Ogre. Lizard. Soup.
Ogre lives in a windowless hut, under a grass hill, towards a narrow stretch of a long and winding brook. Though his species is diurnal, Ogre protests the sunlight by force of habit, usually waking late in the day and not finding bed until nearly dawn
Routine. He wakes and cracks a dozen eggs, whips them furiously in a blender with ice, adds the squeezings of three oranges, and a pint of heavy cream. On Wednesdays he is careful not to kill the dairy farmer from whom he demands his milk, or the orange farmer, from whom he accepts weekly carriage fulls of the bright, juicy orbs. In a display of what he considers great kindness Ogre even pays the iceman for two bricks when he makes his rounds. This luxury is new, and he finds immense pleasure in gnawing the cold chunks. He doesn’t want to imagine a life without the otherworldly cold filling his throat.
After breakfast he grooms himself on his toilet. He sits for an hour and sharpens his claws and teeth with a metal chisel. He removes a strip of twine from the ball in the water closet and flosses out any stringy bits of leftover meat. He wraps a fur garment under and over him and spritzes a splash of wormwood over his wrists. He smells of bark and always has, he attributes many of his fastidious kills deep in the woods to this.
A sophisticate. He lines his shelves with cooking books and fills his drawers with utensils. He thinks often about preparing meals, but mostly he sleeps. He wakes in time to welcome his egg shake with a stein of beer. The beer always leads to several more, then Ogre’s lethargy sinks in, stealing his motivation to peel and cut the root vegetables needed for a hearty broth or soup. More so, by the time he stumbles out of bed, his head often blurred from whatever trouble he started the yesterday before, it is dark. When he opens his hut door he can hear the sounds of hooves flopping against dirt, pulling the farmers’ wagons away. He knows he cannot get the vegetables he needs to begin a big dish without a pileage, and by the time he realizes all of this, he is too hungry to think about preparation.
Under cover of night he relents, often very drunkenly, finds it is easiest to hastily chomp up a human without making much of a scene than plunder a whole local farm. A snapped neck or two, his dozen eggs and cream, a couple barrels of beer. The nights are his days. The days lost to his nights. A stash of rootberry twigs stave off any pre-dawn cravings, settle his stomach before the midday sun cooks his hut enough to awaken him again.
One night, having chomped a thin man to bits, angrily spitting out the foul meat the dead man offered from his bones the Ogre is struck with a violent stomach pain. He balls his hands to fists and pounds against his midsection. The pain is an ugly knot inside him. He finds a barrel of coffee beans from the dead man’s cellar. If the pain won’t leave on its own, he’ll chase it out. Ogre hand grinds all of the beans and brews a mighty cauldron of dark liquid. He guzzles the scolding pot down. His eyes twitch. His fingers shake. He punches the glass windows of the dead man’s house. He snaps twigs in the woods. A sudden quake and rumble stop him in his tracks.
The sun is rising as Ogre is finally rid of the dead man’s rot. With his system finally in repair, a starving sensation sets in. He slides his brick of a hand under a pile of wet leaves, scoops up a fresh and wiggling pile of worms, chews the worms, soil and all, into a satisfying mud. Then, a bell rings in the distance. The market is open.
Ogre happily stomps his way through the awakening woods, damp leaves and wet twigs under his feet. He taps his hands against his belly, excited to run his plump fingers through the offerings. He can smell cooked onion in the distance, the sounds of market chatter, the song of proud voiced tenor accompanying a lute.
As he reaches the forest clearing the Ogre feels the warmth of the morning sun on his pale skin. The flesh covered by his fur wrap is heating up and he is thirsty. He’ll visit the wine merchant first, then he’ll peruse the vegetables. Looking up, he sees their watchful eyes. Of course the humans freeze upon seeing him step into the light, his sharp teeth poking up and over his hidden upper lip. He twists his thick lower lip into a smile, then curtsies to the onlookers, extending one of his hairy arms out daintily, an offering of peace. The crowd starts to life again, though they each keep an eye on the demon in their midst.
