Keeper of the Peach Garden

by Paul Davis

This is an old story. I apologize for not writing more on the Dragon Tongue War. Emotionally, I was drained today. Emotionally, that story is immensely draining. People just keep dying, and it doesn’t look to be getting less bloody. However, I just couldn’t write it the past few days. I hope you enjoy this. Next week I’ll have part two of this, and following that we’ll get back on track. Enjoy!

Keeper Fox stretched as he awoke to the cock’s crow in the distance. The creature looked quite like a fox, with the thick fur, long snout, bushy tail, and sharp little teeth, but he had arms, legs, and a torso like any man, though he was quite unaware what man looked like. He had seen his cousins, the four legged, small foxes which scampered around, sly and ferocious. He quite enjoyed them and their company, until a chicken was found and they went to hunt. It was such a bloody affair, and Keeper Fox quite preferred his tea and rice rolls. It wasn’t to say he did not eat meat, but the only flesh he ate he fished from the pond in the garden, full of koi as large as he. Fox chuckled a little, laying on his mat while squinting the sleep from his eyes. No doubt the oversized koi could nearly swallow the little foxes. He said to himself, “Oh, clever fox. Stay away from the prey which would swallow you!”

Still giggling, and quite pleased with his own clever mind, he sat up, stretched, and finally truly woke up. The sun was not quite up, but by the time it was, Fox needed to be prepared for the day, as each day was quite busy. The dojo was small, and hastily Fox rolled up his mat and stored it, bringing out the small table for the center of the room. He then knelt at the table, retrieved some beads, and meditated until the sun had fully broken from the horizon.

Refreshed and awake, Fox walked out of the tiny dojo, into the great peach tree orchard. Before the orchard there was a small tea garden, with beautiful flowers, a small table for outdoors meals and meditation, and an adorable bird bath. Fox smiled, stretched once more, and began his duties.

The garden was rather thick with growth, as it was every morning. The flowers were a beautiful golden color, shimmering under the sun. When clouds would pass overhead, or a stiff enough wind would blow through, it created a shimmering sea, a sight Fox loved to admire for a few moments, taking time out of his generally busy work. He was also told to weed the divine garden, but in his many years working the garden, he had never seen theses weeds spoken of. After a few months, Fox was fairly sure it was a small trick of the gods, some joke they shared. Though Fox cared very little, for the humor was lost on him as well as the extra work.

What Fox did have to do was thin out the flowers which grew all too rapidly. Most were sacrificed to the gods, burned as an offering. A dozen were reserved for the dojo, to beautify it a touch. Fox had kept the flowers back for some time, and never had he suffered the wrath of his employers. The flowers were fairly unimportant compared to the true treasure Fox was entrusted with.

The garden took most the morning to thin out. Every day he took exactly 99 flowers from the garden. By that time, the birds had went to the bath. Before his duties, Fox could not recall birds waking and bathing so late, yet in the garden it was nearly ten by the, time they arrived. Fox took a pale of water and filled it, then went to the bath. A small bird waited there, chirping, looking up expectantly.

“Did you just wake?” The bird hopped up and down, nodding. “You must not get the worm.” Again, Fox chuckled, pouring out the bucket. The little bird rolled around in the bath, bathing under the slowly poured water. Once Fox had finished, the bird stood, hopped about a few times, and shook off the remaining water. If birds could smile, no doubt that little creature would have been. “You are quite welcome, little one. I do enjoy when you visit me. I pray you well on this beautiful day.”

The day was half done, and Fox was quite pleased with himself. He went into the peach garden as he had a few spare moments before noon. The peaches were nearly ripe, beautiful fruits thick and nearly juicy. No peaches on earth quite reached their size or color, which had a touch of a golden sheen. In a few more weeks he would harvest them and the gods would come for the bounty that was only harvested once every hundred and one years. It would be Foxes first harvest, but he knew his role well enough. Monkey had taught him several times what to do, one of the only visitors he had.

The sun was directly overhead. The warmth brought a laziness into Fox’s bones, and he leisurely made his way back to the dojo for his noon tea. The water was gathered on the way in, put in a pot, and put over the wood stove, logs set ablaze. The tea was harvested once a week from the garden, a magical plant which always gave him just enough for exactly the strength of tea Fox enjoyed. At first, many years ago when Fox started his divine task, Fox was timid in the tea he used, unsure how often the plant would regrow, for there was not much tea and he quite enjoyed his tea time. But as the weeks and months went on, he became more aware of the magical plant, and so made stronger and stronger tea, until finally he was comfortable making it to the strength he had previously been accustomed.

The leaves were steeped in the boiling water, and soon Fox was enjoying tea, kneeling at his small table. He pondered while sitting there, thinking about his time at home, the peace of a simple life. He had a family, several competitive siblings. Once he was quite like the foxes which would eat the chickens. But one day there was a man visiting. Where his family fell asleep, he did not. Fox walked alongside the strange man with skin as gossamer, and this the man liked very much.

The sun was setting, and the pair had walked some time. When it set, he picked Fox up and said, “You are dutiful, despite your sly nature. Come with me to heaven that you might serve me well.” A bowl was placed in front of Fox, and the man poured the contents of a small flask into it, a shimmering liquid which was as a shifting rainbow. Fox drank of it, a sweeter drink he had never tasted. Shortly after he had become aware and served his new master so well and dutifully that he was promoted to Keeper.


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