2014 #315

Scotty the Scout knew he’d signed up for danger
or at least adventure; adventure
of course implying some variant of danger
though the danger need not be a danger
to the body; can be a danger

to the imagination. Danger
to the moral compass one should at all times
have in the breeches pocket if not the back
of a pair of chaps, this provision
implicating an exam designed

for an analytical exercise
in the importance of protecting
the sensitive flesh from bramble thorns
when one is put to the task of cross-country
equestrianism with the armed outfit

that hired the rider which in this case
was Scotty the Scout; Scotty the Scout
encountered no obstacle
in according an incredible pleasure
the rush of the troop’s exploits brought him;

he’d not died. Death whizzed past him many times.
Or instruments engineered for the efficient
dealing in death. Just that death smelled the storm’s
accumulation and the quietude
its frozen canvas advertised

so it wasn’t hard for a few of death’s
teething adolescents to fix to the shaft of a spear
or an arrow if not an actual spearhead
or arrowhead and so scent the instrument;
so Scotty the Scout saw his share of these scenes

and on abatement of the fury
might check himself, his mount, his chaps, his neck,
his hands, blow through his nose, or pucker and blow
through his lips, and smile and then let himself laugh
or make himself laugh; breathe inward with his eyes

closed to verify he could tell if the smell
was the spring, like evergreen spry innocence
or summery swelter and a buzz
and then buzzing orchestras tuning;
part of his policy involved keeping a distance.

Troubled times. Rebellious men causing
trouble. He wasn’t obligated to obey
like the conscripted. Contract. Under contract.
Could say the pay was poor or half the pay
came in the adventure. Something to put

in his diary. “Did they think
I was already dead?” Scotty the Scout
entertained that phrase for a few seconds
longer than he’d care to entertain it
and it didn’t bother to convince him why

this could possibly be a good time
to be entertained but even that
didn’t really matter because a herd
of thoughts much stronger and charging mindless
leveled that one or almost no real thought

could compete with his cautious patrol
through the scene which had only a few
moments before been one percolating
with voices and horse whinnies and the creak
of a crow in the trees and speaking to

the commanding officer as an equal,
answering consultant questions. Joking
about civilians. Reminiscing about
village wenches they’d plundered and would plunder.
Forgot his policy. In a way this was

the better way, at least for Scotty the Scout;
not a good way for the commanding officer.
Didn’t have to see the face of the body
wearing the dirtied blue uniform
to know it was the first commanding officer

Scotty was beginning to really like
and made the mistake of hoping he’d make
this his permanent outfit as long
as he could ride with the major. Body
on its side, back facing Scotty, but there

the sunflower-yellow bars on the shoulders,
and the hat upside down on the ground and the hair
and the ear and just a speck of blood
appearing like a worm around the neck.
Scotty saw his cap. Arrow pinned it

to the dirt. Scotty pulled the arrow out
and plucked the cap off the point, held it
like a pet he didn’t want to bury,
sighed deeply and threw it back on his head.
“Don’t remember reading what a scout is to do

when he is a massacre’s sole survivor.
Sixty troops. Not so many when you’re with them
and get to recognize them. Sure sixty troops
can do a lot of damage and the village
needs to – well the more wenches the better –

sure some don’t mind fighting over the spoils,
but me, nah, getting control of a village
wench is enough hassle. But to bury
sixty troops? Hm.” Here Scotty doffed
his cap for the sweep of his palm over

his head and then he spat into the dust
at his feet and glanced at a branch
where a crow sat and squawked like to try to talk
to Scotty even if Scotty wasn’t in
much mood to talk to anyone

or anything. “Damn coppery savages.
Where did they come from? Where did they go?”
Scotty plopped his floppy cap back to his head
and would’ve ran at the vultures that had just found
the bodies nearest to him; but they were fast

multiplying and he knew his mount
was over there too; saw a patch of the motionless
fur through the weeds beyond the major’s corpse
and of course the major’s mount was there; and Scotty
couldn’t do anything about the affection

he’d developed for his mount. Wasn’t sure
what to do about that; wasn’t sure he could
handle seeing his mount after the vultures
got started, and as many vultures
as were beginning to show up like the latest

diner opened on a hill, they’d not be able
to pick apart enough dead flesh to stop
the stink; smelled a hint of it now; smelled
the stink. “Son-of-a-bitch how can I think
of eating now? Or fucking. Damn you. But it’s true.

