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Sharp Shoe Brown
Act 3 of The Knights Trace in Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
“It is better far that our sons lose their heads than we lose the lands we love best.”
-Says Old Blancendrin, First Jest, First Chant
Other than sparring with the good-hearted square-jawed Stone Deacon, Brawn had never tested his fists against a man, and no lad had ever been able to test him—he was thus untested, but also unbeaten and surged with that arrogance. He thus discovered himself shuffling, as if by another’s will, towards the smaller, more closely knit form of Sharp Shoe Brown, as the breed capered like to dance, doing the tap toe on the cottonwood plank floor what sang like a woody drum to his skipping cadence.
This fellow was supposed, by some cruel jest, to be his half-brother, and a brother half was a brother whole in Westerlands, unlike the east where they were tossed out in heaps. He did not believe it, was musing and unknit as he lurched towards Sharp Shoe and cleanly missed his first pawing facer. In frustration he swung a round blow, which was easily ducked by the smaller man, and frustration building, did a proper lunge and sent a special punch towards that head not much larger than his clenched maul.
Three blows cleanly missed and his foe dancing a gig like a Mummer at Saint Patrick’s Day, Brawn shuffled more carefully as Stone Deacon had cautioned on the plank floor of a manly contest, rather than the lurch friendly yard where boys brawled—and like a wild Indian Brown capered aside. The compensating adjustment to prevent Brown from taking his back, made him unbalanced and awoose as a languid fire took hold in his brain, and he realized, that drinking rum was to sing a song with no easy refrain.
‘Why do these elder fools drink this hogwash of hell!’
This thought, having crept through the widening cracks of his unraveling mind, was punctuated by a sharp kick in the ribs, delivered with a wood-soled riding boot [Brown being strictly a horse scout and not a brush skulker]. This blow stunned Brawn in mind, barely felt in body, though like to crack a rib by its sound.
As he stood to to mill his fists straightaway down the middle, intent on clobbering that slight fellow, a facer burst his nob, three fibs milled his button, a special punch [1] slashed his cheek, having been meant to crack his eye socket, and, as he hoisted his fists in the mill upward to that dancing brown face, his elbows of necessity now leaving his wind open…
Brown had slipped to his side and delivered three thudding wind takers to his barrel of a rib cage and came north with a round blow that rang his ear and splashed blood from his nob, what to splash across the face of Stoic Joe, the man who never spoke, once a rogue preacher and his tongue bored. This brought a cry of elation from the gathered men as Brawn milled back in return, missing three button rubs and then lurching with a missed facer. To this his button, nob and cheeks paid the price, as Sharp Shoe’s wicked brown fists made music with his noggin and his phys, music that should have hurt sharply, ached awfully, but did not.
‘Ah, this is why they drink hell’s hogwash—it dulls the pain!’
Brawn continued his pursuit of Brown who capered all around, mazing him with his hard-shoe dance, sinking the heel of one shoe into Brawn’s breadbasket and the toe of the other into his inner thigh. To this latter blow, barely felt by Brawn as he bored in with grim determination to come to gripes, Sergeant Saddler, admonished the senior fighter, “Don’ be a killin’ yer nieces en nephews in daddy’s nest—dats yer kin, breed!”
As laughter rocked the room and Brawn step-dragged in behind his milling fists, Brown—supposedly his half-black brother—let their rude claimed father know he understood and made Brawn understand where he did stand, as the toe of his left shoe raked Brawn’s ear, tearing it to a gushing dangle, and that terror of a dancer slid on by and out, sinking the toe of his right shoe into Brawn’s belly, where it lodged.
‘That all should have hurt like blazes.’
The sunken boot toe lodged in his gut just long enough, for Brawn Pillory, up to taking any beating a man could deliver since his 12th year at least, to come to gripes.
Kicked mid-missing-mill, with his right fist rolling over the left fist as it came back to his belly and rolled up to under chin to punch out again, as the right extended and rolled down, Brawn had his left forearm under that kicking boot and his right over it. To a gripe they came, Brawn clamping the snakeskin upper of that boot in a gripe of pending victory, between two farrier-thick forearms. Sharp Shoe was now dancing on one foot, Brawn bending knee to get under for the hoist that would send this dark son of the south across the room!
A low growl of approval was heard by the gathered men as Sharp Shoe was stuck stood on one foot, his other no longer his.
