An original tale by M. Kate Allen
Written especially for Othella ‘Bean’ Morris
Once upon a time there was a town where no one lived. Shops, homes, and paved streets lined the seaside town, but there was no one to shop, dwell, or wander there.
One day, a boat appeared on the town’s seaside horizon for no one to see. The boat, a speck in the foggy distance, grew larger, and eventually bumped town’s sandy shore. A woman in canvas pants and a white, button-down shirt emerged from the boat, pulled it onto dry land, collected her large rucksack, and wandered up to the road. After exploring the beautiful, silent, empty town, she chose a house to dwell in and set her things there.
With no one else in town, her first task was to figure out what to do for food, as her own supply on the boat had diminished to nearly nothing. She went beyond the town’s borders on the landside and found a meadow of wheat. She gathered it, plucked out the chaff, and took it home. She plucked thirty grains of wheat and set them aside; then she plucked the remaining grains from their sheaves and set about grinding them into a coarse flour. Next, she ventured out to the forest beyond the meadow for dry scraps of timber with which she could make a fire. With her squares of flint, she struck a spark and lit a fire with the wood she’d found. Next, she lit a spare branch and headed out to a tree in the meadow she had seen abuzz with bees. She quieted the bees with the smoke of her torch and put her hand into the tree hollow, reaching inside the hive hidden within that hollow, for a honeycomb. She withdrew a small dish from a large pocket in her canvas shirt and placed the honeycomb there, blowing out the torch and licking her fingers on her way back.
After she had deposited the honeycomb on her kitchen windowsill, she ventured forth one more time, this time with a bucket. There was a stream she had seen in the woods, and she needed water, as there was no faucet in her new home. While she was gathering water, a trio of small fish were caught in her bucket. She took the bucket, fish and all, back through the woods and across the meadow into the town where she now lived.
The woman had all she needed, and she rejoiced, offering a blessing to the earth. Then she cut off the heads of the fish and roasted them on her fire. She boiled the remaining water and added some of it to the crushed wheat grains, drizzling the mush with honey and folding it into a dough. Then she baked the honey-wheat-water dough in a tiny Dutch oven, allowing the bread to bake next to the fish.
When the food was prepared, she heard a knock at her door. She looked up, surprised. When she opened the door, a great multitude stood before her, their eyes cast down, their hands held up as human bowls to receive whatever she might place there.
She looked back at her dinner. Swiftly, she gathered it in a large towel, tied the ends of the towel around her neck, and left her new home. She said another blessing, this time in thanks for the people, and began to place pieces of baked fish and torn fragments of almost-too-hot-to-touch bread in their hands. She moved quickly through the crowd, and by nightfall, all had been fed except herself.
She closed her eyes, offered a third blessing, and did not break her fast.
The next morning, as the sun began to creep into the sky, the woman awoke to find her new neighbors bustling out of town and into the meadow and forest, armed with buckets. She smiled and blessed all the earth once more, knowing that she would be present for a great feast that day.