Tuesday 20 March 2007

The Bridegroom

Recent events (getting engaged) and a chat with a fellow poet and soon to be bother-in-law reminded me of another short story - well, very short story, rather more like a fragment - that I wrote. This was last year, and like many stories came to me more or less complete leaving me only the task of trying to get it out and into words before it simply vanished. Usually I lose the race; occasionally I manage to keep up and very rarely I win. I'll leave it to ye to decide which where this particular story is concerned....I am reasonably happy with it myself.

The Bridegroom

His name is heavy in her mouth, not yet bitter but a little sour with unfamiliar syllables. She listens as her elders speak, turning the name over and over until it makes some sort of rhythm in her head. She pulls at the grass under hand, squating on the edge of the circle, head on one side. She keeps as silent as she can, in case they see her and send her away. It is her future they are deciding, she reasons, it is not fair to exclude her.

If her voice cannot be heard, then she could at least make use of her ears. However she knows that if her mother's eye alights on her that argument will hold no water and she'll be sent away to sit with her cousins and be silent.His name is thrown from mouth to mouth, now lightly and now with weight; sometimes attached to a "yes" and sometimes to a "no".

Her heart beats faster with each opinion advanced: she likes the way her grandfather shakes his head. He thinks she is over young and that a match made so early may be repented. Events can change, he says sagely. Everyone nods at this. She shudders at her Aunt, who is forceful and has a name for persausion. Her Aunt talks about family ties and property, about good matches and cows, linking marriage and livestock in the same breadth. His name is bartered against the future, a hostage to the winds of time and change - will there be years of good crops and regular rains? will they still need his people as friends and allies?

Old eyes peer into the possiblities: old hands try to feel the shape of things to come. Her own name flutters here and there, but almost apologetically, as if her role in it all was faintly embarrassing. As if security and prosperity should not be purchased with such a little thing as she.His name is said at last with finality. At the beginning other names had been mentioned, peppering the discussion as counterpoints to the main theme.

Now only his name, a recitative, the motif of the day, sounds from every lip in turn. Her skin prickles and she feels cold. His name is now linked to hers. A name she can barely pronounce. Her own name, once so light and airy, prettier than her sisters' names, a joyful name - now has an anchor tying it to earth. Her name used to soar like a small bird, or flutter inevery passing breeze like a ribband. Now his name catches it, holds it down, lends feet of clay to her happiness.

She creeps away, to sit alone.


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