False Spring

It was the weary end of winter, when crisp snow and spangled nights turn to grim and grey endurance and the drifts slumpd in slovenly piles along the hedgerows and ditches. A rare warm breeze coaxes the songbirds from their perches huddled deep in the evergreens, and they hop from branch to branch seeking out desiccated berries and overlooked pine nuts. The sun peeks her face from the shrouding covering the sky, bringing welcome brightness to the dark months. Wise men rejoice in the brief taste of springtime, knowing that it will fail quickly and winter’s clench will return.

See then, Roya, the Trickster, the god of travelers and beggars, of false promises and false hopes, trudging down the road. He is dressed as a beggar in rags the color of old snow and fresh mud; his staff is a crooked branch.

Roya enters the town to see the merchant and the craftsman, the trader and the maker, as they cleanse their homes of soiled things, of broken things, of things no longer useful. He sees the beggars and the poor, the finders and the scroungers, the fixers and the menders, who claim the broken and unloved things for their own use. He sees generosity, and he sees industry, and both gladden him, for waste and meanness are wicked.

Roya approaches a wealthy man’s house, and peers through the gate. Here too, the man’s servants are cleaning and clearing, but they do not put these things on the street for others. The man has built a fire and directed his servants to burn those things he does not want.

Roya passes through the gate, for locks are nothing to the patron of thieves. He sees a servant carrying out a warm coat. “Give me that coat,” Roya says, “for mine is thin and ragged.” But the servant is afraid of his master, and puts it on the fire where it is burned up.

Roya sees another servant, carrying a pair of fine boots. “Give me those,” he begs, “for my feet are bound with rags.” Like his brother, the servant dares not bestow the boots, but places them on the fire where they are burned.

Roya implores the servants again and again, for gloves, for a scarf, for a hat to keep off the rain, and every time it is the same; the fire grows larger, and Roya remains cold and miserable.

At last the master comes away from his door to scold Roya. “What do you here? These are my servants, and I have instructed them to burn these things.” Roya queries, “Why burn them at all? They are worn, but still fine enough for me. If you had given them, you would be blessed.”

But the master has no use for blessings. “Why should my coat be on your shoulders? Why should my shoes be on your feet? Would not my neighbors see you wearing them, and know? You are poor and ragged; their seeing would bring me naught but shame. It is my pleasure to burn these things, and it is my right. You are not of my house, and I owe you nothing. Begone, or I shall have you beaten!”

Roya then cast off his cloak of illusion, revealing himself as a god. “If burning is your pleasure, then burning you shall have!” He pointed his crooked staff at the fire which grew until it engulfed the master’s house. Not the master, nor none of his servants, could put out the fire until all of the master’s fine house and possessions are burned, and the master cowered, begging Roya’s forgiveness.

Roya told the man, “Beg not for my forgiveness, but for that of your neighbors, who might have benefitted from your generosity. Go forth to them, and ask them for a dwelling, and for those things they have no further use of to furnish it.”

Ever since that time in Roya’s season, the season of false spring, the people bring out those things they no longer have need of to pass on to their neighbors whose need is greater. Any who hunger or are cold may beg in the name of Roya and be satisfied. And the people build a fire in the town that all may be warm, and prepare a feast that all may be fed.

 

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