18th Day of Harvest Season
The imp has made a mess of things. It began innocently enough. The smaller children have a difficult time bringing in the harvest. The root vegetables pose little difficulty, and that is where the youngest worked for days. If any turnips and carrots remained, they would still be there, but the children have worked hard and plucked them all from their home in the ground. The older boys needed help in the wheat and oat fields. After only one day watching them awkwardly swing the scythes, we’ve assigned them to the berry patches on the southern side. While considerably safer, these have proved challenging for small hands. Ivette and the others come back with the outside of their hands covered with angry welts. Scratches line the length of their tiny fingers, like red skin wrinkles. Noni, filled with the foolish wisdom of imps, convinced them they could make a machine to help them. An animal claw to reach out and snatch berries safely. Where he came up with this idea is still a mystery. Perhaps the minds of all magical creatures are filled with foolish designs. I have never seen such a tool, but enamored with this idea, he and the children have spent every moment of their free time constructing such a device.
The hammering alone was enough to shatter my head. I have bandaged more bloody fingers, arms and ears, (the wound upon the ear, I must confess, lacked any suitable explanation), than I have in recent memory. I’ll confess their ambition was a nice distraction from Trinn’s death. Then I feel guilty for thinking such thoughts. As if anything can replace the life a man. As if anything should.
Finally, after two days, they brought forth their savior, a crude wooden claw. Excitement on a child’s face is nothing short of magical. I believe when a child smiles, the sun bursts into a radiant brilliance, but when excitement lights up a child’s face, the wonder and beauty of it outshines everything else we’ve ever known.
And when that excitement dissolves into terror, there are few words to describe it.
Ivette held the honor of bringing the claw out from the work shed. She kept it hidden behind her back, wanting to surprise me and Master Gryst, who waited with the appropriate level of expectation upon our faces. With the pride of a master builder, Ivette pulled a small latch and a series of thin, but sturdy, wooden fingers creaked into life. The only thing the poor child forgot about was the mutt.
Rosemary, so named for the way she wrinkles her nose every time she smells the herbs in my pocket, took one look at the contraption, with its magical moving parts and growled. Ivette screamed and, frightened someone might take her prize, hoisted the claw high into the air. She backed away from us. Rosemary followed, lunging for the strange machine. Hugo scampered after the dog on wobbly legs, jabbering at it as only a three-year-old can. Poppy and another boy joined in the chase. Ivette, more frightened than ever, took off around the house and I watched, dumbstruck as she circled the farm, the mutt growling after her, the children chasing the mutt, all while Noni, the imp who set these events into motion, sat on the lid of an old barrel laughing and slapping his thigh.
I was so focused on Ivette, I didn’t even see Mouse walk up the path until she crashed into him. They both fell to the ground, sending a large cloud of dust into the air. Rosemary pounced on top of them, snapping at the claw. The other children stood back, too afraid to get close to the dog.
Master Gryst reacted swiftly. He ran toward them, reached down and yanked the dog up by the scruff of her neck. Then he tossed her aside. He grabbed both Mouse and Ivette and pulled them to their feet. Pieces of splintered wood dropped to the ground. Ivette burst into sobs. Poppy gathered the pieces together assuring Ivette they could rebuild it. I meant to chastise Noni, to encourage him to help, but I confess now I forgot all about the imp. Mouse’s sudden appearance startled me in the way the sudden appearance of the sun during the night might startle any sane man.
“Do Brother Milton and Noreen follow you?”
“We need to talk,” he said, nothing more.
Master Gryst and I exchanged looks. Then I led Mouse inside the farmhouse. He refuses to speak until after he has eaten, and I have passed the time recording the day’s events. My curiosity burns inside of me. It turns my insides to liquid fear. I feel it coursing through my body, rising up into my throat. I want to know, yet I am afraid to hear, the information he has to share. Have we not had our share, Sisters? Have we not experienced enough sadness and fear to last a lifetime? I ask the questions here, in my journal, where it is safe to discuss such things. I am too much of a coward to whisper them aloud.
– Jakob Borchain
Click here to read the previous entry, The Priest’s Death, 15th Day of Harvest Season.