Another story I wasn’t sure when it would be published, but it’s finally hit the news stands and the issue can be purchased. This is my humorous homage to the 1975 Icelandic Women’s Day Off protest, which led to so much positive change in that nation. Here, it’s one man, his mule, and a VERY bad day when the women of the fantasy kingdom of Aspyea do the same.

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And if money is tight, here’s the whole story for you to read for free:

A Long Fryday

The first we knew of the problem were when the tavern girls walked off their jobs when the clocks finished peeling the tones for onesy o’clock, heralding the start of Fryday. They’d picked a fine night with a full moon standing pregnant above our heads, all witchy looking. A bit on the dramatic side, perhaps.

Wymen across the kingdom ripped their aprons off and tossed them onto floors. Human, elf, fairy—hells, even the ogre ladies and troll ladies—all joined the strike. Really, that was clever. Had it been only the elves, or the fairies, we’d have run them out of the kingdom on a burning log, seeing as how we took any pleasure we could in driving away anyone not right like us you see. But they banded together in solidity. Solemnity. What do you call that? Right, solidarity. They unionized the movement, that’s what they did.

Well, the men took the apron tossing to mean something other than it were, if you catch my meaning. We hooted and hollered for them to take off something else, and more than a few of us sort of expected there would be more of that sort of thing before the night was done. We’re not the brightest lads once we’d had a few drinks you know.

All aglow with that thought, I grabbed the arm of poor Molly and dragged her into my lap. I admit, it weren’t gentlemanly like. I acknowledge I were in the wrong here, as you are about to learn. Don’t be like I used to be, that’s the key.

Molly, she up and slapped me. Hard, too, I might add. It rung my ears fierce, and she jumped up and put her hands on her hips. I would be lying to say I didn’t admire her for it. My, how I loved her even then.

I should have been married already, not doting on Molly, but fate had passed me by, my fiancé having done run out on me a year earlier over a little matter of the barn stall, the milk maid, and the mule. It weren’t nothing but a lesson in milking despite how it looked. The poor mule was minding his own business. But she hadn’t seen it that way.

“If you ever touch me again, Angus McFee, you’ll be tugging that little boy in your pants with a hook,” Molly said, “and your hands will be hanging over my fireplace.”

I didn’t mind the threats, but little boy? Terribly unkind, even if true enough, and I told her so. “Now see here, Miss Molly,” I said, sweet as could be, putting on what my ma—may the eighteen gods comfort her black soul—would have called my praying day manners. “You got no call to be treating me that way.”

“Oh,” she said, and spluttered for a bit. Her face turned all red, like them beets that her mother sold in the market, and she leaned over me. “Men!” she said. Then she turned, gave a great humph of a sound, and flounced—don’t argues with me, she flounced; I know what flouncing looks like—right out the door into the night.

We were a bit stunned. Old Jon kept running his dirty, red rag over the bar and staring at the door like he expected she’d be walking back in any moment. After all, weren’t he paying her good money? He once told me he paid her two pence a night, twice what any other girl got in the city. She would be daft not to come right back, apologize, and get our next round. We had coin enough for a few more, and I don’t know no bar that would pass up good clink.

After a while though, Jon seen she weren’t coming back. He put down the rag, scratched the greasy white hair on his head, then rubbed his stubbly chin. “Time for you boys to go home,” he said. He come from behind the bar and begun to pick up empty glasses. That was the first time I felt something had gone wrong with the whole world, like it had been tipped upside down. I got this queer feeling all through my stomach and right down to the end of my toes where they stuck out of the holes in my socks. Made my feet feel all cold. Could be it were the holes done that, though, my ma never bothering to teach me to darn.

“Hey now, Jon,” Melver said. Hard to understand him given how drunk he was, and he with that mush mouth of his and his teeth all crooked from that encounter with the wrong end of his shovel, and his burly black beard muffling his words. “We ain’t done drinking.” Or I think he said. Could be he was talking about the mule.

“I haven’t got no one to serves you,” Jon said, and he gave Melver such a glare I thought the poor sod would have melted right down into his boots like an old candle. Of course, Melver were too damned drunk to notice, but everyone else got the hint, especially when Jon reached over the bar and took down that big axe of his. You know the one, the double-bladed broad axe he keeps there for trouble, with all that fancy scribe work along the blade. Calls it the Piece Maker. Had it ever since he come back from the war, and I see him at the whetstone time and again keeping it sharp. That damned thing could cut the spite from a dead man. “You’ll be running along now like good lads.”

