Chapter Thirteen: Wherein we spend the night at the inn.
“I miss my mommy,” said Ednathorpe.
“You have only been away from her for a day,” I replied.
“A day and a night.”
“I was saying a day, as in one cycle of the sun, and not a day as in the time of daylight which is opposed to the night which is the time of darkness.”
“I still miss her.”
“That is understandable. You are only seven and so can only stand to be away from your mother for a day.”
“How old are you?” she asked.
“Nearly six times as old as you.”
“How long have you been away from her?”
“No,” she said. “My mother.”
“I saw her briefly last night, but besides that, it has been some seven years.”
“You love her.”
“Why would you think that?” I demanded.
“Otherwise, you couldn’t have had Ethyl and me. Mother told me how it works. When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, a stork brings a baby and drops it in a cabbage patch for them to find. If they love each other twice as much, the stork brings two babies at once.”
“That does sound like a story that your mother would tell,” I allowed.
“Isn’t it the truth?”
“Of course not. You were born in Dewberry, where there is nary a cabbage patch within fifty miles. Plenty of onion patches, but no cabbage patches.”
“Would you tell me the truth about how babies are born?” she asked.
“I suppose you are old enough. When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, the mommy sends the daddy on an epic quest. On this quest, he must perform many difficult deeds such as crossing mountains and valleys, until he reaches a great stone castle. There he must fight his way in. It doesn’t matter how many times the owner of the castle invites him in, he still ends up fighting. Finally, once he has entered, he must kill a hundred or so monsters that live in the castle, all the while searching, until he finds a great egg.”
“Is the baby in the egg?”
“Edna, do not hurry a storyteller.”
“The warrior, which is to say the daddy, brings the egg home and the mommy sits on it. She sits on it even though it makes her sick and messes up her emotions. For three months it makes her very sad. For three months it makes her very angry. And for three months, it makes her… well, it makes her want to kiss the daddy all the time. Then finally, the egg hatches and inside is a golden coin. The mommy and the daddy take the gold coin to the midwife and she gives them a baby. Rarely, one finds two gold coins inside the egg, and the parents end up with twins. The trip to the midwife also involves a lot of bitching and yelling, as I recall.”
“But where does the midwife get the baby?” asked Edna.
“That is a story for another time.”
“You must miss my mother an awful lot,” she said.
“Why would you think that?”
“Well, you loved her very much, and you’ve been away from her for seven long years. That’s almost as long than I have been alive. And even if you are seven times as strong, because you are seven times older than me…”
“Six times,” I interjected, “more or less.”
“Even if you are six times as strong, you have been away from her for one thousand three hundred and twenty times as long, so you must miss her two hundred twenty times as much as I do, and I miss her so much that I want to cry.”
“That can’t be true.”
“You can’t argue with math.”
“You can argue with math,” said I. “Math always wins though, because math is a vicious cur.”
Both Ednathorpe and I eventually fell asleep. She woke the next morning at the crowing of a particularly abominable rooster. I had been awakened much earlier by that very same fowl. Contrary to popular belief, roosters crow all the time. They crow in the morning and they crow in the evening, and sometimes they crow in the middle of the night. Many of us, who have grown up keeping chickens, have learned to ignore those phantom cries in the darkness, but this one was simply too much. I resigned myself to not sleeping any more that night and was only stopped myself from hunting down and killing that rooster and his owner by the fact that my daughter managed to sleep soundly through the cacophony, which is to say, roostering, at least until morning.
Consequently, that morning, I was somewhat less than fully awake, which is to say, I was still sleepy. My daughter, however, was well-rested and quite bubbly. She insisted that I dress her in another of the cute little outfits that I had originally procured for her twin. This time, it was a blue satin dress with lots of lace and beneath which were seven petticoats. A petticoat is a sort of skirt that goes under a skirt, which make the skirt on the outside poof out. The poofing effect is compounded the more one adds additional petticoats. The blue dress also had quite poofy arms though there was no undersleeve garment making them do so.
“I love this, Father,” said Edna. “I feel like a Princess.”
“Well, that stands to reason, because you are indeed a princess, or at least you would be if you had not been born a bastard, which is entirely your mother’s fault.”
“Well, I still feel like one.”
“You look like one too. You have no idea how I have longed to see my daughter dressed up just so. I’ve spent the better part of the last six years wrestling Ethyl into girl clothing, only to have it torn apart, dragged through the mud, or set fire to.”
“I wonder how Ethyl is doing with Mother?” she wondered.
“Not as well as I am, I imagine,” said I. “All evidence indicates that I have come out ahead in this exchange.”
“Don’t say that, Father. You know you love Ethylthorpe.”
“Of course I do, though it has not been easy. Your mother will have to deal with all the profanity and the foul language and the vulgarity and the swearing from now on.”
“I am afraid that Ethylthorpe will have to deal with all of that too,” said Edna.
“And Ethyl has recently been referring to the Queen of Aerithraine in unflattering terms,” I said.
“My mother has been doing the same,” said Edna, “Only in regard to Eaglethorpe Buxton.”
“Mayhaps, they shall get along famously,” I said. “Let us go downstairs and have breakfast.”