Different by Frederick K Foote

On the horizon, out of the dust of the Harvest Road, comes a small trotting tribe of misfits.

A shaggy-headed, brown-skinned, tribal brother leads. By his side oddness is on parade, a silver-maned creature with hair straight as straw standing a head higher than her brown companion. She marches in diseased skin the color of bleached bones, with thin stick limbs adorned with gold and silver bands and bangles and many-colored jewels sparkling on her fingers, eyebrows, ears, and nose.

Her garments are obscene, sheer veils in shades of blue that reveal too much and conceal too little. Her footwear is like a second silver skin flashing lightning with each step.

Behind them in their shadows, marching side-by-side, are two freakish thigh-high children. The male child is rail-thin, a repulsive shade of yellow with a bush of curly disgustingly-orange hair. He carries a gold circle of life ring as big as a family food bowl.

The female child is of traditional build, but is the same ill skin color as the adult female, with Onyx black hair falling as straight as a waterfall. She carries an ebony staff of life higher than she is.

They are backpackers all. They gather speed and the curious as they direct their footsteps toward my door.

Behold and be amazed! It is my brother, Able, twenty years absent. We rush into a bone-crushing embrace and tears of joy.

Able addresses me in the traditional manner, “Cain, oldest born male child and brother of mine.” He drops to one knee. “I implore you to grant me your favor and blessings.”

I hasten my response, “No query is required. You are always in my favor and my blessings.” I pull him to his feet and urge, pull and push them into my home, away from the growing crowd of snooping idlers.

Bes, my wife for life, is stunned by the menagerie I have let into our home. She catches her breath, covers her mouth, breathes deeply, and welcomes our unexpected guests. “Sit. Rest. Allow me to cure your thirst and curb your hunger. Welcome to our home.”

Our daughters, Patience, and Faith, rush into the greeting hall and are shocked into stone, open-mouthed silence.

“Daughters, where are your manners? You dare embarrass me and this house in the presence of my brother, your uncle, Able?”

My brother is as loud as I remember, “Cain, you have a splendid family and a lovely home. I beg of thee to allow me to introduce my companion and mother of our children, Thoth, Master of Laws and Scenes.”  The thin, sickly colored one gives a grimace that perhaps passes as a smile among her kind.

“And our Son, Mirth, our fountain of joy.” The horrifically-tainted, misshapen boy bows and presents the staff of life to my wife, astonishing her so that she fumbles the acceptance of the gift which traditionally goes to the male head of household.

“This is our daughter, Shaft, the shadow racer.” The offensively-hued child offers me the female circle of life. I try to hide my shame and disgust and quickly pass the gold hoop to my wife.

Faith and Patience are holding on to each other with bewildered looks, bordering on panic.

I hurry through introductions of my family.

A laughing Able gifts Patience with a simple bone ring.

A smiling Thoth gives Faith a bird’s feather of red, white and blue.

The girls are astonished by the cheapness of the trinkets but try masterfully to cover their disdain.

We are all flustered by this unparalleled intrusion.

Bes, the wonderful wife that she is, buys us time to recover by having the girls lead the intruders to the guest rooms to prepare for the noon meal.

##

“Husband, forgive me, but these – these – outlanders, these freaks of nature in our house. In our home. What are we to do?”

“My brother. Oh, my brother must have been bewitched. He would never bring such shame—”

“Husband, they arrived on foot. Poverty may have driven them to our doorstep. Oh, we maybe, perhaps we can gift them food and coins and speed them on to, to a more, a more accepting clime.”

“Wife, all their belongings in those pitiful small packs…”

“And, her, on display like a harlot with fake jewels and false smiles. Oh, my, my, my.”

“Dull, mentally-crippled offspring, unable to even get the household gifting right. Pitifully poor and feeble-minded. They are most unfortunate and—”

“Husband, I see your generous heart expanding to include them, but they would be objects of ridicule… as would we… the work colony across the river might accommodate – but even there they would suffer—”

“Bes, my wife, you have people in the theaters in the River Cities, where they could earn a living. Your uncles could put them on display for the jaundiced eyes of city dwellers. We could act as, as guardians to protect their earnings and—”

“Excellent! Outstanding! Tonight. We could hire a wagon to deliver them to my uncles this very night. A small expense that they can repay us out of their earnings. Husband, you are wise beyond most men and are so kind and thoughtful as to delight the Goddess herself.”

