A Rocky Riverbed – Untold Summer Stories (2)
A Rocky Riverbed
The girl’s mother was a native of the Northern realms where the ocean wasn’t far and seagulls now and then shrieked in the sky. She had followed a butcher from a small town in the mountainous South, married quickly and submitted herself to his no-nonsense apprentice training in the messy business about meat, ham and sausages. She was proud to be his assistant in a prospering butcher shop, which also offered hearty dishes for regional workers and drivers-by at lunchtime. When her first child was a chubby boy, she was quietly accepted in the community even though she failed to adapt to the regional manner of speaking. Things changed with her second child, a fragile girl, behind in growth for some years and just as much retarded that you couldn’t conceal it from the public. The girl grew up to be a blue-eyed teenager who behaved reasonably normal and was friendly against everybody. From the age of twelve on the girl developed an intense need to walk the paths of the nearby mountain valley. She used to stop for long minutes at her favourite tree stretching out her arms for the strong trunk longingly. Her mother loved to see her happy in nature and she didn’t intervene, not even when her daughter turned her cravings to the mountain brook which gushed down over a rocky riverbed into the valley. There, she sat near a wooden bridge where the brook ran through the green meadows. On sunny days she could sit for hours and babble unintelligibly to the sound of the water. Tourists who would come along, crossing the bridge, were mesmerized by her extraordinary behaviour and the townspeople started whispering. One early summer evening, after he had just closed the shop, the butcher decided to fetch her and told his wife so. Don’t be too harsh with her, she pleaded. When he approached his daughter, who was standing at the creek in the warm evening light, she looked somewhat attractive to him, in a fairy-tale way, he thought. He walked up, embraced her and asked her to lean with her back against him. The valley was motionless. He told her about the water, the rocks and the mountains. He spoke into her neck of the mighty master of the mountain waters who resided in the grey pinnacles high above the valley. When the shadows got deeper he drew her into the riverbed and made her look at the grim, stony face of a mountain troll which protruded darkly from the riverbed. She was scared and wanted to run from the troll, but he stood behind her and held her with both arms like in a bench clamp. She went silent and listened to his words. The water troll would jump up from the riverbed and go for her. He would do things to her. Only when the moon was up in the star-covered sky did he let her go, took her by the hand and led her home. From then on she stayed in the house, learned to do some needle work and quit school for good. Winter came and spring, and nobody asked for her.