Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
The foolish woman shouldn’t have used the old wooden-spoon to try to lift the heavy steamer. She flung the broken pieces across the kitchen then beat her flabby fists against the heart mantle. Frightened pots, pans and dishes held their breath as she stomped down the stone hallway. After a minute of dark stillness, to insure that Stîngace wasn’t lurking in the darkness to catch culinary enchantments, Ladle, finding his broken-half, climbed to a ledge under the kitchen window. He washed his face under a dripping faucet then gazed beyond the castle walls whispering loudly so the boiling kettle could hear. “Ages ago I was long and smooth, and every rich soup was stirred without fear. I was wiped clean daily and rested on a gleaming shelf. The Chef shared with me his compliments from the King.”
Ladle sighed as a molted crow flapped across the night sky and his own tiny splinters drifted into the filthy sink. “But the banquets gone have grown voluminous and the bright salvers round the tables now taunt me bust and fractured. The moon is much larger tonight … What does it portend? Listen! Footsteps! Illumination!” Ladle’s voice sang with hopeful joy. “Has his sodden Majesty come to rush me to the wood-carver? Will the repairs hurt?”
The wretched cook’s helper banged in, lamp-lighting a dirty-faced child pulling a wagon. “There! That broken dollop!” Stîngace pointed at Ladle cowering on the sill. “Not worth a short-chop for kindling … to the rubbish pit with it!”
Ladle felt himself lifted from the window sill and cast onto a cart piled high with broken jars, empty bottles and worn out shoes. “Where is the boy taking us?” Ladle asked a Jack boot with a broken heel.
“To our new home Reeking Downs,” Jack said. “If only I’d thought to bring Swatter along. He would have been a handy companion where were going. Old Swat was always spoiling for a fight with the flies. He slept on the shelf next to me all winter … and I knew him well.”
“Flies? What are flies?” Everything was happening too fast for Ladle.
“You’ll find out soon enough!” Jack laughed. “With that short bit of a broken handle of yours, they’ll be crawling all over you before you can beat them back!”
The boy pulled the cart through a doorway into a cobblestone courtyard outside and Ladle could not believe how bright it was; he had never been beyond the dingy kitchen.
“Good heavens!” Ladle gasped pointing himself toward the sky. “There! Up in the air. Is that a fire?”
A large burning ball glared down at him.
The old boot laughed. “You have been shut in haven’t you? That’s the Sun and he’s what makes everything warm.”
Ladle looked around in amazement as they rolled past numerous stands filled with everything imaginable from elaborately sewn clothing, household goods and toys to fruits and vegetables. “I never knew the world was so large!”
“This is not the world!” Jack laughed again. “All you see is part of an insignificant little kingdom on the edge of a forgotten forest beyond a tiny lake that nobody’s heard of. Why my mate and I sailed the seven seas, tromped across the deserts of Africa and danced before the Queen of Egypt.”
“Your mate?” Ladle was hearing many words he’d never heard before.
“Yes,” Jack said. “My twin and my best friend. We were inseparable until the soldier who owned us staggered home from the pub one night and lost him in a mucky puddle after a heavy rain.” Jack began to cry. “That was the last time I saw poor Harry.”
“Rain,” Ladle said. “What is rain?”
“I think were about to find out!” Jack pointed toward the sky where a rumble of thunder chased a dark cloud over the face of the sun.
Tiny drops of water began to fall and Ladle felt splattered-on like when he was stirring a boiling pot only this was not warm at all. The lad pushing the cart took cover under a striped umbrella covering a long table piled high with linen and shiny new objects leaving his cargo of discarded junk to get wet. “Hey!” Ladle yelled as a cold drop of water ran off his head.
“Sorry,” the rain said pointing to a dark cloud. “I was floating along minding my own business when that clap of thunder scared me!”
“Don’t blame me!” The voice coming from the cloud voice was so low you almost felt rather than heard him. “I was pushed by the wind!”
“I don’t see any wind,” the rain said splattering in all directions. “I think you’re making it all up!”
“You can’t see the wind.” Jack sighed, as if speaking to children. “It’s a spirit sent by God. You can only feel it!”
