.
But first she had to evict the old timers. It wasn’t her problem, she reminded herself, if they had nowhere else to go. After all, plenty of charitable aid money was flying around these days, they could easily just join up with some fleeing refugees. She’d even sent some of her old dresses to the collection agency. They may have been forty years old and smelled of moth balls, but they were well made and the refugees would surely be grateful.
Ursula wasn’t looking forward to telling them. No, not at all! She rather liked some of them and was dreading their reaction. You are a business woman, Ursula, she told herself, and you have to look after your own interests! But still she quailed at the thought of knocking on their doors, or announcing it in the communal dining room at supper. Then she had an idea. She’d type up some letters instead, and sign them as if they came from her new business manager. When the residents approached her about the letter she would smile sadly and shrug, saying it wasn’t her decision and that she was terribly sorry but her hands were tied.July 6, 2022 at 11:05 am #6312
When she’d heard of the miracle happening at the Flovlinden Tree, Egna initially shrugged it off as another conman’s attempt at fooling the crowds.
“No, it’s real, my Auntie saw it.”
“Stop fretting” she’d told the little girl, as she was carefully removing the lice from her hair. “This is just someone’s idea of a smart joke. Don’t get fooled, you’re smarter than this.”
She sure wasn’t responsible for that one. If that were a true miracle, she would have known. The little calf next week being resuscitated after being dead a few minutes, well, that was her. Shame nobody was even there to notice. Most of the best miracles go about this way anyway.
So, after having lived close to a millennia in relatively rock solid health and with surprisingly unaging looks, Egna had thought she’d seen it all; at least last time the tree started to ooze sacred oil, it didn’t last for too long, people’s greed starting to sell it stopped it right in its tracks.
But maybe there was more to it this time. Egna’d often wondered why God had let her live that long. She was a useful instrument to Her for sure, but living in secrecy, claiming no ownership, most miracles were just facts of life. She somehow failed to see the point, even after 957 years of existence.
The little girl had left to go back to her nearby town. This side of the country was still quite safe from all the craziness. Egna knew well most of the branches of the ancestral trees leading to that particular little leaf. This one had probably no idea she shared a common ancestor with President Voldomeer, but Egna remembered the fellow. He was a clogmaker in the turn of the 18th century, as was his father before. That was until a rather unexpected turn of events precipitated him to a different path as his brother.
She had a book full of these records, as she’d tracked the lives of many, to keep them alive, and maybe remind people they all share so much in common. That is, if people were able to remember more than 2 generations before them.
“Well, that’s set.” she said to herself and to Her as She’s always listening “I’ll go and see for myself.”
her trusty old musty cloak at the door seemed to have been begging for the journey.July 6, 2022 at 11:41 am #6313
Egbert Gofindlevsky rapped on the door of room number 22. The letter flapped against his pin striped trouser leg as his hand shook uncontrollably, his habitual tremor exacerbated with the shock. Remembering that Obadiah Sproutwinklov was deaf, he banged loudly on the door with the flat of his hand. Eventually the door creaked open.
“If you’d stop flapping it about I might be able to see what it is,” Obadiah replied. “Oh that! As a matter of fact I’ve had one just like it. The devils work, I tell you! A practical joke, and in very poor taste!”
“Ursula is booting us out, where are we to go?”
“Eh?” replied Obadiah, cupping his ear. “Speak up, man!”
Egbert repeated his question.
“No need to shout!”
The two old men endeavoured to conduct a conversation on this unexepected turn of events, the upshot being that Obadiah had no intention of leaving his room at all henceforth, come what may, and would happily starve to death in his room rather than take to the streets.
Egbert considered this form of action unhelpful, as he himself had no wish to starve to death in his room, so he removed himself from room 22 with a disgruntled sigh and made his way to Olga’s room on the third floor.July 7, 2022 at 9:00 am #6314
After her visit to the witch of the woods to get some medicine for her Mum who still had bouts of fatigue from her last encounter with the flu, the little Maryechka went back home as instructed.
She found her home empty. Her parents were busy in the fields, as the time of harvest was near, and much remained to be done to prepare, and workers were limited.
She left the pouch of dried herbs in the cabinet, and wondered if she should study. The schools were closed for early holidays, and they didn’t really bother with giving them much homework. She could see the teachers’ minds were worried with other things.
