The family is having its breakfast. The man is called Uaclahun Ben by the Tzolk'in calendar, that being the day of his birth. It is a fitting name, for ben means reed which refers to rulership, and Uaclahun Ben is ruler of his family. It is morning and he has the face of a bat, by which we mean to say that he is still tired. His family makes much work for him. His wife is called Chikchan. She works at the three hearth stones making her tortillas, filling them with beans and white corn for her family. Her eyes look in different directions as though she had recently noticed some stinging insect settled at the end of her nose, and the distance between the lowest part of that nose and her upper lip is very great. It is like the distance from Chichén to Mayapan. It is a very long way. It would take a man a considerable time to walk from one to the other. Uaclahun Ben and Chikchan eat with Ahal-Togob, the oldest of their children. He was named during a moment of levity, for his name means He Who Causes Unhappiness, and regrettably it almost seems that the Gods have seen fit to ensure that Ahal-Togob is named by way of an instruction. There are other children, but they do not directly feature in our story. Perhaps they are staying with grandparents.
'You must eat your beans and white corn,' Chikchan tells her son. 'You must grow to be big and strong.'
'He does not need to be any bigger,' observes Uaclahun Ben. He shakes his head and sighs. 'Already he is like some tall tree, but for the fact that he does not bear the sort of fruit we can use.'
'I can eat no more of your beans and white corn, mother,' says Ahal-Togob. 'Later I shall meet with the delightful Itzel. She is very beautiful and pleasant. I therefore wish to make a good impression.'
Suddenly a little fearful, Chikchan turns to her husband. 'Uaclahun Ben, do you recall what I told you?' she says to him. 'Our son will bring the delightful Itzel to visit with us this evening as the sun sets. Tell me that you have not forgotten this arrangement?'
'I have not forgotten this arrangement,' says Uaclahun Ben.
'Now eat your beans and white corn,' the mother again reminds her son.
'I fear I cannot,' says Ahal-Togob, making a face like a frog. 'More beans in my belly will mean that Itzel will not be our only visitor this evening as the sun sets, for I myself shall be visited by Ki'zin the Farter!'
Chikchan makes a face, puckering her mouth as though it were the bottom of some animal. Uaclahun Ben does not react because he has heard it all before.
Later that day Uaclahun Ben is about his work at the Temple of Yum Kaax. He is drilling holes in the front teeth of Lord Ix Etz'nab. He rotates a wooden drill by means of a length of twine. The drill is tipped with coarse sand. Lord Ix Etz'nab ceases his moaning and holds up a hand for Uaclahan Ben to stop.
'What is wrong?'
The older, fatter man splutters a little. 'It is rather painful.'
'Yes. That is the point. Were there no pain, such as might be if some person invented a potion to stem all feeling, then the Gods would not recognise that you have made a sacrifice. Do you see?' It seems as though Uaclahun Ben addresses a small child.
'But must it really be quite so painful as it is?'
'When I have drilled holes, I shall inset your teeth with jade fragments. Then the pain will be gone, and we can all get on with our day.'
'But does she really have to do that?'
They both turn to regard Ixchel. She is sat at the feet of Lord Ix Etz'nab. In her hand she has a reed tipped with the teeth of the shark, which she jabs at the Lord's toes.
'What?' she asks, chewing the gum of a certain tree.
'I'm sorry,' Uaclahun Ben says to Lord Ix Etz'nab. 'She is my new assistant. She has just started today.' He turns to address the young woman. 'Yes, what exactly are you doing?'
'Innit right then?'
'I couldn't say because I don't know what you're doing.'
'My dad said it would distract from the pain.'
'One thing it doesn't distract from is your being a pain!' says Uaclahun Ben. 'This father of yours, this man of wisdom, does he too work in ceremonial dentistry?'
'Naaah, silly,' Ixchel laughs. 'He's a dung collector.'
'Well then, how about this? We agree there's probably not much I can tell him about collecting dung, and he can similarly keep his advice regarding my work to himself. How does that sound?'
'Sorry, I'm sure,' mutters Ixchel, at last ceasing her ministrations upon the feet of Lord Ix Etz'nab. She stands and goes to attend to the painted books.
'One just can't get the staff these days,' says Uaclahun Ben to his patient.
'I will also refrain from advising your father on how to raise simpletons,' Uaclahun Ben says quietly to himself as he resumes his work, although it seems as though he addresses his foolish assistant. 'Patently the gentleman is very well informed in that regard.'
Later that evening as the sun is setting, Ahal-Togob brings the delightful Itzel back to meet his family, just as he said he would. Uaclahun Ben immediately recognises the woman because she is none other than Ixchel, his new assistant at the Temple of Yum Kaax. It transpires that she is not very bright and sometimes gets her hieroglyphs mixed up, even those of her own name. That was how this comical misunderstanding came about. Uaclahun Ben pulls a series of faces as a result, and all of these faces suggest that he finds the situation annoying and awkward. Elsewhere there can be heard a short, sad tune of four descending notes blown upon a conch shell.