I stood and helped Melver up, being as I weren’t near as drunk as he, and thus still valued my life. The rest of the men followed, and we staggered out into the cold night. More than few mutterings of course, because we were four rounds shy of topped off. We staggered down the road for a bit until I found a pig trough to drop Melver in where he could sleep things off. He’d sober up by dawn and get back to his place. Wouldn’t smell too nice neither, but he hadn’t smelled too nice to begin with, so it weren’t much of a failing.

The rest went on home after that. We probably should have noticed all the wymen scattering from the taverns like flocks of birds, but drunk men see very little because they’re too busy trying to find a place to take a piss. I tucked my head down in my single room at the boarding house and slept like the damned.


By dawn, we’d begun to realize it were a stryke. Morning meals weren’t cooked, cows weren’t milked, children were left under the care of their da’s, many of whom were ill-prepared to wash, dress, or feed their offspring, let alone interact with them. Those with older kids put them to work, but as often ended up redoing the work anyways. You can’t trust the hammering of a nail to a six-year-old, they ain’t got no sense of respect for the work no more. Kids today.

The fishery closed when none of the wymen shown up for the morning shift to filet and debone the catch. All the fish that were brought in, it just piled up on the docks in big floppy heaps. Stunk pretty well by the end of the day, too, you could smell it halfway across the city.

Aslaug Nyland, who ran the shop for magical charms and potions, had locked up for the day, but left a sign on her door hinting at what had transpired.

Closed until Wymen’s Day Off is over, so’s come back then if’n yu got a need to and cans still walksie; otherwise go away; if’n yur real sick, best dig yur grave now and have done, and save folk trouble later; shop down the street gots a gud deal on shovls.

I woke and went to splash my face with water from the porcelain bowl Mrs. Gentray provided, only there weren’t no water. I grumbled and went downstairs to get a piece of toast and jam. Only there weren’t no toast. Weren’t no ham or eggs, neither. Not even milk to wash the foul taste of the previous evening’s imbibition out of my mouth. Mr. Gentray were there, though, holding a baby in each arm and looking concerned, his brow all wrinkled. With them bushy eyebrows of his, you couldn’t see his eyes.

“Where’s my toast?” I asked. It come off a bit sharp, but my head hurt and I felt like a caterpillar had built a home in my mouth.

“There ain’t no toast he said,” just as sharp as I’d been, and maybe a touch more. “Wife ain’t been here all morning.” One of the babies started crying, so he started bouncing a little to settle it down.

“Why?” I asked. I had a notion, and started thinking about that milk maid again. And the mule. Although, come to think on it, I didn’t think he had a mule.

But he nodded, and kept nodding, until I like to think his neck had broken. “Over’n there,” he said. When I looked where he were nodding, I saw a rolled-up piece of parchment on the table. “That’s why,” he said.

I took it, unrolled it, and read it, though my head hurt so bad by then I wanted to go lie down again and sleep a few more hours.

Wymen of Aspyea!
We have endur’d long days of work for less pay!
We have suffr’d under the need to care for our homes without help!
We are not given authority by the King or seventeen out of eighteen gods!
Only the Mother supports us!

No more!

We demand equal rights, equal pay, and men to share equal duties at home!
Fryday, the third day of Autustem, in the year of the eighteen gods 5375, wymen will prove our worth. We call for all wymen to take the day off! Join us at the Temple of the Sacred Grove of the Mother beginning at onesy and thirty, to start our liberation!

Hors d’oeuvres and tea will be served all day.

We recommend you leave your young ones at home, but infant care is available if needed for them whose got no husband, or whose husband is a drunk, slackard, runned off, or otherwise a useless heap of dung beetle offal.

 He looked exhausted. I started to think he might hand me one of those kids, both of whom looked like they were about to throw up from all the bouncing. I backed away. A toddler tumbled into the room, dirty and naked, followed by another his equal in filth. Mr. Gentray’s eyes took on a wide stare.

“I needs be going now,” I said, as I bumped up against the door.

“Help me,” he said, his voice a whimper. A fifth child came into the room. I could hear the cries of another deeper in the house. I began to think they were multiplying on their own, sprouting like dandelions in his weedy garden. “Please.”

I fled.

I stepped onto the cobbles and leapt back to keep from being hit by a couple of goats. The man running after them cursed, but he never stopped to apologize, which was uncharitable of him. I might have been injured by his careless herding skills. Takes a fine, steady hand to keep livestock moving in the right direction. Mules is hardest of course.

