From Olden Times

In the bridge beams, a new generation of swallows tended to their nests, as he knelt down on the jut of a rock and dunked his head into the creek, half wondering if he’d see the rusted remains of his BB gun lying on the bottom. He bought the gun with his paper route money, on the one year anniversary of a life-changing event, and right now I can’t tell you anything more about the nature of this event, other than to say that you will soon be following him into a forest, where he will spend the night beside a fire, at which point I’ll address the matter thoroughly. For the time being, however, we need to linger beneath the bridge, where he’s in the process of remembering the time he went hunting for snakes on a snakeless afternoon…“It’s just my luck,” he grumbled to himself as a bird zigzagged over the surface of the creek. On any other day this bird would have inspired a sense of awe and wonder, but the gun in his hand had grown hot with power, so he made his way over to where his surrogate target had vanished beneath the bridge, and there above his head were the thriving nests of a swallow colony. He exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger, as per his dad’s marksmanship tutorial, but killing something wasn’t as easy as he thought, and he winced in horror at the sight of the chicks prodding their mother’s corpse for more of the insects she had gathered.

He stood up on the rock and shook his head, splattering the graffiti laden abutment wall behind him with creek water, as the swallows engaged in a heated discussion amongst themselves. Have they identified me as the killer from olden times who returned according to prophecy, he wondered? Perhaps it was the soothsayer of the colony who darted directly at him and veered away at the last second, skirting his shoulder for a closer look. This brave act inspired him toward a gesture of peace, by way of two literary references to swallows, said aloud. The first reference came from act V, scene II of Richard III, where the Earl of Richmond, standing with his fellows in arms on a plain in Tamworth says, “True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings; kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures, kings.” The second reference was from the Old Testament bible his dad had read for “research purposes only”. The sight of the large leather-bound book in his dad’s calloused hands proved irresistible, and not long after the BB gun incident, he opened it up at random to Proverbs 26:2: “As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come,” he said, making peace at last.

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11 thoughts on “From Olden Times

  1. Right out of one of his songs, our old pal, M.K. Thanks. Duke P.S. I think the word snakelessness is something new for me. Never thought about it, never heard it and it is a good one. I wonder if anyone has ever used it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “You will be following him” – love that intimacy. A bit like Ron Serling in the Twilight Zone. Darkness is something we all share despite our urge to turn away. A well constructed piece indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a sin to kill a cardinal. In my youth I killed three. The state bird of Virginia – severe fines for such an act. The faded feathers decorated nothing important. Remorse? Even then I somehow knew the Universe was absurd. A trillion years will pass and the molecules of red that flashed like a flare between the leaves of dogwood will be strewn across the cosmos like spilled BBs upon a basement floor.

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