A Story by Willys Watson

The first half of this is in verse and the second half in prose. I suppose this could be called averse / prose hybrid because that is what it really is. Have other poets done this, to? I really don’t


1. The Beginning

During the Earth’s mad regression,
as multitudes slaughtered each
other in their own god’s name,
yet another child was born.

Metaphorically conceived in an infant state,
wrapped in a warm blanket, left in a basket near
the disputed intersection of Lost and Found 
where hypocrites passed judgement on all but themselves.

Chastised by the pious as deserving it’s fate,
an assumed byproduct of original sins, 
now condemned by dogma’s wrath, this flawed, fragile waif
cried out only to be cuddled, nourished and loved.

While the righteous turned away
a young woman, disdaining  
denominational ire,
embraced the child as her own.


And given the name of Janus,
the girl was raised in a home
that revered all genders as
creations most precious gift,

a place where women were perceived as equals and
could be wives by choice, mothers by desire, scholars
by inclination or leaders through circumstance:
a haven holding destiny’s child in faith’s hands.

And although handicapped from birth, Janus quickly 
learned to unleash her mind from the physique’s facade,
lifting her soul through the freedom that knowledge brings:
an effort that brought true wisdom beyond her years.
When answers generated
further questions the asking
soon became paramount to
deciphering life’s quagmires.

3. The Fear

As her insights became well known
she was deemed a prodigy,
perhaps divinely inspired,
possibly demon possessed.

Her adopted kinfolk feared for her because she
was born in a place, in a time, where women had 
little rights: limited to baby makers and
obedient, second-class citizen housewives.

Those who rebelled could be jailed, flogged and stoned and the
women who could not bear children were often shunned
by their own family and  became servants for
the wealthiest class who could afford to hire them.

Children who were handicapped
were destined to live a life
on the street as beggars, if
they managed to survive that long.

4. The Arrest

Believing they had few options
the family decided to
pack what they could carry and
flee the city late at night.

With personal items loaded on a horse cart,
everyone but Janus and her mother would walk.
However, when they opened the large gate to their
compound twenty armed men were there to arrest them.

Blindfolded, everyone in the family was led
through the streets until they reached the infamous and 
ancient dungeon below the old courthouse building.
They were then locked behind bars and their hoods removed.

An Elder told them they would 
be fed and treated well while
their compound was searched for clues
that would incriminate them.

5. The Wait

The men and women of their expanded family were separated from each other in two large, locked cells. In the cell with Janus and her new mother were her mother’s sister, her mother’s Aunt, a married woman in her forties and a younger single women and a middle-aged woman.

In the men’s cell was the husband and his teenaged son, a man who is the Uncle of Janus’s mother, an older man who is a scholar and a retired carpenter and his son. The carpenter’s wife was taken away because she dared to speak her mind about the unfair treatment of a woman she knew, doing in a public market. And they have no idea what became of the carpenter’s wife because she was never returned to their family.

Though they were left alone, they still felt they would be tortured and/or spend the rest of their lives in the dungeon.

But, except when food and water was given them or when one of them requested to go to the bathroom, always accompanied an armed guard, they were not disturbed.

For three days it was like this. But on the forth day four guards, three of them armed, appeared to take them upstairs to face a panel of Judges. And their extended family was surprised when the unarmed guard gently lifted up Janus to carry her upstairs.

6. The Verdict 

The extended family was taken into a courtroom, empty except for three Judges sitting in chairs on the raised platform. With the unarmed guard sill carrying Janus they seated as close as possible to the Judges. After the unarmed guide gently sat Janus the middle, front roll chair he left the room.

The eldest Judge stood first and his expression seemed to shoe no indication of the family’s fate.

“According to our decades old customs and laws you could be convected of a number of laws in our city and country,” he began. “However, if your whole family is willing to compromise you’ll be returned to your compound to live the rest of your lives there.”

“And the compromise?,” Janus’ Uncle asked.

“Please let us finish talking first. Then, if you have questions, you can ask them,” the oldest Judge told them and sat back down as the second oldest Judge stood.

“You were held in the dungeon and treated well for a reason. We had trusted people search each of your homes, mainly interested in your collections of books and personal writings. We did so because we’ve heard about the advanced mind of the young girl and wondered how her concepts and ideas could benefit our city and country. If, indeed, they actually could.”

The second oldest Judge sat down and the oldest Judge stood up again.

“The young girl’s concept of improving irrigation, among other things, I find fascinating,” the oldest Judge began. “And this and some of her other concepts, if applied right, can certainly help us all.”

Then he sat down and the youngest Judge stood up.

“And, of course, we are aware how women are treated in our city and country and want to change this. But we’re also wise enough to know this won’t happen in the near future so we’ll have to work carefully, slowly to bring about the needed changes,’ he realistically reminded them.”

Then he sat down again and the oldest Judge stood up.

“If you agree to the compromises you’ll be returned to your compound and provided with any books you request. Also we’ll request the best physicians in the country to help the young woman and, hopefully, correct some of her physical problems. I’ve already hired the best carpenter in the city to build her a chair with wheels on the bottom of the chair legs and arm rests so she won’t have to walk unless she wants to. This is also based on a design she sketched.

He sat down and the youngest Judge stood up again.

“Improving the lives of women in this city and our country will have to start slowly. As respected Judges we can’t speak for the rest of the country, we can’t legally speak for the rest of the cities and villages in our country, but here in our city we will pass a law where every woman, young or old, has the right to be taught reading and basic math, if they don’t already have these skills. However, such lessons must be taught in privacy and in their own home,” he told the faimly.

Then he sat down and the oldest Judge stood up again.

“We’ll do everything we can to help your whole family. Still, I’m sure you are all aware of the situation here and in the rest of the country. And, as unfair as it may seem, I’m asking, hoping, you’ll accept the compromise,” the oldest Judge, then smiled warmly at Janus and continued, “I want this young girl to receive all the credit she deserves, but with our current customs and laws, I’m asking you, young lady, to use an assumed name for now. You can choose any assumed name, of course, but I’ll suggest an assumed name that carries a lot of respect, perhaps a name like Professor J.? So, do you need time to think about it now or do you have a numbers of questions to ask?”

The family looked at each other for a moment, then focused on Janus. Within less that a minute Janus’ mother stood up.

“We will accept the compromise only is Janus agrees to it,” she started, then continued, “ But I do have one question. Will my daughter receive the recognition she deserves or not?”

“Of course, the oldest Judge assured them as he stood up again. “But because of the current circumstances, what we will do is make copies of all of her concepts and ideas, including any newer ones, have them printed by a printer in our city we trust, a man who shares both our beliefs and those of your family, and these copies will be sealed, and kept hidden for now, until the time arrives where our country becomes more accepting of the other talents and roles women can provide within our city and country. And we’ll provide each member of your family with the copies. The only compromise we ask of you is that you not talk about her gifts to anyone outside your family, and this includes having the copies with you, until the time is right to do so. So, is this a compromise you’ll willing to make for now?”

After the family privately talked to each other for five minutes, Janus did she best to stand up to face the oldest Judge directly.

“Yes, we’ll accept this compromise until the right time finally comes,” she told the oldest Judge.

© 2021 Willys Watson

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Added on September 21, 2021
Last Updated on September 22, 2021
Tags: Fate, Honesty, Religion, Women's Rights, Politics, Laws, Customs


Willys Watson
Willys Watson

Los Angeles, CA

Writer, Artist, Scalawag. more..