Chapter Three— May 1
Chapter Two— Rob Joins The Merry Men And Meets The Horny Old Crone
Rob crossed the glen and entered the forest again, always following the star, hoping it was the correct star but never being too sure.. He was unhappy about how the quest was starting. He was covered with goat shit. They say you can’t smell your own stink but Rob really couldn’t. He had, to put it bluntly, a snootful. He would have cried except his tear ducts were crusted over. He thought back to when he first joined the Merrymen. This was not something he expected by joining in with the outlaws.
Rob was casually strolling along the Nottingham Road when they robbed him. Rob was pretty far from home although not nearly far as he would have liked to be. Or, to be honest, as far as his neighbors would have liked him to be. He had left his village under somewhat clouded circumstances. He had no reason to think about much but putting some distance between his village and himself. His life was about to change.
The first guy to come at him from the trees was a little man, short and skinny; he was puny. The tree branch he was carrying was big and heavy. The robber was struggling and getting out of breath. He didn’t strike fear into Rob’s heart. Rob was somewhat amused. That wouldn’t last. The second robber was normal size and had a knife. The third robber was also short and he carried a rusty, old sword. They didn’t look like much but three against one is never good odds. With Rob the odds were never in his favor.
Rob had never been much of a fighter. As a child he had been beaten up by everyone, including the girls, especially the girls. His father didn’t know if he was just a lousy fighter or if he was a sissy-boy. Events were to prove he was a lousy fighter. He wasn’t a sissy-boy but he might be a pervert. It was too early to decide.
Mary Jayne had him pinned one day. She was a bit older and a lot stronger. In order to get free so he could run away Rob pushed against her chest. A strange thing happened. She had movement there; movement Rob liked. He rubbed her and forgot about escaping. He really didn’t try to get away.
Mary Jayne thought it odd Rob wasn’t crying and trying to get away. He always cried and begged and she loved that. She sat on him and was about to pummel him when she noticed he was rubbing against her. It felt good in a strange way. It was tingly. She had never felt that way before and it scared her. She got up and ran home hearing Rob yelling, “Wait, come back! Please, come back!”
A few minutes later Mary Jayne’s father came into the smithy and confRobted Rob’s father. Mary Jayne’s father looked as if he was about to stroke out.
“Where’s that lad of yourn? ‘e ruined my daughter. I intend to slay ‘im and then ‘ave ‘im marry the girl. Need to protect my good name and all that. I may not be a toff but I’ll not ‘ave my good named sullied.”
“Now that’s just bloody stupid Ye can’t marry your girl off to a dead man. The Church would not allow that as far as I know. My boy isn’t even a man. Umm, yet, not a man yet. From what I hear ye need to ask what ye daughter was doing on top of my boy? Mayhaps we need to talk to the priest when he stops by.”
“The priest? No, let’s not be ‘asty. That old fraud will brand ‘er a whore and she’ll ‘ave to leave the village. She would ‘ave to become a whore to survive. Let’s let it go.” That was good because Rob’s father had no intention of forcing Rob to marry anyone. One more mouth to feed.
Rob was always trying to wrestle the girls after that but they would run away. Then came the goat incident and Rob’s father told him, “Son, listen to me. You’re sixteen now, I think. It would be best if ye left for a while, a good while. There’s talk about tying ye to stake and burning ye. To be truthful, some of that talk comes from me. Here’s a few copper coins. Take care and stay away for a long time. You are a free man, not a serf. Go find a place that needs a smithy and settle there. Go a long way off.”
That put Rob where he was. He was once again a victim.
“Okay, old boy, give us your money and your jewels and ye shan’t be ‘urt.”
“My what? I ‘ave only a few copper coins. I ‘ave no jewelry. I mean, look at me. I’m a poor, dirt poor peasant the same as ye. I ‘ave a good knife ye can-” Rob started to say.
The short, branch-armed man hit him on the side of the head. Rob went down and went out. The short, branch-armed man also went down, just not as hard.
“Whatcha do that for? He was only going to give ye ‘is knife. I hope ‘e isn’t dead”, the man with the sword said.
“I thought ‘e was going to put up a fight. I was getting tired holding this club up. Get ‘is money and let’s be off. After all, we’d be ‘anged for robbery as well as for murder.”
“Say”, the man with the knife said. “This is a good knife. I’m glad he didn’t try to defend ‘isself. I could ‘ave gotten ‘hurt.”
“What the ‘ell! He only has a few copper coins. ‘e wasn’t lying. Damn it all to ‘ell. We ‘ave the worst luck. Imagine being ‘anged for a few copper coins. Let’s get out of ‘ere.”
