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Bride of Traps 1
Act 14: Doris Synchronus, Runaway Slave of the Censor
© 2024 James LaFond
JUN/2/24
Night, Breadday, Fifth Day of Sepulcher
She had expected filth offending her delicate nose, coal dust ruining clothes that brushed tables and shelves, soot staining the ceiling, ancient and clapboard as the mouse hole of a house appeared from the roughly cobbled street above. The small clapboard house, not as wide as her singing couch typically stretched, was a clean, tidy and artfully patched together sketch of cozy habitation. She entered with the woman alone, had held up her hand to Orpheus, that she needed no speaker, that she would make her wishes known.
The man named after a machine part, the boxer who had taken her brother into his face-beating fraternity of human wolves, her surprisingly wicked brother, and the mighty ruin of a man who had salvaged her with decency, stood on the covered porch, a low porch one stepped down into, as this was the low side of the street where people lived more on the cheap, conversed outside and behind in hushed tones.
The lady of the house was cute, short, wore a blue apron and bonnet over her black dress and boots and must have been about forty. Doris knew with a certainty that she had given birth to three children and but one survived, up in the tiny cabinet of the room at the edge of the slight balcony at the top of the stairs. The woman did not know her by sight, thought her a high patrician concubine of some distracted master being bread out to the brute who was her second dice to roll in her own defense, sweet, wicked Orpheus having been the first, delaying dice.
She ached for a man in her lesser heart, yet deeply feared that her body would be taken by force, taken by some creature such as Gentile Publico, her estranged inheritor, but a crooked hint at a man. She knew, for Doris knew many things that others did not, and for this reason God had shut her mouth and prevented her issuing anything but song. And she knew, that having her virginity taken with rape, would take enjoyment of physical love away from her for life. She knew also, that in the world of Men, once she lost her song with her attendant purity, that she would be a mere, mute, pleasure bed commodity. If that waxed intolerable, she feared the eternal sin of suicide.
Rape by some effete man who could only accomplish the deed because she was enjoined not to thrust her hairpin through his throat on pain of stripes and sale into ruder hands, that event, Doris knew, would maim her soul as surely as the man whom she had chosen as her dubious guardian—the one Fate, dark angel as She was, had provided—had his face and body ruined in his own servitude.
The woman looked up to her as if at a goddess, and Doris blushed, then hugged her. The woman chuckled with wet eyes and Doris looked at the bar and stools—a small affair of five elevated oaken disks on iron pegs—under the balcony and she smiled, miming, ‘Thank you,’ with a courtly bend of knee. She motioned to her mouth and throat, made the silent hand, smiled, and motioned to the doll house where that young child must live, the two elder children having been taken by a mishap, she could sense, writ in the paranoid construction of that protected habitation.
The terrible little gladiator tyke was shadowing her, looking up at her as if he expected an order. She looked down at him, smiled indulgently, and mimed for her brother, then signed with open expressive hands for the lady to describe her inn, and she did:
“My, you are the brightest beauty to ever grace these boards. I serve the sporting sort of fellow, not mobster mind you, but working men who favor a likely den and resent paying ale and beer tithes, what with their wages already molested by the Company. You, image of Beatrice that you are, and that big bull, will have the master bed room at back of the house.”
Doris smiled and mimed for a little one to come down out of the tiny doll house, making also the sliver of the moon and signing that it would be right and safe. She also said, in slow, silent lip speak, as she made hand mime of two littles being bundled off from the street outside a quaint house, “I am sorry, from my own broken heart.”
The woman followed her slow moving lips with some amazement and bent her knee slightly, pulling her dress drapery up and out so it did not drag the clean polished boards of the ancient floor. Doris had seen many a slave girl and serving wench, maid and housekeeper motion to their tall patrician dames in just this way. Knowing herself a slave, she blushed and imitated this slavish courtesy, extracting a grin from her gracious host.
The woman smiled hard and winced, “Of course, Lady,” and turned with tilted head to the address the little pale face that peeked through the tiny house window and beckoned, “Come on down, Annie, we have true and fancy guests, we do.”
A cute girl child in red pig tales darted out the side door, ran across the balcony and down the stairs, past that door-less bedroom where mother obviously slept.
As the tiny gladiator looked up in wonder and the men entered, Doris sang the chimes of virginity, undulating her hands at her own private parts and towards the oncoming darling girl and directed a tear to flow down her cheek, though her eyes were incapable of a proper cry.
“Oh, oh my, you dear—with that,” and she turned to see the men entering behind the hulking Scot and edited her remark, “Sometimes, my dear, the most brute beast is in cruel treat the least to our weak kind. The sheets are fresh changed, good linen. I will wash your things if you please...have a robe for you to wear.”
The great Scot, named Max came forward, set his massive hand on her shoulders, a pinkie touching one and a thumb the other, and produced two Gold Johns, [1] worth as much as this woman was like to earn in a year, and handed them to the inn keep between thumb and forefinger, “Mum, you have forever the protection of House Scot. I would like ye ta teach Minicus here how to keep bar, change taps en such, he bein’ the keep of our house ‘til he’s ready for war.”
The woman seemed terrified and the man dropped the coins into her apron, held her with his other hand, kissed the top of her head and assured, “Mum a mine locked in an iron tower fo’ the crime of bearin’ me. This fresh one here could use a good mum.”
The boy darted a vicious glare back up at the gladiator who winced, theatrically, “Ye wit me every step a the way, Freshy. But I die in three days. Ye need a mum to counter the bruteness of dem Scots, ain’t all as fancy and muggy as me. Now look to dat lass, boy, help with her chores and guard the door!”
The woman looked up at the grinning giant, “Ye be one o’ the Born twins, got on Caesar’s own Mum from dem swordy prisons?”
“Ye gots me girl,” said he as he slapped her butt so hard that she lifted, and then reached into his purse for some silver, “For the drinks, Damy.”
“Ale, beer, small beer for the tyke, and stout, as much as ye like ye big mug—ugly as sin you are, so treat this beauty right and nice under Mah Ann’s roof!”
And so the woman became the comic boss of a weird yet small cast of heroes, dedicated it seemed, to drinking themselves blind on something not nearly as fair as wine.
‘What about me,’ she ached, as he left her be to cavort over dice and tales of brutal strife with the three lesser men who seemed his very own nation.
‘What about me, has he grown tired of my mute delicacy already?’
To be continued…
Notes
-1. A Gold John is golden coin minted at the cathedral of The House Thrax in Aberdeen, Scotland. Each such coin is worth 20 Augustan’s the standard gold coin of Rome, which is a 20th the weight. The image of Saint John the Baptist, baptizing Jesus Christ is engraved.
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