Toadie’s Gift

Rhae, a Lyran woman, sat on the bank of a peaceful pond, twitching away a stray gnat with a cat-like ear. Holding her fishing pole, the tip of her tail tapped a muted rhythm. Slender fingers tucked stray strands of ruby hair beneath the leather headband as her dark eyes glowered at the water. Stretching her long, sun-bronzed legs over the bank, she yawned.

“Wish it would rain,” she said.

The cloudless sky didn’t answer her wish. Afternoon approached with a lazy sun, wasting the morning away without a single strike. She should have gone with the hunting party yesterday, but her bow broke during the last excursion. Toadie imported it for her last summer, and she didn’t know how to tell him it was gone. As much as she enjoyed goblin bashing, she had declined and went fishing instead.

A twig snapped. Should’ve known. Rhae waited for the rustling.

“Go away, Toadie.” She stood as a fish bit the hook.

“Awww, how’d you know it was me?” The little Fleuryn emerged from the tall grass.

“You’re the worst sneak I ever met.” Rhae growled as the line snapped. “Damn it all.”

Toadie huffed as he waddled over to her side, barely tall enough to reach her knee. He pouted and picked grass out of his pointed ears that stuck up from the side of his head. Rewrapping his silver hair with a bright green ribbon, he winked at her. “I figured you’d be here.”

“And what of it?” Rhae tied a new hook to the line and baited it.

His cherub-like body heaved in a deep breath as he smoothed out his olive doublet. A low whistle escaped his lips while he wiped the sweat from his pale face. Adjusting his tiny spectacles on his browned nose, he peered at Rhae with his soulful gray eyes.

“No bashy-whashy gobbies,” he said, “Rhae is a glum chum.”

“Yeah, well,” she said, noticing the new scarf around his neck. “At least I don’t look like a badly dressed baby doll.”

The scarf was a paisley mess of dark green, lavender and rose. Toadie played with it. “I just bought this today. Every fiber is infused with boosty-woosty magi power.”

“As if you need boosting.” Rhae flicked her wrist to cast out her line.

Toadie bounced on his heels and squealed. “I bought you a nifty-gifty too.”

Why bother? Annoyed with his cheerfulness, Rhae settled back into the grass and stared at her pole. She heard him fumbling with his belt pack and resisted the urge to peek. When something brushed against her tail, she looked over her shoulder. He hummed a happy ditty while wrapping a plaid scarf with colors to match his around her tail.

“I’m not wearing that girly thing.” She whipped her tail away with a smart crack. “So go away.”

“Awww, that comes from the eastern islands.”

Reluctantly she snatched up the fallen scarf and jammed it in with the fishing tackle.

Toadie scuffed the ground with a pout. “Gimme a smiley-wiley?”

“No.” Rhae hunched her shoulders forward with a scowl.

He huffed, sighed, and stomped away. Rhae ignored him as she continued fishing.

“Peek-a-boo!” Toadie popped out beside her.

Rhae shoved him away a bit. “What the hell?”

“See?” Toadie puffed up and thumbed his chest. “I can sneak.”

She glared at him. “Fuck off.”

“Awww, I wanna see you happy-dappy.”

“You‘re scaring the fish. Get lost.”

“Gimme smiley first.” Toadie crossed his arms.

She bent her knees up to her chest. “I’ll smile when I feel like it.”

“Not leaving ‘til you do.” He gave her a winsome smile of his own.

“Look, I don’t care, either fish or go away, but I‘m not smiling.”

“Meanie.” He stuck his tongue out.

Rhae rolled her eyes and focused on her fishing pole. It didn’t matter what she said. Toadie always felt, did, and said whatever came to mind. Although happiness was the mood of choice, he wasn’t always a bouncing ball of sunshine. His sadness often meant wailing, sobs, and finally moping. She never saw him angry, but the mere idea kept her silent about the bow. In a way, she envied him. She longed to share in his freedom of expression.

He whistled her favorite marching tune, wobbling on his feet. She didn’t smile, but her tail struck the beat in the grass. Toadie sighed and pulled out a small ceramic bowl. He took out a hoop of wire with parchment stretched across it from his satchel. Sitting at the bank, armed with the makeshift paddle and bowl, he watched the water.

