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Title: Take this job and shove it
Day/Theme: November 9 - scattered pearls
Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Character/Pairing: The Cabbage Merchant
Rating: PG

He stared at the form. His mouth was pursed and his pen was poised and dripping ink over one of the many spots that ordered the form-filler to initial here.

It wasn't a hard form to fill out. Most of it he'd been able to muddle through, even without the help of the clerk at the Ba Sing Se Labor Placement Bureau (nice girl, aggressively helpful, and by gum if she didn't have the widest smile he ever did see). Name, no problem. Place of birth, same, although he wasn't sure that 'in the barn on a clean horse blanket' was quite what they were looking for there. Age, also not a problem, even though he'd fudged it a bit.

The blank that was giving him so much trouble should have been simple. It merely said vocation.

Well, what was there to say to that? The obvious answer wasn't really true any more, was it?

How could he call himself a cabbage merchant if he had no cabbages left to sell?

Oh, he'd lost crops before. What farmer hadn't? He couldn't even begin to count the number of times he'd lost an entire field of plump, tasty cabbages to a slug infestation. That was just the way of things. Some years, you did well. Other years, you spent every waking minute out in the field with a sharp eye and a shaker of salt at the ready.

Lately, though, it was almost as if he'd been cursed. First, all that nonsense in Omashu, with his glorious green cabbages scattered hither and yon like so many beads fallen from a lady's necklace. Three times, his cabbage-cart had been upset. Three! And all his cabbages ruined. He'd received no sympathy from his wife, who'd only wanted to hear about how he'd encountered the Avatar not just once, but twice.

Then, after the Fire Nation had taken over the city and he'd fled to Ba Sing Se, faithful cabbage-cart in tow, he'd suffered loss after loss again. Customs officials accused him of bringing an infestation of cabbage slugs into the city. A platypus bear demolished his cart. Then finally, after he'd set out with a repaired cart and a few, precious beautiful cabbages (perfect for dumplings! perfect for slaw!) that his wife had somehow sneaked through customs, the whole lot was devoured by a rabbiroo. Said rabbiroo had, of course, been turned loose upon his innocent vegetables by none other than The Avatar, He Who Had Become Death, Destroyer of Cabbages.

That was it. He'd had it. And so he'd come here, in the hopes that Ba Sing Se's bureaucracy would be able to shove him into a decent job.

A decent job, he thought. What would that look like?

To be honest, it looked a lot like cabbages.

The employment form went into an appropriately labeled waste bin (the Dai Li, from all accounts, were a bit on the strict side when it came to littering). Then, he headed out into the city.

His first stop the local tea-shop. The tea was good, as it always was, and for once he was glad to have the surly scar-faced boy as his server, and not the garrulous and kindly old man. It was thinking time he wanted, not gossip and time wasted casually coming up with solutions to all the world's problems.

He thought, and he thought some more. He thought until he realized that there wasn't anything to think about, really. The answer was utterly simple.

His next stop was a general store, or the closest thing he could find to one in this too-big city that somehow managed not to have many of the things he considered part of normal life.

By nightfall, he was back out in the field he and his wife had rented. It was only an acre, and a third of that spent much of the day in shadow thanks to its proximity to Ba Sing Se's outermost wall. It was too dark to do anything, but he stood out there, surveying the field and holding the packet of seeds he'd just purchased, picturing each dark furrow filled with what looked like gigantic green pearls.

While his dreams may have been small, they were his dreams, and it would take more than a few setbacks to keep him from following them.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 12th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
I'm sitting here marveling over how you wrote wonderful fic about the cabbage merchant. I love how you took a recurring gag from the series, and gave it real poignancy. And I giggled when I got to "The Avatar, He Who Had Become Death, Destroyer of Cabbages."
Dec. 6th, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC)

And we just know there's going to be terror.
Dec. 9th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)
Many thanks!

And yes, I imagine the poor man's cabbage field will wind up getting roasted by Azula.
Dec. 9th, 2006 04:11 am (UTC)

You're so right.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
Oct. 18th, 2007 07:06 am (UTC)
What a brilliant look at an underappreciated character. I certainly feel for him every time his life's work get tossed by the wayside. :D

Dec. 13th, 2011 08:27 am (UTC)
this is glorious. XD "my cabbages!" is one of the best running jokes, and i love how you gave him actual character!
Dec. 15th, 2011 11:33 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )