Fox put away the tea, washed up, and wiped off the table. He walked outside for a time to enjoy a light breeze, waiting for the table to dry. Returning to the inside of the small room, he pulled out a scroll and sat down. For several hours he would either right his own reflections upon his state as a minor god and Keeper of the celestial peaches, or he would be given scrolls to copy if new libraries were to be built, or fire had destroyed old copies. This was not an original position he held, but while working for his old master, Fox took keenly to the written word. Once he could read and write, he took up calligraphy, finding the beautiful art easy for his clever mind to copy. Before he was employed as Keeper, his writing was capable of reducing the gods to tears due to the elegance found in the brush strokes created by one whom was once little more than a fox. For this reason, some time before he was Keeper, Fox was also given work as a calligrapher.
He enjoyed the work, the repetition and the lovely lines brushed onto the parchment. Each brush steoke was more than a simple word or phrase. Each time brush touched scroll, the words were said in a different tone, said with different emotions. The same word could create love or despair, hope or emptiness, joy or grief. And Fox had mastered imbuing his works with potent emotion. For this, he gained great prestige, even as a servant, so that one day the gods asked why one so capable and dutiful as Fox was kept under thumb. Fox thought little of it, for his mind was still simple and needed little. Was better to be a servant, he thought, than to still be stuck as an unintelligable animal. And shortly after the gods asked his master this question, Fox found himself in the peach garden.
The brush strokes became mesmerising, taking Fox into the stories he created or copied. Hours passed in moments, and soon a knock at the door broke him from his revelry. “Coming,” Fox said, finishing a final line before putting the scrolls away.
There was more impatient knocking, then shouting, “Hurry, Fox! I’m hungry and lonely for no one else will have me at their table!”
The scrolls were set aside and Fox opened the door for Monkey, a creature very similar to himself, though his origins were magical, where as Fox was a simple beast. Fox gestured in Monkey, saying, “Perhaps if you didn’t urinate at their parties they would invite you to more of them.”
“They invite me to none, let alone more. I wish they had a sense of humor.” Monkey sighed.
Fox prepared simple fruits and bread, as the two like, along with some tea. “The gods have a sense of humor, Monkey. Some are quite jovial. Some perhaps are a touch more dour. But even the most childish in humor cannot understand your immature sense of what humor is. Perhaps Monkey needs to become polite, even a little docile.”
By the time Fox turned from his tea and food, Monkey was hanging on the ceiling. “I must admit, your words bite deeply. However, I am who I am, and none shall change that, for I am quite pleased in my nature.” Monkey got down to look at the goodies.
Fox slapped Monkey’s hand as he reached for a date. “Monkey, then you will either have to be pleased with your nature and dash what the gods think, or you must change your nature and be pleased with what the gods think.”
The two walked upstairs to a terrace a floor up, covered by a tile roof and overlooking the lands surrounding the garden “Then I say dash the gods, and I’ll piss on them till they can never forget my scent.”
They reached a table and the food was spread. Fox bowed his head, “We pray, then we shall continue.” Fox said his prayers silently, but when he looked up, he saw Monkey already eating. “You could at least respect the gods from time to time, friend. Sometimes even my patience is worn thin by your antics. And pray don’t mark the gods. They’re angry enough of your defience.”
“You’re the cunning fox given potential. I know you well enough, or at least your essence. You wait for your moment. I might be brash and quick to offend, but the fox is slow to offend, and very well versed in making sure none offended could ever get retribution. I’ve just been lucky so far. I can’t wait to see your prank.”
Fox nibbled on some fruit, “I believe you confuse me with my siblings. I was a mild mannered fox compared to my siblings, and the foxes which linger about the garden. I was not one for scheming. This world moves too quickly for such things. I quite enjoy my simple life more. I saw the ways they tortured you, Monkey, when you pranked them, and I’ve not nearly the years and experience you do, let alone the fortuitous birth. I have no master plan, friend. IfnI did I would most certainly consult you, for no doubt you have more experience with the gods than I could hope for if I spoke with each of them a year.”
Monkey picked behind his ear, thinking, watching a cloud lazily pass, “But you speak with me every day, Fox. I am at least that clever, you sly…. Well, you know the saying.” Fox laughed and finished his fruit. The two friends talked well through the afternoon, until the sun was nearly ready to set. Then Monkey bid Fox fair well, and was on his way.
Fox sighed and went to fetch his fishing pole, sighing, “What if Monkey is not so far off? I am given honors, but what of ambrosia? When would I be able to taste the celestial peaches? Likely never.” He reached the small lake, the golden koi visible in the nearly clear waters. He cast his line and brooded for a while, until a nice breeze relaxed him. “No, this is a good life. My siblings have all passed now, unaware of any greatness in the heavens.” With a smile he caught a fish.
Once the koi was brought in, Fox said, “Are you a special koi? I would hate to eat you if you could grant me a wish.” There was no response and Fox started back to the dojo.
In the garden,as the sun set, Fox put the fish on the table outside and clubbed it. He started to gnaw on the flesh, removing skin and delicious flaky meat. It tasted delicious. Once finished, he lit the lanterns outside the dojo for any late nit visitors. He never had a visitor, but from time to time he did enjoy going out and about, using the lanterns to lead him back.
After meditating for several hours, Fox put away the table and pulled out his mat. He laid down, meditated, and then went to sleep. So was the life of Keeper Fox.
God With Us!
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