Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Into a Mirror with a Toad by Rie Sheridan Rose (Random Title 26)

Padaragh Filopott was dirt poor. Literally. In a society footed in how much land you owned, how many fields you plowed, how high the piles of sand and dirt that ranged around your home, Padaragh had so negligible an amount that he might as well be landless. His father had been a speculator and gambler, and all that was left of what once was a healthy holding was a fifty foot square of land under a ramshackle building that housed Padaragh and his seven children. His wife had died six months earlier, leaving a new babe to feed.
            Padaragh was at his wits end. He had hoped to receive some settlement from Katoran's family on her death, but they had made it clear that all ties were broken. They had never approved of Padaragh, and considered the children mongrels.
            As he trudged wearily home from yet another attempt to persuade his former in-laws that they owed something to their grandchildren, Padaragh kept his eyes on the dusty road. It belonged to his father-in-law, and he was only allowed to walk it because he paid a tithe every month.
            "Watch where you are going, you lout!" A voice at his feet startled Padaragh to a stop.
            He looked down to see a huge green toad sitting in the dust. It blinked up at him. "Did you say something?" he blurted out.
            "Your ears work, if nothing else does," scoffed the toad.
            Padaragh felt his ears heating up, and knew they must be red. "Sure and I do all I can. Six wee mouths to feed and no dirt to sell. I scrape and scrounge and scrabble every day of my life."
            "What if you could do better?"
            Padaragh stamped his foot in frustration, barely missing the toad. "Don't you think I want to? No man wants to see his children starve."
            "I can help. Take me home with you."
            Padaragh stared at the little creature. "Are you daft?"
            "What harm would there be?"
            "Little Tadagh might put you in a jar and keep you for a pet, for one."
            "He can try." The toad made a move that, in a human, would be a shrug.
            Padaragh laughed for the first time he could remember. At least since Katoran's death, for sure. "Why not?" He bent and lifted the toad into his hand.
            He carried the toad home to his shack, opening the door with a flourish. "I've brought home a friend," he called. "Come and see."
            The children gathered round—Lysant, Katorana, Parvan, Tadagh, Mysha. Only baby Terasan in her cradle and the eldest, Padarac, out at work, were absent.
            When Padaragh held out the toad, Katorana frowned. "You said a friend, Da. That's naught but an old toad."
            "Sure and you are no prize yourself," croaked the toad.
            The girl started. Her brothers and sister giggled at her discomfiture.
            "Now, get on about your chores," Padaragh ordered the children. "You can talk to..."
            "Shaymus," offered the toad.
            "...To Shaymus later. We have something to discuss."
            He carried Shaymus to the dining table and set the toad in a bowl. "You said you could help...I could use some, I know."
            "Have you a mirror?" asked the toad.
            "I might do," Padaragh said. "Why?"
            "Go and fetch it."
            Curious, Padaragh went to Katoran's old chest in the corner and found her silver-backed mirror. It was one of the few treasures left from her childhood. Running a hand over the etched back with a wistful sigh, he brought it back to the table where Shaymus waited.
            "Here it be," he said, placing the mirror before the toad.
            "Set it up where it reflects the table," Shaymus told him.
            Padaragh did as he was told.
            "Now, reach through the glass and pick up the cup you see within."
            "Are you daft?" Padaragh asked again.
            "You are talking to a toad, is this any dafter?"
            Padaragh nodded thoughtfully. "You have a point." He took a deep breath and reached out. His fingertips touched the glass, and then—with a cold tingle—they passed through. He curled his hand around the cup within and pulled it back. He looked down at the cup in wonder.
            "Anything within the mirror can be brought back, if you believe in the magic."
            Padaragh's eyes widened. "Anything?" he whispered.
            Padaragh scooped up the toad and the mirror and ran from the house. He set the glass against the wall, reflecting the small pile of dirt that he had managed to scrape from the yard. With shaking fingers, he reached through and pulled a handful of dirt through the mirror.
            It was true!
            He raked the remainder of the small pile through the mirror, doubling his wealth in seconds. "Lord save us!" he whispered.
            "And so much more can be yours."
            "I need a bigger mirror."
            He got one. As large a glass as the pile of dirt would buy. He and Shaymus took it into the forest, to a clearing where no one was likely to spy them. Padaragh carried a garden spade and barrow with them, and reached through the glass to dig as much dirt as it took to fill the barrow. The clearing on their side of the glass remained inviolate.
            He trotted the barrow home and back six times by nightfall. The pile of dirt beside the house grew higher and higher.
            People began to whisper. He knew it a matter of time before someone found him out.
            Padaragh took every grain of dirt he could assemble and bought a large sitting room mirror—the sort that would grace a rich man's house. He set it against the rear wall of the house, reflecting the lands beyond their little square of earth.
            He had kept Padarac home from work that day. Setting Katorana to work bundling the younger children into all the clothes they owned, he packed up the few items worth carting away into the barrow. He placed Shaymus in his coat pocket and gathered the children close.
            Katorana bounced the baby on her hip. "What are we doing Da?" she asked.
            "We're going on a grand adventure, darlin'. A grand adventure."
            Taking a deep breath, he led his children into a new world. Into a mirror with a toad.


Rie Sheridan Rose has been writing professionally for over ten years. She has published 6 novels, 1 short story collection, 2 chapbooks of collected stories, and 5 poetry collections as well as contributing to numerous anthologies. She also wrote lyrics for Marc Gunn's “Don’t Go Drinking With Hobbits” CD.
Her stories have also been published in Reloaded: Both Barrels, Shifters, and A Bubba in Time Saves None and Abandoned Towers. Her poetry appeared in print magazines Mythic Circle, Dreams of Decadence, and Abandoned Towers as well as Penumbra, The Voices Project, and the Metastasis, Boundless, and Di-Verse-City anthologies.

1 comment:

Rie Sheridan Rose said...

Thanks for the opportunity to participate, Gary. It was an amazing exercise. :)