Little John found him lying on the Nottingham Forest Road, all beat up and bloody. He wasn’t sure Rob was alive at first. To find out, Little John kicked him. Little John was six-four and weighed nineteen stone. A kick from him was a kick. Rob started screaming when he was kicked. That was the normal reaction Little John got when he stomped someone. He figured the man lying in the road looked a lot worse than he really was. Well, mayhaps not after being kicked in the ribs by a brawny, strong man. Still, it showed the guy was alive.
“I don’t ‘ave any money. The other robbers got it all.”
“Lad, I wasn’t going to rob ye. I am one of Robin ‘ood’s Merry Men. We don’t rob peasants. They don’t ‘ave anything now do they? We rob from the rich and give to the poor, minus our expenses, of course.’
“Of course”, Rob said. What else could he say?
“I can’t just leave ye ‘ere. Ye obviously cannot take care of thyself. Come, I’ll take ye to Master Robin. Mayhaps ‘e’ll let ye join the Merry men.”
“What if he says no?”, Rob asked. He was going to regret that question.
“Well, lad, ye should not be thinking that. I’m sure ‘e’ll let ye in. If not, we’ll ‘ave to kill ye. Can’t ‘ave ye running around knowing where we are if ye aren’t one of us. That would be really stupid. Master Robin may decide ye are a spy for the Sheriff of Notting’am. Then we would be obliged to ‘ang ye.”
They made their way through the forest, traveling in different directions, backtracking and generally getting lost. Little John told him it was to confuse him about where the camp was. Maybe, if Robin Hood didn’t accept him, Little John could make a case for not killing him. Maybe. Rob thought about running off but he was already lost and the big man knew the forest. If Rob did run off the big man might kill him on general principles. Rob thought he may have been better off in his own village. Then he remembered the goat incident and knew all that awaited him there was a stake and fire.
They eventually came to the camp and Rob was shocked. It looked like any other village except worse. The huts were barely hovels. The place smelled of garbage and shit. All villages smelled that way but this one was exceptionally ripe. The people looked a little more shabby than usual.
Little John took Rob to one of the better huts to meet Robin Hood. This hut was a little better than the others. It didn’t lean which was more than could be said of Robin Hood. He was standing just inside the door trying to pour mead into a cup. He poured a lot of it onto the floor. He kept up a steady stream of cursing as if that would keep the mead from going to the floor.
“Robin, this is Rob. He was robbed on the Nottin’um Forest Road-”
“Little John, I’m not in the bloody mood for any joking. ‘Robin, this is Rob who was robbed.’ Indeed”, Robin said.
“It does sound a little funny now that I hear it back at me. I think Ro-,er, this man mayhaps be a little fun- , umm, a little, uh, odd. He appears to be a bit stupid.”
Rob was getting ready to object when he realized that Little John might be saying that to protect him. Of course, he might not be as well. If Robin Hood would have him killed to keep the camp location a secret, and that while sober, he might be very willing to do it drunk. Best keep quiet and hope for the best. That hadn’t always worked out for Rob but, what the Hell, he couldn’t do anything about it except to piss his pants. That wouldn’t help although it would make him feel better.
Robin Hood suddenly placed his fist on his chest. He didn’t know if he needed a good belch or a good fart from all the mead he’d drank. He stood for a moment and then puked into a bucket. There was a little splash back; most of it got on Robin but some got on Rob.
“Oh. That feels better. This is bloody rotten stuff. We need to raid a winery. Now, who is this?”
“Robin, I found ‘im all beat up and brought ‘im ‘ere for safety.”
“Okay”, Robin said,“that’s what the ‘ell is going on ‘ere. Do I have to kill this man ‘ere or not? Don’t tell me any more funny things. Just- kill or no.”
“Then no”, Little John said. “If I thought ‘e needed killing, and ‘e bloody well may, I would ‘ave already done it. Nay, ‘e needs a place to live and work. What we do isn’t really work but ye know-”
“Yes, yes, I know. Okay, ‘e can stay and prove ‘imself. If ‘e doesn’t work out we can always use a moving target. Now, be gone with ye. I ‘ave things to do.”
Prove himself? Moving target? Maybe lying on the Nottingham Road was a better option. Wait, I wasn’t given an option. Damn it all to ‘ell.
Rob went outside and watched as Little John walked away without further conversation. Rob looked about the encampment. He wasn’t impressed. It looked like his village but a lot shabbier. This place looked like a pigsty and smelled like a privy. He looked about and didn’t see a privy. They must have privies; everyone had that. Still, the smell was overwhelming. Rob supposed he’d get used to it.
