“Does she really need it Pa? Can’t you just tell her that you lost it, or that Ma didn't keep it?”
I don't really want to go up the attic. It’s a grim place, a trove of un-required items, and their un-required memories, stored away, mostly inaccessible. But with Pa's aged frailty, I don't know how he expected to get down anything heavy or bulky, and so I will go up.
“Well, I did promise your Aunt Susan she could have it, back before Thanksgiving. But I know it is difficult for you to climb up. Let me do it, or leave it, I'm sure Frankie will go up for it.”
“I can do it Pa. It's fine, it's fine.” I can't stand it when people start making excuses for me, just because an accident wrecked my arm; and I really can’t abide Aunt Susan or her long term ‘life-partner’ Frankie. She simpers and he whimpers, and between the two of them any conversation is like being patted down with a tepid face-cloth, when you really want a cold shower.
If she wants this box of letters, that she has lived without for countless years, then I will make sure it is here for her to pick up, as the two of them make their way to which ever Pensacola, or Mobile, seafood restaurant is handing out discount coupons for their Sunday treat this week.
I will be elsewhere for the day.
In the muggy heat of the attic, there is a stale mustiness from collected belongings that have lain, forgotten, for long periods of time.
“It's definitely up here is it?” I ask, not for the answer, but for an excuse to abandon the whole thing.
"It’s definitely up there, Son. But really, don't worry about it, we can get it later."
"I said it's fine, Pa. Just tell me what I am looking for." I can't keep the angry edge out of my voice. Even though I really don't want this hassle. I will not be treated like a cripple. I can feel him watching me, and then he relents, abandoning his protest.
"It was in a… Oh! I don't know, you know what your Ma was like for packing stuff away."
I did. I could remember her packing up my room when I went off to college. Childhood stuff I could not imagine ever wanting to see, or use, again. But she put it all in the attic, folded and packed in boxes. I stand on the broad top step, slide the trap fully open, and take the flashlight from under my useless right arm. Shining it along the length of the roof-space, motes of dust dance on the bright beam and I look at a lifetimes collection of boxes, and chests, and bags. I do not want to do this.
Resting the flashlight inside the attic, I clamber up awkwardly. Pa doesn't say anything but I can feel him fretting away below me. I take a moment to let my breathing calm down and stand, only slightly hunched, in the roof space.
“Do you have any idea were to start, Pa?” We peer at each other through the hatch, his rheumy eyes a paling blue as he shakes his head
"Sorry Son. It must be, thirty-five years since they went up there. I can’t even remember what type of box they were in."
I sigh and start looking, trying to discern a method of storage based on when I thought the contents of the boxes might be from. Ma had been a hoarder, tidy and methodical, but definitely a hoarder. I find boxes full of old counterpanes that matched wallpaper and paint long since replaced. I find old school books of mine, and ancient files from Pa’s vet practice. There are recipe books and used wrapping paper, folded and packed after long forgotten birthdays or Christmases. There are tins that rattle with a hint of hoarded buttons, and a box of canning equipment that brings back memories of afternoons helping to can pound after pound of sweet, fresh, peaches bought from a local wholesaler.
I start opening boxes at random and eventually it pays off. By now my good hand is dry and grubby from the dust, and my tongue clings to my palate.
Pa must be standing by the steps, listening, because when I stop moving about, his tremulous voice drifts up. “Have you got it?”
I call back, “I'm still looking Pa, there’s so much crap in so many boxes. Go have a sit down and I'll call you.” I hear him shuffle off, and I stand there with Aunt Susan's requested box of ancient letters and postcards in my hand, my eyes transfixed by what lies beneath.
Ma used Kilner jars a lot, they took over from cans as her favourite way of preserving food long term. There were always jams or pickles or preserves being made, and handed out, or stored in the big back pantry, and I am definitely looking at one of Ma's jars. Her name is on the gold coloured lid, written in the thick black marker she always used.
The fetus inside is altogether unexpected.
We sit at the kitchen table, the jar in front of us; the fetus floating eerily in its ersatz amniotic fluid, and I listen as Pa tells me the story of how he and Ma used his veterinary knowledge to help Aunt Susan abort the child. My would be, older cousin.
"You have to remember, it was different then. This was before Roe versus Wade; there were no abortion clinics, no morning after pills, and it was bad enough that she was pregnant and didn't know who the father was, without the possibility of it being… you know..." His voice tails off.
"What? Black? You can say it, Pa." I oscillate between vague numbness and calm fury. "God forbid that the child might be a nigger bastard! Or was it that she just couldn't live with the consequences of screwing every airman who rolled off-base?"
"G.I. Son. Fort Rucker is Army, not Air force."
"Like it really makes a difference Pa. Damn!" I stand sharply and the chair rocks back against the fridge with a dull thump. Picking it up, I refill our coffee cups and get the bottle of Wild Turkey from the cupboard. Pa refuses, but I pour him a couple of fingers anyway.
We sit silently, the fridge thrumming away behind me, a lawn mower chugs away somewhere down the street. Pa holds his glass and watches as I drink two quick shots, and then pour a third. I look back at him and try to work out who he is. This man, my father, my progenitor.
"I can probably get my head around the home abortion Pa, but why keep it? And what the hell is it floating in, formaldehyde?" As I gesture toward the jar, bourbon slops out of my glass, leaving an approximation of a question mark on the worn tabletop. "Dammit!" I pour the remains into my coffee and wipe the spillage with my arm. "Come on, Pa. Give me something. I just learnt that my odious aunt was the Fort Rucker community bike, and you and Ma helped her kill a child."
I stop short as a dark and uncomfortable thought strikes me.
"Was this the only one? Or were there more? Was it only Aunt Susan? Or were you the local back street abortionist?"
"Just the one. It was just hers. But one was too many. We were determined there wouldn’t be anymore. We wanted her to calm down, stop being an easy lay. The jar was your Ma’s idea, she thought that if we gave it to her, presented her with the reality of her actions, it might… you know…" He stops speaking and waves his arms in front of him as an end to the sentence, narrowly missing both the Kilner jar and bourbon bottle. He is quiet for a moment, his hands resting on the tabletop as he watches the jar. “And yes, it is formaldehyde. I used the stuff in the vets, to send samples and organs to the university."
He lapses back into silence and I have to prompt him further.
"So how come it ended up in our attic with all of her love letters? I presume they’re love letters? And not from Frankie either!"
"No, not from Frankie, from long before Frankie. There was a pretty steady flow of them from all over, wherever the men had been posted they would send her a card or letter, and she kept every single one. It was some kind of validation thing for her. She was a very insecure young woman. They kept coming for months after she left."
"After she left?" I can’t remember a time when Aunt Susan hasn’t been hanging around causing a nuisance, with some drama or another. Thankfully, it has quietened down in the eight or nine years she's been with Frankie.
"This was all four or five years before you were born. Anyway pretty much straight after the abortion she wanted to get away, to make a fresh start, and she threatened to head to L.A. to become a movie star or some such madness. We put her straight on a Greyhound and sent her up to a cousin with a ranch somewhere outside Topeka. Of course, your Ma had to go, make sure she didn’t jump the bus. While they were gone, I put the jar in a box for when she got back. But after a few months up there, she decided to stay, so we cleared her apartment and forwarded her clothes and the like. Other stuff went into our attic, and by the time she came back, two or three years later, we just didn’t think about it. I had forgotten all about it until she called asking for the letters."
My gaze was fixed by drying smears on the table while he spoke, but now I look at him incredulously.
"Forgot? How the hell can you forget there is a fetus, that you aborted, pickled in a jar, in your own attic?"
I pick the jar up and shake it at him, the strange little homunculus sways lethargically in the dense liquid, a proto-human denied its opportunity of life. I have no siblings and no cousins, so I wonder how we would have got on. Would I have been an annoyance to be tolerated by virtue of blood-ties? Would I have had the moral courage to stand by a cousin with a different skin color? Would I have forgotten him, her, whichever, as we grew up? In the same way my parents had forgotten the aborted fetus.
"Yes, forgot. Life happened Son. Your Aunt wasn’t here, the practice was busy, you were born, your Aunt came back, you moved away, your Mother died and all the other stuff that happened in our lives happened." The embarrassment in his voice earlier is changed to anger and frustration. "I do not need your approval or forgiveness for this Son, and neither do I require your opprobrium. We did what we did, and life has carried on."
I bite my tongue, but the words ‘NOT FOR EVERYONE’ burn inside me. Confusion twists me. As the son of a vetiranarian, I have seen sick and suffering animals put down, witnessed owners weeping at the loss of a loved pet; even hard faced, leathery handed, farmers breaking down at the loss of a favorite horse or cow.
