Third Boy. A re-write of an old story.

Discussion in 'Inspired Art' started by Larry {the} Gardener, Apr 16, 2016.

    Larry {the} Gardener

    Larry {the} Gardener Well-Known Member

    This story has been sitting for three or four years. Today I dusted it off and made a few changes. I spent a lot of time with these guys back when I was writing it. Kind of like running into old friends.

    Hope you guys enjoy it.

    Chapter 1 {part 1}

    14 November 1717 [New Style]

    Lars Pieper's behind was starting to hurt. He had sat in the fork of the little tree about as long as he could stand it. He turned the short telescope from the small village of Sedelsburg, where he was hoping to see some lady undressing, back to the Dorpen Canal, where he was supposed to be looking for barges. The canal was empty both ways.

    He went back to looking in people's windows. He saw several women, a few of them just home from church. Sadly none of them were undressing. But Lars, being a thirteen year old boy, didn't let reality get in the way of a good fantasy. He went from window to window until he found the prettiest women and just imagined her undressing. Soon he was squirming in the fork of the tree and not just because his butt hurt.

    He made a sweep of the other houses, then back to the canal.

    “Oh shit!” There was a wheat barge coming down the canal and it was close. He must have looked at the pretty lady longer than he thought.

    Lars slid down the tree and called out, “barge coming! It's an old man and a boy. And they are close, let's go.”

    Lars' Uncle Anton wasn't happy. He had earned the nickname Ton because of his two hundred seventy five pounds. And he was not against throwing his weight around. This was his gang and he never let the others forget it. He said, “I told you to tell me in plenty of time. This is a job, you know. We are not out for a Sabbath afternoon boat ride.”

    Looking up at the sun, Lars said, “it is the Sabbath afternoon, and we are going for a boat ride.”

    Ton tried to backhand the boy. But Lars had feet as quick as his tongue. All Ton slapped was air.

    “There is plenty of time if you will get going,” Lars said over his shoulder, as he ran and climbed in the wherry.

    The Moormann brothers were already in the boat. They were lowering the leafy branches used to disguise the mast. When they had the branches removed, Josef stood by with the throat and peak-halliards in his hands, ready to raise the mainsail as Franz went to the tiller. August Merkel was standing at the bow, knee deep in the reed filled water, waiting to push the wherry out when Ton got aboard.

    Ton wanted to argue with his nephew. He wanted to impress on him the importance of doing a job right, of having pride in your work. And now that Lars was in the wherry and couldn't dodge him, Ton wanted to knock the living shit out of him. But the barge was getting closer all the time, so he just climbed aboard.

    August pushed them off and climbed in, rolling over the side. Once Josef had the mainsail set, he pulled the jib in place with the jib-sheets. The sails were big for the size of the wherry, and she responded to the wind quickly.

    Ton couldn't help himself, he had to say something. He was the gang's leader, after all. It was his responsibility to instruct them. “Everyone knows your job, let's do this like professionals. No fuss, no muss. We have had a couple of setbacks lately, but this will make up for them. Let's go out there and get the job done the right way. You men make me proud today.”

    They were in a creek beside the Dorpen Canal. There were a few trees growing on the dike here, a rarity in this low, wet land. A small side canal connected the creek to the main canal. It was right at three hundred fifty yards long. When the wherry reached the end of it and come out into the canal, they were already doing four knots and gaining speed with every passing minute. The barge, heavily loaded with wheat, had just passed. She was only doing about three knots.

    The wherry overtook the barge and the men had the grappling hooks on her in four or five minutes. August was the first aboard, as he was the most skilled in this aspect of the operation. He ran up behind the bargeman, knocked him out with his sap and caught him as he fell. The bargeman was laid out on the deck within five seconds of August's feet touching the barge. He turned to the young boy, to take him out in the same manner.

    Lars came running by him, his cutlass in the air. He let loose a crazy scream. The boy raised his hand, to ward off the blow. Lars slashed down with the cutlass, slicing through the boy's hand, and splitting his forehead. The boy looked just like he was using the back of his hand to check for a fever.

