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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Third Child, from Saya @ The Rock Pool

Here we have the final* funfun Fill-In of the Fortnight, folks!  (How was that for alliteration?  I satisfied even my ridiculous appetite for it with that one...).  This one comes to us from Saya @ The Rock Pool, who found the Fortnight through Zoë's blog!  She decided to get in on the fun with her version of The Third Child.

The Third Child

There was an old woman who lived in an old bordello. She had three children, the bane of her existence. The first was an apparently thick-headed, doltish son, Spade, who was prone to buying 'magic beans' and 'geese' that laid strange orange 'eggs'. But, despite his unfortunate appearance and even more unfortunate name, a mysterious acumen for recognising business opportunities allowed him to turn potentially psychotic quirks into a quasi-respectable source of income - and so he was reprieved.

The second was a beautiful but haughty daughter, Miranda, who stared at herself ceaselessly in any reflective surface, speaking in rhyme to the reflection there. She could have been the bordello's greatest asset in the most obvious way, but her narcissism repelled any potential clients - her adoration was spent only on herself. The genius of her brother, however, turned this inadvisable self-love into a money-spinning work of art and mirrors, and within a week, no client left - nor could bear to leave! - without paying double to see the hauntingly lovely girl search for her true reflection in a room of mirrors, witnessing her anguish at the distortion she met at every turn. For the genius was this: every day, the mirrors that made up every surface - every wall and every piece of furniture - were moved. It was a kind of exquisite hell with a piece of heaven hidden inside: only one mirror was true, and every day, this was the face she searched for. Her distress during the search was acute, her cries keen - and when she found it? Every time was like the first time.

While the quality of her intellect and soundness of mind was questionable, she was without doubt the bordello's greatest asset. And so, she was reprieved.

But the third child, Tantra (so named by her father), she was the worst of all, even from before she was born. The first two children gave her endless grief, but at least that was grief she had anticipated, and even to some extent, planned. Tantra happened rather later in life: the woman was already old, and she thought if the pregnancy didn't kill her, labour certainly would.  It was Tantra's fate to be the one who drove the old woman to distraction, for, as the old saying goes, a name was always a prophecy.

Tantra was hardly out of nappies before she was stir-crazy for boys. And she showed little taste or discretion; as the years passed and she grew up, she became a leech on the business, hijacking paying clients. The business dwindled and cash began to run dry. The clientele no longer wanted to pay for something when they could have it for free. Spade had run out of ideas, and not even Miranda's performances, once-breathtaking and sought-after, could save them.

The old woman had no choice but to lock Tantra high in a convenient and cheap rent-by-the-month tower, away from anything carrying a Y-chromosome, and from which piercing wails and high-pitched screams promptly escaped, until Tantra had a better idea - for she was not entirely bereft of brains...they just had a way of taking backseat to her libido (or her libido took the backseat, if you catch my drift).

In the slim times of forging a means of survival despite Tantra's depradations, one way her mother had attempted to supplement her income was by the rather incongruous matching of horticulture and hemp - but due to the shortage of funds had been limited to growing only pumpkins, and due to the shortage of hemp, was forced to resorting to hair for rope-making. And so a combination of fate, poverty and poor decisions led to our present scene of Tantra climbing down a ladder made of hair and fleeing in a giant pumpkin carriage, vowing to follow the Y-chromosomes, wheresoever they might be. (The old woman’s fault, you see, for braiding hair-ladders and growing what were surely genetically-modified mutant pumpkins...)
The third child travelled night and day, finally reaching the Great City. When the pumpkin reached the City, however, it was empty. It seemed too good to be true. So a ragged footpad (with an unusually distinguished brow) promptly stole the carriage from a poorly-attended vendor’s stall nearby, where it was tethered, and set off for the Grand Kitchen - because truth to tell, he rather fancied a pumpkin pie.

The footpad's quest was not an easy one, and before long, he found himself hungrier than he had ever been, in possession of more food than he had ever had, and yet utterly unable to sate his hunger. Not knowing what else to do, the footpad did what anyone who wasn't a promiscuous third child would do: using basic common sense and the principle of instant gratification, he sold the pumpkin for a fraction of its worth. This of course caused an immediate improvement of circumstance, which led to food in his belly, but didn't offer much in the way of long-term prosperity. Which is exactly what one would expect of such a hungry boy, who, as an eleventh and last child, could be nothing like a pampered, heedless-thoughtless third child, although he did have the dubious advantage of a distinguished brow.

The footpad lived in relative difficulty for a long time - but at least he lived. The idea of a happily-ever-after was to him as distant as a star, although sometimes as close as a good meal - when he got one, of course. But to this day, whenever someone says 'pumpkin', the footpad remembers that one time when fate was kind to him but circumstance was not - which is probably not what everyone else thinks of,particularly when their bellies are full and their beds warm.

As for Tantra, the third child of the old, once-prospering woman, who lived in an old and failing bordello...well, no one ever heard of her again. So you could surmise that while everyone lived ever after in some fashion, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that she did not. Tantra became a cautionary tale, invoked by mothers of precocious children everywhere - and for her, in life and in memory, there was no reprieve.

*Know how I said this was the "final" funfun Fill-In? Yeah, I realized after I wrote it that it was a lie - we have 1 more tomorrow from author Maureen McGowen! But the alliteration was just too ridiculous to fix it. :P

Thanks, Saya!

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