Chapter 5—June 7
Chapter Four—Rob Goes On A RAT-free Diet And Appeals To Robin Hood For A Job
Rob was starting to think being a Merryman wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He was hungry, cold, unhappy and disgusted. He could have stayed home and felt like this except he would have been burned at the stake. Yea, there is that. He couldn’t bear the thought of eating rat again. He was running out of things to trade anyway. He wondered how these men here obtained money. No one seemed to do much of anything except to lay around and drink and wench and wench! If it wasn’t for the fire that was kept going in the center of whatever this place was ─ he wouldn’t have gotten any sleep. The Old Crone had told him to lie down in her place and Rob knew what that meant. Not that; not with her; not for rat meat. Wait, not for anything! So here he sat, gnawing on an unknown root, feeling lost.
Little John came up to Rob and said, “ ‘ere, lad, what’s this? Ye are sitting ‘ere eating a root. That’s not always a good thing. Some of these roots will give you the shits or kill ye. Sometimes it will give ye the shits and then kill ye. What bothers thee?”
What bothers thee? Did this big, dumb klutz really ask that? I’ve eaten rat for three days and I’veslept cold. There’s an old crone trying to get me to get her. I have no money and nothing is free here. I have no prospect of making money and he asks what bothers me? Of course, if I say that aloud the way I’m thinking it he’ll ram my head up my ass and tell me to whistle.
“Little John, I’m a bit hungry and ‘ave no money. That’s all ”, Rob said as calmly as he could.
“Ah, yes. I need to ‘ave ye over to my ‘ome for a meal. We’ll ‘ave to do that some day; some day real soon or at least soon. Yes, we really do need to get together.” Little John hadn’t thought to do that. He wasn’t actually thinking of doing it now. Yet, the lad seemed to be a good sort and favors can be held for payback.
“Yes, that would be nice. ‘ow about tonight?”, Rob said. Rob was feeling desperate. For all he knew, rat was the meat of choice here. Even in Dinkumshire people didn’t eat rat unless they were at the end of their rope. He had never tasted rat before and didn’t want to ever again.
“Umm, tonight? Uh, I think we are ‘aving other guests tonight, maybe, I think. We’ll do it soon. Look ‘ere, lad, you need to start pulling your own weight around ‘ere. Let us go to Master Robin later tonight.‘e might lend you some money to tide you over until you go out on a job and earn some money.’ Maybe I should have left him on the Notting’um Road. He doesn’t seem to have much get up and go.
“Yes, ‘e may. I can’t promise you ‘e will. I wouldn’t want thee to be disappointed if ‘e tells ye to, umm, if ‘e say, umm, uh, if ‘e ‘asn’t any money to spare. Mind ye, ‘e will want interest on the loan. ‘e has to make money. You understand?”
“Yes. ‘ell, I don’t care.’ Right at this moment Rob didn’t have the strength to care. He’d do anything for enough money to get food that didn’t have a smooth tail.
“Fine. I’ll be back for ye later. Be careful what ye eat.”
Be careful what I eat indeed. It’s what his father had screamed at him years ago. He could raise a ruckus over the smallest thing if the thing involved Rob, as it usually did. Nothing ever came of it but Rob always knew he should be learning a lesson of some sort but wasn’t. Rob would eat something in the forest and become ill. Being too ill to work was the problem for his father. His father didn’t believe any illness should keep someone from working. It shouldn’t be an excuse to keep Rob from working.
Rob often went into the forest to get berries, mushrooms, nuts or certain plants for his mother. His father thought she could get them herself while Rob did some work. Rob went regardless. He was gathering what he found and putting them in a basket. He found a large cache of mushrooms. He gathered a bunch of them. He took a nibble of one and started talking to a squirrel. The squirrel talked back.
“I never knew you could talk to a squirrel. I never tried to but I didn’t know’, Rob said. He wasn’t too surprised at talking to a squirrel but was a little taken back. Why didn’t anyone ever tell him about this? Well, maybe they had.
