Storytime: Himmel und Erde.

September 17th, 2013

A long time ago, just a little longer than the greatest of your great-great-great grandparents, the world was different and just a little strange. Oh, there was a sky, there was a sea. That was no trouble. The trouble was that they didn’t quite touch, not because they couldn’t, but because they wouldn’t.
“You are lowly and dirty,” sniffed the sky up high. “Earthworms crawl in your belly and slime-moulds breed in your topsoil. Sickly lout!”
“And YOU are as cold and dry as a wasp’s-heart,” sneered the earth down low. “Nothing in you but puff and fluff. Even the birds don’t care to visit you for more than a moment. Flighty twit!”
And then the conversation ended as such conversations always did: the sky spat at the earth and the earth swore at the sky and they both scooted just a little bit farther apart from each other so they could hate from a distance. Until next time.
This was a real problem. Not only was it very hard to get from the earth to the sky, but it was very hard for most people to breath. Everybody had to hold their breath until the sky scooted close enough for another exchange of insults, then stand on the tips of their toes and breath real hard. It wasn’t very convenient at all, especially to the short folks.
One person in particular who felt hard-done by was an old human. She’d never been very tall to begin with, and age had stooped her quite thoroughly, to the point where she could only get a decent breath in if she climbed a tall tree on a steep hill and stretched herself. It vexed her sore, especially when the sky and the earth were too busy sulking to think of good insults and they wouldn’t come together again for a few days.
“I’m gonna fix this, see if I don’t,” she groused. “Everyone else isn’t uncomfortable enough to do it, so it’s down to me again. Always making me fix things. If it wasn’t so hard to breathe I’d complain more about it.” But it was so hard to breath, so she didn’t complain more about it. Instead, she scratched herself a tad and thought, and thought some more, and thought just a little bit extra just in case, and when her thinking was through she had a plan.

First things first, the old human went down to the rocky lowlands, where the sky was a thousand miles away. She couldn’t breathe down there, and that made her annoyed. She walked around in circles and got lost, and that made her angry. She stubbed her toe on six rocks, each bumpier than the last, and that made her burning mad. And then, just as she was getting tired and needed a rest, she sat on a cactus.
That made her furious. That made her so red-hot, boiling, bubbling, hiss-spitting furious that she coughed and she choked and she swore and she spat a little red-hot bubble of a ball out into her palm, where it scorched her mighty hard.
“Done!” she said with satisfaction. “Ow. Ow. Ow.” She wrapped it up in a little wad of cactus flesh so it wouldn’t hurt, had a drink, and then left.

Second things second, the old human went up to the high valleys, where the earth mumbled itself to pieces and the trees hid themselves on the edges of cliffs by their root-tips. She looked up at the lonely moon and it made her mopey. She looked down and far away towards where she’d been born so many years before, and it made her sad. She heard the calls of a lost wolf trying to find its pack across the valley, and it made her sorrowful. And then as she walked down an old path she found a baby raccoon nuzzling its mother’s body and making shrill little calls for a parent.
That made her downright weepy, and she sat down where she was and had a long, long cry until she’d squeezed out every drop of salt and moisture that her human body could contain and then some. She cried until all she had left were a bad case of the hiccups, and then she carefully took the little scrap of leather she’d been crying into – soaked-through – and tucked it into one pocket, and the raccoon into the other.
“You and me, little guy,” she said, “we’re going to go fix some problems.” But the raccoon was too busy with some old jerky it’d found to pay her any attention.

So the old human took a long walk on a long road and found herself a good spot to stand, on a cliff overlooking a big old desert. “Hey!” she called. “Hey sky! Hey you up there! You listening?”
The sky was confused by this. “Nobody calls to me except the earth,” it said, “and that’s just to call me names, the insect-ridden turf. What’s your business with me? Shouldn’t you be crawling around down there on your belly or something?”
“Nah, I’ve got a gift for you,” she said. “It’s from the earth itself, it says everything’s fine now and it doesn’t blame you for anything. It begs humble forgiveness for its trespassesseses, and sends you this little token of its esteem in return. You want it?”
The sky had swollen itself up with more and more satisfied self-importance as she spoke, and now it was more puffed-up than a cumulus cloud. “You may bring this gift into my august presence,” it decreed, with all of the considerable pomp it could muster. “Give it here!”
“Sure thing,” said the old human. “Catch.” And she lobbed the little wad of cactus-flesh up to the sky and scarpered.
The sky was puzzled mightily, but not so puzzled as it was when a little red-hot ball spilled out into its palm. “Ah!” it shouted. “Ah! Oh! Let go! Let go!” It shook its palm. “Get off! Get away! Get out!” But the ball wouldn’t let go.
“Shoo!” screamed the sky, and it pursed its lips and blew, blew, blew on the ball until it was red in the face all over, but the ball wouldn’t shoo. Instead, it grew – it grew and grew and grew until it was hanging there in the middle of the sky, red-hot and then-some, and scorching all the air around itself pink.

By this time the old human had made a pretty good turn of miles, and she was standing down by the edge of that big old desert. “Hey,” she whispered. “Hey earth. You hear me down there, speaking low? You listening to me?”
“I’m listening, but I don’t know why,” said the earth. “You lot go whining off to the sky the moment you want a breath, you selfish babies. Why did I ever spawn you if you were just going to go play friends with such a giddy-headed little wisp of vapor?”
“Ease off, big friend,” she said. “I’ve got you a present from that vapor itself! It weeps for forgiveness, says it was always wrong all along and only stubborn selfishness kept it from saying so. But now it’s done for, and it sends this package so you’ll know it’s true.”
The earth chuckled muddily and clotted itself in excitement. “Well, I suppose I will accept this measly offer,” it said with forced casualness. “Now give me that!”
“You got it,” said the old human. “Heads up!” And she held out her bit of soaked leather and wrung it, then ran for the hills.
The earth was confused as it felt the pit-a-pat of water on its surface – it was no stranger to rain from sky-spittle, but this felt different. Mineral-y. And then the pit-a-pat became a chug-a-lug, and it started to panic. “Buzz off!” it roared. “I’ll swallow you down!” And it opened crevasses and ravines and basins and sank the desert down, down, down. But the chug-a-lug became a flood, and there was no stopping it.
“Go AWAY!” shouted the earth, and now it was getting worried. It sank whole continents, emptied out valleys that would’ve fit mountains inside without letting their heads crest above the dirt, carved out two-thirds of the world, and only then – only then – did the saltwater flood rest easy.

“You!” shouted the sky.
“You!” hollered the earth.
“Dew clog your eyes, you pestilent humus!”
“Zephyrs whisk your brains from north to south and back again!”
“You gave me this nasty gift, and now it’s stuck to me, red-hot!” screamed the sky.
“You gave ME this tricksome present, and now it’s covered most of me up!” roared the earth.
“A likely story!” said the sky.
“Utter nonsense!” said the earth.
“I’LL SHOW YOU NONSENSE!” yelled them both, and with that the sky and the earth dove into one another face-first, punching and kicking and grabbing and scuffling and grappling and grinding and wrestling until they were stick fast together, not able to do much more than bite and spit. And swear, of course.
“Not bad at all,” said the old human, watching from a nice quiet cave where she wouldn’t have been in the way. “Not bad at-allll.” She took a nice long breath and enjoyed the warmth of the fire in the sky. “Not bad work for me, not for a day’s-effort. Come on little guy, let’s go get lunch.
The big new salty water was already full of fish, all growing like mad, and they had three of them for lunch. But what happened to the bones of those fish is a different story, and we’ll hear all about that one later, all right?

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.