I’m pressing the crescant to his neck and he’s saying words like magic. Words that feel like they could unbreak a jar, maybe raise the dead.
“The best waters are swift and shallow.” He’s trembling as he chants, “The best waters are swift and shallow.” I realize he doesn’t believe the words, doesn’t trust their power. This makes me angry.
I gave up my daughters and ruined my wife. I burned my parent’s home and salted their orchard. I eat the same meal and swallow the same wine. Every day I guard this gate from nothing and no one comes. I even cut my hair. And he doesn’t believe. I did all of this and he still fears these words have no meaning. He rakes at might unyielding arm. He pleads again, “Please, please. The best waters are swift and shallow.”
In an instant I decide answering this coward is not worth the trades I made. I’m going to release this crux, let the prophesy fail, go back to my cold hearth. He must know his death is next because I feel him swallow through the contact of my weapon on his flesh. His tremors subside. He makes his final breath. He’ll beg for his life of course.
Then I feel like I am falling, like something I can’t explain has happened, like soon this something will hurt very much, but for now I just know something I can’t stop is coming. He’s kicked me in the groin and I am on the ground inhaling air, but unable to exhale.
“I said, ‘The best waters are swift and shallow!’ I’ll be inside when you are ready to complete the couplet.”
Eventually I’ll smile at my son’s return, but for now I
“If you thirst, quench your spirit. Your body will wait.” My forearms lean on the lentil of the low door. I’m adjusting to the light and being upright.
“Is it true,” he asks.
“You cannot know the key and not know the truth.”
“I’m a skeptic, not a coward.”
“There’s a difference?”
I shuffle into my small home, surprised his presence doesn’t feel intrusive. After this many years alone I expected some annoyance. I motion to the barrel and the dipper; he waves a no. Zealot. “When I’m thirsty I don’t kneel.” I dip out two cups and force his into his hands. “Drink it and wait.”
Word count: 143