First thing next morning Styg asked Thort to drive into the village to buy much needed supplies. He told Thort to take one of the stronger farm animals and hitch it up to the two-wheeled cart. Thort went back to the barn and chose the smaller of the two dracs and led him out of the barn, or rather he pulled him out with all his strength and will. Once he’d maneuvered the drac over to the front of the cart Thort hitched her up and ran back to jump up into the driver seat. Styg reached up to give Thort a coin purse to pay for the supplies. “You get me the best price you can,” Styg continued holding onto the purse, “those coins aren’t made of skagwood, you know.”
Thort said, “Yes sir I will.” Styg let go of the purse and stepped back from the cart. Thort thwacked the drac’s backside with the switch and lurched forward with a sudden jolt in the direction of the village.
Styg hrumphed to himself about Thort’s choice of animals. Everyone knew that dracs were contrary as hell and dumb as all get out, and Thort had chosen the dumbest and most contrary of the two dracs. “Well, good luck to him,” he grinned humorlessly.
The drac, a rather ugly dragon slightly larger than an earth1 mule, kept pulling to the right, as though she had something more important to do back at the barn. Maybe she left the kettle on the fire, he chuckled to himself darkly. It was all he could do to pull her head back to the left to keep her going straight. They finally reached the main dirt road. Thort pulled her head to the left with all his might but the drac proved stronger. Thort decided to let her pull right all the way around until she was facing back toward the barn and then he kept pulling her head right until she was facing the main road again. The drac started to pull left and Thort was able to finesse her onto the main road in the direction of the village. Well, good for me, he reflected, I was able to outwit a drac!
By now the sky was starting to lighten. When the first light began to graze the tops of the skagwood trees the purdybirds burst into a cacophony of song. The drac would stop every once in a while to sniff the flowers until Thort thwacked her on the backside and then she’d lurch forward again. The air was starting to taste dusty. Thort worried he’d get to the village after the stores had all closed. He didn’t have enough money to buy himself dinner and he didn’t want to disappoint Styg. A bead of sweat trickled down to his brow.
By mid-day Thort finally side-stepped the drac and cart into the village. He tied the drac to the nearest hitching post that looked strong enough to hold her and started looking for the general store on foot.
When he found the store, Thort walked in, and looked around with his list in hand. He walked up and down the aisles looking for wire, fertilizer, and seed. He didn’t have any luck finding the wire so he asked the man at the desk next to the door. The man pointed over to the far corner and then Thort saw the rolls of wire hanging from the ceiling. He measured out and cut off the length of wire Styg had requested. He found the fertilizer they needed and stacked twenty sacks of it along with the wire by the desk.
Thort went to look for seed. He found it in the last aisle. There was another man standing in front of the stacks of seed bags closely inspecting an open sack of seed. Thort stood next to the man reading the small white sign stuck in the open seed bag. “God’s greetings, brother,” Thort said just to be friendly.
“God’s greetings to you too, brother,” the man said back to him. After a few moments of silence, the man said, “Last time I bought this seed I only got a third of the yield I was supposed to get from it.”
“Are you sure it’s the seed?” Thort asked. “Maybe your soil’s just plain tired.”
“No brother,” the man answered, “I rotate my crops and let a seventh of my land lay fallow every twelve months like it says in the bible…”
“I was just saying,” Thort mumbled. “I didn’t mean anything by it.” Thort scooped up a handful of seed and examined it closely, wondering what he should do about it. Both men stood shoulder to shoulder in silence pondering the sacks of seed in front of them.
Then the man turned to Thort and said, “By the by, my name’s Kivo.”
Thort replied “My name’s Thort. Glad to meet you.” He turned and shook Kivo’s hand. They got to talking. It had been an awfully long time since Thort had had a friendly conversation with another man. He found out Kivo came from a village 3 days from this one. Kivo had a wife and … he mumbled something about a little daughter. Thort and Kivo exchanged a few humorous anecdotes at the expense of their respective wives, but Kivo deflected any discussion about the younger generation. The truth was that Thort didn’t volunteer any specific information about his child either. He was just asking to be polite and to keep the conversation from dying off. Kivo looked Thort in the eyes sadly and said he’s got a blue daughter about 5 years old.
Thort grabbed both Kivo’s shoulders with his large hands and said incredulously, “What? You have a blue kid too? We have one ourselves, a blue boy named Lem, about the same age as yours!” They compared notes and parted company amicably with promises to visit each other with their families sometime.
Kivo and Thort paid for their purchases. Kivo carried the sacks of grain out to his four-wheeler wagon in front of the store. Thort went to get his two-wheeler and come back to park in front of the store to load the supplies into the cart. The drac had other ideas but Thort eventually prevailed. He hoisted the seed bags, fertilizer, and wire rolls into the back of the cart. Thorn ran around the cart and jumped up into the driver’s seat. He thwacked the drac good on her backside and jolted forward to a recalcitrant stride. Thort wanted to get back home before dark.
The moon was high in the night sky by the time Thort turned off the main road up the pebble path to the barn and unhitched the drac, leading her into the stall. He unloaded the supplies and carried the heavy bags two at a time into the barn.
When Thort walked up the path to the kitchen he heard the clinking of dishes being washed and dried. He was disappointed that he’d missed supper. When he got to the back door, however, Evanor opened it for him and told him to sit at the kitchen table. Styg and Marza had gone to bed but Evanor had saved a meal for Thort. The stew was warm from the cooking pot on the stove. She set a half loaf of bread and a mug of skag tea in front of him.
Thort had a ravenous appetite and everything tasted so good to him. While Thort was sopping up the last of the stew with his bread, he told Evanor, between bites and swallowing, about his conversation with Kivo.
They couldn’t wait to tell Lem about it in the morning.