Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stroking Cats

NOTE: Well, I still suck at action. But I figured out how to turn action into kind of a Cyrano de Bergerac fight scene, so maybe this works.

Arthur screamed like a bull and shoved Gwendolyn from him. She spun, tripped, and would have fallen to the ground had Yershi not caught her. “Harlot!” Arthur yelled, blood dripping from his lip.
Yershi helped Gwendolyn to his seat by the hearth. “Harlot, he says,” wrapping her in his cloak. “And who is the one doing the kissing?”

“Whose business is it of yours?” Arthur bellowed.

“It became my business when you threw the young lady in my lap,” Yershi said.

“Fool!” Arthur shouted. His bloody torn lip flapped as he spoke.

“Fool I am? I’m not the one with the torn lip,” Yershi said.

Blood and saliva trickled from Arthur’s mouth. The crowd in the pub, never silent, had lessened its noise and formed a slowly widening circle of faces around Arthur and the slight, mysterious black-clad man who had been so gentle with the lady, sobbing and holding her head, still wrapped in the man’s black cloak.

Arthur balled up his fists. “You talk smart, but I’ll pound the smart out of you!”

Yershi looked at Arthur from toes to head. “You probably could,” he said finally. “If you could land a blow. I think I’ll not allow that.”

“A brave one this,” a woman in the crowd said.

“Soon a dead one,” Arthur bellowed. And he swung.

Yershi moved. Quick as a cat blown by a breeze, and Arthur punched the air and swung a quarter turn, startling those in the edge of the circle as the unstopped fist swished by.

“I’m not much at hand fighting,” Yershi said. “My hands are far too delicate.” He held up is smallish hands to show the crowd as Arthur held his lip. “I will throw a punch if I have to, but it hurts the knuckles so. I don’t like it.”

Arthur swung again, missed as Yershi leaped to the side. Arthur’s fist smacked into the mantelpiece, knocking brass plates to the floor. Arthur shrieked.

“That is why I do not throw punches,” he said as Arthur examined his cracked, bleeding knuckles. “Too much hurt, and the hurt even comes from striking soft things. Ever stroked a cat for hours?” he asked the crowd. “You may not think it, but I am a man who enjoys striking cats. But after a while, the fingers throb at the repeated motion and the feeling leaves them. I have rubbed myself raw on cats, and I advise against it.”

Slivers of laughter wove through the crowd.

Arthur put his head down, held his hands out wide and charged at Yershi the Mild.

Yershi dropped to a crouch and carried Arthur over his back, crashing him onto a table just as the crowd parted. Plates and mugs clattered, wooden spoons bounced off the ceiling as Arthur fell and sucked air into his lungs where it had been forced out.

“I am sorry about this, Arthur. Your lip must hurt something awful,” Yershi said. “If you’ve a mind to stop fighting, I might be able to do something about it. I am quite familiar with the knife.”

A knife appeared in Yershi’s hand. Short, sharp, black of blade and handle.

Some in the crowd whispered. With the blade in his hand, Yershi suddenly looked menacing. There were always stories. And rumors. The name of Yershi the Mild was known, though perhaps his face was not.

Arthur sat up on the table, still breathing hard, rubbing the back of his head. His bit lip flapped as he breathed. In his eyes, fear and pain.

The blade in Yershi’s hand disappeared as quickly as it came. From another pocket, he pulled a small black packet, walked to Arthur’s table, unrolled the packet. In it, surgeon’s instruments, needles and thread. “I can repair that lip,” Yershi said. “Given your breath, I’m not sure any more alcohol will be necessary for anaesthetic, but you may take some more if you wish.”

Arthur looked at the instruments, the wickedly curved needle hung with thread in Yershi’s hand. His eyes rolled, and Arthur flopped back onto the table.

With the barman helping and with others fetching towels and hot water, Yershi deftly sewed the lip, using small, neat stitches. “He will have a scar, and I’m not sure his mustache will grow back in that spot, but he will be in much less pain. And he will be able to eat without dribbling.”

Gwendolyn, as Yershi worked, removed Yershi’s cloak from off her shoulders, folded it, then watched as Yershi laid his stitches. When the work was done, Yershi rolled up his packet, nodded at Gwendolyn, and returned to his table.

“I thank you, kind sir, for your service,” Gwendolyn said as Yershi sipped from a beer provided gratis by the barman.

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