But in all of this, my father made me view each and every animal as special, taught me to show compassion and offer comfort. Yet here he sits, this stranger, calmly telling me that the willing, illegal termination of a human life was just something that happened.
We sit in silence again. I can not begin to express my inchoate thoughts, to form meaning in how I feel.
Without warning the side door opens and, suddenly, there is Aunt Susan and Frankie, smiling inanely and dressed for the mall.
“Well aren’t y'all looking glum? Hey! You found more of Jeannie’s jars. What forgotten pickles have you discovered now?”
Stuart Turnbull is a communications manager with a local charity. Following redundancy from his stockbroking job a few years ago he rediscovered his love of writing, and is working on a a project to write one unique story for each American State.
“Imagine this,” she says “your house is on fire; all the important papers and computer are safe and clear. You can save five things. Now, quickly list them.”
Along with the other students in my writing class, I respond to the teacher’s instructions and launch my mind through my house, racing to cull out anything of grand importance. I push past the watercolor purchased in France and the oil painting above our fireplace. These and other pieces of original art are insured, after all. More importantly, they don’t tug at my heart.
Up the stairs I fly, ignoring my jewelry chest. Those baubles, too, are insured and the most sentimental; my wedding ring encircles my finger. In the guest room’s ample closet, I grab a crate of photographs documenting our son’s lives. I virtually toss this collection onto the safety of the cool grass outside this inferno. While I’m at it, I heave their baby books in the box’s wake, ticking off items two and three. In these treasures, I recorded first smiles and preserved wisps of gossamer hair snipped by my hesitant hand.
The imagined blaze presses closer. No time to linger. Dashing downstairs, I skid into the study. Now used as a repository for reading material and a fuzzy, indigo throw that I like to nestle in, my father’s cradle waits by my favorite chair. My grandmother once rocked my infant father to sleep in this sturdy cradle. Emptying it in haste, I remember the day my mother rescued it from a dusty attic.
“Honey, I found something you might want.” My mother’s voice reaches through the phone but sounds far away. “Your father’s cradle. Do you want me to save it for you?”
I tuck the phone closer to my ear and bribe my toddler with a graham cracker. “His cradle? I didn’t know Daddy had a cradle.” I wag one finger at my son indicating in a single move that he should hush and may only have one cracker.
“Well, he did---if you want it, it’s yours”. My mother sounds impatient. She’s sorting through her mother-in-law’s belongings in preparation for the upcoming sale where both the home and household goods will be auctioned off.
With some reluctance, I agree to keep the cradle---anything to get off the phone before my boy ruins his appetite again. Our first house is small and our son sleeps in a bed now. An antique cradle? Where will I put it?
Later, I stifled a giggle when my father delivered this tiny relic to our home. In my father’s hard-working hands, the cradle appeared almost silly. A man’s man, my father was more at ease at a workbench than in dealing with babies. Still, he toted the cradle inside wearing a rare, wide and boyish smile on his face.
Hand-carved out of old cherry, the cradle’s smooth sides rose steeply from what seems to be a ridiculously narrow base. I peered inside trying to imagine my father as an infant. Impossible, I thought, even though I knew that, of course, this distant and stern man had once been a baby too. From my mother, I learned he’d been sandwiched between a favored older sister and an adored baby brother. My father learned early to make do and to build his own bicycle out of spare parts when there was only enough money to buy bikes for his siblings. He made his own way in a world that offered scant softness.
In turn, he offered little sentimentality to his own children. Yet, my father always showed up when my car broke down or listened to me when I cried about the demands of being a student nurse. As I shivered on a frigid and lonely road, he fixed my radiator and when I cried about school on our nubby sofa, he told me not to be a quitter. His steady presence both grounded me and pushed me towards a future where I would need him less and less.
My father plunked the cradle down and nodded. “What’s up, kid?” he greeted me with his usual endearment.
“Not much. Nice cradle, Daddy.” We economized on words, my father and I.
He ruffled his grandson’s hair. “Well, it’s a little late for this guy, but you never know…..” His voice trailed off.
Over my son’s blonde head, I smiled. “You’re right, you just never know”.
