Nob and Snab

Donald Shephard

Several springs after Nob built the undulating house beneath the beech tree for his beloved Snab-of-the-Valley all three, Nob, Snab and the house, had aged well. Nob was a respected cooper, inventor and member of the ruling triumvirate of Newtonia. True, the ruling triumvirate rarely made or changed a policy but that is exactly what good governance is all about. Their primary duty was to maintain the highest quality standards for the annual supply of elderberry wine. Hob saw to the berries, Glob-the-Obese tasted every barrel purely for quality control purposes, and Nob made the barrels to give the wine just the right finish.

Nob had the love of his beautiful and talented wife. He had the respect of the villagers of Newtonia and even of Hobnobgoblins in neighboring villages. In time his reputation would spread throughout Sheepshire, Elseshire and The Rodings. Nob had every reason to be happy and yet there was a quietness in his eyes when he watched Hob and Mab playing with their three children or Glob and Ab as they doted on Brab. He was not sad, nor was he impatient, but he was driven to heroic efforts to start a family.

Each childless spring Snab resolved to increase the frequency and intensity of her ardor. Nob had no objections. If he found himself sleeping on the river bank instead of fishing with Hob and Glob upstream, then he would catch them on their return trip downstream. If he was still snoring at that time, his friends exchanged knowing winks and woke him lest he sleep through the important events to follow in the pub. Although Nob more frequently than not left before closing time, a practice not generally condoned among his friends.

Mab was waddling down to the village water well with her three children trailing behind her like ducklings diminishing with proper perspective. Her fourth child, the current cause of her waddle, was evident before her. She greeted Snab and Ab who had waited for her as her children ran ahead with Brab.

“That’s quiet a production line you have going there, Mab,” said Snab. Mab only smiled with the tired eyes of the seemingly endlessly pregnant.

Ab, who had just absolved Glob-the-Obese after his walk straight home, said, “You must miss being tired for other reasons, Mab.” Her friend made no reply beyond a whimsical smile for she alone knew that Hob was as horny as Kansas in August, as normal as blueberry pie and his flag was the first one to fly. She was in love with a wonderful guy.

“You will have to tell me your secret,” said Snab.

“Well, strange as it may seem, my mother took a lot of practice before I came along and as you know practice makes perfect. She tried all kinds of herbs, spices and tinctures and potions in a myriad of applications to more parts of her body than she cared to admit. The one Hobnobgoblin who finally got results was an eccentric old woman who lives on the far west side of The Rodings deep in the Forest of Fallopia. Her name is Gravid. The forest people will show you where to find her. You must take Nob with you for the journey cannot be made alone.”

That evening Snab-of-the Valley told Nob she wanted to travel. He resisted saying his cooperage production was lagging behind demand. Snab persisted. Nob suggested a picnic and fishing trip. His wife was neither hooked nor side-tracked. Nob mentioned his duties as a member of the ruling triumvirate but they both knew that was specious. Recognizing his futile position, Nob agreed and belatedly thought to ask where she wanted to go.

“The Forest of Fallopia,” she said.

Nob knew Snab was determined so he quit quibbling.

There are several ways for Hobnobgoblins to get from Newtonia to The Rodings. They could walk but, when you are only eighteen barleycorns tall, it takes an inordinate amount of time and trouble. They could climb up the fetlock of a horse going that way but as often as not the farmer was going somewhere else entirely. Ob still told the tale of his journey to a dubious part of Elseshire when he only wanted to go over to the next village. The most reliable way to travel was to fly and there were several choices. Mallards and other ducks were good for short trips; the Hobnobgoblins called them puddle jumpers. Snow Geese were the preferred species for intermediate flights because of their fluttering descent which was less distressing than the spluttering feet up wings madly back pedaling of the Canada Geese. Hobnobgoblins with frequent flyer miles all advised Hob to take Snab by Osprey. It was simply a matter of putting on a wetsuit in order to look like a fish and swimming out onto the village pond. The Osprey, by arrangement then picked you up in his scaled talons and you flew undetected all the way.

“Although this is not officially hunting season,” said the osprey when Nob consulted him, “Pumpernickel has been known to shoot at ducks and geese at any time of the year.

So it was that Nob and Snab flew to the Forest of Fallopia to seek the advice of the celebrated Gravid. The denizens of the forest quickly led them to her grand house of many rooms. They were greeted, fed, bathed, slept and fed again before Gravid met them.

“I want you to look after my grand daughter, Placebo. Take her back with you. Treat her well and your needs will be met.” With that Gravid turned her enormous bulk around and left with the rustle of silk stocking against silk stocking.

When Nob and Snab returned to Newtonia they introduced Placebo to all their family and friends. On their visit to Mab’s parents, Quob had a bad case of dejà vu at the sight of the girl for it was Placebo’s mother who had accompanied Quob from The Forest of Fallopia to Newtonia before Mab was born.

That night, Snab-of-the-Valley sat by Placebo’s bed as she read her a nano-sylph story. She hugged the girl and kissed her goodnight before turning to see Nob standing in the doorway.

“It is all going to be just fine,” said Snab as she lay beside Nob. “Yes, it is,” he replied. They talked for a while longer, planning the day for themselves and their charge. For the first time they slipped quietly into sleep without trying … anything at all.

Glob was the first to notice that Nob was catching more fish. Hob would be the first to rush off to his growing family but Nob was no longer in a hurry to leave the pub. He and his obese friend strolled homeward together.

“How does Placebo like Newtonia?” asked Glob.

“She seems to be happy here. Snab enjoys mothering her. I have never seen Snab so relaxed.” Glob-the-Obese continued on his way straight home and Nob turned off toward the beech tree and his undulating house. The next day was to be a busy one. He would show Placebo the art and craft of the cooper while Snab-of-the-Valley climbed the hill to her mother’s home. Having shown Placebo the spoke shaves, drawknives and planes used in his trade he had helped her make her first stave. He admired her work making a mental note to true up the sides later.

“Let us go and see what news Snab has from her mother,” said Nob closing his workshop for the day. He took Placebo’s hand and walked up the garden path between the borders of red maids, ladies bedstraw and lobelia. Snab opened the door, held out her arms to Placebo and glowed at Nob. “She has made her first stave. I predict she will be the finest cooper in The Rodings before long,” Nob told Snab. “She is such a clever, clever girl,” beamed his wife, “such a clever girl.” That night, after the bedtime story, when Nob was comfortably settled by the hearth, Snab told him her news.

Placebo returned to Gravid in grand style. The whole village turned out to see the osprey take off. It circled Newtonia three times to gain altitude before setting his course west. In a swift slanting flight he and Placebo disappeared into the blueness of the horizon.

Snab-of-the-Valley was blessed with twins they named Cab and Cob. Every other year she produced two more. At first she felt it was almost cheating to get two children for one pregnancy but she soon learned just how much work twins can be.

One Monday, shortly after the birth of Dab and Dob, the three Monday fishermen were laying on the river bank waiting for the pub to open and talking about their children. Glob-the-Obese proclaimed that Brab was perfect and he needed no more children. Hob, who had only a vague idea of how many children he had, less notion of their names and no idea at all of their birthdays, professed to the superiority of numbers. Glob protested that quality mattered more than quantity. Nob put an end to his friends’ discussion.

“It takes a real Hobnobgoblin to make twins,” he bragged.

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