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Mum’s Bent Master
© 2023 James LaFond
“But I there still lingered to discern the truth…
Where suffered in torment the Epicureans, followers of he who used the body to kill the soul.”
-Canto 28, according to Prior Timothy, inaccurately but not incorrectly attributed to the same canto, thus the fortuitous copy error of Under Factor Libor Scrawl, stands now 172 years after his quill dipped the errant ink, now, after the fashion of Dante, he having earned a berth among the living, so long as The Word does remain among men [0]
The wind moaned unholy like through the hen house eves. Grazy Girl was sore irritated at something beyond the sunrise door and stopped her squawk, pointing her head, and Lynn heard outside, from the quarter of the holly grape shrubs where Crazy Girl made her nest the lesser avian enemy of Henary: [1] Magpies!
Chicken hawks were the existential terror of the chicken sky, raccoons, foxes and weasels the wolves of the chicken night, owls their booger men who kept chickens in the coop after dark. But by day, chicks and eggs caught outside the safety of the pen, were open to the black and white pests of Rocky Mountain crow kind. Lynn set down Gimpy Girl [2] and took up her babyhood bow, the toy bow and three arrows that Father had made for her ten years ago—and went to war on behalf of her, black feathered queen of hens.
Lynn emerged from the sunrise door of the hen house that overlooked Shingle Creek, shut in Crazy Girl and looked twenty paces east to the holly grape that clothed the high bank. There, two magpies were fussing over Crazy Girl’s half hidden nest. These two thieves were in some disagreement as to who would get first peck into that egg. Lynn knocked an arrow and let fly. Her black chicken feather fletched arrow arced out and transfixed the larger of the two birds. This bird squawked indignantly, Lynn thought, and flapped and hopped off away some twenty more paces until it was near to some prickly pear.
There it fell over without a peep, but with quite a quiver. Lynn considered retrieving her arrow, ‘Should I?’
Then Father’s voice echoed in her mind, ‘Magpies have funerals, Lill’e Lynn,’ I swear to you before God.’
Lynn made her way to the holly grape, found there the errant egg, returned to the coop, hung the bow on its peg and racked the two remaining arrows in the rafters and thought, as Crazy Girl and Gimpy Girl looked at her in expectant silence, ‘I do donate my wee arrow as a bier of sorts for that thieving bird. I shall also compose Magpie Too Sly and sing it at future magpie funerals, of my instigation or not. I do so swear before Mother Mary, matron of The Cathedral Within.’
Lynn knew that her inner church-away world of angels, saints and song-built cathedrals must remain hid, lest she by to a heretical pillory post bid.
Lynn then gathered her basket of eggs, pride of place being the one rescued from the magpies, and exited the sunrise door. And there, before her, a good ten magpies had already gathered about the corpse of their fellow, and did squawk their throaty eulogy on that fallen creature’s behalf.
There was a swing in Lynn’s step that had not been there since she had done for Old Pot with the scissors on behalf of Gimpy Girl. The wailing of the bird song behind her filled her with an odd note of pride, from which the budding grace within her shied as a mother from her girlish dolls.
Blue, like Darla’s cabin, the clapboard house of Kyle Plowbent was, blue being the Clan Color. Kyle had been an oat farmer long ago in his youth, and had twisted his frame earning the stock in trade necessary to acquire a small herd of beeves and cows, before giving up oats, that were giving out anyhow, for hay farming and milk selling. In so doing, he acquired Hunter Jamison’s house and property next door to Granny Darla’s cabin, along with his widow, Lynn’s ever lonely mother, and so it went, the lordship over once little and now goblin-butted, Lynn.
Lynn took care of most of the milk and egg business, loving the outside world and dreading the house, and picked all the herbs, apples, plums and berries besides, all for which she dedicated love songs, extolling their fruitful qualities, upholding their water rights and even singing of vegetative plights. Kyle, and his servant man, Toothless Ted, farmed the hay, bred, drove and slaughtered the cattle, here and down the road in Mapletooth, where Kyle maintained ownership of the former oat fields that now pastured cattle instead.
