Assignment 2. Vignette based on character sketch and part 1 of 3-part character sketch
|Tis Spring 1812. Joshua Barney has long since given up adventures on the high seas to the peaceful demands of a Gentleman Farmer.
The sun was just peaking over the horizon and Benjamin raised the alarm to get everyone up to start the day. Many a morning the wife would threaten to turn that bird into chicken soup, but so far he was left to mind the hen house and sound the alarm at sunrise or if a predator was too near for comfort.
Joshua stretched, yawned and scratched his backside as he moved around the room getting ready for the day. He was a handsome man, with a face weathered by the sea and sparkling eyes, that forever held a hint of sadness that no amount of loving or peacetime ventures could erase. But he still cut a fine figure no matter what attire he donned, which was usually knee boots, tight fitting trousers and pull over tunic that he left untucked and unbelted. He caught sight of Harriet smiling and quickly turning so as to hide her pleasure. Joshua was too alert to her ways for her to keep much from him. Every so often she could get a surprise in, and those times gave him true contentment. She had been up long before Joshua to attend to early morning household duties and attend to his breakfast requirments.
As he set himself before his breakfast of porridge and beer, “Morning, wife.”
“Good morning, Joshua. That rooster got me up at 4:00, not even sunrise.”
“Good little feller, ain’t he?”
“He belongs in chicken soup.”
“Can’t do it. Remember the church picnic? Adele caught him? Remember?”
“That was five years ago.”
“But she had him named by the time we got him home. Remember?”
“She’s been married for a year now. She won’t mind.”
“Can’t do it.” When Joshua set to eat, he rarely spoke. He listened to her prattle on and on about that blasted bird. Would not make a difference, but she had to get her penny’s worth in.
Joshua snickered to himself as he exited the room, hiding a healthy burp behind his fisted hand. “Joshua, your manners!”
“Thank you, wife.”
“You are uncouth.”
“No one can argue with that … or disagree with it neither.” Joshua ran a quick hand over his shoulder length waves, smiling to himself. If he was lucky, she would be in a good mood at lunch, too.
He joined up with the foreman on the way to the out buildings drilling him that the oxen and other animals were fed and watered. Satisfied, he instructed the foreman on how he wanted the Spring tilling and planting to proceed.
“Any trees need to be taken down?”
“One over on the north end.”
“Cripps on it?”
“Going to check fences now. If anyone needs me I’ll be on the west side.”
“Need a horse hitched?”
“I like to walk. Good for the constitution.”
“That it is. I’ll get the boys on the tilling.”
“Sounds good. Get Charlie to fix that back step. Damn near broke my neck the other day coming out the house.”
Joshua ran the fenceline as he contemplated the rising discord with the British. He knew his beloved America would declare war against the British again. It was only a matter of time. Even the most dim-witted could tell things were not right. He felt the bile churn in his gut every time he thought of those redcoats. Joshua took aim at the rodent ten feet off and spit good and long. “Damn, Brit, get thee off my property.” The rodent lifted its nose, bared its teeth and retreated back into its hole. “Hmpf, typical.”
When he hit the end of the line, Joshua quick stepped it back across the field. Everything reminded him of a Brit – the way the clouds formed, the animals peeking out of their holes, the sound the birds made, the way the grass moved in the breeze – by the time he got to the yard, he was in a fine snit. He yanked open the tool shed door, grabbed an axe, letting the door slam behind him. He put down two cords before he could breathe normal and not get vented about the people he hated most in the world. Spent, he returned to the tool shed to clean and replace the axe in its designated spot. Wiping his hands on his kerchief, he mentally inventoried that his tools were in their place, ran a long leathery finger over the edge to test sharpness, anything to keep him safe in this confined spot until the memories dissipated. It never worked. But he tried. Instead, he pulled the darts out of the kit on the window ledge, testing the balance while staring at the picture of General Cornwallis. Ah, Joshua, you can do thee better than that. Pulling the dart out of Cornwallis’s knee, he tried again, and again, and again, each dart hitting true. If only I could have done thee that well in the big one….
Joshua determined to leave the darts firmly bedded in Cornwallis’s privates, and left to inspect the lawns. There they were again. This time every year. It was annoying. Joshua bent down and plucked several yellow flower from his lawn. Each got the lecture about being a gift from Satan’s spawn, also known as Cornwallis. He pulled each yellow petal from the bud, visualizing a different part of the Brit’s anatomy as he ground each until his fingers were yellow.
And here she comes, skirts held high, running across the lawn when she was not of the age to do so. She fancied herself one and twenty when she was in good truth five years older than he. “Joshua, it’s from President Madison!”
Joshua accepted the letter and listened to his wife prattle on and on about honor of it all, interspersing her exaltations with demands to “open it”. Having his fill of her twittering, Joshua posted her hand to his arm and escorted her back to the house, the letter twirled in his fingers unopened. “Now, now, my dear. In due time. I expect he is testing the waters with his military.”
“If we go to war, we will win in the end. But the cost will be great. Who is to say that the costs are justified”
“Read it to me.” Joshua retrieved his knife from his boot and flicked it under the presidential seal.
He watched her eyes widen and heard her breathing increase, “I suppose you will make me take a bath…”
“It is the President, Joshua” She chided.
“Aye, that it is.”