Thursday, November 29, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 12

Episode 12 - "A Poetic Ox"
by Camille LaGuire

Jackie was a better listener than most people gave him credit for.  Next to talking, it was one of his favorite things to do. Truth be told, if he didn't listen well, what would he have to write or talk about?  It wasn't as if he really did much himself.  He was a poor smith, and he hadn't been much of a soldier.

Clearly he hadn't been much of a husband, either, but he was working hard on that.  Had been working hard.  Had been.

He reminded himself that he was a ghost now.  He couldn't even write.  Could barely speak.  He had to muzzle himself, or they'd muzzle him.  All he had left was to listen.

Besides, he needed to.  He really didn't know how to be a prisoner.  Even with shackles and a gag and his shoulders aching from the cane, it only confused him.

What he knew was freedom, and you couldn't just tell people about that.  Even among free men, it often made no more sense to them than shackles did to him.  No, you had to know about their experiences and thoughts, and then draw a line from one fellow to the next, and show the connection among things.  You couldn't do that without listening first.

So Jackie listened.

The work, in the meantime, was heavy.  They were clearing land for a new field, and there was a great deal of hauling and digging to be done.  The field had been burnt over the week before to clear out the brush, and the whole place stank of stale smoke.

They had Jackie hauling heavy debris, and he couldn't help but feel like a draft horse.

Jackie liked work; it was good for clearing his head.  But if he got to thinking now, he'd never be able to write those thoughts down, would he?  He'd always been able to keep thoughts clear in his head for days, but years?  It would drive him insane, not being able to put them down.  And what was the point of having thoughts if he couldn't turn them into something to write down?

He shouldered the harness and pondered the the conundrum of being a writer without a pen and a speaker without a voice.  And he wondered if there were horses who were poets inside.  Or oxen.  He shouldn't leave out the oxen just because a horse had a reputation for being noble.

He came to the clear patch along the side of the next field, where others were working.  Most of these were the boys or elderly men, who couldn't do the heaviest labor.  Jackie wondered again at the proportion of them.  And most of them from the peninsula too.

Up ahead, he heard a disturbance.  Two of the damn guards had someone on the ground.  It was that boy, Tim, and they were kicking at him and beating him with those beaters of theirs -- heavy things of braided leather that were a cross between a thin club and a short whip.  Jackie dropped his hauling rope and started to run forward, but before he got two steps, something caught on his shackles and he sprawled flat on his face.

It was Rocken who had hooked his cane onto the chain.  Before Jackie could gather himself, the overseer had dropped a knee on to his back, pinning him, and pushing the air out of him.  He landed a hard whack across Jackie's rear with his heavy cane, and shoved his face into the dirt.

"Mind your own business, Jack," he said, in a low growl.  Then he raised his head, and shouted to the guards.  "That's enough.  The kid's had his lesson."

He let Jackie up, and went on about his business, without a look back.  Jackie stood up, feeling a bit shaken, and sore, both on his backside, and his face where it had been ground in the hard earth.  He wasn't free.  He had to remember that.  He wasn't even allowed to get himself into trouble and pay the price.

And the price, he was sure, was awfully high.  He had to be thinking about a balance in his priorities.

He picked up the harness, and realized that his arms were skinned and one shoulder was sore from the fall.  He had to use the other shoulder, and that one would be good and sore by evening.

But it was less painful than standing by and watching a boy beaten by bullies.  How was he going to tune that out?

The Test of Freedom ebook available at major retailers in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

No comments: