With the new, larger shop doing a bustling business, the time soon came for the first Soap Gathering. Kelley could barely contain her excitement – not only were most of the local townspeople attending, she had actually found that a good number of out-of-town visitors were coming in especially for this event. Keeping in mind that all travel in the day was done on foot, in a bouncy carriage (this was lonnnnng before the days of shock absorbers), or on horseback, it was simply astounding that so many people would not only leave their farms and homes to attend but that they would come in spite of the pain of getting there. Several large sleeping tents had been set up in a field just outside Freedom to hold the visitors and other local merchants were busy making sure their shops were filled with all sorts of enticing goodies and products. Even the Mayor got in on the action and with more than a little excitement appointed a special cleaning task force to spruce the town up.
Finally, the day arrived. Kelley, Theodora, and their 6 “shop assistants” were ready. I wish I could write about how awesome the day was and how people were so happy with everything they learned and the projects they were able to create. But, while some of that is true, the day ended with total disaster… of course! If you’ll recall, several chapters back Grismelda was dispatched by a super-scary angry Bronson after her fruitless attempt to abduct Kelley and return her to the cellar on the farm or sell her into slavery to an icky old farmer. Well, after leaving, Grismelda who had been scared witless, began to fume. And scheme. And as she schemed and fumed, she partook liberally of her stash of dandelion wine. Needless to say, drunken scheming never leads anywhere good and this was no exception.
Retaining enough clear thought to realize that her presence there would be foolish at best and courting death at worst, Grismelda finally hatched an insidious plan and set it into motion. Being quite the nasty woman, she had plenty of connections throughout the region (it’s the really nasty folks who seem to be everywhere and in everything, isn’t it??) and it didn’t take much effort on her part to discover about a shipment of supplies that were heading to Freedom for the Soapies shop. Money exchanged hands and as the wagon made its way toward Freedom, the driver made an unscheduled stop along the way to meet with Grismelda…
Upon arriving at Soapies (the day before the Gathering) the oils and other supplies were set aside for unpacking after the day was through. The Gathering was well underway by the time Grismelda’s handiwork made itself known. With a loud thump, a barrel of rancid pig fat that had taken the place of a barrel of olive oil exploded. Unfortunately, this particular barrel had been moved into the gathering area by the shop assistants (such a bad choice of barrels to move and not part of Grismelda’s plot) and was being used as a seat when it blew. Everyone unlucky enough to be in the room was covered with a thick layer of putrid oil that would simply NOT wash off. And as if that weren’t bad enough, a few minutes later 4 other barrels in the storage area exploded. People began to scream, gag, and throw-up as they ran here and there in a fruitless effort to get away from the awful stench.
And just like that, the Gathering came to an abrupt end. Grismelda’s plan worked better than she could have ever anticipated. She had only hoped on Kelley herself and when she found out about the Gathering and how everyone was affected, she crowed in delight and laughed herself right onto the floor. YES! A lesson well deserved (in her twisted mind).