Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lessons From the Baba Yaga III

"Well, are you just going to sit there, Child?" I heard Yaga yell from inside her hut. It had taken me about three afternoons to finally short through all of her canned goods in the cellar. I had reached the very end when I found a jar full of something I had never seen before. I wasn't quite sure if it should be on the side with the herbs, or if I should put it with the food. I wasn't even vaguely sure of how fresh it was. How long had it been sitting back there in the dark, gathering dust?

"WELL?" Yaga yelped again. "I though you said you were through! What's taking so long? There's more work to be done!" I imagined that I had kept Yaga waiting long enough while trying to figure this problem out on my own. I had better ask what the contents in the jar actually are. Better to face her impatience in my not knowing, than have her scold me for putting it in the wrong place I thought.

I trotted up the stairs, they grew sturdy and wide again under my feet. Sensing Yaga's growing impatience with me they practically hoisted me up to the surface without any effort on my part. My eyes had to readjust themselves to the sun which was now setting. Yaga had apparently heard me being thrown out of the storage room, because when I reemerged she was standing there, cane in one hand, the other shielding her eyes from the sunset.

"Ah! There you are! Finally. Took you long enough. What was the trouble?" Without even saying a word, I lowered my eyes and held up the jar of unnamed goods to let her see. I had been thinking how angry she would be at me. Hoping that she wouldn't switch me across the back of my legs. She hadn't ever done anything more than yell at me once or twice since I came to stay with her. She never seemed at all violent, but I was still afraid.

Instead, when she saw the rogue jar she snatched it from my hand with cat-like agility, held it to the light, and laughed. No, cackled. She cackled for so long that she had to wipe away tears from her eyes and the end of her hooked nose. Handing the jar back to me she patted me on the head and told me to bring it inside.

She led the way back into the hut and made way to her favorite chair. Gracelessly she lowered herself into in, letting her backside flop into the cushion that was twice her size. She motioned for me to join her in the chair beside her's. I followed suit without question.

"So you don't know what's in that jar, do you, dear?" I lowered my eyes again. Unsure of why I was so ashamed at not being able to identify the contents of a lousy glass container. "Well. No worries. I've got no flippin' clue what it really is either." She said with a chuckle in her voice. I threw my head up and stared at her in disbelief. To which she replied by cackling some more. "It's no worry, my dear. It is special though. I think it's worthy of its own shelf, actually. Magic stuff, that is." Taking the jar she raised it so that we could see the light come through it. The liquid was a warm, soft amber color. What looked like perfectly round, white eggs were floating in it. When the sunlight hit it just so, you could see all sorts of colors reflecting around and dancing off of the eggs. It was absolutely beautiful.

"This jar has been here since before my time. It's older than me, if you can believe that!" Hearing this news, I was convinced it must have been the first thing that was ever pickled and put under glass.

"Elegant isn't it? The way the colors dance when the light shines through it. Those little guys in there have to be the most stunning things I have ever seen in all of my years." I nodded in silent agreement, never taking my eyes off of those eggs. "But, I'll tell you a secret..." Yaga leaned in close to me. "...They taste something awful!" Slapping her knee she lowered the dancing eggs from the light and unscrewed the lid. Reaching in with her gnarled, bony fingers she plucked one of the eggs and pulled it out. Letting the excess amber fluid drip off the bottom and back inside. "Here. Have one. You'll see what I mean!"

There was no part of me that was ecstatic about tasting it. She had just said how bad they tasted, hadn't she? How could something so fanciful be disgusting? I popped the entire egg into my mouth, Yaga letting out a chuckle and a snort as I did so. Immediately my tongue swelled up and rebelled against this thing that I had attacked it with. The smell of it alone was making me want to gag. What amber goo was left on it was sickeningly strong and vile. The egg, or whatever it was, tasted old and damp just like the cellar in which it had been hidden. I wanted to spit it back out into my hand, but Yaga stopped me just before I did. "Aht! No, child! You eat that whole thing! Don't you dare spit it back out!"

The thought of finishing this horrible, wretched thing was going to keep me up all night. I just knew it. I did my best to chew it, the inside of the egg was course like sand and tasted like something that slithers on the bottom of a lake. I chewed and chewed and, what felt like hours later, finally managed to swallow without throwing up. Yaga must have thought that I looked pitiful, because she reached over and cupped my chin so that I would look her in the eyes. "You did it? Good for you. I wasn't quite sure you were going to be able to make it. Good for you for proving me wrong." She smiled gently and patted me knee. "Here. This is yours. Keep it beside your bed. It will serve as a good reminder." "Reminder of what? Not to eat something that you don't know even know what it is?"

"Oh no my child. A reminder to you that not everything that is as beautiful as it looks." With that, she left me sitting alone as she hobbled into the kitchen to prepare what would undoubtedly be a much more savory meal.

1 comment:

  1. Good lesson! I'm loving your Baba Yaga series. I, too, prefer her as a wise woman living in the woods, rather than a wicked old witch. You really make the characters come alive in your writing. Thank you for sharing it!