“Well, yes, but ye never ate a magic mushroom before, did thee?”
“Huh? Never ye mind that. When I tell people about this I’ll be famous.” Rob wanted that now that he thought of it. Being famous in the whole dukedom would be great. What it would get him was a bit cloudy but maybe he wouldn’t have to be a smithy or, worse, a peasant.
“Oh, ye would be well-known. I grant ye that.” Actually, he would grant Rob anything since he didn’t have to deliver.
“Sure. I’ll be able to tell people what squirrels do and why they do it.” That would make him some sort of scholar. He, a boy who couldn’t read or write. mayhaps he might become famous in the whole kingdom. Odder things have happened , he thought. They hadn’t but Rob didn’t know that. Rob didn’t know a lot of things.
“Ye shall be run off as if ye had a disease. That’s what ye will get. Do ye think ye are the first person to eat a magic mushroom? Ye found them right out in the open! Do ye think ye are special? Ye are not, trust me. If ye tell anyone about this ye will be run off and probably after a good beating. Besides, who gives a damn what squirrels do or why?”
“Yea, hmm. Ye do know ye are not talking to a squirrel, do ye not?”
“I call bullshit on ye. I know a squirrel when I see one. Ye are a squirrel.” Rob felt really good ans there was nothing wrong with his eyesight.
“I am ye. Ye are talking to ye self, that’s what ye are doing. I’m the part of ye that is not an idiot.” The idiot!
“What? No part of me is an idiot, you ratass-looking piece of shit, Why, I’ll-”
“Nothing. That’s what ye’ll do.. Ye are lost and don’t know it.”
“Then that’s not a snake there. It’s some other part of me. I’ll pick it up and hold it.” He did. He wrapped it around his shoulders. He watched it as it bared it’s fangs. Fangs?
“I’d drop that if I were ye. That is a snake.”
Rob threw the snake as far as he could and rubbed his hands on his pants which were filthier than the snake.
“Okay, that’s it. I’ll-”
“You’ll nothing, that’s what ye’ll do. In a short while ye shall not see what ye think ye see. Then you will think ye were dreaming. A word to the wise, and to ye, don’t eat these damned mushrooms!”
Rob did seem to wake up from a dream. He remembered what the squirrel said and went home without the magic mushrooms. He never mentioned them to his mother or father. He did come back to them from time to time and they are what led to the goat incident that caused him to take to the road. I should ‘ave listened to the squirrel.
Rob was brought out of his reverie by Little John shaking him by the shoulder. Rob jumped back and yelled out. He stared at Little John in embarrassment.
“I was daydreaming and ye startled me.” Little John had scared the shit out of him.
“Yes, I see that. Ye needs to get past that kind of thing. Ye will not be able to be ‘ere if ye are that bloody skittish. Ye are like a virgin on her wedding night.” Little John didn’t see any future here for this youngster. He just didn’t seem the type.
“Huh? Talking about being ‘ere, when do we go see Robin Hood?”
“Well if ye are up to it, right now. Mind ye, don’t be acting skittish or the fool with ‘im. ‘e does not like that sort of nonsense. Understand?” Robin Hood had no patience with tomfoolery. That’s why he disliked Will Stutely so much.
Will Stutely had once pissed in Robin’s mead without Robin knowing it until after he drank it. He would have killed Will for it but everyone liked Will, mayhaps more than he.
“Yes, I’m ready.” Rob felt like he had to be ready. He was going to starve to death if he wasn’t.
They went to Robin Hood’s hut and went in. Robin was cutting a slice of bread which caused Rob to slobber. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve to try to hide that. Robin looked at him queerly and said, “What’s this, Little John.”
“Uh, this is the young man I introduced ye to a few days ago. Do ye not remember?”
“No, I do not. Did thee?”
“I just said I did.”
“Yes, but, as Friar Tuck tells us, everyone lies.”
