Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 53
wolf moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Within Grasp, by Jacelyn Yap

new works

Matt Kendrick

Green to the nubbing-cheat

And here’s the constable, the smolly jile of him. William raises a daddle in a wave. He likes the constable. But not these other men in their stovepipe hats, their black blazers’ shoudy buttons gloomering like bad pennies in the well where William throws his wishes. Their mouths are jickerjacks. They snide him globberjaw. When they rough his wrists in a twine-snake, he whimpers, What’ve I done? But no one answers. The goodwife silent. The thatcher boy inspecting his knees. Other neighbours in their foxing pelts. William wants his ma.
In the court, a fraudy wig of gimmered hair sits on the judge’s crown. His mudslide jowl pronounces charges. Grave. Gravelly. The constable names William an unlicked cub. Says they found him blood-palmed by the marshes with a dagger in his grasp. No! I never! William rabbit-twitches at the faceless, formless rows of people disconjured behind the shadowsome mantling, but no one speaks for him.
The trial is a thunder-mulch. A confoundation of sky-scuffed words which William doesn’t understand. A few times, a question wasps between the judge’s sneery teeth. His eyes impatient dark when William fails to answer. Was he or wasn’t he? Isn’t it true he knew the man? Didn’t the man once drunch him behind the tavern on a stark and dormy night?
When the last words have slunk their way beneath the floorboards, it is ten and two in a quiddle to decide William’s fate, and all the while the judge blouts his cheeks and the constable’s elbows make a teapot with two handles. William’s legs are wilted stems. His throat swamps around his heels. In the endless stretching of the moment, a farmer lobs an onion that mallocks against his face. Then an insult—Addlepate!—a word he has heard more times than there are stones in the fallow field where he sometimes lies and nervels in the twiferal beauty of the night.
The goodwife looks away. The thatcher boy twists his divers in a knot. A hush-pause. Then, a blustering of bodies taking seats, impleasant faces scattered outwards.
The judge wants a word-truth.
The foreman nape-bows in volumptious assent.
Well? says the judge. Guilty or nay?
Again, the nape-bow. Then a bogging bafflication. William pronounced—peccantious, depravable. The judge, placing a black cloth over his fraudy wig, utters William’s name in a hollow of deep peverity. His voice sunk low like a murdowing worm. Down, down, down to condamnation. The jeery chabbering of the crowd.
Later, the outside ground shoved hard against his cheek, the dasty soil grubbing upwards, boot-hulls stamping down. His tongue is earthy. When a yeasty puddle pools around his britches, a guttersnipe cries, Pissysop! Takes a rankled toe-punt at William’s lanken side. Another hacks a glob of phlegm that splodges ear-wards. Augurs rain. Fat crab-apple raindrops drunching through his hide.
Then his cell. All bricks and bars. A piffling wind-eye through which he searches for moon, stars, the ghost of his ma—but the dark is petrous, a scaldous stone that ice-burns his lungs, his tongue, the sagging ledge beneath his unslept eyes. His breath comes in whumpled pocks. As a scatter-hare skitters circles in his mind, his heart tah-tump-tah-tumps. Slower. Slower. The hours slothly in their wide despair.
It is the stovepipes who come for him. The stovepipes who rough him through the door.
And here’s the constable with his smolly jile. Here’s the baker, the judge, the lordling, the harlot, the priest. William wants to raise his daddle in a friendsome wave but the stovepipes hold him fast. Shove him forwards in a jitterous lurching. Towards the ravenstone, the Tyburn tree, the nubbing-cheat of hanging rope.
The priest says a god-plea. The neighbours gruff amen then cast their eyes at the lovelack earth while William searches scanders straves around him. His wit-comb brambled with angered voices, hungered mornings, the thatcher boy who dubbed him cabbage-head, the goodwife who thwumped him sideways for sneaky snoodling in her stables.
The day is darker than the night.
Then the rope. Squinching at his neck. His britches pissed-in. Legs drangling kicking twitchsome body ankles fingers and—oh they’ll laugh!—the guttersnipe, the thatcher boy. They’ll call him goosecap, sawney, jerk-nod, quockerwodger—
They are beneath him now. He is looking down on them as they’ve always looked down on him. And it is queerious. Looking down. His wit-comb carded from his body. Just his think-seeds and his heart-spores. Floating. Wafting. Drifting like a wispy cloud. Away from the goodwife who later mutters that she could have been kinder. Away from the constable whose jile will smolly from his face when the thatcher boy cludges through confession that it was him who stabbed the dagger. Not William in the welkin where a leapy-leaf voice that sounds like his ma calls him lambkin, sweetling, pookie, wuggle piggle.
Don’t you hate them? asks his ma.
But William says they are all just people, just big-wigs and chatties, buffle-heads and cowans. They did him wrong but he forgives them. Sees their jibes like pittlybed petals. Their kicks like mist can’t hurt him now. Not here in the rapturous twitteritoom where the stars peak their glinten noses. In the vast divinitude of the beauteous, burlious dark.

Matt Kendrick is a writer, editor and teacher based in the East Midlands, UK. His work has been featured in various journals and anthologies including Craft Literary, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions. He likes inventing new words. Website: www.mattkendrick.co.uk | BlueSky: @mattkendrick.bsky.social | Twitter: @MkenWrites.