THE DABBERSTONE - Part NineNov 15, 2021
Deelie and Tma and Grandmother Potter were the ones who dealt with practical matters, like food, and cuts and scrapes. Deelie taught the ones who wanted to learn to make dishes, all about clay from digging to firing. Aluli taught them drawing and making figurines, Tma taught them gardening and taking care of chickens and donkeys. But the old potter did less and less of the actual work and more just advising. Her knees hurt too much if she walked on them to walk any more than she could help. She complained of being tired and sometimes took naps at times when she used to be working.
So Deelie and Tma became partners in the running of the school. She managed most of the business matters of the pottery shop, too, most of the time, although sometimes he went to Split to sell or deliver dishes.
Deelie didn’t think so often of far places after she had the dream in which the children of Split were crying for her, but sometimes she did think of them. And sometimes she felt a longing for --- she didn’t really know what, but something that was missing from her life.
One day a merchant with two donkeys came down the path to the potter’s house. When he got there Deelie saw it was the young man who had come there the year before, told her of far places, and said he would come back for her. Her heart did something strange and she felt a feeling that was hard to tell if it was excitement or danger or what. He asked her to come to his camp. There were children crowding around. She said, “I have to be here when the children are here. Grandmother is in bed and Tma has gone to Split. ““Who is Tma? “He came here just before spring. He was here once with his teacher, an old man from beyond the mountains and he said he was come to help us, that his teacher had told him to listen for a call that might come if we needed him. ““Where does he live? ”He sleeps in the shed over there, and he has made the garden you see there and planted the barley. He lives here and teaches the children about gardening and about forgiveness, and many other things. “
“Can I talk to you alone, then? Deelie told the children to go on the other side of the house for a while. They went, but some of them peeked around the corner.
The young man said “I worked for my master for seven years and I learned well how to be a merchant. I have made good bargains and also have been lucky. I am not as wealthy as the old men who have a hundred working for them, but I have now a house in a good spot of the big city. It has a large garden with fruit trees and a pool, and I have a manservant and a maidservant and a cook. I have brought you this golden ring. If you accept it and put it on, it will mean that you agree to be my wife and my house will be your house, for such is the custom of my people. You will be the mistress and you need never scrub the floor or wash the clothes. You will tell the maid, “Do this! “ and she will do it. You will wear silk and jewels from beyond the sea and live in the big city. People will look up to you. You will never come back to the misery of Split again! “
Suddenly he threw his arms around Deelie and pressed his lips to hers. She had never seen or heard of anyone doing such a thing before and it ought to have shocked and terrified her, but somehow her arms and her mouth knew what to do, and she clung to him like a man dying of thirst in the desert will drink himself sick on pure water, if you give him as much as he wants.
The children peeking around the corner giggled and called Tma but neither Deelie nor the young merchant noticed. After a time that seemed both longer and shorter than it probably was, the merchant drew back, took off a small bag that hung by a cord around his neck, and took out of that a golden ring. “Please put on this golden ring and be my wife! “ he said.
Deelie was reaching out her hand for the ring, when a picture came in front of her eyes, so she saw that instead of the ring. She asked, “Are there fish in the pool at your house? “Yes! “ he said. “And do the trees by the pool have little golden fruits with a little red on them? “Yes! How did you know? “Is the path from your gate to your house made of broken pieces of flat, greenish stone? “Yes! You know the place! How can that be? “I have seen it in a dream. “ “Then you must be fated to be my wife! The gods have ordained it! Just put on the ring! “
The cries of the children of Split were in her ears. “I cannot do it. I cannot live in that city or in that house. The cries of the children of Split would break my heart. I know, because I have lived it in a dream. I can hear their cries now! The only way I could be your wife is if you would move here so I can help the children! “
The merchant's face turned white. He said nothing for several seconds, as if the passage for his words were plugged, blocked. He seemed to struggle to break through the plug that was stopping his words. The pressure was visibly building up. Suddenly it burst and the man exploded with curses as violent as ever were heard in the streets of Split. His face was not the same face, distorted in his fury. “I offer you a beautiful house in the big city, with servants, even, and you scorn me! You ignorant ___ ___ ___! You would rather stay here in your miserable ___ ___ ___ pigsty of a village! I’ll have you know there are dozens of girls in the big city who would think they had been made a queen if they received the offer that I made you! The dog returns to its vomit and the pigs return to their wallow and a dirty daughter of Split would rather soak in its misery all the days of her ____ ___ life! “ At this point, he gave an inarticulate mixture between a roar and a scream and raised the stick he used for beating his donkey as if to strike someone or something.
