Prosatio Silban and the Comedic Situation

IT ALL BEGAN WHEN Prosatio Silban leapt forward.

“Look out!” he bellowed, grabbing the careless man’s belt and yanking him back from the edge of the algae-slick dock.

“Blessed All-Mother!” the man exclaimed, straightening. “You saved me life!”

Prosatio Silban smiled. “Not really. All I did was –”

“All you did was save me life!” the man finished, taking his rescuer’s hand and shaking it with deep feeling. “As sure as my name is Gremo Elyp, I’ll never forget it!”

“It was but a small matter,” the cook-errant began, but his new admirer was having none of it.

“Hey, everybody!” Gremo Elyp called out to the curious lookers-on. “This man just saved me life!”

“Hey, everybody!” Gremo Elyp called out to the curious lookers-on. “This man just saved me life!”

“Did he now?” asked a grizzled fisherman.

“Is that true?” asked a young washerwoman.

“What happened?” asked a passing porter.

Prosatio Silban opened his mouth to explain, but Gremo Elyp spoke first. “There I was, minding me own business, when I almost fell off the dock and drowned. And I would have, too, if this man hadn’t stepped right up to save me life!”

“He’s a hero!” cried the fisherman.

“He deserves a medallion!” cried the washerwoman.

“Or at least some business,” said the porter, taking a seat at one of Prosatio Silban’s two empty tables-and-chairs.

“What a wonderful idea!” said Gremo Elyp. He beckoned to the gathering crowd and seated himself beside the porter. “Come eat from the kitchen of the man who saved me life! ‘Tis my treat!”

I don’t mind helping the grateful, Prosatio Silban thought, and produced by reflex a wax order-tablet and stylus.. Especially when they’re this grateful.

* * *

Early the next morning, the sleeping cook was jolted awake by the sound of someone rhythmically banging on his galleywagon. By Hamerona, Goddess of the Rude Rouse! what can that possibly be? he thought in a groggy haze, then shrugged into a morning-robe and fumbled open the vertically split double door.

Gremo Elyp looked up at Prosatio Silban from behind the world’s biggest grin. “Good morning, life-saver!” he bellowed, and waggled an iron mallet at the blinking cook. “Your yontzon-rod slipped its groove, but don’t worry – I’m fixing it!”

“Why are you doing that? and at such an early hour?” the cook demanded, eyes agape and slumber forgotten.

“Had to! I brought you over some pork-strips and potatoes and stone-bread for today’s break-fast menu, and saw your wheels needed some repairs. So I repaired! You just go back to bed and sleep away your worries! I’m almost done – I’ll take care of everything!” And with a magnanimous toss of his shaggy head, he returned to his task.

“But –”

“No ‘buts,’” Gremo Elyp called over his shoulder and above the mallet’s rat-a-tat-tat. “It’s a pleasure to help the man who saved me life!”

I might as well get my own break-fast, Prosatio Silban thought as he reentered his galleywagon. I’ll not sleep again now, but it is nice to have a bit of assistance now and then.

The cook-errant’s musings had taken a somewhat less charitable turn.

That thought occupied his week’s beginning. At its end, however, the cook-errant’s musings had taken a somewhat less charitable turn.

This is truly becoming absurd, he thought. He’s been cleaning for me, painting my galleywagon, shopping for ingredients, running errands, deploying and stowing my tables-and-chairs, feeding and tending my dray-beast. What’s next?

In addition to holding innocent enthusiasm, Gremo Elyp was a very competent craftsman – so much so that Prosatio Silban began to feel disembodied and inadequate. His benefactor constantly embroidered his minor near-disaster, always giving out the same refrain: “Nothing’s too good for the man who saved me life!”

It would be easier if he were an incompetent fool, Prosatio Silban thought. Then I could grouse at him. But he is as far from that as I am, now, from patience.

The final scale-weight dropped when Gremo Elyp commenced waiting tables – and fixing meals.

“What happened to Master Prosatio?” an impeccably dressed older woman asked within the cook’s distant earshot. “Is he sick?”

“Not at all!” Gremo Elyp replied. “He is taking his ease while I help out ‘round here. Don’t you know, he stopped me from being eaten by lake-eels? Hand to the All-Mother! So I am repaying his kindness, and with interest. Nothing’s too good for the man who saved me life!”

