1541 c/o Brendan O'Brien

Loose Lips

Besnik is a Gypsy of impressive proportions that just ran very far, very fast. He is wobbly as a one-legged stool and can taste the coppery tinge of blood on his cracked lips. His lungs scream for oxygen so he stops to rest his hands on his knees. Giant plumes of breath leave his lungs evaporating into the cool night air. He tries to spit but the thick green mucus just dangles from his lower lip, spinning. He goes to the ground and puts his half-frozen face on the earth. He lifts his head as branches snap and canines snarl in the distance. The familiar screams of friends and family echo inside the woods and make his neck hairs stand straight. He does not have much time. Two minutes. Maybe three. Then the bloodthirsty townspeople brandishing hissing torches and double-barreled shotguns will be upon him.

The forest’s guts are blacker than a charred kettle bottom and Besnik knows that covering himself with mud will help outlast the hunt. If the previous gypsy hunts are indicative of tonight’s pursuit, they will call off the dogs come daybreak. Besnik works his trembling fingers through cool swamp mud turning it into a mushy, bean-like past. He applies the adhesive in a smooth layer all over his body and covers himself in leaves. Next, he struggles to roll over a giant log lying across a small ditch that will fit him perfectly.

As he works he thinks about how fast the Gypsy Laws have passed, almost quicker than his clan can move. 1536, Denmark. 1539, France. 1540, Flanders. They are hated because they are different. What a foolish concept, he thinks.

Somehow Besnik believed Scotland would be different. He sensed serenity in the easygoing nature of the townspeople. He envied the way the community spent their days - women in white bonnets and children in knickers locking elbows and dancing while the men played giant bagpipes, everyone acting as if this was the very reason they were put on earth.

However, now lying in a ditch covered with cold mud and moldy leaves he regrets ever going with those rosy-cheeked Scots the day before last. He regrets clinking pint glasses and downing the tart brown elixir in easy gulps. At the time, Besnik laughed at how their giant Adams apples had bounced and how the white bubbles of foam stayed stuck in their bristly red beards. Now, he regrets telling these men about the hunts conducted in Denmark and France. Drunkenly he revealed precious details about how the most-effective hunts were conducted shortly after the last orange embers of the night’s final fire had died. He sensed sympathy in the way the Scots stroked their beards between thumb and forefinger, the way they patted his back and sang songs.

He had been wrong.

Above him the earth starts to shake as horses pound the ground and the hounds sniff. The brilliant orange torches light up the night and seem to encircle him like flaming, floating heads. Besnik shuts his eyes and tries to quiet his breathing. Even though he deserves the severest of beatings he is certain the next place will be better if he can just make it to morning.