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Monday, November 30, 2009

November drabbles - 30

“It’s not our way.”
“New land. New ways.”

So the people changed. Slowly their faith, their certainty changed; their government, their dreams, their lives, their freedoms and their hope. Strangers and enemies changed. Buildings changed; the land where they grew crops; the shape of their seas. Wrong-doing and forgiveness; wrong-thinking and war; wrong planning, believing and more.

Too many wrongs don’t make a right, and might’s not right either. But in the end, they were all changed. Their faith, their certainty, their government—their dreams, lives, freedoms, even hope—they learned to share.

So Plymouth grew, and Mayflower’s remembered there.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November drabbles - 29

They sat in their fortress and planned. They made their alliances, tribesman to tribe, future promise to weigh against pain. Then fire from the sky drenched their village in flames, flowing blood quenched the blaze, and bullets and knives wrenched their lives and their families’ away.

Men women and infants all killed on one day, in one battle, at Mystic River.

“It’s not our way.”
“Too many slain.”
“No bravery or honor in this.”
“Too furious.”

But it was the way of that land far away, and the victors gave praise, sang their bliss, and prayed “Thanks be to God.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

November drabbles - 28

“The land is the land’s; it’s not ours to divide; not ours to say who lives or dies.”
“Still, so many have died...”
“…leaving space for us all, and the white man has paid with his beads, coats and shovels and spades…”
“…shoes, a pot, and some cloth for a robe with fur sleeves...”

Those who paid for the land, that still wasn’t theirs, sold it on, growing rich on the spoil.

Those who sold squeezed their people to forest and shore, rich in beads while their tribesmen grew poor, while they toiled to survive on that portion unfairly divided.

November drabbles - 27

“They’ve given us a garden my dear.”
“Given a what?”
“A whole plot, all our own.”

The husband led his wife out of town, to the place where his field was assigned. “We’ll grow corn,” he promised. “Keep chickens and pigs and eat eggs,” though by we he meant she.

The boy said “We used to have cows back in England.”
“I know,” said his Dad. “And if any arrive on the boat then maybe we’ll buy one.”

“How?” Mother frowned.
“Well, they’ve given us a garden my dear. You grow things and sell them and I’ll buy the cow.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

November drabbles - 26

A wise man said, “Once blood is shed it’s seldom staunched,” except by length of war. "If only you’d converted them before," he said, but time for talking done, they set their enemy’s head up on a stalk and praised the day.

The wise man said, “More glorious in men’s eyes than pleasing God’s” is the spreading of fear. Then nations split, alliances changed, and curious flag was raised, held strangely dear. Not red and white against the clear blue sky but cream stained brown; the cloth that bore the enemy’s head proclaimed the enemy’s fate. Peace lay down dead.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November drabbles - 25

Windows were parchment and linseed, walls wattle and daub, and roofs made of reeds; not really home. Stockades dripped sap, tree-bark peeled back, and cannon stood on guard upon the hill. Men guarded too, the ones that weren’t already starved and gone. Cold breezes dripped, war sipping on the wind.

The steady drip of fear led to despair, and dripping hunger to their flight elsewhere. The ice dripped too. But drips of lies from scheming spies brought threats to cruel truth.

A woman’s face, dark epigraph carved deep on Indian knife, dripped hard-earned tears from blood-stained eyes. The Indian died.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November drabbles - 24

What’s a man to choose? You can dig in the sand and find clams and call them food but you’ll still go hungry. You can steal the corn that Indians seal away and pretend it’s okay. You can beg them to teach you to fish and they’ll make you a slave but at least you’ll be fed. So what do you do?

They knock the sand-filled clam-shells from your hand and mock and scorn. Will you ignore their taunts and wait to eat? Sneak into their stores and steal? Or beg for help and admit they know better than you?

Monday, November 23, 2009

November drabbles - 23

He rose from prisoner to interpreter to friend, but wanted more. He planned and tricked and played the game of war and politics. “They’ll make you sick,” he swore of those whose hands protected him, and sowed dissent.

