Telling Tales 79
Did We Do It?
“They’re too long!” bellowed the mayor’s brother.
“What are?” asked the princess Vasilisa in all innocence.
“The spoons!” shouted someone else. “The spoons are too long!” It was precisely true. At three feet long they were more suited to being walking sticks or canes. “How are we supposed to eat with these?”
“But you agreed,” said the young man Ivan in a reasonable voice.
The crowd roared its objections and the mayor’s brother made to throw down his spoon and that’s when the citizens of Chalm discovered the second trick. They couldn’t let go.
In all fairness, someone would point out much, much later to general disputation and disagreement, the young man Ivan had seemed as surprised as any of them. They seemed to have grown around the hand that grasped them. “You did agree,” said the princess Vasilisa, one eyebrow arched, “absolutely.”
Amongst the further dark rumblings of magic and traps, it was the old grandmother who said the obvious. “Of course it’s magic! Who didn’t think it was magic? Why is everybody acting so surprised now?” And with that she pushed her way forward and dipped her spoon in. The bowl of the spoon was deep but wide but it narrowed at the end. Perfect for eating stew. Bits of tender meat and potatoes and carrots floated in the brown broth on top of the bowl. A collective sigh hesitated its way out of the crowd’s mouths. The old woman stared at the spoon, sticking out so far from her hand that she had no way of turning it to herself. At her feet, her two grandchildren, a boy and a girl, stared at her, then at the cauldron, both waiting their turn and anxious to know what to do. With a growl of frustration, she said, “Hold still!” and leveled the spoon in front of the younger child. “Share it with your sister, now.” The boy resisted at first. He was old enough to feed himself and it was only babies who had people feed them, but the spoon in his own hand was taller than he was. So he ate. As did his sister. Their sounds of satisfaction were enough for everyone else.
The bowls of the spoons were deep enough that they could nearly hold a meal apiece. Soon the people of Chalm were standing around in twos and threes, feeding one another. It wasn’t easy, and, predisposed to such sentiments as they were, it made many people angry. The soup was heavy, so often the person eating had hold on to the stem of the spoon. Although that took the weight, it had the effect of yanking around the person holding the spoon. Food spilled on to aprons and shirts. Vegetables and gravy smeared across cheeks, noses, and necks.
It was the children who turned it into a game. They painted the smears in decorative lines and stuck bits of carrots in their gums, chasing one another and squealing in mock fear from the carrot-toothed vampires. Nor did the food run out. Everyone ate and ate and by the time the second cauldron was empty, a fourth was nearly ready. Then a fifth. It is hard to stay angry on a full stomach after a good meal.
“Well?” asked either Arkady or Aleksey to no one in particular. “Did we do it?”
All around them, the people of Chalm fed one another with the magical spoons and laughed in ways so long forgotten it was like a new thing.
“No, monsieur” said the old servant. “I do not believe we have.”