YELLOW TALE // SCARCITY
The whole world was the kingdom. An eye could see farther, gentle hills. Spile-stabbed sap plinked into tin buckets. Barely sweet, it required reduction.
So much less than anyone had hoped.
When there is not enough, the youngest son walks alone toward the farthest mountain. The virtuous daughter laces her braid with yarn, departs. Rabbits bring her tidbits. A winsome wind arcs from the north; cough scrapes a rough-toothed comb along her raw throat. She talks to herself and a willow answers.
Nothing to walk away in search of. Nothing to discover in the notch of an oak tree.
Gathering in the warmest room, they count what remains. What would they abandon to keep it?
"What if you died and became a walking skeleton?" her son asked.
Scary rays of unseasonable sun; they sit and cry. The scrying icy. The cat tired. Or, the kingdom was the whole world.
Cyst's crusting lymph. They pick at the spot where it hurts. Across fields flit scarce clouded yellow, scarce copper. For horses, mangel-wurzel, root of scarcity.
How carry the strays. Clay under fingernails, city of scars on their bare arms. Don't ask. Laughing, they said he bent to pet the cat that was a skunk.
Surely, she had plenty of something. Goldenrod. She saw it everywhere, snipped with fingers, then scissors, pictured it piled in boiling vats, bleeding yellow. Golden sprays already turning when alum at last arrived. All along paths and roadsides, it withered quickly. Still, turning a wild thing no one planted into a color held against the snow, she called each hue a name she could taste: butter, lemon, mustard. She gnawed thumb's callus and found it tender for days.
"Stop making a hole in the ice. Someone could trip and fall!"
"I thought you said falling was part of learning."
She knew the moment just after, wanting to leap the broken cup back up onto the counter, walk past it carefully. She must break three glasses, lay waste in small doses, swallow what she couldn't carry.
Born to want both salt and safety, patient only when she sliced yellow onions, first in half, then along the length in half-moons, then crosswise, so the cuts and grain yielded a small dice. Plenty.
She dreamed her hair smelled of roses.
"You can hear the breathing," she breathed.