In later years as an arriviste in the Emerald City—having sat through a number of poetry readings—he found a way to characterize the Great Gillikin Forest. After a second sherry he could wax most convincingly about shrouds of spiderwebs. The dank naves suggested by rows of diseased potterpine, slatted with bars of cold yellow light. The forest floor carpeted with thornberry prickle. The stupid fecundity of the spring, the swift and unrewarding summer, the gloomy autumn, and—oh hell—the bone-taxing winter. What damned Lioness would bother to deliver a cub just to abandon him there, of all benighted places?

People nodded politely as they inched away.

The trees creaked as if the whole world were constantly flexing its muscles, about to pounce. A fern could unfurl with a snap that knocked you six steps toward a sanitorium. Owls, bats, forest harpies, badgers. A wild turkey in the undergrowth, startled into flight, making a noise of small explosives. To say nothing of fog. He hated fog. And poison ivy.

And don't even mention snakes.

Or elves. Or any beast larger than a runtling pig.
From A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire. Published by William Morrow/An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


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