Ogre fills a rucksack with onions, beets, carrots, and ginger. He stomps briskly between stands, each merchant throws their vegetables in quickly for fear that they themselves will be pulled into the sack. Ogre belches loudly after a cold stein from a fresh tap. He laughs heartily, resting his hand on the brewer’s shoulder, the man’s body buckling from Ogre’s weight, nodding up at the monster fearfully.
“I not gonna eat you, sir,” says Ogre, “but I am like to visit you brewery sometimely.” The brewer nods. “It ‘tis okay, not to fear from me, I am already eaten. And what more, I is mood for soup, anyhow. Sure, surely, I like a taste a human meaty, but not one so import as you. Oh, look, a dragon.”
Ogre nearly knocks the brewer down as he rushes to a lizard bathing in sun on a rock. “What dragon this?” he demands, blinking a great deal and unable to fight back a wide and unpleasant looking grin.
“‘Tis a lizard sir,” says an old man.
“Not dragon?” asks Ogre.
“‘Tis - a lizard. Sir. Feeds mostly on crickets.”
“I will have it.”
“Lizard’s not for sale, sir.”
“I take it. Or, eat you and take it.” The man quickly raises the wide flat rock with the lizard atop it up to Ogre. “Oh, goody.”
“I call it Peepaw.”
“I like this. I call it that too.” Ogre adjusts his rucksack, stomps away. The human merchants stop to watch the Ogre thunder off like a child with a new toy, his arms raised straight in front of him, holding the rock, staring at the lizard who remains still, its eyes closed.
Lizard, on its rock, is placed in the center of the hut floor as the giant beast falls exhausted into his straw bed. This long last night has pushed his massive body to its limit. Ogre falls into a deep sleep around midday. The moist cool of the hut awakens Lizard, it darts its head back and forth, disoriented, and dissatisfied with the chill of the room.
While the pur of Ogre’s snore vibrates the mud floor puddles Lizard crawls off his flat rock to explore the hut. It thinks of the scents of its master, of warm tea and green plants that line the open windows of his paper house. The Lizard surveys this new sleeping master, from head to tail Lizard is roughly one foot’s length of the giant. In the blue lines of the dark hut Lizard traces the curly hairs that spring off the shoulders of the breathing beast.
Sun. Lizard’s routine is wake, go to rock, adjust position to maximum exposure, close eyes, and let sun warm its back. Lizard’s heavy eyelids are not meant to stay open for long. When master rustles the paper walls of his house’s windows Lizard knows to open its eyes. This is when crickets scurry across its rock.
Crickets sing one word songs, crying “help, help, wait, help,” in a chorus of frantic chirps as Lizard darts its tongue out and collapses each twiggy body into its crooked mouth. Lizard loves a spasmic leg kick of a helpless cricket against its lower lip. He likes to press the cricket bodies up against the roof of its mouth raising its tongue slowly, until they twitch no more.
Could they converse, Ogre and Lizard would find much joy in their respectful bloodlettings. But they cannot converse, and so once Lizard realizes that the sun is likely setting outside, reading the temperature change in the room from damp and cold to even colder still, it curls itself into a tight ball, hoping the night is quick.
Lizard is drawn to the sun. It wakes at dawn from some deep set internal clock. Ogre is still asleep. It clops its way to the hut door, claws and scratches to be let out. Lizard’s attempts against the wood grain do not register to the Ogre. Lizard pisses in protest on the floor, a smoke trail of steam rising of the small puddle. Then it lets out a terrifying squelp, a violent and piercing alarm which at last rouses Ogre.
“What is it?” says Ogre sitting upright on his straw bed. Lizard, at the door tilts its head at the giant and again lets out a squelp so loud Ogre’s left eyelid twitches closed. Again the thing frantically claws at the door. “What is it smell like? You want out?”
Ogre pushes himself out of bed, his chest, stomach and crotch are covered in a thick blanket of hair. Lizard follows the body as it approaches. “Alo, Dragon,” says Ogre, leaning over and pressing his finger a little too hard against Lizard’s head. “What you want eat?”
Ogre opens the door and Lizard darts out the front door. Ogre shields his face from the bright morning sun, turns back to his hut and sees Lizard’s rock on the floor.