My Bes hugs me as we dance around our greeting room and plot the quick departure of our embarrassing, poor, discolored, and deformed relatives.

Bes is off to supervise the cooks, and I to select some wines that will not be too rich for the plebeian palates of our guest.

##

We are settled in the greeting room, seated on silk cushions and fine rugs. The blessings have been said, libations poured, and I defer to my younger brother to take the first serving.

Able bows his head and looks each of us in the eyes, “Brother, I beg a favor before the meal commences.”

Oh, here comes his hardship plea, but Bes and I are prepared. I’m blessed to have such a sharp wife and healthy-minded children. “My, brother, ask of me anything within my power to provide.”

Poor Able shares a glance with his hideous wife. I wonder how could my brother ever mate with so reprehensible and obviously defective creature.

“Cain, I know in our father’s time, and his father’s time our family lusted for and relentlessly tried to acquire the northeast plots along the Green River. Is that still the case with you dear brother?”

What is this? What manner of diversion is this? I glance at Bes. She shrugs. “I, yes. The land is not available at any reasonable price. Why do you ask?”

Able withdraws a sealed document from his robes and hands it to me. “Please, brother, accept this small token of our esteem.”

I unseal the document – a deed. The deed to the Northeast properties. I lose my voice. I nearly faint. The deed is in my name. By the Hem of the Gown of the Goddess, I swear this is the greatest day in the five-hundred-year history of our farm. Our properties are now nearly doubled, and we have direct river access. I’m overcome with gratitude and joy.

Bes snatches the document from my hand. She reads. She rereads. “Is this, is this real? Are you playing a prank?”

His harlot laughs and speaks, “No prank. My partner wanted to surprise you with a small display of his affection. We have acquired a larger parcel adjoining yours where we just erected a summer home. We will welcome you there in a few days when we have sorted things out.”

I don’t remember much of the rest of the meal. I do remember retaining the deed and looking at it repeatedly.

I also remembered the ghastly quartet taking their leave in a handsome four-horse carriage. I remembered that.

##

“Wife, what has occurred here? Who are those creatures? Is this really happening?”

In our bedchambers, Bes is bathing me to cool down my fever. “Husband, you do remember sending the maid to wake the District Recorder from noon naps to verify the deed. Do you remember that?”

“Vaguely, yes, yes. I sent wine, our best. It’s real. The deed’s real. But, who are they? Are they truly that wealthy? No! No! They are servants of a great lord or business titan. Yes?”

“Bes briskly scrubs my back. “Our maid said the Recorder’s maid had seen papers showing your brother having some considerable wealth, enough to purchase all the farmland in the District without suffering a strain.”

“Bollocks! No! Gossip! Silly, silly gossip.”

Bes looks up from washing my feet. “Perhaps. But that slut of his is a Princess of the Iceland Powers. She could buy and sell Abel’s kind all day every day. So goes the gossip.”

We’re thoughtfully quiet as my wife dries me.

“Husband, I hate to sound ungrateful, but if the gossip is true, your brother has slighted you with a rather insignificant share of his good fortune.”

“Hush. I need to rest my mind. I need to think. Come to bed. Tomorrow it will all be clearer. Tomorrow.”

##

At morning’s light meal, before I go to supervise our fields, our children have their own surprises to again stagger our still twirling minds.

The simple bone ring is anything but simple. It glows with a soft golden light and changes hues and pulses to the beat of Patience’s heart. We have neither seen nor heard of anything of this odd nature. I immediately have Patience remove the diabolical ornament and deliver it to her mother for an appropriate disposition.

Faith, reluctantly, tells us that her feather reveals a bird’s eye view of the great cities and landscapes of the world when the holder closes her eyes and strokes the feather.

