Tenks sits on an old gnarled tree stump in front of the little house in the woods, the only stump in view, as every other tree is tall and magnificent. These trees let in very little light, making it sometimes difficult to tell when it is night and when it is day. Tenk doesn’t mind so much: he keeps himself busy.
Except for right now. Right now, he is waiting for a visitor.
Hard to say exactly how he knows a visitor is coming, but it’s a little like knowing a sneeze is on its way. You just feel it.
So, he waits, sitting on the old gnarled tree stump. He wishes he had a mug of that fine summer brew again . . . but then, when was it exactly he had had that brew? He can’t quite remember. And who made it for him? Also a mystery. He doesn’t think much about old memories when he stays at the little house. Thinking about memories is too hard, and makes him even more tired. He prefers to just let certain memories float past now and then, he sniffs them, smiles, and lets them be on their way to . . . wherever memories end up. Sometimes a hint of that summer brew comes to him, and he feels like it was made by someone he liked very much. Sometimes the memories seem older, like that time he caught a hint of a memory . . . someone knitting a thick blue sweater for him. He enjoyed that memory very much, and was happy to enjoy it without studying it too long.
What’s this? Does the visitor finally approach?
A small man dances his way up the path. Where had that path come from? Surely that was not there all along, was it?
The little man seems vaguely familiar. He has buckles on his shoes, and Tenk is amused by that. He dances up to the old gnarled tree stump and stops with a stamp of one foot.
‘And lo, I come with fair tidings from Our Friend, I do I do…’ he said in a sing-song voice. Tenk feels like he knew this visitor, but can’t quite place him . . . he doesn’t wish to be rude, though, and so only smiles and nods once.
‘Say, man, have ye forgot me again already?’
‘Hrm,’ Tenk says, thinking . . . it’s so close . . .
‘I were just here yesterday, I was I was. T’is not our way to be so forgetful. Must I teach it to ye all again?’
‘No,’ Tenks says cautiously. He doesn’t like the idea of work repeated.
‘I came to teach ye what ye are, I did I did. And a fine job I did of it, and would continue to do, if ye did not forget all I taught ye each time I left yer sight!’
Tenk smiles again. He is starting to remember this comical little man, he is Tenk’s friend. His name will come to him in time.
The little man smiles slightly. ‘Ye look as though yer starting to remember again, am I right?’
Tenk nods slightly. ‘So I don’t have to be reminding ye that ye are a hob, and not a man? Ye ferget that easily on the Other Side as well . . . they;ve been tricking ye for so long ye’ve forgot what ye were. I’m here ta teach ye again . . .’
Tenk nods again. That was right, the little man came to give him lessons, lessons on how to be what he was. Apparently he had forgotten at some point. That seems reasonable, he finds it so easy to forget things now.
‘The most important thing to remember, though, is how they used you, Tenk. Remember? How they used your ways against you . . . knotted your hair up and whispered spells and curses into the knots . . . stole your land from you, your own cobbles . . . locked you in a box . . . stole your land!’ the little man says.
‘My . . . land . . . ?’ Tenk asks, that feral part of his soul rearing up at the thought of it.
‘Aye, yer land. Yer rightful land. They must be punished, they must they must.’
‘Yes.’ says Tenk. That seems right. It seems only right.
‘And they will be punished, of course, they will they will. But yer in no condition to do it yerself, am I right? I am I am.’ he says again in that sing-song voice. ‘Yer mind is too muddled and confused. Do you seem confused? You do you do.’
Tenk’s brows knit up slightly. He does feel a little muddled. He nods.
‘Aye, course ye do. After all they done to you. I will fix it, mate, ye can trust wee Pocket with all that. Ye can ye can.’
‘If only I could go. I would. Ye know that, course, ye do ye do.’
‘Why can’t you go?’ Tenk asks.
‘My promise. My promise to Our Friend. I still owe him some time, I do I do.’
Tenk remembers now. Then he has an idea. ‘Is it labor? Is that the promise?’
‘It is it is.” Pocket sings.
Tenk smiles. ‘Surely he will not mind if I take over your labor? Work is work.’
Pocket cocks his head, thinking about this. ‘Well, ye may be right, Tenk, ye may be right. Would ye be willing to take on my labor in exchange for my help in this situation?’