Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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Diamonds and Toads

by Jennifer Lawrence

First of all, the story got it wrong, at least in part;
It wasn't diamonds that spewed forth
With her every utterance,
It was rubies. Oh, yes, flowers too,
An endless waterfall of roses
(The thorns pricked her lips and tongue 'til she bled)
And buttercups and monkshood, oleander and iris,
And every one, she had to be careful not to swallow,
Lest it lay her out, fit to be planted in the rich ripe earth herself.
And it wasn't toads and snakes that came out
Every time I spoke a word, it was frogs.
These are important differences;
Diamonds are small, rounded like pebbles
When found in the rough,
While rubies can be much larger,
And these were already faceted,
Sharp and brilliant to slice her tongue.
She always was Father's perfect little angel—
Meek, mild, and spineless,
Fit bait for the marriage-bed and
The spawning of an endless parade of brats.
But I was no saintly lapdog;
Like my mother, I would not cow to
The word or hand of any woman or man,
And that included the old beggar that my sister
Met at the fountain one day while drawing water.
Of course she would stand there, giving the
Beldame a drink, holding that heavy pitcher
Until her arms ached and her hands had gone
Numb from the cold water.
And when she came back with a mouthful of rubies
For her troubles, Mother thought I should do the same.
But the fairy at the fountain did not
Dress herself as a beggar when I came, but
As a princess, wearing robes most radiant.
And why should I serve such a creature?
Low blood or high,
It flows through the veins of both she and I the same,
And comes out the same scarlet when spilled.
She knew wisdom when she heard it,
And gifted me with the blessing that
The tale tells of.
Five years have gone since that day at the well,
And with the death of the king three years thence—
Slain by magic by the vizier of the neighboring kingdom,
A ploy to throw down our defenses—
Came the downfall of the kingdom:
The crops withered, the fruit rotted on the vine,
And no living thing would grow for lack of
The king that is also the land.
After the crops, then fell the livestock—
Even the grass that the cattle ate
And the acorns beloved of swine
Could not be found.
Now people starve, and bodies lie thick in the road,
And all the rubies in the world will not buy a cup of wheat.
But under our roof, we still survive—
One can live a very long time on dinners of frogs' legs.

© 2009 Jennifer Lawrence

Ye olde author (emphasis on the OLD) likes the weird and the strange, which explains most of her friends. Married, with two daughters, she has earned a B. A. in Literature and a BS. in Criminal Justice. Her interests include gardening, herbalism, mythology and fairy tales, theology, Celtic music, role-playing games, horror movies, and the martial arts. She lives with her husband, her younger daughter, five cats, a dog, and a houseful of gargoyles somewhere near Chicago.

Find more by Jennifer Lawrence in the Author Index.

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