To and Fro Goes the Way

The Turtle God was a young woman and she was casting the bloodwort into piles, pinching them between her thumb and forefingers, and counting, again, again, again. In the old way, of course; she has tried coins and she finds the meanings they unravel, like the metal, a little worn from too many hands, a little cold from too much time. The stalks were the best.

One stalk she took from the pile and set aside. One she put between her pinky and her ring finger. There were different meanings for this — depending as always on the spirit of the times and the mood of the people — but one true interpretation was to make the numbers come out right. For there must always be either five stalks or nine in her hand, in the three spaces between her fingers, and removing two meaningfully allowed this to be.

She winnowed the piles three times, recombined them, did it again. And again. And six times, and eighteen, and again. The dark covered the field but from below the light was returning.

“Hrm!” said the Turtle God. “No need for remorse!”