    Except for the cutlass stuck in his forehead. Two fingers were on one side of the cutlass and two fingers and his thumb on the other side.

    Josef had released the halliards and sheets, lowering the sails on the wherry. Franz climbed aboard the barge and took the tiller. August got a bucket of river water, brought it to the bargeman and held his head under until he was for sure drowned. No one said anything. It was Ton's place to discipline Lars for screwing up. He was the leader. And Lars was his nephew, anyway.

    You never cut anybody if you could help it. And never, ever, did you cut a child. This was bad for their business.

    August took a lot of pride in his work. He could hit someone with his sap so there would never be a broken bone and rarely a bruise. This was something you learned after years on the job. When they were down, then you drowned them at your leisure. He even used river water instead of the drinking water from the scuttlebutt. With all the modern improvements in criminal detection, you couldn't be too careful. The body would be carried downstream past the next town, so the location of the attack was in doubt. And when the body was found, all they knew for sure was a man had drowned.

    There was a proper way to kill and rob people. August didn't like working with a crazy kid like Lars. The boy just had no respect for traditions.

    Ton was thinking much the same thing. Why had his sister gone and got herself killed? Now that she was gone, he had to look after the kid. Some said Lars had killed his mother, but it was never proven. She had been chopped in the head though, just like the bargeman's boy.

    Lars was trying to get his cutlass out of the boy's head, but it was stuck fast. He put his foot on the boy's neck and pulled up. The head lifted up, but the cutlass didn't come loose. Lars let it drop back to the deck with a thump. He seemed to like the sound. He went thump, thump, thump with the boy's head. He tried again to pull the cutlass free, this time putting his boot on the boy's chin. The cutlass stayed stuck. In a flash, Lars pulled his belt-knife and started stabbing the boy repeatedly in the chest and throat.

    Ton ran and slapped Lars with his open hand. The boy went down hard and slid across the deck. Lars' head slammed against the deck-house and he lay still.

    “Sweet Jesus preserves us. Please protect us from that Devil Child,” Ton said. He never failed to pray when there was trouble. Most other times he never gave the Good Lord much thought. Turning to the others, he ask, “what have we done to anger God so? And he is my own blood, that is the worst part. If I wasn't so firm in my faith, it could make a man have doubts about the Grace of God.”

    The others just nodded their heads, not knowing what to say. The truth of the matter, they knew that Ton could be just as crazy as his nephew if something struck him the wrong way.

    After a moment of deep reflection, Ton shook his head to clear the confusing thoughts and said, “Franz, take the bodies and get rid of them. We will be cleaning up here. I know a man in Heidbrucken, John Bert. He will buy the barge and the wheat.”

    Franz said, “we need another boat if you can find one. It's been tough since we lost our other one.”

    “I'll buy a boat while I'm there. John has a boatyard and there is always something for sale. Catch back up with us, and we will plan where to meet up. After this mess we need to put as many miles behind us we can.”

    Placing the heel of his foot on the boy's chest with his toes on the chin, he pulled the cutlass free. He washed it off, and put it away where Lars couldn't get to it. Ton had to admit to himself, the boy scared the crap out of him too. Ton would fight anyone, anywhere, without fear. But the boy was just plain crazy, and you never knew when he was going to go off. It made it hard for a fellow to relax.
    Larry {the} Gardener

    Larry {the} Gardener Well-Known Member

    Chapter 1 {part 2}

    After checking the dead boy's pockets, he held him by his feet, and washed the blood off him the best he could in the canal. Then he tossed him over into the wherry with the other body. Franz covered the bodies with an old sailcloth, and got underway.

    The wheat was loaded in bulk and covered with canvas. But the after part of the barge where the killing had happened was also where all the cooking and sleeping happened. There were cooking utensils and casks of food stored on deck. Ton started cleaning the blood up, moving casks around as he did. Lars really had him worried. If the boy had killed his own mother, what would an uncle be to him? Not a damn thing, that's what. When he went off like that, there was nothing to do but get out of the way. Twice before today, he had had to knock him out. It was the only way to keep from having to kill him.

