Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Map had a cow that he loved very much for the good milk it gave him. The cow had a reputation in the valley where Map lived, a reputation that was well attested to by the fact that he never bragged about her. He just held his head high, in a quiet sort of way, and people would say as he passed, 'there goes Map, who owns a fine cow'.

One time a huge rainstorm climbed over Looktwice Mountain and made itself comfortable down in the valley for most of a day and a night. When Map went out the following morning at milking time, he found his beloved cow standing belly-deep in a puddle of mud. He tried to coax her out, then he tried to lead her out with a halter, then he tried to push her out, but the poor beast only lowed mournfully. Finally Map had to crouch down in the mud puddle and milk her right there, though of course he couldn't get any of that good milk.

Map went to see his friend Hap, who lived up the way and was an accomplished bragger. People would gather in the evenings sometimes just to hear him brag, and the little ones enjoyed his talk as much as the big ones. But when he was done people would go on their way, laughing and shaking their heads, because Hap had a fine big mouth but no cow to his name.

Well, Map went to see his friend, and said, "Hap, my cow is stuck in the mud. Come and help me get her out." So Hap got on his coat and boots and went over to Map's, where the poor beast was still standing belly-deep and contemplating her calamity.

"This looks like a big job," said Hap. "If I were you I'd get some help."

"That's why I got you," said Map.

"No, I mean big help, for a big job," said Hap. "I'm your friend, and I don't want to give you anything less. Let's go across the way and ask Selima."

So they went to see Selima, who lived in a cave halfway up Ware Mountain. Selima had eight hands and knew something about everything, and when they got to the cave opening and knocked, she was making string figures to pass the time.

"Selima," said Hap, "my friend Map has a big job to do and he needs some big help. What would you recommend?"

"The biggest helper I have is called Moro," Selima replied, waving away a fly. "He lives across the way, under that mountain you can see through the cave opening. He usually does what I ask. Just dig under the fireweed and tell him what you want done."

"Great," said Hap. "I knew there'd be an easy way to get the job done."

"Oh, and watch out for his feet," Selima said, and went back to her string figures.

Hap and Map left the cave and started back across the way. "Isn't this great?" said Hap, slapping his friend on the back. "We'll just call up this Moro guy and have your cow back in the barn before you know it."

"I don't know about this," said Map. "What did she mean by 'watch out for his feet'?"

"They probably smell bad," said Hap. "It's no concern of ours. Let's go get our shovels and pay old Moro a visit."

So they did that, and then they went together up the mountain Selima had pointed to, which was called Woebetide Mountain. They stopped partway up and dug where Selima had said to dig, under the fireweed. They hadn't gone very deep before they found an ear, a huge ear, dull pinkish dun like granite. Hap leaned over and said, very carefully, "Hey Moro, wake up!" Nothing happened, so Hap bent closer and shouted, "Hey Moro, wake up!" And Moro did.

He was huge. When he sat up he made half the mountainside fall away, and it cascaded down into the valley, burying three fields and an apple orchard. Even sitting down he towered over them like a grandfather spruce. His skin was dull pinkish dun all over. He had no neck to speak of, just a slab-shaped head that was too big for his ears. He had two little eyes that glowed like cinders, and enormous feet.

"Hey Moro!" called Hap. Moro turned his head slowly and looked down at them. "There's a cow stuck in Map's field down the way a bit- can you get it out for us?"

Moro got up and went down into the valley, and Map and Hap ran along behind him. When he got to Map's pasture he picked up the cow between two fingers (he had four on each hand) and set her down on dryer ground. The poor beast lowed in terror and ran off to the far side of the pasture.

"Great," said Hap, "that was even easier than I'd thought. I wonder what else this guy can do?"

"We should probably thank him and send him home," said Map, who was worried for his cow.

But Hap took Moro to his place and let him sleep in the hayfield. The next day he put Moro to work picking stones, and the day after that he had him heap up the highest drystone wall that valley had ever seen, all the way around Hap's land. Everyone came up the way to see what Hap was up to, and they shook their heads but they didn't laugh.

After that everyone wanted Moro to work for them. Hap bragged and bragged, and they could see that what he said was true. Moro could till fields by running his fingers through the soil. He could split wood with his fingernails. He could mill grain on a windless day. In short, he could do the work of a hundred men, and Hap charged his neighbours accordingly when they asked for Moro's help. In no time at all Hap was the richest man in the valley.

But Moro didn't always do a good job. Sometimes he spun the vanes of a windmill too fast and broke the cogs. Sometimes he turned firewood into wood shavings, or left it as a jumble of half-snapped logs. At other times he simply stopped tilling halfway through a field and wandered off to do something else.

And that wasn't all. Moro's feet really did smell bad, and they were so enormous that he stepped on things by mistake. In his first week working for Hap, Moro flattened two outhouses and a summer kitchen, and by the second week he had demolished someone's house. Hap payed for the buildings to be replaced, but it didn't stop there. Moro knocked down trees that stood in his way, and he trampled fields and gardens into the dirt. He didn't seem to eat, but he drank whole rivers dry.

Soon the neighbours agreed that Moro needed to be reined in. Hap assured them that he would get his helper to repair the damages, but it didn't work. Instead of planting trees or mending fences, Moro started knocking things down for fun. People were frightened, and that made them angry, and they started quarelling amongst themselves about how best to deal with Moro. "It's a big job, but that's why I have a big helper!" Hap kept saying, but nobody listened to his talk any more, because they could see that what he said was foolishness. Moro was ripping up whole forests on the slopes above them and throwing the rubble down into the valley.

After a while Moro got bored and left. He walked over the ruined face of Woebetide Mountain and vanished. Then Map came out of his cellar and went up the way to see his friend Hap.

"Hello Map," said Hap when his friend arrived. "Say, it's been a while since I've been able to find anything to eat around here. Would you give me a bite to eat, or even a cup of your cow's good milk?"

"You know I would," said Map, "but Moro stepped on my cow last week."

That evening a huge rainstorm climbed over Looktwice Mountain and made itself comfortable down in the valley for most of a night and a day. The rain beat down on the wounded earth and washed the soil of the mountain slopes into the bed of the River Way, which rose silted and swollen from its banks and flooded the entire valley. Houses and fences and windmills all were swept away.

When the sky finally cleared, the evening star found Map and Hap halfway up the mountainside, huddled in one of Moro's enormous footprints. As they looked out over the desolate valley, Hap said softly, "That looks like a big job."

And Map said, "It looks like a job for little people."

No comments:

Post a Comment