Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stone Soup & Another Tall Tale

Stone Soup is on the menu today, kindly pass the verbage.

Sometimes I want to write, I want really badly to write, but stuff just doesn't tumble out... or maybe it's more that it doesn't just tumble out. The thoughts are there, but there's no cohesion, nothing that says (Much like a dog needing someone to throw the frisbee to be chased), "There ya go, Baby... run with it!" I had such a morning the other day. So, as I was trolling for ideas, I turned to my facebook friends. They never fail to dissapoint, and certainly never fail to amuse. I now have enough topics to last at least a week or more.

Kathy suggested, "Verbal Stone Soup. Pretend you need a topic and the tribe writes it for you." A few responses later, Laura commented, "Actually, I think we sorta have written her post..."

For those of you unfamiliar with the Stone Soup story, because, let's face it, you grew up under a rock (cue raucous laughter), here is the synopsis: Weary travelers (gypsies!) come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty pot. They're starving when they arrive, but the villagers are not willing to share any of their food. So, the travelers fill the pot with water and drop a stone into the pot, then place it over a fire in the village square. Curious, one of the villagers asks what they are doing. The travelers tell the villager, "We are making stone soup. It tastes wonderful, although it still needs just a bit of salt to improve the flavor. If only we had a bit of salt." The villager doesn't mind parting with just a little bit of seasoning to help them out, so it gets added to the soup. Another villager comes by and inquires about the pot. The travelers again mention their stone soup, citing that it still hasn't reached its full potential. The villager hands them a couple of potatoes to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each hearing the story, each contributing their own ingredient. After all is said and done, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

So, you see the correlation. I'd kind of forgotten the story until Kathy mentioned it, but it used to be one of my favorites to read to kids. It's a wonderful message about generosity, kindness, giving back, and what happens when we all pitch in together.

And then the other shoe dropped. Laura said, "See what you can do with: fishing, ignorance, free-falling, hemp, dictators, weaving, aeroponics, drama addicts, hamsters, lunch, balls and bruises... And Zingers- that's what's for dinner... Oh yeah, I also left out "visiting childhood homes"...

Here goes (why do I suddenly feel very like Karen von Blixen?)...

Two dictators, Mundungus and Ataxia, clothed in light hand-woven hemp shirts, were perched high in a tree. Fairly ignorant, as only dictators can be, they thought it would be an advantageous spot from which to fish, as they could see all the way down to the river bottom from where they were. They'd been fishing for a while without much luck, and were beginning to get hungry. Mundungus suggested that Ataxia open the picnic hamper that dangled from a nearby branch. Knowing what a wonderful cook Ataxia's wife was, he couldn't wait to see what kind of lunch she had packed for them.

Ataxia leaned down to grab the hamper, but the wicker weave was caught on a branch. He gently shook the handle, trying to free it, but it wouldn't budge. Finally, seeing Mundungus's glare, he grasped the handle firmly and gave it a hard yank. Of course, as such things happen, the hamper came free so suddenly that it threw Ataxia completely off balance. He tumbled from the top of the tree into a free fall, plummeting to the river below and certain it would be his death. Instead, he very efficiently caught a large lower branch, thereby breaking the fall. The downside was that he caught it with his crotch. Naturally, this completely took the wind out of him and he toppled the final five feet to the ground, groaning and clutching at his bruised balls.

It wasn't long before Mundungus, now entirely grumpy at being made to wait for his lunch, made his way down, albeit far more gracefully. As he flicked a bit of bark from his shirt, he looked down at Ataxia with disgust and said, "Oh, do stop being such a drama addict! It's only your balls. Get over it - you're not dead! Get up! I'm hungry." At this they both thought to look around for the hamper that surely must have fallen just as Ataxia did. Just as surely, they discovered that it had fallen into the river, completely ruining the contents.

Ataxia knew he couldn't go back to his wife for more. She was going through her change of life and not always in the most amenable moods. Still, he felt that the lack of lunch was completely his fault and he didn't want Mundungus to be angry with him. He said, "I'll tell you what, 'Gus... m'dear old Mum lives just a frog's leap from here. I know the way well - I grew up in that house! She'll be glad to feed us. Come, my friend!" And, so they followed the river bank until they came upon Ataxia's mother's house.

It was a pleasing little cottage set back just so from the river bank. It so happened that it was entirely surrounded by all manner of plants - plants in buckets, hanging from strings. The maze of hoses that was woven across all of this dripped water into and over everything. Mundungus looked at the perplexing collection and said, "What's all this?!" "Oh," replied Ataxia, "Mum's into aeroponics... grows the most delicious vegies and what have you!"

Politely tapping on the door frame, they entered the house. An old woman came toward them, hobbling away from a bubbling cauldron. "Hello, Mum!" Ataxia greeted her. "I hope you don't mind, I've brought my friend Mundungus for a bit of lunch. We were fishing and there was a something of a mishap, and I'm afraid we're both famished! We've walked here all the way from the redwood grove." "Oh dear, son," she replied. "It's well past lunch. In fact, I've already eaten supper. I've got the hamster stew boiling for breakfast, but it won't be ready for hours. Little critters are tough y'know, plus the flavor's all in their wee bones, and they need a longish cooking time."

Ataxia had forgotten how strange some of his mother's habits could be. However, five minutes in his childhood home brought them all rushing back again. It was a dizzying feeling that was very akin to his recent plunge from the top of the tree, and about as pleasant as the resulting blow that had knocked his balls into his tonsils. Even so, his thoughts were of keeping peace with Mundungus who could be a surly, if not threatening dictator at best. He didn't need a war on his hands, dealing with his wife's menopaus was enough for one man. So, he said, "Mum, you must have something. Even a simple nosh. Really, we're both ever so peckish."

The woman went to the pantry, humming an old ode the entire time. Ataxia and Mundungus merely looked at each other as they heard her rummaging, the sound of jars crashing to the floor mixed with the noise of boxes being rattled, and always the high pitched humming. Just as Mundungus leaned toward Ataxia to whisper, "Really, mate... it's not that big a deal. I'll manage, let's just g...." The woman burst from the pantry, waving a red and blue box over her head, and crowed, "ZINGERS! That's what's for dinner!!"

Thus it came to pass that the two dictators went on a fishing trip and ended up feasting on a supper of snack cakes with an old crone. It was already dark when they made ready to leave. Mundungus, more than ready for some fresh air, thanked the old woman and told Ataxia he'd wait for him outside. Ataxia hugged his mother goodbye, wondered at the odd acrid, peppery scent clinging to her clothes, decided not to ask, and thanked her as well. As he paused in the doorway, breathing in the cool night air, he thought, "One really can go back home again, but I think it's best if one doesn't."

~~%~~ The End ~~%~~

The moral of this story is: Mind the size of the frisbee.

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