Soon, this cradle did rock a new baby but my father never held his second grandson. Dead so young of a heart attack, he left no anecdotes for his grandchildren to remember him—except through my stories. He left a shoe-string tied stack of letters he wrote in a foxhole as a homesick young solider, a daughter who wishes she had known him better, and an old cherry cradle.
Grasping my father’s cradle, I spirit it away from that imagined fire threatening my belongings, all those things that can be replaced. Brushing off some lingering ash, I imagine rocking my new grandson in it when he visits next week. I’ll nestle my nose in Wyatt’s soft neck, breathe in his powdered sugar sweetness and whisper in his perfect shell of an ear, “What’s up, kid?” And, you just never know. Somewhere, I think my father will smile at what I choose to keep.
♦ Victoria Duncan lives in Annapolis, MD and is pursuing her third career in her first love: writing.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.
Mallard Roswell Doberman III was born premature, at 28 weeks, and some thought it was a miracle he lived at all. Others thought it was a damn shame that God let, and these are their words, “a retarded idiot like Roscoe” live at all. His mother and father fit into that category. Most folks were pretty sure if it wasn't for the check they received every month like clockwork from Social Security, his father would have drowned him in the toilet bowl and said it was an accident. No one would have questioned it. Roscoe was at the emergency room so many times as a kid, they started to name a wing after him.
Roscoe was not retarded by any means. It was determined by better minds than yours and mine, that he was just “slow”. Hell, I didn't care, I liked him anyway. I met Roscoe in kindergarten and he and I have been pals ever since. I would say on average that I've had my ass-whipped at least twice a year, every year, for over twenty-years, just for sticking up for Roscoe. Now, that’s not to say I can’t fight or have never won one or two. I'm probably 50/50 when it comes to wins and losses, so that should give you a pretty good idea of how many times I've had to fight someone for calling Roscoe an idiot or a retard or worse. Like I said, he’s my pal.
I'm not exactly Einstein myself, but I could scare up a few B’s and C’s if I set my mind to it. I didn’t. I preferred breezing my way through life. No muss, no fuss. I do enough to get by, which is all I’ve ever wanted. I've yet to figure out why a person works so hard for so long, to have things they don't enjoy anyway. A man kills himself to buy the best boat and the best fishing rods money can buy, and dies before he can get his rig in the water. Me? I buy a used fishing rod, never strike a lick and I'm frying more fish than I can eat in no time. Go figure.
That’s not to say I'm a lazy man, by any means. I happen to operate “KC’s Painting and Wallpaper Co., Free Estimates, of course”. It’s not a huge business, and I don’t want it to be. It’s just Roscoe and me most of the time, unless I need to hire a few boys to help work part-time during my busy season. That’s never happened, but a man can dream I guess. For the most part, It’s just Roscoe and me painting a room or two for people with a wink and a handshake. I charge less, they pay cash and everybody’s happy except Uncle Sam, and my lips are sealed. I slip Roscoe a few bucks, give him room and board in my old garage that we converted into an apartment, and life goes on.
Like I said, he’s part of my family. My wife and twin boys will also carry an ass-whipping if you mess with Roscoe. When I married Leanne, I told her that Roscoe was part of the deal. While she knew him, it wasn't until we got married and she started to cook a little extra everyday to carry out to Roscoe, that she fell in love with him. Now, she would probably leave me before she left him. The twins are both 10 years old and have never known a day without their Uncle Roscoe. He was there when they came out, and he’s like that old uncle who always pulls a quarter out of your ear. Except ole’ Roscoe couldn't pull wax out of his own ear with a box of Q-Tips.
I've lived in the same old house my whole life. When Mama died, she left the land and home to my sister and me. Wanda hated this house and town ever since she came out of my mother’s womb. As soon as she had her first period, she started making plans to leave “this friggin’ hellhole” as she liked to refer to it. She knew she was going to have to spread her legs to do it and by God, she damn sure gave it a go. She finally got knocked up by some young stud installing a new septic system in town, whose company worked out of Florida. They stayed at the only motel in town for 3 months, and then ran off together. That was the last we heard of Wanda, and half of this house will always be hers, along with half of the taxes.
