The Tinker’s Damn | by Ed Ahern

     Once, not so long ago, a tinker came to the town of Bitten Apple. Townspeople who glanced at him saw a man groomed and stately. Too few stared hard and saw the clutching little fingers and an expression at once sneering and boastful.

     The Tinker, who called himself Augustus, set up shop and began buying and selling all manner of things. He was a sharp trader, and told those who argued with him that they’d best be careful or he’d damn them with lawsuits and embarrassment. Such curses were feared. The menfolk in the town listened to his blustering, and thought Augustus a clever man who must be respected.

     A few years later Augustus was a very rich man. (The townsfolk were poorer of course, but they were afraid to say anything) He was elected the town leader, and appointed a sheriff and constables who were in his debt.

     Augustus created the damning law, which let him condemn those who disagreed with him, and forbade anyone from outside the town to take up residence. Anyone who differed with him, or who just was different from him, was banned. The town for the townspeople, he said.

     The menfolk began to think that they’d made a mistake in electing Augustus, but didn’t speak because Augustus would damn them for dissent. And anyway, men never like to admit they were wrong.

     The womenfolk in the town had never much taken to Augustus, who kept pestering them to breed and be docile. Which was peculiar, because Augustus was a man who liked and left a great many women.

     One woman, Servillia, was Augustus’ house cleaner. She, more than any other, knew Augustus’ damns were just bullying, because he damned her several times a day, and yet there she still was. And she, more than any other, knew that it wasn’t just things that Augustus clutched at.

     Servillia shopped for food every day in the town market. The other women rarely spoke to her for fear that Servillia would report what they said to the town’s pompous potentate. But Servillia could sense their fear, and approached groups of women, saying that she of all people should be afraid of Augustus, but she knew him to be too vain and grandiloquent to be truly evil. Well maybe evil in a petty way, she would say.

     The women listened, and began asking her advice on how to rid the town of the festering boil they had elected. Servillia had no answer, but began to think. A week later she called the women together in the town square. Augustus, she said, could insult and damn individuals, but he could not banish half of the town. If the women spoke together, and stayed together despite threats, they could say whatever they liked. But they would have to ignore their menfolk, who still were ashamed of their choice.

     The women agreed, and began drafting a chant they could call out in front of the town hall.

     “Stick to groping yourself” was suggested, but turned down because it was unladylike.

“Banish yourself, bozo” was viewed more favorably, but rejected because it missed the mark.

     They finally settled on “Augie you disgust us” because it made a nice chant and fit on the placards.

     The next day, signs ready, the women marched on town hall. The constables arrested the first six women, but since the town jail only had two cells they had to stop and let the others proceed.

     The women circled the town hall and began their chant. The men joined in, timidly at first, then more bravely when they saw other men in the march. The crowd overwhelmed the constables, entered town hall, and carried Augustus out of the building. They carried him all the way to the town line and pitched him onto unincorporated land.

     Augustus cursed and threatened all the way out of town, but by then everyone had realized that this tinker’s damn was worthless.

end

 

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Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had a hundred fifty stories and poems published so far. His collected fairy and folk tales, The Witch Made Me Do It was published by Gypsy Shadow Press. His novella The Witches’ Bane was published by World Castle Publishing, and his collected fantasy and horror stories,Capricious Visions was published by Gnome on Pig Press. Ed’s currently working on a paranormal/thriller novel tentatively titled The Rule of Chaos. He works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of five review editors.

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