• Daniel Ethan Finneran

The Nurse And The Wolf

Finneran's Fables: Aesop, Embellished

In a small cottage nestled on the outskirts of town, atop whose thatched roof, and about whose fallow yard, the barren trees of autumn had sloughed their tawny leaves, an old nurse attended to an unruly child. Much experience had she at this demanding occupation, a taxing job to which, since the earliest days of her long-forgotten youth, she’d committed herself wholeheartedly. Yet, despite the original zeal with which she carried out her work, and the perseverance she was able to maintain throughout the years, she came to realize that, at this advanced stage of her life, her energy had diminished, and her patience had grown thin.

Now, when the naughty child cried, as so often and fiercely he did, the old nurse had resorted to issuing threats as a means of stifling the barbaric yawp. At first, they were innocuous—warnings of suppers suspended, or toys withheld. The crying child, assured that his hoary caretaker would sooner relent, proved less than susceptible to her stern, but empty proclamations. He quaked little at the toothless threats by which his misbehavior was answered—behind which he sensed no fangs, no real risk of enforcement. Her finger-wagging touched him little, and he remained as intractable, loud, and savage as ever. Her many warnings went unheeded and the brazen child, the little tyrant, continued in his ill-mannered way.

Eventually, he let loose a cry that was, to even the most uncouth of ears, unacceptable. Never had such foulness disembogued from such a tiny mouth. Indeed, I dare not debase these lines, nor sully my spirit, by repeating what he said! Take it on good authority that it was unspeakably vile. The old nurse, exasperated by her charge and drained of her patience, responded to the sharp-tongued child in the following way: “If you dare make that horrible noise again, if you so much as think of giving voice to that dirty word, I shall feed you to the wolf”.

As it happens, within earshot, said wolf was lurking. Ravenous due to the recent shortage of fluffy sheep, and displeased by his recent diet of acorns, he leapt at the prospect of eating the plump and mouthy child. Such a tender mix of flesh and fat, sinew and sass, heft and bone, ranked very highly in the order of lupine delicacies, and he was desperately hungry for the boon of so savory a meal. Careful not to miss his chance, the wolf hastened to the cottage’s nearest window, a thin pane of glass by which he and the delectable child were separated.

Certain that the naughty child would prove a recidivist and again cry out, and, having done so, that the old nurse would be forced to make good on her solemn promise, the wolf crouched beneath the window and waited. All of a sudden, his ungovernable hunger pangs loosened their grip, and yielded, bit by bit, to a happy quivering sensation. Now, he felt nothing but a delightful buzz in anticipation of the dinner to come, a gentle hum with which his eager nerves warmly tingled. “I am in good luck today”, thought he, “for the incorrigible mouthy child is sure to cry soon, and a daintier morsel I haven’t had for many a month”.

He wasn’t long kept waiting. Within minutes, the child again let loose his foul, unrepeatable cry, and the old nurse’s face was overcome by the familiar shade of burning irritation. “How dare he give voice to that unspeakable word!”, she cried, visibly pained by the child’s cruelty and defiance. “Does he care to do nothing more than to provoke my wrath? Does he intend to profane everything sacred in this modest house?” The child sat uncharacteristically silent, and merely returned her outburst with a devilish grin.

With lips bathed in saliva, and belly grumbling with glee, the wolf looked up at his naughty, forthcoming meal. He then turned his gaze toward the unsmiling benefactress by whom, at any moment, the vaunted punishment would be doled out. He expected, forthwith, to be served by the threat-mongering nurse, upon the execution of whose grave threat, his dinner relied.

Just then, the raging nurse took notice of the wolf, whose gaping maw, and close proximity, stopped her in her tracks. Immediately, she brought to her bosom the naughty child, upon whom, but a moment prior, she’d unleashed her violent threats. She was now to prove unfaithful to the promises just made. In a single bound, cradling the ill-mannered child in her arms, she leapt away from the window and called forth the sleeping hounds. Awakened to the threat, the dogs sprang at once into action, and chased away the lurking wolf.

As he ran away, with the pack of dogs nipping at his tail, the following thought coursed through his head: “An enemy’s promise was made to be broken”.

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