Sunday, November 02, 2008

Scramaseax and Seaxe

That evening after the children fell asleep, the dimmest to witless, the Liepaja Stepbrothers arrived in town on the back of the Sibu Brothers’ oxcart. They had come to collect a debt, 27½ laying hens for a loan of equal value, 17½ red breasted fighting cocks, having waiting longer than the debt allowed, 272¼ days, 25 of which were spent trying to remember who the debtor was and where he lived. Perched high in a fichus, eyes pealed, the littlest of the dogmen stood guard, his hands rubbed raw with eel gore and tanning salt. Lela, having found her way free of the dimwits and halfwit, encouraging them to play in a pile of leaves in the backyard, watched from afar, curious who these stepbrothers were and why they had such ungodly faces.

A skinner by the name of Kruibeke stood in front of the Waymart whetting his whetstone. In a pile in front of him were a flaying knife, a tanners’ scrapper and a tin of linseed oil. He sharpened his knife until it sparkled, the sun unspooling like a fiery thread in the midday sky. Lela watched the skinner from afar, rivets of sun-boiled sweat dripping into the barrow of her skirt.

Out of the bend of her eye she saw the dogmen, the littlest dogmen drumming his fingers against the tight skin of his chest, rat-tat-rat-tat-tat. She flicked her skirt sending a cockscomb of salty warm sweat into the air, the skinner espying her out of the crook of his eye. A stray cur yipped, a man in a cobblers’ fedora fiddled with his hatband, and the sky, bluer than the bluest bluestone, stood still. The skinner pulled a Thessaloniki penknife out of his greatcoat pocket and fondled the hilt in the palms of his hands. The knife was given to him by the proprietor of the Greek deli on his 27th birthday, which fell the day before Ships Day 1967. The skinner cut a half inch notch in his thumb, paring the flap of skin with his flaying knife. At one time or the other the skinner had owned a Laguiole folding knife, a Lajinaa paring knife, a Puukko flick blade, a Opinel flip blade, a Scramaseax blade, sometimes referred to as a Seaxe or Seax, and a Gaelic sgian.

The Silverfish truck rounded the corner at breakneck speed, the driver’s assistant hanging off the door hinge, arms flailing out the passenger side window. Rounding the corner, the engine screaming, the Mercury Fish truck careened into oncoming traffic, the skinner leaping out of the way a second time, the truck keeling like a rudderless ship. Lela skipped across the pavement like a one-legged ragdoll, the Silverfish truck leaving a spoil of fish oil and exhaust in its wake. ‘…Thuringii…!’ hollered the eldest Arbëreshë brother, his face reddening. ‘…Marcomanni…!’ yipped the youngest brother, ‘…come…!’ The littlest dogman shimmied down the fichus tree and stood beneath the Seder’s awning. ‘…Maringgii…’ he bellowed, ‘…sit…’.


John W. MacDonald said...

I just wanted to celebrate the momentous occasion of the 20th time you used the word 'barrow' on your blog.


Stephen Rowntree said...

Thanks John,

...a great word for so many things and occasions...


John W. MacDonald said...

Happy Barrow Day!

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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