    Thinking back to when his sister had a pretty steady thing going with a fisherman, Ton remembered the drought the man had given Lars when he started to get out of hand. Was it an extract of hennep? Whatever it was, Ton wished he had a little of it. When they got a little time on their hands, he was surely going to the apothecary in some town and see if they knew what would work on the boy. Or send the Moormann brothers.

    At least the wheat would bring in a good deal of coin. It being three months after harvest, the price would be up. As long as he didn't warn Bert about the trouble with the job, that is. Now when they had finally made a good haul, Lars had to go and spoil it all by cutting and stabbing the boy. He had no doubt that this would bring a hue and cry against them. And all Ton wanted was to be left alone, so he could practice his profession in peace.
    Larry {the} Gardener

    Larry {the} Gardener Well-Known Member

    Chapter 2 {part 1}

    26 November

    Today had started out like any other day. I was up before daylight to help with the milking. Then after breakfast, my mother had lessons for me, my brother and two sisters. I was the oldest at fifteen, and my brother Bruno the youngest at nine. My sisters, Emma and Helga, were eleven and thirteen.

    Today was French day. All the lessons were in French. My mother was a native Francophone and we had all picked it up while still at her breast. My sisters used it around the house as much as East Frisian. Hearing Emma and Helga recite the European capitals in French was like listening to a choir sing.

    We did our lessons in French, Dutch, German, Saxon and East Frisian, as well as English. In some ways, English was the backward most of languages. Yet in other ways it was similar to East Frisian. I'm not sure, but I think it comes from the early occupation of England by Frisians and Saxons. We also had to practice Spanish and the northern languages, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish.

    I was better at Arithmetic than my mother, so I taught my siblings that. And when it got to North American geography, my father would come in from his woodworking shop and lend a hand. He had first hand experience on that Continent.

    We stayed at it most of the morning, a good two and a half hours today. Our last lesson was the history of the rise and fall of the Free Frisian Republic. We worked on it until the girls had to go help with dinner. Bruno and I went outside to do the rest of our chores and see what our father needed done.

    Dinnertime was the one time all day when we took the time to relax and just enjoy the company of our family. We ate simple food, but there was plenty of it. We always had bread and most days there was some kind of cabbage and pork dish. There was also peas or beans. And with us being in the dairy business, there was lots of cheese and butter to go with our bread. But we didn't tarry over our tea. There was still half a day's work to be done. After our training, of course.

    After dinner everyday, my father and I would do an hour of weapons training before working the rest of the afternoon in his shop. We worked with staffs, swords, bows, muskets and pistols, hand to hand and then staffs again. We did a different weapon everyday. But only six days a week. I did get the Sabbath off.

    After weapons training, we would go to the workshop and work on whatever piece my father had going at the time. Right now he was making a table and four chairs from Cuban Mahogany. It was a slow process, but we were through with the table and three of the chairs. I was looking forward to turning the last four chair legs on the lathe. Even if my father didn't let me do the last precise cuts, I still got to shape them. Working the big wheeled lathe with the small, razor sharp chisels was one of my favorite parts of furniture making. It didn't hurt that Bruno was having to turn the wheel instead of me.

    My father was from the Perl region in the western part of central Germany. My mother had lived right across the Moselle River in France. As a boy, he had studied under one of the master furniture makers in France. But the religious violence from that area had driven him into West Frisia in The Netherlands as a teenager. He had only moved to Emden East Frisia in 1701 when him and my mother had married.

