18 April, 2019

Poison #AtoZChallenge

Masan was the best maker of sutaris in his village. His wife and daughter collected jequirity beans daily, using half to make jewelry, and giving him half to turn into his poison cones. It was an underground business, as the sutaris were officially frowned upon. To the outer world – to the authorities, certainly – the family business was in bead jewelry. Only a few villagers knew that Masan’s family income was boosted exponentially by his poison business. 

Everyone knew the jequirity beans were poisonous. Their bright red color made them popular for jewelry, but humans could not eat them. Children were cautioned from a young age to avoid the beans until they were old enough to know not to put them into their mouths. 

One day, Masan’s daughter took ill. “I’m so sorry, my love, I cannot go out to collect the beans for us today,” his wife told him. “I must stay home and look after Mina. I fear she is developing a fever.” 

“Watch her today. You brought me enough beans yesterday I can continue my work from those.” 

The next day, Mina was worse. Masan had few beans left to work with, so he finished his work early. “How can I help Mina?” he asked his wife. 

“She is burning to the touch. You must find a doctor to help her,” she told him as she sat at Mina’s bedside cooling her with damp cloths. Their village did not have anyone with medical experience, but there were a few traditional healers among the neighboring villages. Masan left to find one. 

In the evening, he returned with a white-haired man wearing a cloth satchel across his body. The man examined Mina closely, finally telling the concerned parents, “It is just a fever. I can help. Where is your cook-fire?” 

Masan led him into the small back room. He watched as this healer filled a saucepan with water. When he opened the satchel and brought out a pile of jequirity branches, Masan panicked. “No! Do not poison my daughter!” The man turned to look with compassion on Masan. 

Slowly he spoke as he began separating the component parts of the branches. “You know what you know, and I know what I know.” Two piles were growing on the little table – one pile of jequirity leaves and one, of the beans he was separating from the branches. “Your business may be in poison, Masan, but my business is to heal. Will you trust an old man to help you?” 

Masan’s jaw dropped to learn that his business was known to this man, but he wagged his head in a gesture signifying acquiescence. He watched the man bring the water to a boil and then add just the leaves to the saucepan. After a time, the healer poured a portion into a small clay cup. “Give this to Mina.” Gesturing to the remaining liquid in the pan, he advised Masan, “Give her another cup of this hot tea in the morning, another mid-day, and in the evening, until the fever breaks.” 

Masan left to give the drink to his daughter. When he returned to the back room, the old man was gone, but he had left behind the pile of jequirity beans. Masan smiled. During the next day, as Mina’s fever dropped radically, Masan had new beans to work with.  

Thank you for visiting my #AtoZChallenge! My theme is "Audience Participation" (read about it, here) and now it is your turn. Each day will be a new story based on suggestions from your comments. Suggest anything: a word, scenario, character, location... I will be keeping a list of suggestions, so if yours isn't used tomorrow, it may show up later. 

Today's post was inspired by the prompt "Jequirity Bean", suggested by Maria L. Berg (of Experience Writing), given in comments on my J post (here). Apologies for any factual inaccuracies. Writing Flash Fiction everyday doesn't leave me a lot of time for in-depth research, but it is true that the leaves have healing properties.


  1. Nice job! I could really see the healer separating the leaves.

  2. This reminds me of tomatoes. Tomato seems to be in everything, but the plants and leaves that produce that fruit are poisonous.

  3. Nice!
    I didn't even realize this was a real thing, so I have been both entertained and educated.


  4. Wonderful tale. It reminds me of an old medical practisioner whom I know

  5. What wonderful story! Loved the two-purpose plant used for good and bad. Well done!

    DB McNicol, author
    A to Z Microfiction: Parachute

  6. Kind of an unexpected but nonetheless happy ending. Good story!

    John @ The Sound Of One Hand Typing

  7. Maria - Glad you liked it. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Brett - I bet there are a lot of foods like this. Apple seeds are laced with arsenic, isn't it?

    Jz - Me neither! I had to look it up based on a suggestion.

    Suhavijay - I'm so glad you found it relatable.

    Donna - Used another way, it's also an aphrodisiac!

    John - I learned a lot just in a brief overview of the plant. I'd love to have taken it further. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. He should reciprocrate and give the leaves to the healer as he gets more beans... It's amazing how something can be harmful and healing at the same time.

  9. Liz - That's a really good point! A partnership could be born here.


I enjoy a good debate. Feel free to shake things up. Tell me I'm wrong. Ask me why I have such a weird opinion. ...or, just laugh and tell how this relates to you and your life.