He noticed a man sharpening a sword and another playing a lute. A third man was shooting arrows at a target. A couple of men were playing some sort of game for money and there were a few women sitting around talking. No one seemed to be doing any work. That looked good except for the idea that someone had to do work. Rob wondered if leaving his village was going from bad to possibly worse. Then he remembered the stake and the fire. Mayhaps it was gong from bad to a different kind of bad. Again, the road was looking better. Rob simply had an uneasy feeling without any real reason. That hasn’t always been wRobg in the past.
“What are ye staring at?”
This was from the man sharpening his sword. Rob looked at the man and told him, “I’m Rob. I’m new ‘ere. Glad to meet ye.” Rob put his hand out to shake and the man blew snot into it. Rob jumped back in surprise.
“Never shake hands with someone ye don’t know. Ye do not know what may happen, as ye see”, Will Scarlet said. Will Scarlet was a large man though not as large as Little John. He had a scar on his face and on both hands. He had a sneering look about him and scared Rob a bit.
“Hmm. Yes, well, lesson learned”, Rob said.
“Good. Now, leave me be. I don’t like very many people and ye don’t seem likely to become one of them.”
“Yes, er, I’ll be on my way, sir.”
Rob stopped by the gamblers and watched for a minute. Later he would find out they were Will Stutely, Abu Abu , a Moslem but not a good one and Arthur a Bland , a rough one who once beat Robin Hood in a wrestling match. He was feared by everyone except Little John. After watching for a minute or so Rob said,“‘ello, I’m Rob.” He didn’t offer to shake hands with any of them. He didn’t know if they’d seen what that other guy had done. He didn’t know if this was some custom here or an initiation or what.
“Yea? So what? Who gives a rat’s ass? Either put some money down or go away.” This was from Arthur a Bland. Rob walked away. This wasn’t what he’d expected at all.
Rob was getting hungry and wanted to know when they got fed but didn’t want to ask this man. He saw an old lady stirring a pot across the glen and decided to try there.
“I say, madam, when do we eat?”
The Old Crone glanced at Rob and started giggling. “Madam? Not any longer. Do ye ‘ave any copper coins., do ye? Nothing is ever free ‘ere, ye know. It’s pay as ye go or go away.”
“Well, no. I’m a poor man and was robbed of what little I ‘ad.”
“Can ye ‘elp an old woman? I can be very grateful, very grateful”, she said. She opened her top a little to show Rob a pair of shriveled up breasts. Rob thought immediately of a post and fire. He also felt himself shrivel. Was he that hungry? No, not yet. Hopefully not ever.
“No, I ,uh, well-”
“I didn’t think so. I’ll trade a bowl of this stew for that pouch ye ‘ave. Mayhaps later tonight, or when ye feel desperate, ye’ll be back.” Then she cackled. Rob saw that she had no teeth to go along with no tits. That wasn’t bad thing but- Oh, my God. What am I thinking?
Rob took the stew and looked for a place to sit. He certainly wasn’t going into the hut. He found a stump and sat down. The smell was even worse here. God knows where this old lady took a shit. It must be close by, though, considering how ripe the smell was here. He took a spoonful of the stew and spit it back out. My God, that’s foul! It must be the stink of the village. Rob took a whiff of the stew and nearly fell off the stump. My, this smells bad. The stink must get into everything. Rob was very hungry and took another bite. It was really foul but he was too hungry. He finished it all.
Rob gave the bowl back to the old lady with thanks. “I say, what kind of meat was that? I’ve never eaten the like of it before.”
“It’s a nice, plump rat. It fell from the roof and I hit it with a piece of wood. No sense letting good meat go to waste, now is there? I can’t hunt deer and I don’t seem to attract the men like I use to. Deer, rat, what difference does it make? It fills the body and all comes out the same.”
It all comes out the same.
There are people living on the edge in what is called Appalachia. They're called ridgerunners, rednecks, hillbillies and backwoods mountaineers. No one thinks of them very often. They don't earn much to society's standards.They stay where they are because they love the area. They are hard workers when they have work and self-sufficient to an extent not known to "outsiders." They are also very funny; they have a great sense of humor about themselves.
They are the salt of the earth and the backbone of America. Their stories are America's stories. These are the stories Of Appalachia.
Book is available as an e-book or in paperback.
More stories of the people of Appalachia.
More of Joe Bob, Bubba and Earl, Mosh Henry and all of the rest of the good folks in Wabash County.
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