The Sword

The sword is a romanticized weapon of extreme sharpness, beauty, and brutality. It brings death face to face. The skill and training are the indicators of noble truths. The sword is a lie.

The rifle takes the personal interaction between enemies and makes death more impersonal, less brutal, and more deadly. When Earth’s UN Council on weapons met, rifles and technology were banned. It was thought that the sword would humanize the battles between country and country, race against race, and religion against religion. What the council did not count on was man’s love of brutality, power, and hatred. Unarmed planet-wide, governments began to fail. Assassins were honored as heres for the deaths they took. The planet’s government fell to extremists.

“You didn’t attend your class on self-defense today. Why?”

“Granddad, I don’t want to kill or hurt others. I know you mean well, but if we keep weapons of any kind, we will always be a target of violence.”

Granddad turned a virulent red, coughed into his handkerchief and sputtered, “Don’t be a damn fool. If someone comes through that door, you will become mincemeat or worse. I’m not hanging on to life just to make you unable to take care of yourself.”

The coughing fit continued as Annie hurried to the sink to get a glass of water. The nozzle on the sink prevented water from being wasted, but it slowed the amount of water available. With the glass finally half full, she hurried back to her Granddad.

“Come on, Granddad. I have the water. Take a sip.” His coughing fit gradually stopped. “Granddad, why do you think we have a bullseye painted on our family? What happened in the past that no one will talk about?”

Granddad just sipped his water, tears forming in his eyes and escaping down his cheeks to his neck. The coughing ended. His memory filled with the blue eyes of the woman he had loved who had been murdered over an empty purse. The murder had been bloody and made the headlines. Eventually the murderers were found and prosecuted, but the hurt lingered, always hovering in moments of dreams, stress, or despair. She had been beautiful, his wife, always on the run to do something good for someone who needed it. Now his granddaughter, an orphan, was his greatest worry. Three family members hacked to death, one precious and kind granddaughter left.

“Granddad, the world is supposed to be kinder now. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

She tucked her granddad into his favorite chair with his favorite blanket. Watching him drift off to sleep, she counted the minutes until his first snore. Sneaking out of the room, Annie went down into the basement. Behind the freezer were three long narrow cases. She quickly opened each, removed the rifles from their resting spots, and made sure the ammo was loaded and ready. Locking the cases, she took them up to the second floor master bedroom. The room had been decorated so that there was no way anyone could access it without paying a steep price. She turned on her blue tooth, short wave radio and scanner. Listening, she heard the scanner report a rape at the entrance of her neighborhood. It had been done at the edge of a sword.

Changing clothes to blend in with night colors, she opened the rifle case and took her M-16 out. She had a job to do. All she needed was an animated cartoon and a super hero persona. Later, when the police arrived to question her as part of their evidence collecting, they told her of a strange tale. A man who had been armed with a knife and sword, had been found handcuffed and tied to a tree. There was a thank you note attached to the collar of his shirt.

“Thank you, officers. We appreciate the effort you put into keeping us safe.”

Granddad coughed and reached out for his glass of water as the news came on. Annie sat next to him on the sofa.

“Look, girl, that happened just down the street. Go to your lessons from now on.”

“Okay, Granddad.”

The Drunk’s Protector

I was nineteen, full of life,
student, musician, believer
and happened upon 
A wall flower, sodden but sweet,
A drunk, full of his nectar.
A peaceful drunk
Leaning upon a concrete wall 
Near the overused metaphor of a 
Greyhound Bus station.
Of a bus stop occupied
By the rushing middle class.
Of a city overcoming change.
A drunk, a target of easy mark
Was found by another mark,
A pointed mark.
Perhaps needing ease from his demons.
The voices listened and 
He took a knife, leaned, put it 
On the old man's neck.
Close enough to shave.

The audience breathed drama,
Turning slowly, waiting for buses.
Standing full of wisdom
As far as they could go. 
Time froze.
They were mannequins.

Simply a phone in need of quarters,
An operator call,  
But locked into movie reviews,newspapers,work,
They were motionless. 

I was nineteen then. 
Full of life, a 1945 wooden case 
that protected my heart, 
Holding my horn.
My weapon of choice.

After years, why a decade of years,
Of playing, of lugging miles, building brass muscles,
Of practice at spinning, 
I launched myself  
Pushing my horn between the two.

I was a shield maiden,
Because I was nineteen, descended
From blonde Vikings and grim Scots, 
I became a piper of sound
With the bottom of my lungs. 

Somehow, instantly, incredibly,
Unsummoned, the infantry arrived.
A squad car, blinking red,
Drove up upon the curb.
Collared the knife, the shield maiden,
Slipped the men apart.

I was nineteen, set to
Activism, driven in hopes to 
Change poverty, racism, anger, hate. 
The men in blue sent me on my way, 
Part fool, part human. Head patted.
Reform suggested for my safety,
After all, I was nineteen.