“Kill him,” said Massasoit, but the white man said he still needed him.
“Kill him,” said the messenger, but the white man said not yet.
“Kill him,” said the man with knife. “We’ll pay,” but the white man said no, because even a man accused of betrayal might still be called a friend.

When Squanto died, their peace came to an end.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November drabbles - 22

On Christmas day the families play. That’s just the way things are. The governor called them out to work but instead they all agreed, “No, not today,” so he let them stay.

The holy ones, religious, didn’t choose to follow the crowd. On Christmas day their families worked, a day like any other. The governor called and they set out to labor.

On Christmas day, workers returned to find the town at play. The governor confiscated their games. “No more,” said he. “You can pray if you must, but otherwise work like us, all fair and just.”

On Christmas day…

November drabbles - 21

The snake in the grass shook its rattle and dared them to pass. But the snake in the mind whispered fear and dismay, and the snake in the hand was a skin filled with arrows that day.

“It’s a challenge,” said Squanto, “one tribe to another.” A snake in the promise of Eden. They filled up the skin with gunpowder and sent it straight back.

The challenge was met and the threat settled down but the promise of fear didn’t leave. So they chopped down their Eden’s fair trees to build forts and prepared lest a war should be fought.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November drabbles - 20

“There’s a ship!”

It was exciting at first. Maybe Mayflower had returned, but she stayed offshore.

“Still there.”

The people watched and grew afraid.

“Close now.” The ship rounded the bay while pilgrims fired their cannon rounding laborers from the field.

“Who’s there?” they asked, and Fortune was her name.

It wasn’t the enemy after all, not French but Englishmen in this small vessel to join their group. But they brought neither food nor aid, only orders for furs to trade, and winter soon.

“She’s gone.”

The strange ship sailed away.

“Count your blessings, one by one.” The people prayed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November drabbles - 19

At the mercy of rain and soil, reaping rewards of backbreaking toil, ruled by law and God together, with practical steps the pilgrims prepared for the cold. And if the strangers had colored skin, spoke foreign words, dressed odd and worshiped a different kind of God, well, so did strangers everywhere. The streets of Leiden had never quite been home.

“Can I sleep in Sam’s wigwam?”
“Can Sam sleep in my house?”
“Can we have dinner together?”

At the mercy of love and peace, now quarrels ceased and they were chosen friends. But others made their own plans, wanting more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November drabbles - 18

“We’re free from Crown and Bishop here.”
“And from soldiers defending us.”
“We fight alone.”

So they marched to rescue a captured friend—-a different crown for them, or else a headdress of feathers. They brought the wounded enemies home to treat and purchased peace from the store of good relations. Wild ducks and geese were torn in half for the first Thanksgiving feast, and enemies sealed their friendship with venison.

Green leaves turned scarlet and gold under pale blue sky over wind-blown grass.
“They said we’d not last; be dead in a year.”
“I’m dead serious. We’re still here.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November drabbles - 17

“I’ve seen a lake,” said the boy. “There’ll be fish. There’ll be food.” But adults told him “Come down out that tree or you’ll fall.”

“I’ve seen people,” he said. “They’ll help us. They’ll tell what to do.” But adults told him “Get on with the job lad. That’s all.”

“I’ve seen the future,” the boy said, and walked in the woods, and disappeared.

Empty valleys were filled with wandering tribes, scary natives with fearful memories of betrayal. And strangers wanted their corn and grave-gifts back.

The boy who saw the future came to lead them out of the past.

Monday, November 16, 2009

November drabbles - 16

They walked side by side with Indians, following the river, and stopping at holes in the ground.

“Here,” said the native and sat down to talk. Here was where someone had lived, where something had happened, where history’d been made. And here; he stopped again. And here; another told the tale of another hole. The walk from lobstered harbor to village was a walk through history. Empty plains were homes of the brave; empty hills their throne.

“Where are they gone?”

“They died. Caught by the plague.”

Life hung by a thread and holes in the ground told its shade.