Beyond that, the streets seemed far emptier than I could have imagined. A few men here and there, going to the many gods know where, or doing their work. The line of shops across the way were closed. I wandered down to the tavern but found the doors locked. It being a touch early for a beer, that wouldn’t be no great surprise, excepting Jon never locked up for no reason when there was good coin to be had. I pounded on the door and then pounded some more, until a window opened above my head, the shutters banging against the wall.

“Here now, stop that,” Jon said.

“I needs something to drink and eat,” I said. I tried to give him my best glare, the one I’d learned when I’d been a green soldier in the light horseman, but I weren’t too sure how troubling it looked given how my head felt. Plus, I were ten years older and couple stone heavier, so it probably seemed more of a pout than a fearsome scowl.

“There ain’t no food and no drink, not while the wymen is gone,” he said. “Now get off before I call the city guards.”

“I am a city guard,” I said. But he shuttered the window and left me standing outside, mouth agape. Nothing else to do, I reported to my station, a few blocks walk away. My head felt like an ogre had used it for drums, and I wished to wipe some of the dirt from my face.

When I slunk into the barracks, I seen I weren’t the only one put out by the events of the morning. More than one guard sported smudged cheeks and unshaved whiskers, and there were children running everywhere. One small devil plowed into me as I closed the door, bounced free like a dervish, and spun off into the room. There were squeals and shrieks of merriment, not the anguished cries of the accused receiving well-deserved lashes. The noisy tumult put a shiver in my flesh, so disconcerting and frightful it were.

I walked to my sergeant’s office. He sat there, a glum expression on his whiskery cheeks, as two boys ran around and round the desk with wooden swords. I could see his eyes were all bloodshot, and he had a bit of a pleading look when he lifted his head. But he was a tough old bastard, I’ll give him that. He straightened up and nodded at me.

“I see you made it in,” he said. “Thought you might have pixied over a message taking the day off like a good many other lads have.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I ain’t got no kids and nothing else to do. Might as well be here as anywhere.”

He laughed, high pitched and a bit desperate like. “Lucky for us most miscreants have got families, so they’ll be too busy to cause trouble today, I suspect. I’m down at least half the men I need to take care of the Lowers. The Uppers are even worse off. Even the King’s own guards are struggling to find the men they need.”

“Didn’t he hire them ogres? Should be right as rain, shouldn’t he?”

“They’ve got kids, too, and their wives took a day off as well.”

“Oh,” I said. “Didn’t know cobbled beings had wives.”

“What, did you think they was made?”

“Yep,” I said. “Looks like they’re sewn together from spare parts.”

“That’s wretches, the poor souls who been pieced together by warlocks, not ogres,” he said. “Now wretches, they don’t got children. Lucky bastards.”

“They don’t like kids?” I asked.

“They’re dead,” he said. “Just because they walks and talks don’t make them alive. Dead folks can’t have kidlings. They haven’t got all the bits to make ‘em.”

“Oh,” I said. It just went to show, there’s always something new to learn.

“Well go on, get out there, do something useful why don’t you,” he said, waving at the door. I could see he wanted to say more, but one of the boys jumped in his lap.

“Daddy, you promised to take me to see the prisoners,” the boy said. “You promised I could help with the bettering of them.”

“I did, did I?” he said. “Well then, go get daddy’s truncheon. Yes, over there on the wall. No, the big one. It’s got Widow Maker stamped right on it. Can’t you read? How old are you?”

I closed the door when I left. I thought about all the wymen folk and how worn and frazzled they were, what with the dealing with the kidlings, and their chores, and some of them jobs to boot, and as I weren’t too good at things like sympathy and my stomach begun to ache, I decided it would be best not to think any more for the rest of the day.

I headed to the Uppers where my patrol usually went. Most days I got free food and free drinks, which made the job not so terrible. Lots worse ways to spend days I suppose, and I reckon I’d lucked out a bit when I’d gotten all drafted like and had to go fight the necromanciers and their army of undead. Got a taste for using the sword, and it made a fine career.

Today were different. There weren’t no food, no drink, and hardly no people, neither. I heard the occasional ruckus from a homes I passed. Usually a child wailing and a man shouting something I daren’t repeat in modest company.

A naked boy, no more’n eight or nine, sat in a puddle making mud pies. He looked up at me and grinned. I noted he had a bit fewer teeth than me. “Where’s your pa?” I asked.

He stood up, still smiling. I took a step towards him, and his smile grew bigger. The cheeky bastard hit me in the face with a mud pie and run off. Last I seen was a muddy butt rounding a corner while I wiped the muck from my face.