Unlike other children of her age, she wasn’t interested in all the activities online, phone-stuff. The other gen-alpha kids didn’t even bother mocking her “IRL”, glued to their screens while she instead enjoyed looking at the clear blue sky. For all she knew they didn’t even realize they were living in the same world. Now, they were probably over-stressed looking at all the news on replay.
For Maryechka, the war felt far away, even if you could see some of its impacts, with people moving about the nearby town.
Looking as it was still early in the day, and she had plenty more time left before having to prepare for dinner, she thought it’d be nice to go and visit her grand-parent and their friends at the old people’s home. They always had nice stale biscuits to share, and they told the strangest stories all the time.
It was just a 15 min walk from the farm, so she’d be there and back in no time.July 7, 2022 at 9:45 am #6315
It was not yet 9am and Eusebius Kazandis was already sweating. The morning sun was hitting hard on the tarp of his booth. He put the last cauldron among lines of cauldrons on a sagging table at the summer fair of Innsbruck, Austria. It was a tiny three-legged black cauldron with a simple Celtic knot on one side and a tree on the other side, like all the others. His father’s father’s father used to make cauldrons for a living, the kind you used to distil ouzo or cook meals for an Inn. But as time went by and industrialisation made it easier for cooks, the trade slowly evolved toward smaller cauldrons for modern Wiccans. A modern witch wanted it portable and light, ready to use in everyday life situations, and Eusebius was there to provide it for them.
Eusebius sat on his chair and sighed. He couldn’t help but notice the woman in colourful dress who had spread a shawl on the grass under the tall sequoia tree. Nobody liked this spot under the branches oozing sticky resin. She didn’t seem to mind. She was arranging small colourful bottles of oil on her shawl. A sign near her said : Massage oils, Fragrant oils, Polishing oils, all with different names evocative of different properties. He hadn’t noticed her yesterday when everybody was installing their stalls. He wondered if she had paid her fee.
Rosa was smiling as she spread in front of her the meadow flowers she’d picked on her way to the market. It was another beautiful day, under the shade and protection of the big sequoia tree watching over her. She assembled small bouquets and put them in between the vials containing her precious handmade oils. She had noticed people, and especially women, would naturally gather around well dressed stalls and engage conversation. Since she left her hometown of Torino, seven years ago, she’d followed the wind on her journey across Europe. It had led her to Innsbruck and had suddenly stopped blowing. That usually meant she had something to do there, but it also meant that she would have to figure out what she was meant to do before she could go on with her life.
The stout man waiting behind his dark cauldrons, was watching her again. He looked quite sad, and she couldn’t help but thinking he was not where he needed to be. When she looked at him, she saw Hephaestus whose inner fire had been tamed. His banner was a mishmash of religious stuff, aimed at pagans and budding witches. Although his grim booth would most certainly benefit from a feminine touch, but she didn’t want to offend him by a misplaced suggestion. It was not her place to find his place.
Rosa, who knew to cultivate any available friendship when she arrived somewhere, waved at the man. Startled, he looked away as if caught doing something inappropriate. Rosa sighed. Maybe she should have bring him some coffee.
As her first clients arrived, she prayed for a gush of wind to tell her where to go next. But the branches of the old tree remained perfectly still under the scorching sun.July 7, 2022 at 5:31 pm #6316
Myroslava was hungry. She saw ducks flying in the sky and realised she wasn’t too far from the Kal’mius river, south of Dantesk. She took out her sling and hit one with a stone she just picked on the floor. She smiled and said in a low voice : “You see father, I haven’t lost my touch.”
She had traveled several days with a group of reportourists, as she called them. A bunch of war reporters who thought it entertaining to take pictures of bombed areas, going about like peacocks as if they wore a plot armour against Rootian bullets and missiles and discourse at night on the tactics of the different armies. She was glad when she crossed the Rootian lines two days ago. Even if it meant no more dehydrated food and no more plot armour, she was certainly better off without the inane discussions.
She picked the duck and looked for a freshly bombarded place where there was still smoke. She could make some fire without being noticed too much. She didn’t like raw meat that much.