    We finished dinner and walked to the barn to start training with the staffs. The staff was my father's favorite weapon. That is why we used them twice a week. For a forty year old man, he was still fast. I had to really stay on my toes or he would brain me. I was already getting my mind ready to switch from son to enemy as I slipped on the padded leather jacket and helmet. Even with the padding, when you get hit in the head with four and a half foot piece of wood, you know it. When we got going, I tried as hard as I could to lay him out, but I very rarely hurt him. He would par and thrust with the end of the staff, hitting me in the chest and knocking the breath out of me. When I went down, he never hit me while I was on the ground.

    But he would always say, in his quiet way of talking, “Hans, you are dead.” He would turn his head, looking at me from the side for several seconds, with a very solemn look on his face, like he was disappointed I hadn't done better. Then he would show his slow forming grin, letting me know it was all in fun.

    We both noticed a sail out on the Dollard as we changed into the soft leather shoes we trained in. The shoes were cut from a single layer of calf hide we saved just for the shoes. This was something my father had brought back with him from North America. He had learned much from the natives there, and wasn't above using their methods if he thought they were better. The sail was down the dike about a quarter mile, and coming this way. But one of the things weapons training had taught me was to clear my mind from all distractions. So I didn't think about the sail coming this way as I got ready to do battle with my father.

    In minutes were locked in combat, going around in circles, looking for an opening. I gripped the cool, wet sand with my toes as I circled, working to get an opening. I had got wood on him only twice in the quarter hour we had been sparring. He had hit me four or five times so far. But I hadn't gone down yet, and he hadn't really hurt me but once.

    We circled in the sand, looking for an opening. I almost got him a solid lick across his left shoulder, but he rolled away and tried to sweep my legs from under me. I went down to keep from getting hit across the shins. We both were back on our feet and trying little jabs and thrust, using the lull to catch our breath.

    Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Abner walking across the polder, coming up toward the house. I must have turned to look, because I never saw the staff coming.

    Five minutes later when I opened my eyes, my father and Abner were sitting on the bench outside the barn, having a cup of tea. My father said, “Hans, your tea is going to get cold. Are you going to sleep all day? Oh, I almost forgot. You are dead.” He shared his slow, sideways grin with Abner before taking another sip of tea.

    I rolled over on my hands and knees, then using the staff for support, got to my feet. By the time I had walked over to them and picked up my cup of tea, I had almost stopped wobbling. But I still had a bad headache and ringing in my ears that experience had taught me could last for a couple of hours. Or a couple of days.

    Abner said, “sorry if I distracted you, Hans. That stroke looked like it hurt.”

    “It didn't feel good,” I said.

    “He needs to learn not to be distracted. Abner came by to see if you wanted to go with him upriver to Haneken. The pay is fifteen Gulden a month, with four or five weeks work. With Jan finishing the Schooner, I told him you needed the work. What do you say?”

    “Abner, will you hit me in the head with a piece of wood while I'm working for you?” Abner shook his head. So I took my helmet off and said, “no. Good, I won't be needing this then. When do we leave?”

    “When you get your pack ready. It has been rainy and cold, so pack accordingly. And we will be doing salt-beef, so bring a good knife.”

    My father said, “take your fishing tackle, your bow and plenty of arrows. And that far south, there is lots of trees. You may see some bigger game than around here, so take your rifled musket and a brace of pistols.”

    I took the empty cups and went up to the house to pack. Bruno, my little brother, was practicing for a job as a newspaperman. As I got my pack together, he ask me the when, where, what, and why about my trip. I told him what I knew, which was little. I packed warm clothes, with plenty of extra stockings. One thing I hate is wet stockings.

    As I was walking out of the room I remembered my Gunter's Rule and little book of logarithms. There might be some calculations needed on the trip that were too hard to do without assistance. Going back in, I took the two foot rule and the small leather bound book from my wardrobe and added them to the pack. The rule was of my father's construction, with a sliding insert. It was one of my most prized possessions.

    Taking the pack, I went to the front room and got my musket out of the gun cabinet, then my brace of pistols. I dug around and got the bags of shot and the powder flasks that went with them. I put the pistols, powder flasks and shot in my pack. Then rolled the long gun, along with my bow and a quiver of arrows in two blankets and tied them up with string. Then I wrapped that bundle up in my tarp and tied it again.