“I’ve never before had such magnificent conversations,” Ladle was all but laughing. “Only with an old black kettle and he was always boiling mad or simmering about something.”
“You’ll have to leave at once!” the man behind the table yelled at the boy. “I don’t need a wagon load of refuse sitting out front to drive my customers away.”
A long row of crystal-glass goblets turned away and refused to even look at the refugees.
“Oh dear,” Ladle said as the boy began to push the cart away. “I’ve been called broken and now refuse! What a bad day I’m having!”
“You call this bad?” Jack sneered. “I was once stranded on a desert Island for three weeks and was almost eaten by my master.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’ll be glad to be rid of this place,” the rain said. “That awful man put up that umbrella just to keep me out!”
“Hey wait up!” Thunder rumbled. And the wind followed.
They were moving past a filthy house with a dozen roosters out front; each was tied to a flagpole by a length of string looped around its neck. A beefy man with traveling bags under his sad eyes lumbered out of the dilapidated hovel and tossed a broken cup on the cart’s pile. “Might as well take along my poor old Stein,” he said, “If you’re bound for the dump. T’was a good cup that served me well, but last night the misses took aim at my head and hit the stove instead! The man sighed. “Every morning as each rooster crows, I salute the king’s colors and toast to his health and long life. Tis a pauper’s job for sure but tis honest work. Alas! What am I to do with half a cup?”
“Get a job that pays more than chicken feed,” a raspy woman’s voice screeched from inside the cottage as the cart moved away. Around the next corner, a man ran from the back door of a restaurant and emptied a pail of slop on top the pile. “Be a good lad and see that this gets home,” he muttered. Some of the vendors had begun to throw stones and to complain about the smell.
“It wasn’t my fault,” Stein said as they flew through the streets. “I warned him again and again to hide from his wife’s temper … but he wouldn’t listen!”
They left the castle grounds and made their way through several small villages. Just outside a minstrel show was tearing down a stage and loading up equipment. A man wearing skin-tight red and yellow striped pants and with an unbecoming sneer on his face tossed a musical instrument onto the cart. “Take this box of noises with you,” he said. “Just when I have the audience dancing and tossing money into my hat … he goes and breaks another string. When I get to the city I’m going to buy a horn instead!”
Lute was obviously in misery as he bounced along on top of the pile. “I did the best I could.” The musical instrument moaned. “He uses the broken end of a knife-blade to pluck out his tunes … of course my strings break!”
The trees began to thin and the group crossed an open field to where a huge hole had been gouged into the ground. “This is as far as I go,” the boy said. “From here on out you poor things are on your own.”
The cart teetered on the edge of a dark abyss. Ladle tried to see the bottom of the hole but it was too deep. "There must be some mistake,” he cried. “The king always complimented the chef and I on our wonderful soups … how can this be my end?”
“I smell smoke,” Stein gasped. “We’re about to be cast into a fire!”
Just then a pair of broken scissors wiggled up through the rubbish from the bottom of the cart. “Cut the crap,” he said. “You all knew your lives were spent when you were thrown away. A few minutes of agony and it will all be over.”
Flames began to leap into the air like hungry fish.
“I don’t hold as much as I used to,” Stein moaned. “But I can still quench a thirst on a hot summer’s day!”
“I’ve known boots that traveled the world alone, with help from a crutch,” Boot said. “I can’t believe my life is over!”
“I play beautiful music when I’m strummed with soft fingers,” Lute began to beg the boy. “Just listen …” He began to play but Ladle thought it was the saddest song he’d ever heard.
It’s too late,” the boy said. “I’ve brought you all this way … so in you go!”
Just then a strong wind came up and blew the boy and the cart away from the hole. The lad struggled to keep the cart upright. Muscles bulged on both his arms as he slowly pushed the cart forward. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But this is my job!”
He somehow lifted the back of the wagon and it tipped forward. Boot kicked at the air. Ladle spun in circles, the cup dropped like a rock and Lute screamed like a violin as the pile of garbage tumbled down into the flames.
To be continued …