Ok, here's the conclusion to my little tale of how Trajan came to be “adopted” by a human family. I hope you found it enjoyable as I did writing it! =^^=
Is there more to the story? Perhaps, but that is another story!
Thank you all for coming, please enjoy the buffet, it is still open!
And if anyone has a yarn to spin until thanksgiving, please feel free to add it! Refrigeratorhenge is well stocked!
Chapter 8: Coming Clean
Trajan rested most of that day in Sarah’s bed. He found it reasonably comfortable, but awkward since it wasn’t a proper bevy nest. Sarah had some difficulty keeping her children on task given the presence of their furry guest. Late afternoon saw a break for lunch. Sarah checked on Trajan to make sure he was all right. He still had no appetite, and he just felt tired and a little dizzy. She let him continue to rest. The remainder of the day the family spent smoking the bear meat and preparing the hide for tanning. Evening saw the everyone together inside the house for supper.
Karen looked up from her plate towards Thom and her nose wrinkled. “Thom, are you sure you gutted that bear right? Something stinks!”
“You stink!” replied Thom with all brotherly love.
The two went back and forth with increasing volume until Sarah intervened. “What is going on in here? Can’t you see we have a guest?” Trajan had covered his head with a pillow so that the only thing visible was a bedraggled grey tail sticking out from the bed.
“But she started it!” complained Thom.
“Something smells bad!” retorted Karen.
Further debate would have ensued, but Sarah cut them short. Suddenly realization dawned on the trio. “Ewwwwww!” said the children in stereo. “Is he dead?” asked Thom. The tail flared slightly at the suggestion. “Children, go outside and prepare a bath for our guest... now!” The tail reacted by standing straight up. The children went to their duty without further protest.
Once they had exited Trajan uncovered his head. “Why do I have to take a bloody bath?”
Sarah crossed her arms like she was addressing another recalcitrant child. “Because you smell like you died and were dragged through the swamp.”
Trajan stood stunned for a moment by the sheer audacity of it all. She, a mere human, how could she? But, he paused to think, she was pretty much right. Outside of his hands and his face hadn’t bathed since he left the swamp. Trajan half growled in acquiescence.
Outside Trajan saw a large black kettle being heated and filled with water. He started to get a little nervous. “What’s that? What are you going to do, boil me?”
Sarah laughed, the sound oddly put Trajan at ease. “No, silly, we usually use this to do laundry in, there’s a notch in the bottom which holds our washboard. We could probably use that to get some of the knots out of your fur.”
“What’s wrong with my fur!?” Trajan snorted.
“Oh, nothing at all, is your tail supposed to look like a moldy half-eaten corn cob?”
Trajan looked at his bedraggled rear appendage. It did in fact look like the bear had gotten hold of it and used it to toss him around. He snorted as he looked at it. “Well, there’s...” he started to say, but a chord had been struck. He remembered how his wife would wrap it around herself, just to get closer to him. “You wouldn’t know” he said quietly, looking at the ground.
In short order the children prepared a warm bath. As Trajan prepared to undress he noticed the two children watching him. “Do you mind? I’m not an animal here, I do like my privacy!” Karen gasped and went to find some other chore to perform. Thom giggled impishly and began to think of other ways he might get to watch.
Initially, Trajan had problems getting situated in the big cauldron. The angle of the walls did not permit him to sit comfortably. Despite reassurances otherwise, he still felt like the primary ingredient in fresh rac-conan soup. The notch in the bottom irritated him especially. He looked around and spied the washboard, that gave him an idea. Quickly, he exited the tub and got the board. It settled into place and Trajan returned to the water. Now he had the perfect back rest!
While settling in he noticed that the corrugated surface of the board actually felt kind of nice as he slid down its surface. The water foamed as he vigorously began to rub his back up and down against the board. It was a little rough, but Trajan proceeded to wash himself all over with the assistance of the washboard. When he finished the water was covered with gobs of loose fur, burrs and other... things.
Partially through Trajan’s scrubdown, Sarah appeared with a towel and a change of clothing. Trajan paused in his scrubbing to talk to the woman now staring incredulously at him.
“I never thought I would see my washboard used in that way.” [she had walked in as Trajan was cleaning his front.]
“Well,...” Trajan’s ears collapsed in embarrassment “this is a handy device, I’ll have to admit. I was able to get a lot of stuff out of my tail.” He used a small amount of lux to chase the shed particles into the opposite end of the cauldron. Then he scooped them off and deposited them on the ground with a wet plap! “No sense in getting that back into the fur! If you don’t mind, I’d like to finish cleaning my chest. Only my mother and my wife ever helped me take a bath.”
Now Sarah glowed in embarrassment. The thought that the creature in the cauldron had a mother seemed unusual, but still natural. However, when he mentioned that he had been married? What woman would want a three foot tall fuzzy lump of a husband? She shook her head to clear her mind of the thought. She deposited the bundle she was carrying on a rough hewn wooden bench near the washing cauldron. “Here is a towel to dry yourself off with, and some of Thom’s old cloths, they may not fit too well, bu they should be able to do until you current cloths can be washed...” She looked at the pile of Trajan’s shed garments,“Or burned.” a few flies were already crawling on them, apparently mistaking them for a rotting carcass.
