Blood and Flowers
In my younger, and more foolish days, I met with death for the first time. As a boy, I lived in the headlands of Maine. My father was a sailor, one of those who eventually never came back. My mother worked as a barmaid at the nearby tavern. I was left to run free among the dunes, growing up on the salt air of the sea.
It was early on a chilly spring morning, and I was watching the plovers strolling stiltedly along the sand. I lay among the high grass and frostflowers, in the pale sunlight dreaming of adventure.
* * *
I awoke to the sound of men yelling. A longboat was pulled up on the shore, and three ragged men were clambering out of it. Their leader was a tall man with greasy, tangled black hair. He wore a pair of dark pants , whose bottoms were torn to strips. His feet were clad in a pair of scuffed black boots, with tarnished buckles. His shirt, originally white was stained with age and the blood of countless men, both innocent and guilty. His eyes were as gray as a storm at sea and his skin was dark and as weathered as the leather hanging in the tannerÕs shop.
His hand, which to me, appeared to be a claw as deadly as a hawkÕs, reached out. I sank as low as possible into the tall grass as the captain gripped the even more ragged shirt of another man.
The frightfully thin man, barely dressed in dingy gray trousers so worn that they were ripped to his knees and a shirt, once green, that was bleached of color that it would have appeared nearly white had it not been for the blood stains dotting the front and back.
Despite all of this, his most noticeable feature was his hair. Even though it needed both washing and trimming, it glowed copper in the sunlight. It seemed to belong more on the head of some exotic bird than that of a condemned pirate.
I suddenly felt his gaze upon me in the grass. I tried to duck further into the weeds, but I had already felt the piercing power of those evergreen eyes. This was no ordinary pirate, but what my mother called a gentleman. How on earth had he gotten mixed up with this thoroughly disreputable bunch?
Then I noticed something interesting. This pirate's features were definitely NOT male. Why was a girl being executed? I didnÕt really have time to figure that out because she seemed to be trying to tell me something.
My eyes widened. She was alternating looks between me and what was lying on the ground. It was my landlord's prized possession, a long musket, hand engraved with dragons, representing the Jade Dragon, the tavern he owned and my mother worked in. Personally, I found it rather sad that one's prize possession would be gun, but it wasn't exactly a surprise coming from that particular individual.
I had 'borrowed' it from him today to hunt plovers. I had never even aimed it at a man. I gulped, trying to swallow my fear. I had precious few options. I could run, and be shot in the back, I could sit in the reeds and watch her die, or I could do something.
My eyes gleamed at the thought of the third option. This was my chance to prove to those idiots in town that I wasn't just the barmaid's worthless brat.
I continued to lie flat on my stomach, but the musket was now held tight in my hands. The captured woman smirked at me, and then stood straight up, kicking out her leg, and leveled the captain's companion in one shot. Then plowing her fist into the captain's stomach, she dove to the ground. I shot the musket.
However, I never could have predicted the horrible thing that happened next. The bullet never reached the captain, instead it hit a plover, just beginning its flight. The bird did not plummet to the ground, but was flung, by the momentum of the bullet, towards the captain. Said captain, still dazed from the previous punch in to the gut, didn't register the reality of a seabird heading for him, until it was too late.
It was, I must say, a most interesting death scene. There were three bodies scattered across the ground: that of the unconscious pirate, a rather shell-shocked red-haired girl, and a very dead pirate captain, whose neck was impaled by the sharp beak of an equally dead plover. I took the opportunity to run for my life back to town, where I stopped only briefly, to replace the musket, before sprinting towards St. Francis Church. I felt that I had better confess this sin immediately.
* * *
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confessiom." I was still breathless.
"Nate, my boy, what in the name of heaven is wrong? You never come unless forced, by Mrs. Barret." Father Luke was a relatively young priest, but he understood his congregation well.
"I killed a man today. With a plover."
So I related the story to Father Luke, who didn't give me penance because he couldn't stop laughing long enough to relate the appropiate punishment.
* * *
I never saw the girl again, I can only assume that she eventually recoveredfrom her shock, and left the area. As for Father Luke, it was years before he could look me in the eyes without getting a wild look in his own, signifying his surpressed laughter. I think that he was afraid everytime I went to confession that I had killed another man, possibly with another species of animal.