There, to that house, that had been her home under Hunter Jamison, and was now her half-orphanage under Kyle Plowbent, its blue painted shingles and eves rattling in the fierce late morning wind, Lynn returned with three dozen eggs and a dread premonition that over the near horizon of her nameless fear, came hither didactarchy and purgatation. [3]
A deep organ note like that which sounded the call to mass at Virgil’s Church, sounded in the more distant recesses of her cathedral mind. [4] An image of a sword, with a curious hilt, riding a saddled horse, as if the sword were the rider, eased into her inner view, gracing brightly her inner poetic eye. The horse was wild-eyed and rode by night, not by day, seeking a lost girl. This girl was weeping as she walked, in blue, sun-tressed, wooden shoes.
‘Oh my,’ thought she, as she stopped her progress and looked down at her feet to see those same shoes there. She was near the porch by three paces, the place where her shoes ever came off, as Kyle hated the clomp of wooden shoes on floor boards, and forbade Lynn from wearing her moccasins out of doors as unseemly for a milkmaid. Hence, her treasured footwear for picking her way along the banks and rocks of Shingle Creek, were kept within Kyle’s marriage got house as slippers for his step daughter, and her wooden shoes, carved of cottonwood, by Toothless Ted for the milk house and hen house and painted by herself, served to demarcate the grist of her life from the gist of her plight.
Hunter Jamison, her very savior, had been taken from her by some silent vacating hand up above on the Big Divide, where dwelt the legendary Big John Hide, four summers gone, a week before this very Wakesummers Eve. She recalled him standing here, waiting for her proudly as she hauled in the eggs, standing tall and strong, lean and long in his buckskins and moccasins, a knife on his belt and a long buffalo gun in his hand.
The shiver that sank in her soul when the image of that sword as rider froze in her mind’s eye with the sun setting before the crazed horse’s wild eyes, stilled her feet as the organ tone within went silent and the creaking of the cottonwoods, eves and the clapboards, mixed with the whispers of the willows and the funeral caws of the magpies to cause the image of her father projected upon that porch before the pitch pine door with her mind’s eye, to, narrow-like, smile.
That pitch-stained door then pushed open with a creak that called the magpie wake behind her to silence, and the ghostly image of Father was replaced, with the bent, pallid, and potbellied form of Lynn’s master, a man all but broken by life into the very surly image of a crowning plight Lynn feared yawned for her.
The man frowned out at the scattering magpies and Lynn smiled demurely, sliding off her wooden shoes and assured Kyle, “Second eggs are in, Master Kyle.”
It hurt him, he knew, to be called ‘master’ when he had rather be named father, having lost his own wife and children to the pox not a year before Lynn had lost her own father to the mountains. She did not wish to harm his feelings, but could not bring herself to replace her father, hero to her he had been.
Noting the sadness in his eyes, resignation reigning there, she announced, “Killed a magpie. Won’t retrieve the arrow until butter churning is done lest it sour.”
“Thank you, Lynn, a good girl you are, a good wife ye will be,” said he, as he held open the stained door for her, and Lynn walked what felt like a waddle, through the yellow painted door frame and into the quiet blue house where mother cooked, cleaned, sewed, mended and washed from dawn until dusk.
-0. Copy Jester Bray Hayward, Whitefish Priory
-1. In Lynn’s mind, the world of animals and men was made up of many overlapping kingdoms, Christianity, Heathenry, Araby, Tartary, Voodoory, Czary, and under her watch, the tiny realms of Cowary and Henary, she being in her mind, the very Mother Mary to these minor nations. But on this occasion Lynn got to play a more pleasing role, that of an Artimus or perhaps even a Joan of Arch!
-2. Lynn was not so much inconsistent with her pet naming conventions, but variable, sometimes naming the lame hen Gimp Girl and at other times Gimpy Girl.
-3. Didactarchy is rule by teachers, didacts and doctors by doctrine, and purgatation the state of penance decreed upon the sins of antidoctrine.
-4. Lynn has found it difficult to imagine the piteous state of her fellow travelers under Heaven, who have many confided in her that they possess no dove-sung, organ-haunted, crucifix-hung and thought-vaulted cathedral bustling within their minds.
Lynn’s Weird Hen
Dinner with Fate’s Disaster
the year the world took the z-pill
broken dance
logic of steel
on combat
america the brutal
winter of a fighting life
by the wine dark sea
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