“When in the swamp, smell like the swamp!” intoned Trajan.
“This isn’t the swamp, it’s a farm, the closest thing to a swamp near here is the moat around the castle walls. They use that as a toilet, too!” retorted Sarah.
Trajan snorted in reply. “Hrmph!” he sank lower in the water “if you don’t mind, I’ still like a little privacy to finish my bath!”
“Nasty little animal!” said Sarah under her breath.
“Stupid human!” groused Trajan, his muzzle barely above the water. He finished his scrubdown by quickly ducking his head under the water, he forgot about the bandage and scalp injury. The tepid water soaked through the dressing and into the wound causing Trajan to hiss in pain. “Ow! That was foolish!”, he thought. Between the towel and some judicious lux usage Trajan dried himself in short order, taking special care to make sure that the bandage was dry so the human female would be unaware of his mistake.
The loaned cloths were ill fitting and did not posses a proper tail hole, so rather than tearing them, Trajan found an alternate solution. He entered the cottage and was immediately confronted by Karen. “Eeeee! He s all fluffy now! Look mommy, he has a little bandit mask around his eyes! And, oh!”
Sarah walked over to inspect their new guest. The critter was amazingly dry for someone who had just stepped out of a bath not more than five minutes ago. His fur had gone from a dirty grey to the color of clean slate. The black mask of fur around the critter s eyes shone with a healthier luster, and the color blended well with the eyepatch, it almost looked like he was constantly winking. Karen tugged at Sarah s sleeve to get her attention. “He’s got the pants on backwards!” she whispered confidentially.
Trajan s ears flipped forward at the sound. “No, I have them on right, for now, I don’t think your little brother has one of these!” He turned around to show off his tail.
The tail definitely showed the most improvement overall, Sarah noted. What had originally been a dingy, grey, knotted rope a little thicker than a cornhusk was now an impressive length of poofiness nearly ten inches in diameter. Markings were clearly visible on the tail, three black bands superimposed over a light grey base. Before she could stop her, Karen was upon him.
“Eeee! It s so pretty, and soft!” The child had leapt forward and immediately began hugging Trajan s rearward appendage. His reaction was remarkably well restrained. “Yaah! Get it off me! Get it off, get it off!!!”
“Karen!” it was hard for Sarah to avoid smirking, but she managed to remain serious. “This is not how we treat guests!”
Karen detached herself from Trajan's tail and returned apologetically behind her mother. “I'm sorry”, she said behind hurt baby doe eyes.
Trajan stroked the kinks out of his “injured” appendage. “S'alright” he said, dubiously. “No permanent damage done. Well, the cooking here seems to smell quite fine, what is for dinner tonight?”
Sarah smiled, “I thought that would be obvious, the meat you provided for us, roast bear!”
Trajan performed a quick ear flick in response. “I guess that is fair enough, he wanted to eat us, so now we get to eat him.”
The four sat around the small dinner table. The meal consisted of a healthy portion of roasted bear meat, home baked bread, some garden vegetables, and goat cheese. Trajan almost started loading his plate when he noticed the family had their heads bowed. His ears collapsed and his tail drooped. He hadn’t prayed over a meal since the day he lost his wife.
“Merciful father,” Sarah began, “we thank thee for this bounty of food and for the protection of the stranger you have brought into our midst.”
Trajan s tail sagged a bit lower, what would she say if she knew that he had led the bear there in the first place?
Sarah continued, “We also thank thee for the bounty of the land you have seen fit to give to us, to sustain us throughout the seasons. In the name of your beloved son, Yeshu, we pray, amen.”
The meal began in a somewhat awkward silence, partially because the work of the day made for a terrific appetite, it is hard to eat and talk, and also because neither host nor guest really knew what to make of one another.
Thom spoke first, “what happened to your eye?”
“Thom!” chided Sarah, “ that is not a polite question to ask!
“It s all right.” Replied Trajan, “It s a fair enough question, I can see the curiosity of a kit in all your eyes.”
Sarah blinked and looked down at her plate. Trajan continued, “I lost it fighting a group of bandits in the swamp.”
“Wow!” gaped Thom “what kind of bandits, were there a lot of them?”
So, the evening went, hours later the dishes were washed and Trajan was thoroughly grilled by the two children. He answered many things as truthfully as he could, but some details escaped him. His head still seemed misty on certain parts. Finally, it was time to go to sleep. Although Trajan felt genuinely exhausted, he refused the bed that was offered him.
“I can’t sleep like that here.” There was a washbasin in the corner of the cottage, about three feet in diameter. “Let me have the pillow and a blanket” With surprising agility, Trajan hauled the tub into the rafters and wedged it in a corner, he lined the bottom with the pillow and filled the rest with the blanket. Now he had a proper bevy nest.
“You actually sleep like that?” queried Thom
“Heh, Yes!” chuckled Trajan in reply.
“Won’t you fall out?” asked Karen
“I haven’t yet, and I’ve slept in worse places.”
“Not tonight, Thom, he can tell us more stories tomorrow.” chided Sarah.
Soon the inhabitants of the small cottage were all asleep.
Despite the unusual circumstances, for the first time in years, Trajan slept peacefully in a place that felt like home.
Always tell the truth, that way you don't have to remember anything. -- Mark twain