Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett : Page 25

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"Yes!" Tiffany snarled. "And this is a food preparation area, you know!"

"You're not supposed to be able to see me!"

"Well, I'm looking at you!"

"Hold on a minute," said the woman, frowning at Tiffany. "You're not just a human, are you…?" She squinted oddly for a moment and then said, "Oh, you're her. Am I right? The new Summer?"

"Never mind me, who are you?" said Tiffany. "And it was only one dance!"

"Anoia, Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers," said the woman. "Pleased to meet you." She took another puff at the flaming cigarette, and there were more sparks. Some of them dropped on the floor but didn't seem to do any damage. "There's a goddess just for that?" said Tiffany. "Well, I find lost corkscrews and things that roll under furniture," said Anoia offhandedly. "Sometimes things that get lost under sofa cushions, too. They want me to do stuck zippers, and I'm thinking about that. But mostly I manifest whensoever people rattle stuck drawers and call upon the gods." She puffed on her cigarette. "Got any tea?"

"But I didn't call on anyone!"

"You did," said Anoia, blowing more sparks. "You cussed. Sooner or later, every curse is a prayer." She waved the hand that wasn't holding the cigarette and something in the drawer went pling. "It'll be all right now. It was the egg slicer. Everyone has one, and no one knows why. Did anyone in the world ever knowingly go out one day and buy an egg slicer? I don't think so." Tiffany tried the drawer. It slid out easily. "About that tea?" said Anoia, sitting down. Tiffany put the kettle on. "You know about me?" she asked. "Oh, yes," said Anoia. "It's been quite some time since a god fell in love with a mortal. Everyone wants to see how it turns out."

"Fell in love?"

"Oh, yes."

"And you mean the gods are watching?"

"Well, of course," said Anoia. "Most of the big ones don't do anything else these days! But I'm supposed to do zippers, oh yes, and my hands get very stiff in this weather!" Tiffany glanced at the ceiling, which was now full of smoke. "They're watching all the time?" she said, aghast. "I heard you're getting more interest than the war in Klatchistan, and that was pretty popular," said Anoia, holding out her red hands. "Look, chilblains. Not that they care, of course."

"Even when I'm having a…wash?" said Tiffany. The goddess laughed nastily. "Yes. And they can see in the dark, too. Best not to think about it." Tiffany looked up at the ceiling again. She had been hoping for a bath tonight. "I'll try not to," she said darkly, and added: "Is it…hard, being a goddess?"

"It has its good days," said Anoia. She stood with her cigarette arm cupped at the elbow by her other hand, holding the flaming, sparking thing close to her face. Now she took a sharp pull, raised her head, and blew a cloud of smoke out to join the smog on the ceiling. Sparks fell out of it like rain. "I haven't been doing drawers long. I used to be a volcano goddess."

"Really?" said Tiffany. "I'd never have guessed."

"Oh, yes. It was good work, apart from the screaming," said Anoia, and then added in a bitter tone of voice: "Ha! And the god of storms was always raining on my lava. That's men for you, dear. They rain on your lava."

"And look at watercolors," said Tiffany. Anoia's eyes narrowed. "Someone else's watercolors?"

"Yes!"

"Men! They're all the same," said Anoia. "Take my advice, dear, and show Mr. Wintersmith the door. He's only an elemental, after all." Tiffany glanced at the door. "Give him the boot, dear, send him packing and change the locks. Let's have summer all year round like the hot countries do. Grapes all over the place, eh? Coconuts on every tree! Hah, when I was in the volcano game, I couldn't move for mangoes. Kiss good-bye to snow and fog and slush. Have you got the thingy yet?"

"The thingy?" said Tiffany, looking worried. "It'll turn up, I daresay," said Anoia. "I hear it can be a bit tricky to—Oops, I hear rattling, must fly, don't worry, I won't tell him where you are—" She vanished. So did the smoke. Not knowing what else to do, Tiffany ladled out a plate of hearty meat and vegetables and ate it. So… she could see gods now? And they knew about her? And everyone wanted to give her advice. It was not a good idea to come to the attention of those in high places, her father had said. But it was impressive. In love with her, eh? And telling everyone? But he was really an elemental, not a proper god at all. All he knew was how to move wind and water around! Even so…huh. Some people have elementals running after them! Oh yes! How about that? If people were stupid enough to dance around with girls who painted watercolors to lead honest men to their Doom, well, she could be haughty to people who were almost gods. She ought to mention that in a letter, except that of course she wasn't going to be writing to him now. Hah! And a few miles away Old Mother Blackcap, who made her own soap out of animal fat and potash made, indeed, from plant ashes, felt a bar of soap snatched from her hand just as she was about to boil some sheets. The tub of water froze solid, too. Being a witch, she immediately said: "There's a strange thief about!" And the Wintersmith said: "Potash enough to make a man!"