During fishing season, Roscoe and me don't let work keep us from fishing, and it seems like fishing season is almost year ’round. Living in the south, there are very few days when you can't find some kind of fishing to do. The last time a pond froze over around here, I was just a boy. My dad and me, well, my step-dad anyway, walked down to Ed’s Pond and like the fool my mama always said he was, took off from a running start to show me how he could slide clear across the pond. He almost did it, I'll give him that. He had slid about half- way across the pond when he ran into a patch of ice that was as thin as a brand new dime, and, well, he wasn't a bad fella, for a step-dad anyway.
One day, Roscoe and I loaded up my little aluminum two-man boat that I traded a VCR for, right about the time they were changing over to CD players. The fella’ I traded with swore those little CD’s would never catch on, but if there’s one thing I've learned in life, it is you can't stop progress. Who would have dreamed 20 years ago that kids in the first grade would have cell-phones in their backpacks? Amazing. Anyway, the boat had a small hole in it, but after Roscoe and me patched it up and painted it , it looked brand new except for a few dents and dings. Besides, as long as it floats, what more do you need?
It was near evening and we were drifting along, a few minutes before the fish usually start biting, when out of the blue, Roscoe looked at me and said “KC, do you believe in God”? Well, I guess you would have to know Roscoe to know how strange a thing that was to say coming from him. The only time him or me had ever been in a church, was the time we painted the AME Zion Baptist Church over in Kenansville, where it’s mostly Blacks.
Made good money on that job, and one thing I got to say about the Pastor of that church, he paid me as soon as I was through. I still have two Pastors who owe me money for painting their private residences and it’s been way over a year. A Pastor and his money sure ain't soon parted, not around these parts anyway.
I thought about what Roscoe said for a minute or two and I said, “Roscoe, why you asking?” Roscoe took off the Cat hat I gave him a few years ago, scratched his head and said, “I think God talked to me last night, right after I laid down to bed”. He didn't say anything for a few minutes, and I finally had to prod him along by asking, “Well, Roscoe, what did God say to you?” Roscoe stuttered a minute and said, “I... I.., I ain't quite sure how he put it. But it goes.., something.., like this, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” I damn near fell out the boat.
I sat there with my mouth open so long, a mosquito flew in it and almost choked me to half to death. Now, I've known Roscoe most of his life, and you could have beaten me with a broom handle and I still would have said you were lying if you told me those words came out of ole’ Roscoe’s mouth. Finally, I came right out and said it. “Where did you hear that from, Roscoe, off the radio or from a billboard somewhere?” Folks, I ain't never known Roscoe to tell a lie. He just ain’t got it in him to lie. You ever meet someone like that? Well, that’s Roscoe. “KC, I swear on my dead mama’s grave, that God told me them there words,” he said after a few minutes. “What ya’ suppose they mean?” Since I have never read the Bible, I had no idea, but in Roscoe’s eyes, I know damn near everything I guess. Even though we're about the same age, I've taken care of him since he ran off from home at 16, and he sorta looks up to me.
I was just about to tell Roscoe that I would look it up somewhere when we got home when all of a sudden something pulled on his fishing line so hard that it almost took him out of the boat. He managed to hang onto the rod, but with the boat not anchored down, the fish was actually moving the boat. I put down my own rod and tried to help Roscoe catch this monster. Just as I reached for the net, I saw something jump out of the water that to this day, and it’s been over 20 years, I still haven't gotten over.
The biggest Largemouth Bass I have ever seen suddenly broke through the water. Roscoe and I stood in that boat with our mouths wide-open and in awe, as this majestic beast came 6 feet out of the water. His head was as big as a bowling ball with a mouth that I could easily put two of my fists in. It had to be over 5 foot long and weigh over 40 pounds, at a minimum. But even with his size, this wasn't what set this magnificent fish apart from any other bass I had ever seen.
I've also caught my share of bass and most are a deep green or olive color, depending on the time of year they're caught. But this bass was a rainbow of colors and seemed to defy gravity as it stayed in the air like Michael Jordan once did on a basketball court, with one of his patented basketball dunks.
It then landed right in the middle of the boat, directly between Roscoe and me. His head, and especially his big beautiful eyes, were sighted dead-on Roscoe. This monster bass kept maneuvering his immense body so he could get a better view of Roscoe. It was then that Roscoe sat down and stared into the eyes of the beast. I would swear on a stack of Bibles they seemed to be reading each other’s mind. I sat down and watched a sight not seen by this old fisherman before or since. Roscoe then wiped his forehead, looked at me and said “KC, let’s get him back in the water now.” I almost fainted. Here was the biggest bass ever caught, in our boat, and he wanted to throw him back in the water. I couldn't believe it.
