Auspicious Pudding, Part II

This week we’re writing a Round Robin Story. Each of us are shooting from the hip to put a story together for your (and our) enjoyment. If you haven’t already, check out Part I here. Back? Good. And the story continues…

Part II

“The weald,” answered Jasper. He turned to Ty, a little exasperated. “Has the stomach rot gotten to your ears? I just said that.”

Ty’s stomach flipped at the mention of it. The pain didn’t last long as his attention quickly focused on the trees. The trees that shouldn’t be. That couldn’t be there.

They most certainly were there.

A clump of moss gave easily way when Jasper pulled it from the bark of the closest tree. Redwood? Was it even possible for a tree to grow that big?

Ty watched as Jasper sniffed the moss, nodded to himself ,and proceeded to smash the clump in his gnarled hands.

“What are you doing?”

Jasper just hummed to himself. The cuffing of his hands pounding the moss punctuated his song. The tune was only vaguely familiar to Ty. Just when he thought he could place it, Jasper stopped, picked up a sprig of pennyroyal and pressed it between moss-mushed hands. He gave it a good squish and then presented it to Ty.

“Nice. I’m impressed. No, really,” the sarcasm was like a candy coating over each word. “I just feel bad for leaving the Forestry Craft Badge at home. You so earned it.”

Ty went on to say more, but Jasper shoved the sprig in Ty’s mouth. Before he could spit it out, the old man had one hand on the back of Ty’s neck and the other covering his mouth.

“You can thank me later,” offered Jasper.

The grime on Jasper’s hand felt slick and coarse like wet sand paper on the back of his neck. His thoughts whirred from his now grim-streaked neck, to wondering how hands so old and knobby could still be so strong, to the horrible thing in his mouth. To say it tasted like minty dirt would be like calling the moon a rock. It combined the flavor of fresh lawn clippings with the grit of under-stirred hot cocoa. Sure there was an underlying hint of mint, but that silver lining was too thin encompass this gray cloud.

“Now would you stop struggling so I can talk to ya’ proper?”

Ty hadn’t realized he was jerking about, and when he did, he felt wholly justified. He kept it up for just a second longer as to not let Jasper think it was him telling him to that he stopped.

“That should settle your stomach for a bit. Yes, I know. Kinda’ feels like it’s going to do the opposite. It won’t though. Just chew a bit.”

Jasper’s grip loosen, but didn’t let go. He waited to see Ty’s jaw work the mush before going on.

“Good. Good. Now mind you don’t eat it. In small doses it’ll calm the rot. Swallow the whole of it, and we’ll be stopping at every other tree with a soft leaf.”

Ty didn’t want to admit it, but he could feel the knot untie itself in his gut. He didn’t fool himself. It was still there, only loosened.

“I can see it in your eye. It’s working.”

Jasper let go, leaving a mossy hand print in his place. He wiped the remainder on his pants and started rolling his sleeping bag and stowing his gear.

“How… Where did you… I mean,” Ty couldn’t get the words out. He didn’t even know where to begin. The trees? Magpies? The minty grit in his mouth?

“Can your auspex do that, too?” He finally asked.

Ty’s tone said jest, but his eyes begged for something to hold on to.

“Not just any auspex, that’s for sure. Now stop gawpping and roll up your bag. We got things to do and no telling how long to do them in. Move it now. Move.”

Whether by Jasper’s design or not, Ty was grateful for the busy work, moving in the familiar motions of breaking camp, rolling this, packing that. He didn’t know how longer Jasper had been talking before he started listening.

“—to see this. It’s good though. Very good. Maybe lucky even.”

“Jasper?”

“Son, if I told it all now, how am I to enjoy the look on your face when we get there?”

His smile was as much sincere as it was concealing.

Tune in this weekend for the stunning conclusion! (No pressure, Amy.)

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