Soon after leaving the group or reportourists, without all the noise they made, she became certain she was being followed. She tried once to surprise them, but they were good at hiding and camouflaging their tracks. She wondered how long it had lasted. She cursed the noisy reporters and cursed her lack of good vodka. Cursing without alcohol was like boxing without fists.July 10, 2022 at 2:36 am #6317
The sharp rat-a-tat on the door startled Olga Herringbonevsky. The initial surprise quickly turned to annoyance. It was 11am and she wasn’t expecting a knock on the door at 11am. At 10am she expected a knock. It would be Larysa with the lukewarm cup of tea and a stale biscuit. Sometimes Olga complained about it and Larysa would say, Well you’re on the third floor so what do you expect? And she’d look cross and pour the tea so some of it slopped into the saucer. So the biscuits go stale on the way up do they? Olga would mutter. At 10:30am Larysa would return to collect the cup and saucer. I can’t do this much longer, she’d say. I’m not young any more and all these damn stairs. She’d been saying that for as long as Olga could remember.
For a moment, Olga contemplated ignoring the intrusion but the knocking started up again, this time accompanied by someone shouting her name.
With a very loud sigh, she put her book on the side table, face down so she would not lose her place for it was a most enjoyable whodunit, and hauled herself up from the chair. Her ankle was not good since she’d gone over on it the other day and Olga was in a very poor mood by the time she reached the door.
“Yes?” She glowered at Egbert.
“Have you seen this?” Egbert was waving a piece of paper at her.
“No,” Olga started to close the door.
“Olga stop!” Egbert’s face had reddened and Olga wondered if he might cry. Again, he waved the piece of paper in her face and then let his hand fall defeated to his side. “Olga, it’s bad news. You should have got a letter .”
Olga glanced at the pile of unopened letters on her dresser. It was never good news. She couldn’t be bothered with letters any more.
“Well, Egbert, I suppose you’d better come in”.
“That Ursula has a heart of steel,” said Olga when she’d heard the news.
“Pfft,” said Egbert. “She has no heart. This place has always been about money for her.”
“It’s bad times, Egbert. Bad times.”
“What? Spit it out, Old Man.”
He looked at her briefly before his eyes slid back to the dirty grey carpet. “I have heard stories, Olga. That you are … well connected. That you know people.”
Olga noticed that it had become difficult to breathe. Seeing Egbert looking at her with concern, she made an effort to steady herself. She took an extra big gasp of air and pointed to the book face-down on the side table. “That is a very good book I am reading. You may borrow it when I have finished.”
Egbert nodded. “Thank you.” he said and they both stared at the book.
“Olga, you said it yourself. These are bad times. And desperate measures are needed or we will all perish.” Now he looked her in the eyes. “Old woman, swallow your pride. You must save yourself and all of us here.”July 12, 2022 at 2:00 am #6318
“You’d better sit down,” said Olga gesturing to the end of her bed. As a rule, she did not have visitors so she saw no need to clutter up the available space in her tiny room with an extra chair. A large proportion of her life was spent in her armchair and she was content that way. While Egbert perched on the end of the bed, she lowered herself into the soft and familiar confines of her armchair and felt instantly soothed. It was true, sometimes she felt a tinge of regret when she considered how disappointed her younger self would be to see her now. But she hadn’t lived through what I’ve lived through so she can mind her own damn business,” she thought.
“It is just a story, twisted in the telling I expect.” Olga knew her voice held no conviction.
Egbert opened his mouth as though to speak. Closed it again.
“You look like a fish,” said Olga folding her arms.
“They say you and the Mayor go back a long way. Are you telling me that is not true?
“And what if we do?”
“You know he is Ursula’s uncle and a very powerful man. They say even the great president Voldomeer Zumbaskee holds him in great regard. They say …”July 12, 2022 at 8:30 am #6319
Egbert clutched the eiderdown on either side of his bony trembling knees and clamped his remaining teeth together, drawing ragged whistling breaths in an attempt to calm himself. Olga was right, he needed to calm down. Besides the unfortunate effects of the letter on his habitual tremor, he felt sure his blood pressure had risen alarmingly. He dared not become so ill that he needed medical assistance, not with the state of the hospitals these days. He’d be lucky to survive the plague ridden wards.
What had become of him! He imagined his younger self looking on with horror, appalled at his feeble body and shattered mind. Imagine becoming so desperate that he wanted to fight to stay in this godforsaken dump, what had become of him! If only he knew of somewhere else to go, somewhere safe and pleasant, somewhere that smelled sweetly of meadows and honesuckle and freshly baked cherry pies, with the snorting of pigs in the yard…
But wait, that was Olga snoring. Useless old bag had fallen asleep! For the first time since Viktor had died he felt close to tears. What a sad sorry pathetic old man he’d become, desperately counting on a old woman to save him.
