1.A Chapter by Shiloh Black
Amphion Saint-Benedict Oswald strolled through the park with no particular goal to direct his steps. No one could have guessed that he had once worn a uniform the way a normal man wore eyebrows. His uniform was not an essential component of his being, but without it others found there was something altered by way of his appearance that they could not touch upon. The ice-blue shirt of heavy canvas would pleat at his neck and fall crisply along the contours of his chest and arms, not diminishing or burying his figure, but lending emphasis to its raw power by the way each muscle seemed to visibly bulge and tense beneath the fabric. His hair -- red with a hint of copper -- would have been an anarchic noise had he worn it any other way than he did : combed, parted, and slicked to a smooth finish; not a statement of style, but a polished cap upon his uniform to complement the sacred austerity of brass buttons and golden lapels.
The Amphion who plodded wearily among the Hemlock and Cattail bore no resemblance to a man of uniform. Three years without so much as flashing a badge had caused his figure to repent of its harsh suppleness. His hair was a loose halo of wild scarlet knots that invaded the wings of his jaws, which had once been as smooth as granite. The ripe mounds of his cheeks had been turned into gaping depressions which served only to emphasize the stark, rectangular geometry of his face.
On a park bench he lowered himself, grateful to rest his strained knees. It afforded him a view of the pond, which in the sunlight was smeared with a rainbow of color, like the inside of a prism. Oil slicks, he knew were the cause. The silvery smudges were like a brilliant sheet upon the water -- it looked beautiful, almost dreamlike.
By the bank’s peak he spied two children -- boys -- huddled in the conspiratorial way that all parents recognized as an admission of guilt. Amphion was not a parent, but he was all too familiar with many a crook.
“Boys!” he barked in a raw voice as he hobbled towards the bank. “What’re you up to?”
The children glanced up at him, eyes wide and innocent. One held a stone in his hands. He wore clothes that did not look too big on him, but rather, too old -- as if a man’s garment had been shrunken to fit his size.
Amphion lifted his eyes from the boy and gazed across the pond. There, bobbing obliviously on the water’s surface, was a duck with her young loosely gathered about her. At the thought of impending cruelty, Amphion felt his heart strain against his chest, not because cruelty was foreign to his body, but because he himself was so familiar with it -- it was written on the blunt, unshaped hands he stashed in his trench coat pockets. Swords had sheathes and guns had holsters, but his hands had only pockets.
The weight of his severity lifted . He looked upon the boys and saw only children -- with no reasonable thought to put to name in those tiny skulls of theirs -- and felt pity for them. “Put the stone down,” said Amphion.
“I weren’t going to do anything with it,” the boy shot back in a high, whiny voice.
“I see those ducks over there, just as well as you do. Don’t tell me you didn’t think to yourselves that you could hit one, if you so desired.”
At him, the boy’s friend gleamed. He wore a suit that had likely been pressed and clean before his venture down the bank of silt and mud. “You bet I could hit it! I got a quail once with my dad, when we went hunting. Shot it right out of the air.”
“And what about you? When you picked up that stone, did you think you could land a hit?”
“I guess so,” said the boy, “but I weren’t gonna do anything.”
“But you had every intention of it,” Amphion pressed. His tone was neither cruel nor accusatory: it was a voice of steady caution.
“Are you a cop? Look, I ain’t lifted a finger ‘gainst that duck!”
“But you already have. The moment you picked up that stone, you knew what you were going to do. Here now you may stand before me and proclaim your innocence until Christ comes, but your original intentions will remain unchanged whether or not you come to grasp with them, because when you picked up that stone, you picked up a stone to kill.”
Finally, Amphion felt as though he had run out of things to say, and his presence became an obstruction. He retreated, the rush of his own blood screaming in his ears, and the stone had not left the child’s hand -- but it would soon, on a doomed trajectory.
He could have disarmed the child and spared the duck, but he felt then the words he’d spoken would be lost. It was better for the child to throw and to hit -- or to miss -- and feel afterwards the sting of holding a life hostage with a single decision. Then, perhaps, he would do nothing worse in his lifetime than kill a duck.
Down the bank Amphion slid, and from the earth he plucked a stone. As the water lapped against his shoes, icy water that soaked straight through to his socks, he turned the stone over in the palm of his hand. He wondered vaguely of the power he clasped, how he might use the stone to kill a duck, or a child, or a man. He drew his arm back and felt the power of his tendons as they contracted and stretched his muscles, and he pretended the motion of a lethal blow, but he knew the stone would not leave his hand with such design. With a suppressed flick of his wrist, he flung the stone over the silver sheet. It skipped above the surface and left booming ripples in its wake that tore the water apart like a curtain. The stone was flat and broad -- he had selected it for the exact purpose of skipping, and no amount of visualization could ever translate into a reality where the skipping stone became a weapon. Amphion Saint-Benedict Oswald had decided long ago that he would never again wield a stone to kill.
© 2010 Shiloh Black
Added on June 14, 2010
Last Updated on June 14, 2010
A Stone to Kill
Saint John, Canada
AboutI presently reside in Atlantic Canada. My interests, aside from writing include drawing, reading, and indulging in my love of all things British. I'm currently attending the University of Dalhousie, w.. more..