Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Dead Soldiers on Parade"

This poem belongs to the series One God's Story of Mid-Life Crisis, which you can explore further on the Serial Poetry page.  It came out of discussions following the first poem, "Good Help Is Hard To Find."  It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

Warning: This series deals with Shaeth, former God of Evil; and his new friend Trobby, a drunk.  Their problem-solving skills are thus not up to conventional standards, but they're trying real hard, so be patient with them while they flail their way toward functionality.

Dead Soldiers on Parade

After they fled from the burning tavern
with the village militia hot on their heels,
Shaeth reflected that perhaps
setting fire to places that served alcohol
was not the best way to keep Trobby sober.

This effort was turning out to be
another one of those things
that looked easier than it actually was.

Sure, he could drag Trobby out of a tavern
but if there was kicking and screaming --
which there was, unless Trobby was already
too sloshed to respond to the change of venue --
that also tended to attract unwanted attention.
And none of this, Shaeth suspected,
was particularly Good.

"You know," Trobby said tartly
when Shaeth set him down
in the safety of a thornbrake,
"part of the point to getting drunk less often
was so I'd have some chance of holding a job.
Can't do that if everyone hates us."

Shaeth refrained from pointing out that this
had never stopped him from getting jobs before,
but those were the kinds of jobs he no longer wanted.
"It's not like I claimed to know what I'm doing,"
he grumbled.  "I don't have any experience with being Good."

Then Trobby chuckled and clapped him on the shoulder.
"It's not like I have much experience with being sober,"
he said.  "We'll muddle along somehow."
"Muddle is the word for it," Shaeth said,
looking at the wet clay under their feet,
but he didn't argue the point further.

So the next time Trobby went into a tavern,
Shaeth did not drag him out immediately,
nor did he set the building on fire.
Instead he shattered every other bottle,
figuring that would make Trobby half as drunk.

The bartender loomed over Shaeth and said,
"Hey, dumbass, quit wasting the booze!
You want to break something,
go play with the dead soldiers over there."
He jerked a thumb at a row of empty bottles.

Now Shaeth knew a spell for animating the dead,
which only worked on formerly living things,
but perhaps he could tweak it just a bit ...

Soon Shaeth had a line of little glass skeletons
parading somewhat drunkenly across the table.
Trobby put down his half-full bottle to stare at them.

A couple of other customers abandoned the bar
to come stare at the display.
"Can they do anything else?" the shorter man asked.
"Can you make them fight?" the taller man said.
"That would be a great show."

Of course Shaeth knew a spell
for animating tin soldiers on a war room table.
He imposed on the barkeeper for empty bottles of brown glass,
and soon there were two lines of skeletal soldiers
squaring off on the table.
"Fight!  Fight!  Fight!" chanted the customers.

Shaeth really missed Zargon.
His high priest was exceptionally skilled at such exercises.
The two of them usually worked the war room table together,
each manning the troops on one side.
Trying to put on a good show while controlling both armies
was a lot harder, with nobody to challenge his strategies.
There was Trobby, but he was tipsy already,
and doubtless wouldn't even know the probability cantrips
that determined who won a given skirmish.

So the battle was more of a brawl,
but the audience didn't seem to care,
and they all cheered loudly whenever a skeleton
went down in a tinkle of glass shards.
Coins changed hands as they bet on the fighting.

By the time the tavern closed,
Trobby was still only tipsy, not falling-down-drunk,
having spent half the time watching dead soldiers on parade
instead of all the time drinking.

As the barkeeper ushered them out the door he said,
"That was a pretty good show.
If you do it again this endweek, I'll give you
a couple of wine bottles with green glass
and let you put out a tip jar."

"Deal," said Shaeth.  Then he turned to Trobby.
"All right, now we have a job."
"We do?" Trobby said dubiously.
"Yes.  We're entertainers now," said Shaeth.
"But you were doing all the work,"
Trobby pointed out.  "I just watched."

Shaeth grinned.  "Don't worry," he said.
"I can teach you some spells for that."
"But I'm not a mage or a priest!" Trobby protested.
"I can't do any magic."

"I'm still a god," Shaeth said.  "I can give you magic.
It's one of the main things people want from gods."
So Trobby agreed to become a priest of the God of Drunks
and to learn magic, which turned out to be
a lot more fun than it looked like.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, writing

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