from Carlyle: Histories
by Patrick Leonard
Asked for Grace
Millie dragged along on her knees and dug the spring-soft yard with her broke down hands. Carlyle bound Millie’s fists with a length of his shirt and knotted up the leftover hair when she let fly the newfound clay.
“I’m stuck in this wrapping,” Millie shouted from her shallow canal.
Carlyle, seated eastward, kept record of Millie’s afternoon pleas on sheets of dried pine pulp. One column graded the desperation in Millie’s cry and the other recorded birds downed by stone shot.
Millie clenched tight to her bandages and sang to the hollow wings quiet all around. She rolled her shoulders towards Carlyle and said, “Have you enough phrasings? I’m to my last despair and you’ve not sung once.”
Carlyle shut the pulp into a lockbox and loosened his ankle tie. He gathered up the still warm kill and placed them into a leather-stitched sack. Carlyle said to Millie, “Yes, I’m tight and full. How’ve your knuckles faired this day? Mine are stained with dye and mash.”
“There’s nothing here that’ll save either of us. Send for a watchman, Carlyle, we’re in for a bad way.”
The Fox Meets Carlyle
Carlyle removed the cupboard’s false back and took Millie’s Book of Maladies up to the butcher for carving. The hill to the meat shop had grown thick with tumble, though Carlyle so amused with Millie’s deception cared not the sweat or cut.
Along the path, Carlyle encountered a small fox with its leg in a braided snare. He bent down one knee and drew water from his sleeve onto the fox’s tongue. “Were you off to some meeting of great import?” asked the foxed with concern.
“I’m to the butcher, friend. The shop by the mill uses blades not of metal or stone. How’ve you come by this snare?”
The fox, a load of hunt and jaw, shifted for another drink. Carlyle obliged and sat quiet. “I was to the church for a child’s sin,” replied the fox.
“Their season already? I have this volume for trade. Have you a grade for the transgression?” said Carlyle. He held the bound text out with both hands as evidence. Carlyle always wanted such a gift for Millie.
“I cannot tell you, sir. I’m only one of many in this. Is the Book of Maladies a truthful edition?” asked the fox in a wet pitch. He tested the snare once more and lunged at Carlyle.
The braid, worn from weeks of dew, gave out at the leap and both fell in teeth to the dirt.
Millie wore her distraction mask and ran up under the moonlight. She put up the night in a thick jar and set home to Carlyle. The mask held tight on Millie’s grin all through the frenzy.
However, when Millie arrived at side door ready to gift her evening jar to Carlyle, she saw his boots had the mud of capture about them. “Who of us could know such delight!” shouted Millie at her hands around the jar.
“Come see, Millie,” said Carlyle from the attic beam. Carlyle waved his arm and sent the knotted rope down to Millie.
Millie held the jar beneath her chin and went fist by fist up to see what Carlyle gathered. She rose from the floorboard and started the small lamp.
The ceiling turned every way of orange and brown. Carlyle stood proud, his shoulders wide and pulled back, a hand firm on the canvas sheet that nearly covered the entire floor. Carlyle smiled hard at Millie. He flourished up one hand and the cover folded into his pocket to reveal box upon box of costumes.
Carlyle labeled each wooden box by category and means of acquisition. Even the simplest dresses, like that of the cobbler, taken with such violent disregard, stirred Millie senseless.
“How are we to wear them all? And what if we’re recognized and made to spread jealousies?” asked Millie.
Carlyle remembered the mark on his arm and said, “Once you’ve taken to a suitable guise, Millie, all the rest, even you and I will vanish. You will have always been that figure you’ve chosen.”
The Chancellor Attempt
Just as Carlyle promised Millie, he made his way down to the esteemed villa more than three nights from their home. Carlyle took an aggressively styled walking stick and a leather sling.
He toured the pharmacies along the town’s edge to purchase a variety of powders and pills. Carlyle reviewed his pocket edition of The Poisoner’s Almanac and settled on a subtle recipe of distension.
Two nights fluttered through the weak light and Carlyle strayed from sleep’s pull. On the third morning, he sent a messenger bird back to Millie to report his distance and method. Carlyle found a low stump, flat for mixing and set his mind to secret disease.
The Chancellor’s wife left him in the bright cushions to supper and turned her efforts to the burned through orphanage. At the far end of the oak setting, the Chancellor sliced easy at smoked meat and shifted lavender crush beneath his feet.
Carlyle, disguised as hazel cord, slumped down the crumple-horn onto the low boards. Carlyle washed his fresh toxins over the waiting cups with very silent broad strokes. He smiled and imagined a week-long fire around which to boast his assignation.
The Chancellor thought to summon the guards for company and wine but saw the hour far too late. The servicemen, bunked tight from attacks, failed to answer the call and the Chancellor soaked up each donated cask on his own weight.
Request and Throne
One of the lesser kings, who reigned over purchased lands, sent for Carlyle’s heart by letter. The king’s summons included a burlap-lined box and a wrapped jewel for Carlyle’s beloved.
Millie looked to Carlyle in his bunk and said, “You’ve another call from the hill. Should we consider a surgeon?”
Carlyle stretched his arms out to the side walls and arched up from the plank. He drew a breath and refastened his thick coat. “File it down with the thin yard archive. We’ve to save his crown scraps for winter.”
The matter between Carlyle and Millie felt settled. They tucked down to sleep and did not think of the offer again.
However, hid away in the burlap folds, a secret listening device transmitted all of the disappointment to the king. He stormed from his post and called for his collection of unused swords. The king found a young blade willing to travel through forest and muscle.
The king worked over the turned woodland until Carlyle’s dim window shone with waking. Millie’s daughters, silent in their towers, braided hair won at the autumn festival. Millie struggled against the king for the back hinge and Carlyle weighed heavy on the weakest latches.