CHAPTER EIGHT

The Horn of Plenty T hat night, after Nanny Ogg had gone to bed, Tiffany did have the bath she'd been looking forward to. This was not something to be taken lightly. First, the tin bath had to be fetched from its hook on the back of the privy, which was at the bottom of the garden, and dragged through the dark, freezing night to a place of honor in front of the fire. Then kettles had to be heated over the fire and on the black kitchen stove, and getting even six inches of warm water was an effort. Afterward, the water all had to be scooped out and into the sink and the bath moved into a corner, ready to be taken outside in the morning. When you had to do all that, you might as well scrub every inch. Tiffany did one extra thing: She wrote PRIVATE!! on a piece of cardboard and wedged it in the hanging lamp in the center of the room so that it could be read only from above. She wasn't sure it would put off any inquisitive gods, but she felt better for doing it. That night she slept without dreaming. In the morning snow had put a fresh coating on the drifts, and a couple of Nanny Ogg's grandchildren were building her a snowman on the lawn. They came in after a while and demanded a carrot for the nose and two lumps of coal for the eyes. Nanny took her to the isolated village of Slice, where people were always glad and surprised to see someone they weren't related to. Nanny Ogg ambled from cottage to cottage along the paths cut in the snow, drinking enough cups of tea to float an elephant and doing witchcraft in small ways. Mostly it seemed to just consist of gossip, but once you got the hang of it, you could hear the magic happening. Nanny Ogg changed the way people thought, even if it was only for a few minutes. She left people thinking they were slightly better people. They weren't, but as Nanny said, it gave them something to live up to. Then there was another night without dreams, but Tiffany woke up with a snap at half past five, feeling…odd.

She rubbed the frost off the window and saw the snowman by moonlight. Why do we do it? she wondered. As soon as there's snow, we build snowmen. We do worship the Wintersmith, in a way. We make the snow human…. We give him coal eyes and a carrot nose to bring him alive. Oh, and I see the children gave him a scarf. That's what a snowman needs, a scarf to keep him warm…. She went down into the silent kitchen, and for want of anything else to do she scrubbed the table. Doing something with her hands helped her think. Something had changed, and it was her. She'd been worrying about what he would do and what he would think, as if she were just a leaf being blown about by the wind. She dreaded hearing his voice in her head, where he had no right to be. Well, not now. Not anymore. He ought to be worried about her. Yes, she'd made a mistake. Yes, it was her fault. But she wasn't going to be bullied. You couldn't let boys go around raining on your lava and ogling other people's watercolors. Find the story, Granny Weatherwax always said. She believed that the world was full of story shapes. If you let them, they controlled you. But if you studied them, if you found out about them…you could use them, you could change them…. Miss Treason had known all about stories, yes? She'd spun them like a spiderweb, to give herself power.

And they worked because people wanted to believe them. And Nanny Ogg told a story, too. Fat, jolly Nanny Ogg, who liked a drink (and another drink, thank you kindly) and was everyone's favorite grandmother…but those twinkling little eyes could bore into your head and read all your secrets. Even Granny Aching had a story. She'd lived in the old shepherding hut, high on the hills, listening to the wind blowing over the turf. She was mysterious, alone—and the stories floated up and gathered around her, all those stories about her finding lost lambs even though she was dead, all those stories about her, still, watching over people…. People wanted the world to be a story, because stories had to sound right and they had to make sense. People wanted the world to make sense. Well, her story wasn't going to be the story of a little girl who got pushed around. There was no sense in that. Except…he's not actually bad. The gods in the Mythology, they seemed to get the hang of being human —a bit too human, sometimes—but how could a snowstorm or a gale ever find out? He was dangerous and scary—but you couldn't help feeling sorry for him…. Someone hammered on Nanny Ogg's back door. It turned out to be a tall figure in black. "Wrong house," said Tiffany. "No one here is even a bit sick." A hand raised the black hood, and from its depths a voice hissed: "It's me, Annagramma! Is she in?"

"Mrs. Ogg's not up yet," said Tiffany. "Good. Can I come in?" At the kitchen table, over a cup of warming tea, Annagramma revealed all. Life in the woods was not going well. "Two men came to see me about some stupid cow they both think they own!" she said. "That'll be Joe Broomsocket and Shifty Adams. I left you a note about them, too," said Tiffany. "Whenever one or other of them gets drunk, they argue about that cow."

"What am I supposed to do about it?"

"Nod and smile. Wait until the cow dies, Miss Treason always said. Or one of the men," said Tiffany. "It's the only way."

"And a woman came to see me with a sick pig!"

"What did you do about it?"

"I told her I don't do pigs! But she burst into tears, so I tried Bangle's Universal Nostrum on it."

"You used that on a pig?" said Tiffany, shocked. "Well, the pig witch uses magic, so I don't see why—" Annagramma began defensively. "She knows what works!" said Tiffany. "It was perfectly all right when I got it down out of the tree! She didn't have to make all that fuss! I'm sure the bristles will grow back! In time!"

"It wasn't a spotted pig, was it? And a woman with a squint?" Tiffany asked. "Yes! I think so! Does it matter?"

"Mrs. Stumper is very attached to that pig," said Tiffany reproachfully. "She brings him up to the cottage about once a week. It's usually just an upset stomach. She feeds him too much."

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