“Is this true?” asked the woman, as Prosatio Silban hurried over, breathless, tablet and stylus at the ready. “I had no idea you were such a hero, Master Cook! How if you bring me … let me see … a hot-stack of groatcakes? With mayberry syrup”

As the cook made to reply, Gremo Elyp interjected a bow, “At once!” he said. “Don’t you worry, Master Cook. I’ll take care of everything.” With that, he scampered up the galleywagon’s three wooden steps and inside.

“Excuse me,” the cook told his customer, and dashed after the eager almost-victim. Once inside, he was horrified to see Gremo Elyp rummaging inside his coldbox.

“What are you doing?” demanded Prosatio Silban.

“Making break-fast for you. Rather, making break-fast for your customer so you don’t have to,” came the reply. “Just relax and let me help.”

“You needn’t do that.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all!”

“No, really. Please. Don’t.”

“Won’t hear of it! I like to help. Besides, nothing’s too good for the man who saved me life!”

At that point, Prosatio Silban decided he must do something.

At that point, Prosatio Silban decided he must do something.

But what?

* * *

“I am at a loss,” the cook-errant said, staring into his empty glass. “Rather, a crossroads – and I do not know which of three ways to take.”

His friend Pelvhi, namesake and owner of the popular service-industry haunt Pelvhi’s Chopping-House, clucked her tongue in sympathy. The two faced each other across the noisy tavern’s long rear bar.

“There is one thing you could do,” the taverness said. “But I’m not certain you will like it.”

“Do try me, please.”

“You must wait on him.”

“How’s that?”

“Manufacture a disaster from which he, and only he, can save you. Once you switch roles, he should desist from your further annoyance.”

The cook considered. “Will that work?”

“What have you to lose?”

* * *

The next morning, humming a bright but tuneless ditty, Gremo Elyp set about arranging Prosatio Silban’s tables-and-chairs. He stepped back to admire his work, when a low moaning from the galleywagon’s interior brought an alarmed look to his face. He dashed up the steps and flung wide the double door.

Across his ostensibly bloodied head lay an inverted skillet.

Prosatio Silban sprawled on his back before the fatberry-oil stove, eyes screwed shut and face contorted as if in great pain. Across his ostensibly bloodied head lay an inverted skillet; above him dangled its swinging rack-mates.

“Ohhhh,” the cook moaned. “My head! my head!”

Quick as a leaping cheetah, Gremo Elyp stabilized the swaying cookware. He grabbed a dishtowel from the rack beside the stove and dabbed at Prosatio Silban’s apparent wound. “Master Prosatio!” he stage-whispered. “You’ll be alright soon. I promise. Let me help you.”

So far, so good, the cook thought. Now to make the sale.

“Is that you, Gremo Elyp?” Prosatio Silban murmured, eyelids fluttering. “What happened?”

“A skillet must have fell from the rack and bonked you on the head. But I’m taking care of you now. After all, you saved me life! I’ll do whatever I can to help you!”

“Help me sit up,” the patient said. “That was quite a blow. It’s fortunate you were near. I daresay you saved my life!”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” Gremo Elyp replied. “All I did was –”

“All you did was save my life!” Prosatio Silban gushed, wavering to his feet. “One good deed repays another, you know. I owe you everything!”

“But –”

“What can I do for you? Free meals for life, that’s what! Or do you need any housework? How can I ever repay you for saving my life?”

Gremo Elyp’s eyes widened in protestation. “Master Prosatio! Please! I didn’t save your life. You don’t owe me anything.”

“Oh, but I do! I feel much better, thanks to you. You saved my life! How can I make it up to you?”

“You already have! We’re even! You don’t owe me so much as one in copper!”

Prosatio Silban advanced on his rescuer, his voice and face becoming more animated with every step. “Can I mend your tunic? Purchase for you a new one? An entire wardrobe! You saved my life! There must be something I can do for you in return…”

Gremo Elyp backed through the double door and down the steps, his placating hands raised against the cook’s appreciative onslaught. “Seriously, Master Prosatio! There’s nothing you can do for me. Nothing! Nothing at all…”

At the bottom of the steps, he bowed, turned about, and ran, trailing “never minds!” and “goodbyes!” in his wake as he disappeared into the crowded tangle of market-stalls.

“Poor fellow,” Prosatio Silban murmured, shaking his head with a quiet grin. “Some folk simply don’t know how to accept gratitude.”

(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. And if you want more of them, in two easy-to-read packages, here are the first and second e-books — and a cookbook. Enjoy!)

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