Brawn crouched in for the through and Sharp Shoe danced clear, on one booted foot, leaving Brawn in possession of an empty boot.
Laughter rang like a mirthy cheer.
Casting the boot aside with a snarl, tired of being the butt of this fistic joke, Brawn stepped in to come to gripes.
Brown, lifting his booted foot with a skip did then spring from the cottonwood planks with his bare foot, kicked Brawn across the side of the forehead with that hard wooden toe, raking away skin and releasing blood to blind the eyes below.
By the instinct of hands up when being pummeled, Brawn somehow caught Brown’s booted foot in the crook of his right hand, to which Brown improbably twisted in the air like a treed snake and slithered the bare foot around Brawn’s neck for to choke him to death!
This was no death match. Such affrays were settled with knives and guns. But with the instinct of a beaten animal for survival, like a razorback Hog wearied and run to bay by a pack of braying dogs, Brawn acted as if in the play of life and death on earth, heaved up in desperation as the foot hooked his neck and the other shin pressed his throat...
Wearing Brown like a cowl for a moment, Bloodied Pillory then lifted higher and slammed down, smashing Brown’s back on the gatehouse floor to shake to the red rock foundations the entire construct. To this cheering event, came a gasp of wind spent from Brown, who lie as if dead under him, a widening of still eyes bringing to Brawn the fear that his first act as a ranger true was to kill one of his own.
A bucket of spring water splashed across Brown’s scarecrow face, and the man gasped into life and looked about at the silent men, up at Brawn, and extended a hand, “Good en rough done—coul’ we not do ‘is again?”
Brawn grinned, picked Sharp Shoe Brown up onto his feet with his one hand not skinned form a blow, and drunkenly assented, as his ear dangled against his neck and blood from forehead and nob, frothed over his lips, “Deal, Brother.”
They both started at that last word as the senior men cheered, and each seem to conclude in his eyes, that it was true, whatever the facts of Sergeant Saddler’s—known for his tall tales—whoreson siring claims might be, that they were indeed brothers in The Ranks.
Afoot, they were the same height, and Brawn, feeling aptly named but lumber-like ponderous to boot, noted that he was easily twice as thick as Sharp Shoe Brown, against whom he would not give himself a lick of chance if the knives were ever, between the two of them, thrown down. [2]
“Ten thousand machete boy,
again by three, [0]
Crowd da Port O’ Black Prince,
‘bout da Gibbs Wee Tree!” [1]
Notes on the Rude Art of Fists
-1. Fibs are light punches. The special punch travels upward, palm up, to strike the eye or jaw with the knuckles and is a severe blow. The facer is delivered thumb up, a mauling blow. The winder is delivered palm down to the body. The chin is called the button, for like the coat button, its address opens the wearer to the elements of the rough contest. Milling is the way by which fists are rotated forward over each other to bewilder the foe as to which will deliver the telling blow.
-2. The highest affair of rude honor among the rangers and scouts, apes the knightly crossing of swords, with their great “toothpick” knives thrown down in the scratch between the two by the duel master. This holds when ranger meets scout in such affrays as well. In the case of a scout challenging a scout to such a contest, the duel is fought unarmed from horseback, around a single small scalping knife plunged into the earth, which may be retrieved by either party during the savage joust.
Notes on Voodoo Cosmology
-0. It does seem that as many as 30,000 Voodooists were dispatched to invade Wester Christendom, in the height of high summer—pray that we may not imagine the smell!
-1. A monstrous Water Oak tree festooned with shrunken heads, pickled genitalia and the bleached skulls of Christian foes, as well as the scalps of Heathen foes. Like as to pirate treasures and the wealth of Low Brigandy are hung from this great tree, tended by 12 virgins [thought to be the only such women of Voodoory] who are married to the tree for life and buried at its base. Old Poppa Doc Black O’ Roy marshals here his prophets, his poppa loi and mamma loi acolytes and his Machete Boys, where pledges are made, gifts given and oaths sworn before an expedition. This tree seems to be a mockery of The Tree of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, with Old Black O’ Roy mocking the presence of God with his own vile person, even treading in ominously behind a curtained device to build a sense of awe concerning his person.
Sergeant Saddler’s Second
Three Coon Clown
menthol rampage
america the brutal
barbarism versus civilization
crag mouth
book of nightmares
dark, distant futures
fiction anthology one
the first boxers
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