I need food. Where’s the canteen? Any canteen?
Where’s the stream? I told him the – well I told him
wrong. How did I get that wrong? I never
get it wrong. All these men are dead because
I got it wrong. But I – I’m walking.

And the worst thing about all these bodies,
is the stink that begins.” Happened to glance
back to the branch and that crow had come back
and Scotty stared at the crow and the crow
stared straight back. Squawked. Flapped wings. Remained

on the branch. Looked like it shrugged as it cocked
its head and squawked again. “How did I get
this wrong? Weren’t supposed to be
coppery savages around here.
But you. You knew. You knew – you – shit.” Scotty

hung his head. The crow’s creaky squawk sounded
too distant to bother patronizing it.
“Diary. Damn diary. No. I can’t.
Can’t quit. Can’t leave it.” Turned back to the brush
from where he’d emerged to find himself

the massacre’s sole survivor and this time
he did run at the vultures atop
his mount and they flapped off lazily
like they only needed a few more to stake
their claim and this human would not dare come

a step nearer; horse had stiffened; pulse was long gone.
The diary was in the bag the dead horse lay on.
Using weight forced to remain detached, Scotty
produced new streams of sweat that sopped his buckskin
shirt to get his dead horse off the bag

where his diary was and that was also
the satchel containing cornbread which he found
was all crumbs but he dug into the cornbread
anyway, tasting less the dirt and the horse
and the death and more filling his belly

while the diary rested on the ground at his knees.
Had he been able to see him as the crow
on the branch saw him and if the crow
had historical perspective
and a little book-learning (Scotty

forced back what it might mean that the crow
had leapt off the branch it perched when squawking
to Scotty so to be on a nearer branch
the tree nearer but the branch higher
so the crow did not perch directly above

Scotty but enough above Scotty
so Scotty if Scotty could see as the crow saw)
he’d see that he gobbled like a starved peasant
and he’d get a better look at how his bottom
lip trembled as his lips and jaw and chin

kept moving to keep from falling apart
or to keep his entire face from fracturing
because of the shock because that’s what this
was, what Scotty was in, the attack
was shock, they’d ascended to a moment

they all felt sure granted them all a space
of calm. Challenges were mostly history.
Now they were just working but the work
they did bore more resemblance to what
later generations would do

for enjoyment and enrichment,
being out in nature, backpacking,
learning survival skills, and suddenly
the coppery savages caught them all
by such fast surprise most of the dead

had no more than a flashing second
to realize they were about to die
for one might’ve cracked a joke; another
laughed at a joke; because they’d literally
swept through like a tornado. That was

the shellshock cell Scotty was within
which began to fracture and razor
shafts of light began to pierce the cell’s shell
and the stink of death that a concentrated
space containing sixty lifeless humans

and around seventy-five lifeless horses
began to grow thicker which seemed to push
Scotty to dig harder at the quickly-
diminishing cornbread until he licked his palm
for the last crumbs and the cloth that had held

his cornbread finally fell from his hands
and his face finally bowed and his elbows
hit the dirt and he closed his eyes and cried
and this the crow apparently found
the most entertaining bit yet.


About Timmy the Scribbler

Love to write all kinds of stuff I love writing so many different kinds of stuff it is a constant struggle to narrow the focus to a manageable handful and let the others go. But a few years ago I dipped my fingers into a poetry pie and of all my uncertainties, one thing that is no uncertainty is that it is one passion that must remain, so maybe that's the one. I do dearly delight in chopping up fictional works into stanzas and syllables.
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