Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Christmas Goblin: Another Tall Tale by Francesca Quarto

"Nothin' tastes better, me dear, than a nicely roasted goose!"
The old man looked proud of himself as he plucked the big black and white bird of its feathers, its head drooping like a large tear drop, from his knees. 
He was quite pleased with this acquisition, newly made by him after he raided the farmstead of Cormack Murphy, in the dark of the night and made off with his prize.
His comments were addressed to his wife of nearly thirty years, having begun their union very young.  Him, barely needing to shave. Her, just learning the meaning of womanhood. They had many challenges over that span of time, but stuck together like a glue pot and its lid.
"Benny, ye are a neat rascal, ye are! I been fussin' an' worryin' these past weeks, what vitals we'd be havin' fer the Yuletide!  An 'ere it tis!  A goose ta size o' a cart!" she chortled loudly.
He loved to see the merriment on his Megan's face, so bereft she was most days, working around their tiny cottage and tending her small garden plot at the side.  
They had lost their only son into his second year, grateful they'd had the foresight to have him Christened, else he'd been buried outside the Church cemetery as a baby heathen. 
They called him Jamie, but he never heard his name, or any word for that matter; him being born without hearing or speech. 
He was as quiet as a passing cloud and as soft in the head the villagers said, behind their hands. They reckoned his passing as a blessing to the very young couple. He would have proved a sorry burden in their life, and clearly, no help in filling their larder.
"Are ye certain this 'ere goose be free to our needs then, Benny?" she asked again, still amazed at their great fortune.
"Oy, why da' ya' bother yerself, so, my Megan?  Tis' a Christmas gift from that young fella down in Baleyroost Haven.  He was cullin' 'is flock, so ta speak, an' I give him a quick hand ta set him straight on 'is day.  No use ye worryin' yerself.  Let's jest enjoy our feastin'!"
With that, clearly his last word on the subject of the goose's provenance, Benny continued his plucking while Megan gathered the feathers, imagining to herself, the fine pillow she'd be making.
That night was Christmas Eve.  A deep snow had accumulated throughout the day, gathering the tiny farm into a cold embrace and a peaceful silence.
Benny and Megan had prepared a meager dinner for themselves, looking forward to the rich meal of goose, with the little bit of garden produce Megan had stored in their root cellar. They would rise at their customary hour, just before dawn and welcome Christmas into their world. 
Meantime, the goose was hung near the crude front door of their cottage, keeping it fresh for the cooking, next morning. 
That night they slept on their straw-stuffed pallet, curled around each other like a tea pot and its cozy.
In the darkest hour, with the wind beginning to rattle the cottage door and the snow falling in a curtain of white, a shadow passed over the elderly couple.  Never disturbing them, they were made to sleep even more deeply, when a vaporous cloud appeared, hovering over their gray heads. 
A pale light was filtering through the single window and the shadow took form within its glow. 
The goose they had plucked earlier was now tucked under the arm of a very large and hairy Goblin. 
This creature was not unknown to the sleeping couple, or the other folk of the hamlet.  It occupied a prominent place in their colorful folklore and was the subject of many a good tale as told by the roaming story tellers and entertainers.
The Church tried diligently to dismantle or debunk tales of the Little People and Faeries and Hobgoblins.  But over the long eons, through many dark times, the allure of magic and mythical creatures clung to the culture of the people like dew to the morning grass.
The Goblin stood, hulking over the pallet, listening to the couples gentle snores and sighs.  He had visited all of the villagers during  their meager lifetimes and over several of his own.  Always cautious, he only rarely frightened a small child.
For some reason, these two decrepit humans, touched something in him.  Perhaps it was their kindness to others, even when they had so little themselves and especially when it wasn't the Yuletide!
 He had witnessed the old man take the goose from his neighbors pen, scattering a few tufts of red fox fur around the yard, disguising his part in the theft.  At the time, the Goblin thought this clever, but was curious, because Benny never struck the Goblin as being devious and cunning.
You must understand, though they suffer a reputation for their terrifying appearance and ill tempered nature, Goblins have a deep and curious nature. Sadly, it is often the case that judgments are made solely on the superficial aspects of a being.