The children screamed, some of them for Grandmother, some for Tma, but just at that moment, Tma himself came running. He pointed back along the path to the highway. “Go! Now! “he commanded. The merchant’s donkeys immediately took off running. The merchant opened and shut his mouth three or four times, but no sound came out. Then he ran after his donkeys, yelling at them. Tma turned to Deelie and put his arms around her. She started crying and put hers around him. The children came running, each trying to tell a version of the story. Tma spoke to Deelie first. “I suddenly felt you needed me NOW. I was on the way home and just dropped the donkey’s rope and ran! “ “He told the children, “I will hear what Deelie has to tell first, and then I will listen to each of one of you. “So Deelie told him about the merchants who had come the previous year and what the young one had told her and what he promised her. She told him about her dream. She told him about the merchant coming this time and his ring and his promises. But she didn’t tell him about the kiss. She told him about her answer and what the merchant said. “And then you came and said ‘Go!’ and he went. “Then the children all wanted to tell their version at the same time, but Tma said “I have to go back for my donkey before he wanders too far. Who will come with me? So he left with four children at his side, trotting to keep up with his stride.
That night Deelie and Tma sat together by the coals of the cooking fire. The children had gone home, and Grandmother was already asleep. Deelie started crying again and put her arms around Tma. It was easy and natural now that she had already done it once. “He held me in his arms and pressed his mouth against mine! “she said. “Yes, the children told me. It’s called kissing. Men and women who love each other do that when they want to be close together. “ “I never heard of it before, “ said Deelie „but my mouth knew! But then, when I wouldn’t come to the city to be his wife, he cursed me and called me filthy names, and, I don’t know, maybe he was going to hit me with his stick! “
“Some people, although they look like they have grown up, never get over being children who have tantrums when they don’t get their way. It’s not supposed and be that way. Kisses are supposed to go with embraces and words of love and happiness. I have often felt like kissing you myself. “ “Then why didn’t you? “I didn’t know you wanted me to, for one thing. And I didn’t want to make myself obnoxious. I have heard many stories about how men make themselves odious to girls and mistreat them. Almost anyone who lives all his life in a man’s body finds that a woman seems magical. They try anything they can to get close to this magic. My teacher said that is a trap that is woven into the fabric of life on the Earth. I have been determined to follow the guidance that comes to me from my spirit, not get caught in traps of the earth by letting my body control me. But I can feel the pull all the same. “
“Do you mean that you will never kiss me? “No. I don’t mean that. But I hope I will be able to tell where the impulse comes from before I do. There are times it has seemed it might be the fitting thing for us to do. “
Deelie opened her mouth to tell him the dream of them being together when it was their house, but changed her mind. He said, “Now, so soon after the merchant’s tantrum, is not the time to kiss you, I think. “
But from this day on, they did embrace each other often, and, following their example, it wasn’t long before the children were doing that to each other, too. Sometimes a whole group at once. Some of them reported being reprimanded for unseemly behavior in public. “You should never put your arms around someone who does not want it. But sometimes there is a person who really needs it, and, in such a case, do not be scared off because someone who sees may laugh. My teacher said there is something in every person that knows and is ready to answer at any time, if you ask. I think he was right, but it needs a lot of practice to be able to hear the answer when you need it. Sometimes I can, sometimes not. “
So, hugs were added to the new things to be seen on the streets of Split. Hugs, sculpture, appreciation of beauty, songs, cooperative games, drawings.
When the barley was ripe, Tma and Deelie went out to cut it. Some of the children wanted to help. They couldn’t be allowed to use the sharp sickle, but they helped stack the sheaves for drying.
The first day they began to bring it in, when enough was piled on the threshing floor, Tma beat out enough to make fresh barley cakes for supper. They all held hands in a circle around the food and gave thanks before they ate it. After all the children had gone home and Grandmother had gone to bed, Deelie and Tma sat by the fire. It was hard to say who did it first, but they found their hands touching and they took hold of each other’s hand and sat that way a little longer. Then they stood up and walked outside and stood there in the warm quiet, watching the last glow of the sunset fade. Tma turned to Deelie and they slipped their arms around each other. This time they kept snuggling closer til he was brushing her eyelids with his lips, and her cheeks and her lips and then they were kissing with an energy that seemed as it had been slowly building up for years. They kept on a long time and when they backed off, holding both each other’s hands he said, “I love you with all my heart. “
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