Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Detergent

Kippa spat out the water that she'd just swallowed. The soapy taste made her gag and after a few minutes of dry heaving she threw the glass against the wall, where it shattered along with her patience. She stood up, leaning on her stave, and seized the pitcher of water off of the table. She limped to the door and dumped the water out into the dirt.

"It took me a long time to filter that water," Kippa's father said. "You are too impetuous."

"Somebody has to be! That demon and its baths are poisoning us!"

Her father shrugged. "It is the only river nearby. The men should be back shortly with a cart of water from the mountains."

"You mean the cowards will be back! They have skulked off in defeat rather than rise boldly to the challenge!"

"But heroes of our village have all died at the hands of the demon, what chance would the remaining men have? They are merchants and doctors."

"Then maybe the rest of us should try and not rely on our heroes!" Kippa hobbled out into the street.

"Where are you going?"

"To give that demon a piece of my mind!"

"Your hot head will join the heads of our heroes that adorn the path to the demon's cave!"

"No matter, I will sooner die to his claws and his curses than his soapy effluent!"

Kippa ignored her father's protests and hobbled to the edge of the village. She moved with considerable speed despite her injured leg. Never having known use of the leg, she was able to use her stave as effectively as she might use one of her own limbs. The deer path that she traveled slowed her down. Holes hidden beneath the thick patches of grass growing in beams of sunlight that broke the canopy frequently caught and twisted both her stave as well as her useful leg.

After the long, slow climb uphill she could smell fire on the wind. The demon kept no fire burning. The odor came from his burning flesh which he washed in the river every morning. He used the fat from the animals that he killed for food to scrub off the ash and soothe his burning skin. The mixture created a powerful soap that contaminated the local water supply for Kippa's village.

Kippa saw the gruesome, mangled heads of her village's dead heroes. They hung off of poles by their hair. Insects wriggled into and over the mottled skin. She couldn't recognize any of them.

She climbed further and the smell of smoke grew stronger. Then she saw the demon. He stood near his hut, freshly washed. His skin was glowing bright red, like hot coals in the center of a fire, and gently smoking. He whistled an erratic tune and was toweling himself off with a bit of bedsheet.

"You there!" Kippa said, emerging from the brush and brandishing her stick with all the accusation of an actor.

The demon squealed and attempted to cover itself up with its makeshift towel.

"Don't sneak up on me like that!" the demon said, plumes of black smoke flowing from its mouth like Kippa's breath did in the winter.

"Stop ruining our water!"

"Can I at least put my waistcloth on?"

Kippa scowled and said nothing. The demon disappeared into the hut and emerged almost as naked as it had been moments ago, with only a crude pelt tied around its waist with rope.

"Now then, what are you talking about?"

"Don't play dumb with me! You know what you're doing to the village down stream! And those heads on the path back there!" Kippa took a menacing step towards the demon.

"Those heads? Oh, delightful!" the demon said, beaming with pleasure. "You think they're real!"

"They're the heads of my village's fallen heroes!" Kippa yelled, continuing her rage to mask her growing confusion. All of her entrails were still inside.

"Pssh," the demon said. "The hardest part was getting those guys to be still!"

Kippa set her teeth. She walked towards the demon and began cracking it in the knees with her walking stave.

"You monster! Die! Or go back to whatever pit you crawled out of!"

The demon frowned and picked Kippa up with a big claw. "I'm not hurting you, am I?" the demon asked while she smashed its forearm. "Hey, stop that!"

Kippa continued until the demon plucked her stave out of her hand and snapped it in two with its free hand.

"Do you think I killed them? I'm a demon, not a monster."

"Then explain their skulls!" Kippa yelled. She tried to bite the demon's hands.

"Those aren't skulls, I cast those from their heads and applied the papier mache and dyes carefully to make it look like they'd been rotting there for a while. I had to put them down in the forest because I'm not really paper friendly, if you know what I mean. Oh, shit," the demon said.

Kippa's back felt like it was on fire, because it was. The heat from the demon's hand had caught it.

"Hold your nose!" the demon said, dipping her in the water and setting her down on the river bank. She wobbled on her bad leg for a moment and then fell onto her rump.

She massaged it and stared up at the demon. "Then where are those young men?"

"I don't know. They came in here, one by one, waving their swords around and yelling. I felt bad for them. Most of them were shaking like bowls of cold porridge and so I tried to calm them down, gave them a bit of deer meat, a quaff or two of ale and a chat. I sent them on their way after that. I didn't harm a hair on their heads."

Kippa squinted at the demon.

"But you can't prove that."

"Sure I can! Hey, Logren, get out there. There's a girl from your village."

Logren, the most attractive and athletic boy in the village, came out of the hut.

"Oh, hey, Kippa. What's up? Hey, where's your stave? Did your leg heal?"

"Is this demon keeping you captive?"

"What? No, no. He's helping me sort through some things. He's been really great."

"And what about the soap in the river? You've let down your village!"

The demon held up a hand to stop Kippa. "Now, now. That's just what Logren and I have been talking about. Logren?"

"Why do they need me to go out into the forest by myself and slay a demon, Kippa? Did any of the village council decide that they would come talk to the demon? No. They sent me and my mates out here and expected us to magically solve the problem. It's a lot of pressure."

The demon nodded.

"But what about the drinking water?"

"Nobody really asked me," the demon said. "I had to be skewered. That's what we demons call unilateral thinking."

"Demon, would you mind bathing elsewhere?"

"Certainly!"

Kippa looked from Logren to the demon. "Oh. Well. Thanks."

"You're perfectly welcome," the demon said. "Sorry about your stave."

Logren went over to help Kippa up. "Let's go find you a new one," he said.

The Moral: "demon" and "detergent" both start with "de."

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