Bollocks! Utterly impossible. My child has been bewitched or drugged or both. Until. Until I try the feather. Fie! I fling the cursed plume away from me. It’s sorcerer magic. I consign the intoxicating, addictive quill to my wife for immediate destruction.

My children flee the meal in tears.

Later my wise wife counsels me.

“Husband, your brother might take offense if he doesn’t see his gifts appreciated.”

“Fie! They are dangerous, possible carriers of mental disease, moral corruption and—”

“True, but not likely. There’s no reason for that in light of your brother’s generosity, such as it is. But, we should at least have the gifts appraised. They could be of considerable worth.”

Again, I’m reminded of my wife’s practical quality of mind that has helped us time after time.

Bes whispers in my ear, “And think of the gifts to come if Able sees these gifts well received.”

Before I step out into the dawn, I direct Bes to return the gifts to the girls, but only to be used and worn in our house for now.

A wise wife is worth a hundred servants and a thousand slaves.

##

At the afternoon meal, there’s a message from my brother’s whore inviting us to a family supper two days hence. They will send a carriage for us. I’m outraged and insulted by their condescending arrogance.

Bes soothes my angry outburst with calm reason, “Holster your anger. Sheath your venomous words. Here, my husband, we have a Golden Goose, and it behooves us to learn how we will extract egg after golden egg. Leash your pride and curb your distaste for if we keep our wits about us, we may exceed even their wealth and sink them to a level more appropriate to their base character.”

Once again, I silently congratulate myself for having chosen quick wits and clever hands over good looks and status in a wife.

##

If it is my brother’s goal to thoroughly humiliate me and belittle me in the eyes of my family, friends, and fellow farm owners he has succeeded, perhaps, beyond his wildest expectations.

The entire District appears to be in an uproar and obsessed with my brother’s mansion and expansive gardens and grounds, his so called ‘summer house.’

I feel these fickle observers make an unspoken comparison between my brother’s statuses and achievements and my own.

Alas, my children now favor my brother’s residence, his children’s styles and taste and their foreign and exotic foods.

And, it only compounds my resentments when I learned that the source of my brother’s vast wealth is his trading in the value of the food crops that other farmers and I grow. He grows nothing but reaps ten times the amount of our hard work without raising a sweat or roughing his hands.

My only solace is my sweet Bes.

She’s relentless in trying to penetrate the web of chicanery and exploitation that’s my brother’s alleged business. She spends many hours in the presence of Able’s disgusting excuse for a wife. Bes will soon have mastered the complicated economic and political manipulations that have garnered so much wealth and power to the undeserving Icelandic skeleton beast.

My Bes is my hope and salvation. Bes assures me that soon we will have the upper hand.

##

I found some contentment and satisfaction in exploring my new Northeast properties. It is on such a journey that I discovered Abel’s four-horse coach parked in a grove by the Green River.  At that moment I threw caution to the wind. I sped toward the coach with but one desire; to force my brother to understand the devastating impact he has had on my family.

I hurdle into the Grove and find, find the incredible; my sweet Bes pressing her naked flesh to the bare skin of my brother’s bony bitch.

I don’t recall all that transpired in that shady grove. The blood on my hands and clothes was testimony to some violence. I sensed that none of the blood is mine.

I do recall driving the carriage at breakneck speed to my brother’s mansion.

They claim I slew my brother and my wife and my sister-in-law.

But, how could I have harmed a hair on sweet Bes’s head? And, what kind of monster kills his own brother?  I feel sure that my sterling reputation and good standing in the District will set me free of these ridiculous charges. Fie! Fratricide is not in my past or future. That is plain for all to see.

 

Frederick K Foote

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

5 thoughts on “Different by Frederick K Foote

  1. Thank you, Annmarie. Our society is fractured by wealth gaps, color biases, and attitudes toward sex and gender. However, these factors may have also afflicted many past societies and may offer an explanation for ancient mysteries such as why Cain slew Abel.

    Like

  2. Hi Fred,
    Add a sharp mind with some brilliant writing and we end up with your stories!
    It is easy enough to put a slant on something that is already there. But to lift it and give it another life, that shows an imagination and a perception that dips into what we already know and the issues that you want to showcase.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Like

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