“I’m not lying to thee. What would I gain by that? Tell me, Robin, what would I gain?”, Little John said with some heat. Little John didn’t really like Robin Hood. He didn’t respect him all that much either. He thought Robin Hood believed the legends about him instead of the truth. That is, he believed the lies including his own.
“Ye have ye own priest?” Rob couldn’t imagine that. A priest in a den of thieves. True, priests were some of the biggest thieves around, but they condemned it in anyone else unless they were toffs. There was certainly no royalty here. There were better people in Dinkumshire as far as he could tell.
“Yes, we ‘ave our own priest. Ye question that? Ye think we are a bunch of un-godly heathens, do ye?” Robin now looked at Rob with a frown. Truth be told he didn’t know how to explain Friar Tuck. Tuck had told so many versions of his life Robin wasn’t sure what was true and what was not. He wasn’t sure Tuck did.
“No, no. I am just a bit surprised. No, I am a lot surprised.” Damn, don’t want ‘im getting mad.
“Blimey, Robin, Friar Tuck isn’t really a priest. ‘e’s not even really a friar”, Little John said.
“Well, no, not officially. He’s as close to a priest as we can get unless you count Abu Abu. I’m not sure if he’s a Moslem priest or whatever.”
“I don’t believe they have priests”, Little John said. He didn’t know anything about Abu Abu except that he prayed to God five times a day. Little John only prayed to God at Mass. Abu Abu didn’t have to go to that. Friar Tuck didn’t care who went to Mass as long as the collection plate had enough in it. Friar Tuck did have a certain lifestyle to maintain.
“Well, then there ye go. Friar Tuck is our priest. Good, that’s settled then. Goodnight to ye both.” He then got some marmalade for his bread. Rob started slobbering again. Little John got disgusted at both of them. He really wished he’d left the lad on the road. This wasn’t going to go well.
“Robin, we did not come ‘ere to talk about Friar Tuck. This lad ‘asn’t any money; he ‘asn’t any prospect of getting money. ‘e is ‘ungry. ‘e needs work, that why we’re ‘ere.”
“Ungry, ye say? Why does ‘e not go to The Old Crone. ‘ell, she’ll take anyone and ‘e seems to be a strapping lad. I think she would fancy ‘im.”
“Robin, I would rather die than be with ‘er”, Rob told him. He meant that. At least, he thought he did. No, he did.
“Well, lad, ye seem to be halfway there. What do ye want from me?” Robin Hood was getting a little upset with being bothered. All this talk about religion was giving him a headache.
“Damn it, Robin, ye needs to pay attention more. ‘e needs a job. Ye are the leader of this band. See where I’m ‘eaded?”, Little John said with more than a little exasperation. Robin could be bloody wankers at times.
“Well why didn’t ye say so? Do I ‘ave to do all the thinking around this place? Will Scarlet, Arthur-A-Bland and Gilbert Whitehand ‘ave a robbery planned. They might be could use another ‘and. Check with them.”
“Can I say ye approve of this? No, never mind, I’ll tell them ye did. I’m going to be part of this job so they will listen when I speak.” With that, Little John left the hut with Rob right behind him.
“Little John, I’m grateful for the work but I still ‘ave no money.”
“Do ye want to go back in there?”
“Umm, no. I guess I can find some roots to gnaw on.”
“Well, then, there thee go.”
Yes, but where is there? Where is go?
There are people living on the edge in what is called Appalachia. They're called ridgerunners, rednecks, hillbillies and backwoods mountaineers. No one thinks of them very often. They don't earn much to society's standards.They stay where they are because they love the area. They are hard workers when they have work and self-sufficient to an extent not known to "outsiders." They are also very funny; they have a great sense of humor about themselves.
They are the salt of the earth and the backbone of America. Their stories are America's stories. These are the stories Of Appalachia.
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More stories of the people of Appalachia.
More of Joe Bob, Bubba and Earl, Mosh Henry and all of the rest of the good folks in Wabash County.
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