November drabbles - 15

“Will you marry me; my wife is six weeks dead, I need another?”
“Will you marry me; my husband's eight weeks gone?”
“Will you marry me; my daughter’s sad'n' really needs a mother?”
“Will you marry me, be father to my son?”
“Will you marry me; I need someone to cook the food I grow?”
“Will you marry me and bring me food to cook?”
“Will you marry me; I’m lonely here, and so…”
“I’ll marry you; I’ve nowhere else to look.”
They married each, no need for priest, which Gospels don’t decree,
In accordance with “laudable custom,” secular, free.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November drabbles - 14

Sea and sky colored dismal gray in light that drained away to speckled haze.
“Don’t like it here,” said Emma watching Mayflower’s wavering form.
“Tough.” Her mother pulled her away. “Will you help me cook tomorrow?”

The daughter sighed, watching birds that cried their song in colorless shade.
“Indians,” she said.
“They’ll not come near.”
But they marched bright-robed and dancing like snakes in the pass.
“Are you scared?” asked Emma.
“They’re just visiting dear. Will you help me clean tomorrow? “

Mayflower sailed, the Indians left, and Emma chose a gray-green grass-snake pet.
“Will you help me build tomorrow?”

November drabbles - 13

War or Peace? I don’t mind. Here’s the deal; tipped arrow shining, or blunt release. Which one d’you choose?

And yes, I know I’m not wearing coat’n pants. I’m not naked though, for all your fine words in your book. Have a look. Walk around me. Stare. I don’t care if you find our ways strange. You’ll learn enough.

Food’s good, yes, thanks. Reminds me of Somerset. And I learned soon enough in my time.

Call me Samoset, if you need a name, but tell me what you’ll give. I’m offering War or Peace. Will you die here, or live?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November drabbles - 12

On the boat, she helped her mother tend the children, and she felt sick. Waves tossed her round. Salt drenched her gown. And she felt sick some more.

In the bay, she helped her mother tend the children, and she felt sick. Neighbors died, were carried aground, buried down where none could save them.

In the house, one long low smelly and miserable place she felt sick again. She buried the lost, tended the living and felt sick.

She mended the wounded, best she could, and wished her parents still lived. She got sick, prayed, God saved, and she survived.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November drabbles - 11

Shores of the land were dotted with homes, sweet smoke pluming into the sky. Fields of the land were ripe with corn and squash trailed its yield on the vine. Streams of the land bore fish and sand bore clams, retrieved from boats built out of hollowed-out pine.

Faraway travelers made wishes and plans, bought a ship and believed, “This we can.”

Sickness spilled and the land filled with bones. Homes fell to the earth, smoke died in the hearth, and crops turned to rot in the mud.

Then travelers brought rebirth to the hollowed-out home. “This land is mine.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November drabbles - 10

A rock stuck out in the waters, a sheltered spot, flat-topped and safe in the space of a comforting harbor. The man stepped dry-shod onto land and knew after all their time and toil and trouble, here they would stand.

The woman leaned over the waters at the rail of the ship, watching the tide’s angry waves roiling wildly below. Another woman’s child had child. Another one was sick. Her sorrow cried for a son left behind, his absence wounding her soul.

Trees had no beauty to tempt her now and rocks no gift to save; the ocean her grave.

Monday, November 9, 2009

November drabbles - 9

He dressed in his best and colored his face, feathered arrows to fly straight and true. His wife laced love and jewels into his hair.

“They’ve stolen our corn and this winter we’ll starve,” he said, his eyes fixed on the child. His wife tasted love in the dripping of tears that they shared.

“They’ve stolen our souls from their graves.” She whispered and prayed.

“But don’t fear.” She hugged their child near while her man disappeared.

He was dead in his best and blood covered his face and his arrows were all gone away.

“Now they’ve stolen you too.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November drabbles - 8

“Look! People.”
“Friends.”
“And dogs. Let’s talk.”

But the strangers turned away and ran, with dogs kicking sand at their heels.

“They’re natives, see.”
“Get back to the ship.”
“I think that dog’s a wolf.”

From hilltops, strangers stared while white men wheeled around in their boat. “Why don’t they care?”
“Why don’t they share?”
“Why don’t they just float away?”

Then as a wolf turns round in its bed, Mayflower returned to spill her pilgrim load.