“Roscoe,” I said, “Let’s at least get a picture of this monster. We ain't far from the shore and my cell-phone is in the truck.” But Roscoe would have none of it. He wanted him back in the water right away, before he suffered any. He reached down, took the hook out of his mouth and petted him gently on his head like a puppy and I swear that fish waggled his tail like a dog to his owner. We both grabbed an end and to my everlasting regret, let the most beautiful fish I have ever laid eyes on, slowly swim away, but not before flicking its tail once more and splashing water all over Roscoe.
Roscoe. My buddy. Who has been picked on all his entire life, called a retard and an idiot by his own parents, looked at me and said “KC, forget what I said about God talking to me, I think I know what he was telling me now.” I looked at Roscoe and said, “Roscoe, that fish could explain it a lot better than I could anyway. Let’s catch us some supper, buddy”. And that, folks, is the God’s honest truth.
I've lived and worked in the south for over twenty years, and I hope this story captures a part of this place that I love, with the compassion and pace of life that never changes and people who have never met a stranger. - Kenny Sibbett
Jenean McBrearty is retired teacher who spends her time taking on-line classes, drinking tea, and pretending she's a princess or, on a cloudy day, Norma Desmond. Website: Jenean-McBrearty.com
On a street corner near a rotisserie, a thin, unkempt man named Thomas munched on a slice of bread he bought from the bakery next door. He held the crusty bread in the smoke from the roasted beef so that it tasted as if he had dipped it in the tangy au jus of the succulent meat. Thomas enjoyed his slice so much; he bought a whole loaf of
bread that he also held in the smoke. He devoured the entire loaf.
“What are you doing?” The rotisserie owner, Luther, asked Thomas as he passed by his front door. “I saw you in my back alley.”
“I flavored my bread with the rotisserie smoke,” Thomas said.
“I own the rotisserie. You owe me for the smoke from the meats,” Luther said as he wiped his hands on his stained white apron.
“I don’t owe you anything. How can you sell smoke? Besides, the smoke was rising into the air and was wasted anyway,” Thomas said.
“I didn’t intend for my smoke to flavor your bread. If you don’t pay me, I’m going to knock your teeth out,” Luther said. Thomas raised his walking stick in defense. The men yelled at each other even louder and people gathered to watch the fight. Luther saw the Justice of the Peace in the crowd as he approached the two men.
“What’s going on over here?” The Justice of the Peace asked.
Luther got an idea.
“Are you willing to have the good justice here settle our dispute?” Luther asked Thomas.
“Yes, by all means,” Thomas said.
The justice listened to each man’s story.
“Give me a coin,” the justice said to Thomas.
“Here you are sir,” Thomas said as he pulled the coin from his pocket. The justice took the coin and placed it on his shoulder, as though he were testing the coin’s weight. Then he tapped the coin on the palm of his left hand, as though he were testing if the coin was counterfeit. Then he placed the coin in front of his right eye, as though he were seeing if the coin was properly engraved.
The crowd remained silent. They expected a decision in favor of the rotisserie owner.
Finally, the justice tapped the coin on a table several times. He cleared his throat and faced the crowd.
“This court rules that Thomas, who has eaten his bread held in the smoke from the roast, must pay Luther with the sound of his money. And the court further directs that each man return to his business without costs and for just cause,” the justice declared and returned the coin to Thomas.
Luther was angry. He looked at Thomas. “Stay out of my alley,” Luther growled.
“You don’t own the alley either. It’s pubic property. You can’t block me from it,” Thomas said.
Luther growled even louder and stomped back through his shop’s front door.
“Oh, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” Thomas said as he walked down the sidewalk, humming a tune and tapping his stick.
Adapted by Martina Kranz from "Theft of a Smell" by Francois Rabelais
Francois Rabelais c. 1494 – 9 April 1553
Francois Rabelais was a French Renaissance writer, doctor, monk, and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, and grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs. He is considered one of the great writers of world literature and among the creators of modern European writing. His literary movement was Renaissance Humanism. He authored the comedic masterpiece Gargantua and Pentagruel. The four novels in this book exploited popular legends, farces and romances as well as classical and Italian material. "Theft of a Smell" is taken from A Harvest of World Folk Lore