Jeptha heard the preparation and smelled the cooking long before the festivities in Northwich began. The guards on patrol said Brother was on his way. Guards were noisy and let out secrets far into the forest.
It was in his mind to greet Brother.
There was so much to tell him about what he was learning. He wanted to visit Grumpet the goose as well. He trimmed his hair with a sharp stone, bathed and washed his pull over shirt with the button. He dressed carefully and covered himself with a pequin leather robe.
It was not the best handcraft, but it was of his own making. Near the chest, a sea shell was affixed. It was the parting gift of Wispy Sapling.
What was a snail without his shell or a beast without his forest? She spoke and he understood. It was not meant for him to marry her and he knew it. There was no reason to fight, she said her goodbyes before Ahusaka spoke.
He looked at his reflection in the creek. He recognized himself for the awful creature he was, but stood tall. He felt himself to be an honorable gentleman in his outfit.
The Shepherd’s wife told him not to run in his best clothing. He would sweat and soil them. He was to be fresh and clean when he attended functions.
Beast liked Wispy. Her rejection was sweet and understanding. The last girl he spoke with asked him to cut off part of his nose. He did it and then she stopped talking to him. That girl was mean.
He had spoken to Shepherd’s Crook Man about Wispy and he was direct.
“Jeptha, ask yourself, where are you going, and when you know, you can figure out who you will take with.”
Jeptha did not consider where he was going. Shepherd’s Crook Man said to wait. It was good that Wispy got married.
For now, he was going to see Brother and there was no one to take with.
He raised his nose in the air and sniffed. It was Wispy… and him. He watched them walk towards Northwich arm in arm. He listened. Wispy’s husband called him afraid when he walked away from the fight the other day. It was not the warrior’s fault Beast could hear so well.
Anger and rage came over him anyways.
He could not go to see Brother.
They would be there.
They would laugh at him and call him weak.
” Use your manners!”
The words of the Shepherd’s wife rang in his ears.
Jeptha resolved to go.
He would use his manners and greet Brother, Wispy …and him.
He made his way from the forest to the base of the hills. His keen hearing picked up brother’s voice and he picked up his pace. He broke into a run. As soon as he saw him, Beast cried out in a roar, “BROTHER!!!!”
Cut rounds of wood serving as dinner plates dropped at the sound. The festivities halted and those gathered looked at the towering figure.
Covering Beast from head to toe were poorly scraped and partly washed pequin hides.
He embraced Brother, lifting him off of the ground. Netty would have screamed, but the close proximity and awful stench of the pequin hides burned throats and made eyes water.
Brother faintly gagged out the words, “good to see you Jeptha, please put me down.”
Beast looked around and saw Wispy Sapling and her husband. As he walked their direction,
he pointed to the seashell.
“BEAST THANKFUL FOR SHELL, WISPY SAPLING!”
He turned to her husband. “CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE WINNER!”
There is no sense in calling any man or creature weak when they are covered in pequin hides.
The convicts of Northwich including Emerson had no idea what was going on. There was an awkward silence.
For a second time that night, Brother asked,
“what did he win, Jeptha?
Jeptha exclaimed, “MAN WON SAPLING, BEAST WON FOREST!“