Throwback Thursday: Seasonal Affliction by Robert Allen Lupton
A farmer had five sons and when he died his farm was divided into equal shares, one for each son. The sons worked hard, married, and had good harvests for several years.
One year, the sons loaded their extra produce on their wagons, drove to town, and sold their crops at market. On their way home, they encountered an old woman covered in mud. She sat crying near a stream.
Her wagon was turned over and most of her belongings were scattered along both sides of the stream. Her two horses were mired in the mud.
The brothers, being of good heart, stopped and helped the old woman. They dug her horses from the muck and mire. They uprighted her wagon and pulled it from the steam. The oldest and youngest brother repaired two broken wheels and the other three gathered the woman’s belongings from the stream. The middle brother brought the woman water to drink and water to clean herself.
They hitched the woman’s horses and then helped her into her wagon.
The oldest brother said, “What a beautiful day. We fared well at market and were rewarded by helping you in your difficulties. Safe travels.”
The old woman replied, “Don’t be so quick to leave. I thank you. I am not just an old woman. I am a weather witch and I would reward each of you with a boon, a wish if you will. What would you have from me?”
The brothers laughed among themselves for they were ones who believed in hard work rather than witchcraft. The youngest brother said, “Let us make wishes. It will make her happy and will do us no harm.”
The youngest spoke first to the witch. “I hate winter. I hate cold and I hate chopping wood. I would have no winters on my land.”
The second son said, “Spring makes my eyes water and my nose run. I hate rain. I would have no spring on my land.”
“Summers make me sweat. I hate heat. No summers for me.”
The fourth brother complained about fall and hating the hard work that comes with the harvest.
“As you will,” said the witch.
The oldest brother thought carefully and asked if he might wait before requesting his favor.
The witch agreed and said that he could have a year and a day to make his wish, but no more. They agreed to meet at the same spot in a year and a day. The brothers and the witch went their separate ways.
A year later, the four younger brothers came to the oldest brother’s house.
The youngest complained. “Without winter, the soil didn’t have time to rest and my crops were weak and died during the hot summer. We’re starving.”
The second brother said, “With no spring rains, my crops wilted and died in the over-long summer.”
“Without a summer, my crops were not ripened when the first killing frost came. I lost everything.”
The fourth brother hung his head. “With no fall to make the harvest, my crops died when winter came.”
The oldest brother had made a great harvest and had food in abundance. He welcomed his brothers and their families and promised to feed them.
The youngest brother promised to work hard and even chop wood for the coming winter.
The oldest brother said, “It is good that you are here for tomorrow is a year and a day since you made your wishes. Come with me. We will meet the weather witch and I will make my wish.”
The next morning the five brothers met the old woman at the stream. She greeted them with great cheer. “Hast your wishes worked as you hoped.”
“No, they haven’t,” said the oldest brother. “They didn’t choose well. For my boon, I ask that you restore the seasons and the weather to my brothers’ lands. Make things as they were before.”
The weather witch looked at the brothers. “Would you have me cancel your wishes?”
“Gratefully,” said the youngest.
The witch agreed and rode away. The brothers never saw her again.
The five brothers all grew good crops the next year and the year after that and for many more years. They worked hard. They rested in the winters, planted in the springs, weeded and watered in the summers, and made harvests in the fall. They never complained about the cold or the heat. They laughed in the rain, sweated in the hot sun, and marveled at the lightning and thunder.
They taught their children to take the weather as it comes, for nature knows what it needs. There are reasons for the seasons.
Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. Over 180 of his short stories have been published in various anthologies.
Cover: Amanda Bergloff