Lizard is halfway to the brook that runs across Ogre’s meadow when he hears the beast grunt its foreign sounds. Lizard looks back and sees the beast holding his warm flat rock high above his head. “Come back this way,” shouts Ogre, “I perch rock in meadow.” Though the creature doesn’t understand why, Lizard misses its rock, feels connected to it, and so turns back.
Ogre wakes to Lizard’s squelp. This is the third day in a row. The pattern is wearing him out. He very much likes the way the small dragon looks and darts its tongue. But this being awake in the daytime is disturbing his habits. He hasn’t had a human in days and as of last night is out of rootberry twigs. Ogre opens the door to carry the rock to the meadow again, and just as he contemplates eating his house guest, he notices his rucksack.
“What say, dragon, I make a soup?”
Without realizing it Ogre leaves the door open, and lets the light in. Moths flutter awake from a deep corner of the hut, flapping dust that twinkles across the light beam. On the shelves on the far wall of his kitchen are his books, which he has not looked at in many years. “Ah,” he says, as he marches towards them. “Alo, pretties.”
Ogre likes the feeling of wrapping his square hands around the blade of his knife. He likes the slipping sound of the knife cutting through the onion. He raises the glistening white insides of the vegetable up to his nose and inhales them deeply. Ogre is very pleased by this smell. He chops beets next, then several large potatoes. He smashes a head of garlic against the counter with his palm, spreading it out like a flower, its innards mashed to a paste in a single blow. When he turns he sees Lizard, sitting on its rock, its eyes closed, peacefully asleep.
When the soup is finished Ogre calls out to Lizard to come eat. The reptile does not respond. Ogre makes a clattering noise banging pots and pans over head. The reptile remains motionless. Ogre grips the ladle hanging on the wall and scoops up the Borscht, then stomps out into the meadow with a helping. Ogre waves the soup under Lizard’s snout. The reptile does not move. Ogre spills soup under Lizard’s head, a purple splotch seeping into the flat rock. Lizard scurries backwards and hisses at the giant.
Angry at the thing Ogre stomps his foot and lifts it by its neck. The reptile in protest pisses on Ogre’s hands. He drops Lizard, his senses awakened by the smell. “This smell, from before too. Like a fresh grass.” Ogre rubs the lizard piss into his wrists, looking up at the sun still hanging high in the sky. “I be back.”
Off Ogre stomps through the woods and into the clearing, back to the market. Without pausing or offering his peaceful curtsy he makes his way to the old owner of his pet.
“What my dragon eat?” asks Ogre.
“As I said sir, crickets, mostly,” says the old man.
“Me can’t catch quick crickets.”
“Is, the lizard okay?”
“What your name?”
“Name’s Crumbell. Time to time, it’s been known to enjoy a moth.”
Ogre turns his wide mouth upward into a crooked smile. He blinks both his eyes slowly twice to show he is happy, making the small old man shutter. Ogre pats the man on the head with his palm and stomps away.
Ogre lights an old lantern in his hut that night and leaves his door open, allowing the moths to flutter towards the light, collecting dozens. In the morning the familiar squelp of his Lizard wakes him, but this time the thing is pressed against the lantern glass, trying to break through.
“You wants a mothy, Dragon?” asks Ogre. “I’s gonna cook ‘em up nicely. Here.” Ogre lets a few moths escape and watches the reptile dart after them, snatching them with its tongue and smooshing them in its mouth. He responds with two big blinks and the wide smile. “You like ‘em. That’s good.”
All day Ogre makes mothballs, squishing the flying things into a bowl with breadcrumbs, eggs, and gunpowder. He boils a creamy broth from curdled milk and lager. When he is finished he presents the soup to Lizard. Ogre plops down in the meadow next to the creature and its rock, ladling a puddle of mothballs for his Lizard, lifting the large cauldron high, taking large gulps for himself.
It is only a matter of time before Ogre marches back to the market with a barrel of the soup in tow and Lizard on his shoulder. When the humans ask after his scent his product line grew. On occasion, Ogre rouses Lizard late in the night and takes him out in the moonlight. In the dark blue of night Ogre shows his friend the way he can snap a body in two, and then he brings Lizard to a lake where midnight crickets fly. It is a feast.