“D’you think they’re friends?”
“Don’t know.”
“Where will it end?”

They landed, empted graves and stores alike, denying hope. “This land is mine.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November drabbles - 7

They strolled the sand, guns in hand, sea to the right and grassland to the left, keeping the ship in sight. Kettles and pans lay discarded in the grass. Others had passed before. Bees hummed in fields of stubbled corn, long harvested and stored. And patches of empty ground were graves well-dug. Others had passed.

Only ghosts answered cries of geese and gull, haunting grasses and senses, whisps of light. Only ghosts tended corn hid in storage pits, though eyes stayed watching in the night. They didn’t believe in ghosts so they stole the food, leaving strangers to their plight.

Friday, November 6, 2009

November drabbles - 6

The mother thought it an island. She wondered how the ship had strayed so very close to shore. But no, sailors replied, for “Look, there’s more.” And all around poor humans watched while smooth-backed humps devoured the ocean’s unseen bounteous store.

The child called it a fish and swore it swam around the boat. “Look Mom. A fin.”

Father declared it dinner with a grin. He took his gun, and shot at it. The magazine exploded and the whale got fair away.

Around them nature ran her rugged course. And man, who studied dreams and plans, swam stubbornly for shore.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November drabbles - 5

Monday morning…

They dropped anchor Saturday and longed for shore. But Sunday’s the Lord’s Day with more important matters. Then Monday morning…

The little boat, so close to the waves, felt lost at Mayflower’s side. They staggered, stumbled down and sat, hugged tools to their chests and babies to the breast. Oars squealed, splashed bitter spray sweetened with land. Wet sand and grassland. Glorious cloudless sky.

Ducks flew and geese. Dinner! And mussels grew against the rocks. (Ah, and muscles were weakened later that day; eating them a mistake.)

Then sweet fresh water bubbled in a pond. Monday. Washing day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November drabbles - 4

“I saw a walking island once,” said the old man.
“No way!” said the child.
“I saw it walk into the bay, with trees as tall as heaven and leaves like the wind.”
“What did you do?”
“We went to see if we'd find friends or food.”
“And what did you see?”
“Grapes of lead and burning fire and death and desire.”

The young man remembered the conversation now. Gazing out from the trees he saw the wooden island drawing near. Its leaves were folded back on themselves and a boat set out for the shore. The future was here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November drabbles - 3

After the storm, there was land. And sure, the land was over the waves, but there was grass and trees and green, and green, and glorious green, after the blue and the gray.

The children ran and parents caught and held them to keep them safe, while the deck still rolled.

The parents ran and the children caught and held them to keep them near, while the sailors steered.

And then there was tide and tempest and fear, with the hills still too far though so near.

And then, their star-crossed voyage done, there was American earth beneath their feet

Monday, November 2, 2009

November drabbles - 2

Another short story in 100 words for November: A drabble that tries to imagine how the Mayflower's passengers might feel during a storm at sea.

“Stay below!”
“But I’m sick.”
“Stay below!”
“But I can’t”
“Stay below!”
“But I just want to breathe.”

So he ran up the ladder and leaned on the hatch and collapsed in the rain-storming gale, where the deck reeled insanely, the splashing waves lashed, and the rigging hung wailing and lost. Then he flailed as he prayed, and the waves tossed him way overboard.

Holding tight to the cord, holding tighter than tight he was hauled from his watery grave to alight on the deck.

They knew in that moment, hold tight onto God and he’ll save from eternity’s wreck.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November drabbles - 1

I read Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower a while ago - highly recommended. With that and other history books, I'm hoping I might stay fueled with ideas for a months worth of Thanksgiving drabbles - a hundred-word short story for each day in November.

They knew the world was ending from the fire up in the sky. They knew it, looking in the Book, when highest hopes bled dry and friends lay dying. Rabbles roused to fight throughout the streets that housed their dreams, their leader seeming lost to them in jail.

They knew the world was ending but they knew they had to try. And so they sailed the hopeful tide, but slow and should have known how man would fight and lie to them. Still, God defended, ever at their side.

Mayflower given, they sailed the mighty seas; world’s end and free.