Goldfish scooping. Rhae remembered teaching Toadie that last spring. The object was to pop the goldfish into the bowl using just the paddle. He spent the entire night here learning the trick. It almost made her smile.

“Yay, happy fish.” He showed her the tiny goldfish swimming in the bowl.

“Hooray for you.” She lost another fish. “I hate you.”

“And I wuv you.” He placed the bowl on the ground. While humming, he laid down, propping up his head with one hand. “Hello, mister fishy. My name is Toadie. This here is my favorite kitty-girl, Rhae.”

Favorite? She arched an eyebrow and baited the hook again. “I would never believe that you’re a hundred years my elder.”

“The heart of a child is the key to eternal youth.” He stuck his tongue out, closed one eye, and pulled down the bottom lid of the other.

She stared at him. “What the fuck ever.”

Toadie cupped his hand to his mouth and whispered to the goldfish, “Don’t mind her, little fishy buddy. She’s a bit grouchy.”

Rhae groaned while he prattled on to the goldfish. He talked about the weather and gossiped about the latest scandals.

Like it cares about Rilla-Dilla kissing Melo-Polo in the Market House.

Running out of topics, he started singing rhymes to the fish. Rhae resisted the soothing effect of his musical voice. The afternoon drifted along, and soon the sun glowed in the mellow hues of dusk. Rhae basked in the warm light and drank in the cool fresh breeze. It was almost a shame to waste the day away fishing and pining for a broken bow.

“And look at this onion I got from the hunt.” Toadie displayed a large bulb.

“Out of all that goblin junk to choose from and you pick an onion.” She plucked it from his tiny hands.

“Gobbies grow the bestest ones. Crisp and spicy just the way you likey. Perfect for grilling fish.”

Nice. Rhae’s mouth watered. “You wasted your time. I haven’t caught any fish all day.” She tossed the onion back at him. Stupid fish. She reeled in the line and set the pole on the ground. Frustrated, she picked at the grass.

“Pretty kitty,” Toadie said, sitting next to her, “It‘s just a bow, you know?”

“How’d you find out?”

“People in town.” He shrugged, hefting the weight of the onion in his hands. “The hunting party.”

Forever lived and died in their silence as the last of the sunlight faded. So much left unsaid. Toadie was right. It was dumb to get so upset over an object. Rhae picked up a flat rock and flicked it across the pond. They watched it skip across the surface four times before it sank. Her heart sank with it.

“Onion not the only thing I picked. Gobbie gear makes a good trade. Got bow comin’ fromin’ the western kingdom.”

Seriously? Rhae denied the temptation for tears. Why would you do that?

“No shamey-wamey in cryin’ hun,” Toadie said, a bit teary-eyed himself.

“Oh, hell no. Fuck that noise.”

She looked up at him and noticed the bowl within arm’s reach. The water was probably too warm and stale for the goldfish by now. On its last leg. With a roguish grin, she snatched the goldfish from the bowl. Toadie shrieked, jumping up to rescue it.

“No Rhae, no eat raw. Lemme cook.”

She planted a boot on Toadie’s chest as he tried to climb on her. With an easy push, he fell into the water. She waited for him to sputter out. Toadie’s eyes grew wide as she dropped the frantic fish into her mouth. In two chews the fish was swallowed.

A weak sound gurgled past his lips. “Yucky.” He clutched his chest in a theatric faint.

“Have I told you how much I hate you?”

“As many times I’ve said I wuv you?” His face still in the dirt.

She picked up her pole. “If you let me fish in peace, I’ll let you cook the next one.”

“Okies. Can I play my flutey-wutey?”

“If you must.” She shrugged and baited the hook.

A sweet lullaby greeted the rising moon as they sat together on the bank. Rhae lost two more fish before catching one big enough to share.

Original draft was written back in 2006 and was posted on my old LiveJournal account. This draft is the result of having been workshopped over at Scribophile. If you’d like to compare this with the old draft, it has now been archived on my personal blog, HERE.

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