In honor of my story being published in The Uprising Review, I decided to write another flash story featuring the same characters. This one was inspired by the unwanted thoughts of horses I had all day, after hearing a particularly funny line in Unseen Academicals, the book I am currently audio-reading. I’m not sure if this story is as funny as Jaron and Bren’s last, but the I think the same sense of satire is there.
Beggars Would Ride
By J.M. Williams
Jaron felt himself fly through the air, tossed unceremoniously onto the stone floor of the jail cell. The guard’s fat grimy hand locked the door, then yanked to ensure its security.
Jaron was still shaking off a constellation of stars when Bren approached the guard.
“Please, sir. There must be some misunderstanding,” Bren said.
“No misunderstanding. We caught ya with your hands on the merchandise. Er heads…well doing something with the damn beast. Dirty horse theives.”
“Horse thieves? Pray sir, we are no thieves.”
“Then how’s it you was standing right next to the horse when we caught ya? Eh? A horse that somehow jus’ disappeared from Mr. Bolton’s fenced-in ranch, several farms down the line mind, ya…”
“I wish you would just let me explain what happened.”
“Well, if wishes were horses,” the fat guard laughed.
“If they were, somebody’d be damn close to a kick in the nuggets…”
“The law says you must give us a chance to defend ourselves.”
“We don’t give no chances to horse thieves around here.” The guard growled. Bren’s face contorted when hit by the rotten air.
“It followed us.” Bren put his hands together, pleading. “We didn’t steal it. Please, you must listen.”
“Enough of your blabberin’. This town hadn’t a good hangin’ in a while. It’ll be good for folks to get out for a show.”
“Hanging?” Bren looked like he would faint. He put an hand to his forehead in a melodramatic show.
“See you two in the morning,” the hairy man said with a laugh, as he swaggered off to the adjoining room.
“You dirty son of a…” Bren’s act of begging and supplication had ended, now only anger could be seen on his face.
Jaron rose to his feet and brushed the dust off his shoulders and arms. He put a hand to his head and groaned.
“Dammit. Fat bastard messed up my hair,” Jaron shouted, hoping the man would hear.
“I don’t think this is the time to worry about your hair. They’re going to hang us.”
“Don’t be so sure.”
“Do you have something to pick the lock?”
Jaron patted his pockets and felt underneath his leather armor. His tools were gone.
“No. Must have fallen out, when the guards jumped us.”
Bren sat down on one end of a long wooden bench that ran along the far wall, under a window with widely spaced metal bars. Sunlight drifted into the room between the bars, casting blocky shadows. The stink of dirt and horse manure betrayed the road just beyond, a road to freedom that now lay at an uncrossable distance.
“I’m sure our doom is only tentative,” Jaron said.
“Why do you think that horse was following us, anyway?” Bren asked.
“If I had to guess, I bet it’s the honey wax I put in my hair this morning.”
Jaron brushed the large square lock of the cell door, polishing it until he could see his image. Watching his reflection, he rearranged the hair on the right half of his head, making the short brown locks curl outwards. Then he spun around on a heel and dropped onto the bench, the top of his head resting just below the window.
“I don’t really care for the idea of being dead,” Bren said.
“I’m sure the gods will come through for us once again.”
“It was never the gods. It was always you.”
“Are you so sure?”
Jaron leaned back against the wall, feeling the breeze pass over his head, pondering the dilemma. Something clanked against the window bars. He jumped around to see the toothy grin of a horse in the window.
“By the gods, is that the same one?” Bren asked.
“Seems like it.”
“Didn’t they lock it back up at the ranch? This thing must really love your hair wax.”
“Hmm…” Jaron hummed as he leaned towards the window. A long, sticky tongue reached out for his head.
The horse’s mouth was wrapped in a bridle, but its mouth opened and closed freely. It looked as though it were trying to chew through the bars. Jaron reached his fingers through the bars and scratched under the beast’s chin.
“There, there boy,” he said. “You don’t want to chew that. You’ll bust your teeth.”
Jaron’s fingers crawled along the horse’s jaw until they felt something hard. He gripped the object and yanked. A curved metal pin slid out of one of the bridle’s bindings.
“I told you the gods were watching us,” he said to Bren, brandishing the pin.
Jaron went to work on the lock, and in mere minutes had it open. He heard the horse snort encouragingly from the window. The door slid open with only a soft creak, one that could have easily been mistaken for a bird.
Waving his friend forward, he led Bred into the next room, where the fat guard was passed out, face down on a round wooden table. There were several loose coins lying next to the man and Jaron’s hand reached out instinctively, until he felt Bren’s knuckles digging into his back.
The pair crept across the room, keeping a close eye on the sleeping guard. Jaron cracked the door and peered outside. The door opened to a narrow road, across which were several buildings, including the tavern they had visited the night before. The sun was high in the sky, bathing the avenue in light.
Seeing nothing of concern, he swung the door open. It screeched like a banshee.
Jaron grabbed Bren by the collar and dragged him into the street. Behind his friend, he could see the fat guard stirring to life. The man glared at him. Jaron slammed the door and took off running.
He could heard the clanging of an alarm bell from behind as he dragged Bren down the side streets and alleys. All the while, he chastised himself for not heading the other way, to the clearing where the horse had been, outside the jail window.
Eventually, they did arrive at a clearing, but the space was far from clear. A semi-circle formation of villagers blocked their escape. The people brandished pitchforks and pikes, like a proper mob, and their eyes were filled with hunger.
“Thieves! Hang ’em!” the people shouted a bit too cheerily for Jaron’s liking.
“We haven’t had a good hanging in a while,” one of the pitchfork owners shouted.
There was no where left to go. The mob would be impossible to outrun. Jaron closed his eyes in surrender. Then he felt something chewing on his hair. He smiled.
As the horse galloped away from the village, Jaron driving it on, Bren holding on for dear life, Bren shouted in Jaron’s ear, “I guess we can’t come back here again.”
“No bother,” Jaron replied. “The ale here is piss.”