Word Count 500
The Speaking Pot
Across the valley dear ones, a girl once lived, who kept her voice in a pot.
As a child, Renata was a quiet, polite girl. Yet her mother, always quarrelsome and demanding, chastised her daily for speaking out of turn; too loudly. “One day, goblins will come and snatch that voice of yours.” The more her mother remonstrated, the more reticent Renata became. Except at night. While she slept, everything she would have said during the day came tumbling out. The sleep-talking became louder as the girl grew older—her resentments voiced loudest of all, infuriating her mother.
Renata was relegated to the farthest corner of the attic. But still her voice filled the darkness. “You better do something about that voice of yours or I shall invite the goblins here, myself, to snatch it from you,” her mother shouted after one sleepless night.
While it was true Renata rarely spoke to her mother anymore, she did not want to lose her voice completely, especially to goblins. So, most of that night, she sat weaving a little basket, a grass pot so finely woven, with a lid that fit so tightly, she could put her voice in it. When she finished, she coaxed the cat to mew into the opening and quickly slipped the lid on. A faint ‘mew’ emerged from the pot. The cat opened its mouth to respond, but emitted no sound. Renata hugged the bewildered cat; then, holding his head to the pot, removed the lid, whereupon the mew found its owner.
Renata retired early, eager to put her voice in the pot. Alone in her attic bower, she knelt beside her bed, breathed deeply, then forced her voice into the pot with a loud ‘chough’. “There. Call the goblins. If you dare,” she tried to say, but of course no voice came from her throat.
The household spent a silent night. “Renata! Wake up! You didn’t sleep-talk last night,” her mother called from downstairs.
Renata hastily brought the receptacle to her lips; drank in her voice. “I hope you slept well, Mother.”
Every night for months, Renata breathed her voice into her pot and every morning breathed it into herself again. Riddled with curiosity—how had her daughter become, so suddenly, so silent at night?—her mother, one evening, crept to Renata’s doorway, watched while Renata forced her voice into the pot. She waited until the girl slept, grabbed up the pot to examine it, and tripped! The pot thumped to the floor, the lid fell off. Awakened, Renata snatched at it, dismayed. Her voice flowed out like music, out into the night, leaving Renata speechless. In the years that followed, regret, and the silence her mother had once demanded, weighted them both like an urn of iron, eventually driving the mother mad.
If you listen carefully, when the wind is right, two voices call across the valley. One, Renata’s, waiting for her to breathe it in. The other, her mother’s, pleading for her daughter’s forgiveness.