    On the way out of the house, I mussed Bruno's hair, then gave my mother a hug and a kiss. My sisters paused in their rocking of the butter churn long enough to wave and call goodbye. I shouldered my packs, and walked out to the barn where my father and Abner were.

    I said, “I'm packed.”

    My father shook my hand and said, “give Abner an honest day's work. We will see you in the New Year. Be careful.”

    Abner and I walked across the polder to the dike. I could see the mast of the little boat he had borrowed over the dike. He had tied it beside our boat to one of the mooring posts close to our windmill. With all the rain we had had this fall and winter, the windmill was having a time pumping the water out of the ditches that drained the polders into the Dollart. We walked across at the highest part of the polder, halfway between two drainage ditches, but our feet were still slipping in the mud.

    A polder is a field that is below sea level and has been reclaimed by building dikes and pumping the water over the dike. All the fields of our farm and the ones on both sides of it were polders. All this land used to be under water.
    Larry {the} Gardener

    Larry {the} Gardener Well-Known Member

    Chapter 2 {part 2}

    The top of the dike was sixteen feet above the polder and twelve above the level of the Dollart on the other side. So the boat was four feet higher than we were. I got to the dike and climbed up to the top. The first thing I saw was Henry sleeping in the bow of the boat. Henry lived a quarter mile up the dike from me and we had been best friends our whole lives. If he was going on the trip, it was looking up already.

    “So Henry is going with us. Are you going to hire anyone else?”

    “I already have. A boy named Fair Beck. You are the third boy.”

    I walked down the side of the dike to the bow of the boat. “Wake up Henry, it's time to eat,” I said.

    He rolled over and said, “what's for supper? Oh, it's you, joking around again.”

    Henry was famous for his love of food. When we worked the Grand Banks together, the other men would stand back and just watch Henry at chow time. And he was so intent on eating, he never noticed. He got up and when I pushed off, he raised the sails. The boat was small and the sheets and halliards were run back to the tiller so one man could have manned the boat alone. But Henry pulled the sails in place, letting Abner tie the lines off at the cleats in the after part of the boat.

    We crossed the Dollart, a large, well protected bay, twenty five miles off the North Sea. Emden sat on it's east bank, and The Netherlands on it's west and north banks. The border between East Frisia and West Frisia, which was in Holland proper, was a canal just two miles from our farm. East Frisia was a republic in The Netherlands, but we thought of ourselves as an independent country. But the Dutch might have different thoughts on the matter.

    The entrance to Emden Harbor was about five miles from our farm. The main docks reached over a mile back from the Dollart. It took us an hour to reach Abner's barge, moored half way down the city docks.

    Abner had gone over the plan for the rest of the day during the crossing. As soon as we stowed our packs, we were hard at it. He gave us a list of shops and stores where he had placed orders and we went off to bring the goods back to the barge. He had bought a little of everything and we carted it back on hand trucks.

    And let me say, if I have to push a load, a few bolts of cloth is better than half a barrel of tools. We made four trips to four different blacksmith's shops. Each time, pushing a partially filled barrel of tools, chain, nails and plow points back to the barge.

    We had most of the list taken care of by dark. But we were wore out. Henry and I stretched out on the deck of the barge as soon as we got the last load stowed. My head ache had returned, and I was looking forward to getting to bed early.

    Abner said, “I'm going over to Petkum to pick up Fair. Do you guys want to go?”

    Henry said, “I'm all used up. I think I will stay here.”

    “Alright. I might be late, they are known for long suppers.”

    Henry raised up and said, “did you say supper? Sure we want to go. I've been looking forward to meeting Fair. Hans, get up, we are going to eat. I mean, meet Fair.”