His curiosity compelled him to follow Benny back to the small cottage.  Hiding in the woods, close enough to be privy to the conversation inside the cottage, the Goblin heard Benny's explanation about the neighbor's gift of the goose, as payment for his help.
Goblins are not known to have any concept of selfless love, but it gradually dawned on him that the man risked his freedom, and possible hanging, to bring some cheer into his wife's dour life. While the theft would cost the other farmer very little, it gave the old man and his wife so much. 
The Goblin wondered at this moral conundrum.
That morning dawned frosty and clear as the bells from the Church belfry.  The old couple shook the deep sleep from their bones. Benny stepped into worn woolen breeches, Megan covered her thin shoulders in a woolen shawl.  They both suddenly stopped, sniffing at the chilled air.
"A beast has been visitin' us, Benny!  I ken smell it, I ken!" Megan was thinking their goose would have been snatched by such an intruder.
But Benny was on to something else altogether.  Besides the pungent odor wafting about the cottage on each breeze poking through the walls, he smelled cooking goose!  
They woke their legs to the task, creeping slowly from the back of the cottage where their pallet was tucked. A glow greeted their sleep-dulled eyes.
Standing by the fireplace, looking as homely as a mud bog next to a rose garden, was the Goblin.
The fireplace was merry with fine prancing flames. The spitted goose was dripping fat onto the hot coals, sounding like the crack of a whip with each plop. The Goblin turned the spit, making minor adjustments to the goose's position.  All this the old couple watched, without an utterance passing between themselves.
After a few good turns, the Goblin left off working the spit and began setting the roughly made table nearby with two dishes of battered pewter, knowing this was their best plate. Without acknowledging their presence, he then turned back to the fireplace where he shoved two large loaves of dark bread into their pots for baking.  Vegetables were in a side pot, ready for the cooking.
The fragrance of the cooking Yule goose and the baking breads, made their mouths water in anticipation.
While the old man was still overcome by fear of the giant, hairy creature, his wife took a different view of the situation.
"We be grateful fer ye to be joinin' us, on this 'ere Christmas morn, Goblin.  En ye have outdone yerself wit all this fine cookery."
The Goblin gave his shaggy head a quick shake and grunted.
"Tis me first Yule feast, an' I've no place ta be, 'cept wit yuns. Benny, I've sent yer invitation ta the farmer, Murphy, down the way, " he said in a deep, gravelly voice. "He'll be 'ere fer ta feastin' and is grateful, seein' he's all alone like."
Being a creature of Magic, sending this message to Cormack Murphy was as simple as slipping a word into the sleeping farmer's ear.  He awoke, believing he'd been asked to dine with Benny and his wife and readied himself to do so, whistling merrily at the prospect.
This marked the first of many Christmas feasts to follow over the next decade of years alloted to the elderly couple and their new friend.  The Goblin returned each holiday, with a goose tucked under his arm, preparing the feast and then going to fetch the farmer, Cormack Murphy to join in the fine company of the happy couple and himself.
The other villagers were curious about the large visitor coming every Christmas to the couples door.  
"Tis like magic I tell ye!  We be blessed wit long, lost kin ta me." Benny would explain whenever this was brought up in idle conversation around the Christmas Season.
The villagers all agreed, the huge, shambling man, did hold a family resemblance with old Benny.  And from the size of the geese he supplied for their table, he was both rich and generous. 
Before he passed on, joining his Megan in eternal feasting, old Benny asked the Goblin to bring a second  goose.  He took it to the farmer's yard, adding it to his flock of geese pecking around the dirt.
Benny felt grand with this compensation for the old wrong he did.  Another lesson for the rest of us who have read this tale perhaps.  
"While your goose may be cooked, it's always better to share the feast with those more monstrous then ourselves."


Diane Burton said...

Very good, Francesca. Your stories are always entertaining. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Francesca Quarto said...

Thanks for your kind words, Diane. You are always so supportive and it's appreciated! Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Francesca Q.

Lea Kirk said...

I love this! What a heartwarming tale. Thank you for sharing, Francesca. Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to you and yours.

Francesca Quarto said...

The same to you and yours, Lea!
Francesca Q.