“Stop sniveling, Egbert, and go and pack a bag.” Olga had woken up from her momentary but illuminating lapse. “Don’t bring too much, we may have much walking to do. I hear the buses and trains are in a shambles and full of refugees. We don’t want to get herded up with them.”
Astonished, Egbert asked where they were going.
“To see Rosa. My cousins father in laws neice. Don’t look at me like that, immediate family are seldom the ones who help. The distant ones are another matter. And be honest Egbert,” Olga said with a piercing look, “Do we really want to stay here? You may think you do, but it’s the fear of change, that’s all. Change feels like too much bother, doesn’t it?”
Egbert nodded sadly, his eyes fixed on the stain on the grey carpet.
Olga leaned forward and took his hand gently. “Egbert, look at me.” He raised his head and looked into her eyes. He’d never seen a sparkle in her faded blue eyes before. “I still have another adventure in me. How about you?”July 12, 2022 at 9:46 am #6320
She had to be careful not to to be noticed by Larysa who often had her cigarette break hidden under the pine tree. Larysa didn’t like children, or at least, she disliked them slightly less than the elderly residents, whoever was the loudest and the uncleanliest was sure to suffer her disapproval.
Larysa was basically single-handedly managing the hotel, doing most of the chores to keep it afloat. The only thing she didn’t do was the catering, and packaged trays arrived every day for the residents. Maryechka’s grand-pa was no picky eater, and made a point of clearing his tray of food, but she suspected most of the other residents didn’t.
The only other employee she was told, was the gardener who would have been old enough to be a resident himself, and had died of a stroke before the summer. The small garden was clearly in need of tending after.
Maryechka could see the coast was clear, and was making her ways to the stairs when she heard clanking in the stairs and voices arguing.
“Keep your voice down, you’re going to wake the dragon.”
“That’s your fault, you don’t pack light for your adventures. You really needed to take all these suitcases? How can we make a run for it with all that dead weight!”July 13, 2022 at 3:09 am #6323
“Watch where you are going, Child!” Egbert’s tone was sharp.
Maryechka nodded shyly. “He’s my grandpa.” She frowned at the suitcases. “Are you going on holiday?”
“Never you mind that,” said Egbert. “You run along and see your Grandpa.”
Maryechka ducked past the bag and ran up the steps.
“Oy,” said Olga. “What I wouldn’t give for the agility of youth again.” Gripping the wooden hand rail, she stretched out her ankle and grimaced.
“Pfft,” said Olga. “That one will land on his big stinking feet. And he can hear better than he lets on. Is it him spreading the tales about me?”
It occurred to Olga that Egbert may be hiding his head so as not to answer her question. However, realising his mental state was fragile, she thought it prudent to keep to the matter at hand. It will keep, she thought.
“Obadiah and myself, we grew up together,” continued Egbert with what sounded like a sob. “We worked together on the farm as young men.” He raised his head and glared at Olga. “How can you expect me to leave him without a word of farewell? Have you no heart?”September 4, 2022 at 6:00 pm #6326
Stung by Egberts question, Olga reeled and almost lost her footing on the stairs. What had happened to her? That damned selfish individualism that was running rampant must have seeped into her room through the gaps in the windows or under the door. “No!” she shouted, her voice cracking.
Gripping his bony knee with her knobbly arthritic fingers, she took a deep breath.
“You are right to have said that, Egbert. If there is one thing we must hold onto, it’s our hearts. Nothing else matters, or at least nothing else matters as much as that. We are old and tired and we don’t like change. But if we escalate the importance of this frankly dreary and depressing home to the point where we lose our hearts…” she faltered and continued. “We will be homeless soon, very soon, and we know not what will happen to us. We must trust in the kindness of strangers, we must hope they have a heart.”
“If you’d just stop squeezing and hitting me, Olga…”
Olga loosened her grip on the old mans thigh bone and peered into his eyes. Quietly she thanked him. “You’ve cleared my mind and given me something to live for, and I thank you for that. But you do need to launder your clothes more often,” she added, pulling a face. She didn’t want the old coot to start blubbing, and he looked alarmingly close to tears.
“Come on, let’s go and see Obadiah. We’re all in this together. Homelessness and adventure can wait until tomorrow.” Olga heaved herself upright with a surprising burst of vitality. Noticing a weak smile trembling on Egberts lips, she said “That’s the spirit!”
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