That tore it. That’s when I got it in my head I would find the temple of the Mother and put things to right. I had a fair notion where it might be, cause I’d been to the other seventeen temples at one time or ‘nother and there weren’t too many places left within an easy walk. Easy walk by my standards. My own ma could walk all day and night and she’d still have the energy to pluck a chicken, roast it, and serve dinner with mashers and greens.

Only one guard watched the city gate, napping in a chair. Old chap; he probably remembered the great Ochre war and the fight of the conclaves.

I kicked the leg of the chair and he jerked. He tumbled over and he hit the ground like a sack of old bones.

“Sorry about that, pappy.”

He grunted and looked up at me. Even hitting the ground, he was more’n half asleep. “What you need, watchman?”

“Where did the wymen go?”

“Off’n that way, towards the woods,” he said, and pointed.

I followed the finger and nodded. They went up mount Helmond, which weren’t no mount really. More like a hillock. Crown of trees around the top. I tossed the old fellow a penny, which bounced off his chest and rolled back into the city because he was snoring again.

Well, by the time I entered the grove of trees at the top, I could hear wymen chattering and laughing. I wiped sweat from my brow, and wished I’d had that mule to ride.

In the very center of the hill were a depression, and in the middle of the depression were a stone tower. That were the temple of the sacred grove of the mother, only it weren’t much to talk about, the mother being the kindest member of the eighteen, all about warm hearths, and tea, and knitting, and other domestications. The tower was short and a bit plain, if homey enough, with pretty ivy climbing the outside. The flowers around it were nice, I have to admit that. Lots butterflies. I always loved butterflies.

Lots of wymen, too. All of ‘em staring at me, and they weren’t chattering no more. I started to count, lost track about twenty, and gave up. They had me outnumbered, and I didn’t have a weapon.  I’d have to resort to brain power.

I were in trouble.

“Now see here,” I began. That’s when someone’s hit me.


When I come too, I was trussed up like a ham. There weren’t no fire beneath me, although they’d put me on a spit roast and a wymen were turning it like to be basting. They were laughing, and I suppose it must of been a funny sight. I gots an imagination at least, so it seems funny now. Didn’t feel funny at the time. But they could have done worse, so it all comes out in the end.

“He’s awake,” she said. A bunch of them gathered around me. I could see Molly were with them, on account of she took my hair and pulled my head up to look me in the eyes.

“Angus, you ignorant bastard,” she said. “You’re lucky you’re not dead. The Mother would have killed you if you took another step. No men allowed in her grove.”

“She can get in line behind the other seventeen,” I said. “They all got grievance.”

“We ain’t coming back,” Molly said. “Not until the stryke is done and we got rights.”

“Fair,” I said, “and I ain’t here to order you back. You wouldn’t listen anyhow. And you’re right of course.”

She let go my hair. Course then I had to lift my head on my own to look at her, which weren’t easy what with the dangling and all. “Why are you here then?” she asked.

“I come to apologize,” I said. “I seen everything you wymen do, and there ain’t a man out there who knows how hard it is. But they do now. I’m sorry we men folk ain’t better at helping and sharing the load. You deserve all that you’re fighting for.”

Well that seemed to brighten her up, ‘cause she cut me down. I fell on my face and cut my lip on a stone, but at least I could feel my hands and feet again.

She had a wicked grin, which was good to see. “You go on. You tell the others what you said here. We’re going to tell them anyway, so you might as well.”

“They’ll all hate me.”

“You don’t need the respect of a bunch of dirty, smelly children who think they’re men. You got other things to take care of.”

That’s how I become the first member of the Men Who Listen to Wymen and Support Their Rights society. Not much of a name I knows, but it’ll serve for now. Didn’t have much choice either, once word got out that I’d been the first to cave on the stryke, but it ain’t so bad.

Molly made me give up the mule before she’d marry me. She’s carrying on her work, helping wymen get their rights. She even got a meeting with the King to get equal pay and the right to work any job they like. The King! Heard it went pretty well, too, once the Queen gave him her what for on account of him being rude to poor Molly. She boxed his ears a few times for good measure.

I got the woman who knocked me senseless a job with the guard, and she’s tougher than any man I’ve worked with. She’ll make captain in no time.

I retired once she were all trained up and I’d showed her all the best places to get free meals and drinks. I mostly stay home and take care of our two little ones, and keep the house clean, and tend the garden, and mend the clothing. Lovely garden; my begonias are coming in nicely and we’ve got lots of butterflies. Tiring work, but it keeps me out of trouble and I ain’t had no more problems with liquor. I’ve gotten pretty good at darning, too, I have to admit. Socks are a bit lumpy, but my toes aren’t cold no more.

I sure do miss that mule, though.




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