    So with J B, the son of the warehouse man, guarding the barge, we set out to Petkum in the borrowed boat with two casks of fish. It was about three miles away, up a short canal on the north bank, right where the Ems river flowed into the Dollart. When we got there, we rolled the casks to the Beck's shop first. Abner traded the fish for a few more things needed on the trip. Including a few vials of medicine. Fair's uncle on his mother's side had been an apothecary, and when he died a year or so back, the Becks had taken his stock into their store. Fair ground and mixed the medicines while Abner watched.

    Fair turned out to be a tall, thin, blonde haired, blue eyed boy. He was about my height. That is five foot nine inches. Abner had told us on the way over, Fair had never farmed or worked on a boat, so we would have to show him the ropes.

    We walked from the shop to the Beck's house. It was on the same block, but on the opposite side, on a different street. The house looked big. That is until we went inside and I saw how many brothers and sisters Fair had. He would love going on the trip. Just for the peace and quite, if nothing else. I never got a definite count, but there was between five and seven of the kids, counting Fair.

    When we did sit down to eat supper, all the younger ones ate in the kitchen. Only me, Abner, Henry, Fair, his mother, father and Sabine, his fourteen year old sister, ate in the dining room. I had always thought my family was lively until I met the Becks. There was more laughing and carrying on than most people see in a month.

    And Abner was not kidding about long suppers. We were at the table for over an hour. Soon all the younger kids had finished eating and had joined us. Everyone was telling stories and cracking jokes, all at the same time.

    The noise seemed to get louder and louder, as my headache came back in waves. And the heat from the little peat stove in the kitchen was pouring through the door. This one was going to be worse than the last one. I needed to get outside where it was cool and quiet.

    I stood to start for the door, but somehow my feet got tangled in the chair legs and I fell, hitting my head on the table leg. It didn't knock me out, but I knew it would hurt real bad if I moved, so I lay still with my eyes closed as the Becks gathered around me on the floor.

    Fair ask, “what's wrong? Where does it hurt?”

    “He took a bad blow to the head this afternoon, Fair,” Abner said. “He will be fine in day or two. But maybe you should get something from the store to help him sleep tonight.”

    Fair helped me to my feet after a few minutes. The rest on the floor seemed to help. Or maybe it was just all the Beck kids were quiet for the moment. Whatever it was, my head wasn't pounding quite as hard as it had been.

    “Sorry for all the commotion, Mrs. Beck,” I said. “I'm feeling better now. If I could just step outside for some fresh air, I'll be fine.”

    Abner said, “we are all stepping outside for some fresh air. The sun comes up early and we will be up before that. We better call it a night. Boys, don't forget to thank your host.”

    We stopped back by the shop and while Fair got a few more vials of medicine and put it in his little pack, the rest of us carried the goods Abner had bought down to the boat. Mr. Beck and a couple of the boys helped move the goods down to the wharf. Fair said his goodbyes to his family and we got underway. The trip back was assisted by the current from the Ems. It pushed us back to Emden and the barge in half the time it had taken us going against the current.

    When we got the boat tied up, I woke Henry and helped load the goods on the barge. Abner showed us where to put our clothes and other gear. Then he showed us how to hang our hammocks in the tiny hold. Henry went right back to sleep. His snoring reminded me of our time in the saw pit. Although he was louder than any pit saw.

    Fair said, “this should really be mixed with a cup of tea, but it's too late to be lighting a fire. I'll just add it to a cup of water.”

    He added a paste to the water and stirred it with a spoon. When it was to his satisfaction, he handed it to me.

    “What is this you are giving me?” I ask.

    “Just something to help you sleep. It's mostly an extract of hennep.”

    “Do you mean like the hemp we make rope from?”

    “It's kind of like that, but grown for it's medicinal properties. Go ahead and drink it down.”

    I was expecting a sour taste, but was pleasantly surprised. It was like a very smelly mint. I couldn't feel any effects from the drink. But it wasn't making me feel worse, so what could it hurt? I thanked Fair, set my internal wake up call for a half hour before sunrise and went to sleep.

    Nugachino Well-Known Member

    It's really good. Long. But good.

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