Georgia On My Mind

Georgia was my girl, she was my love. Georgia was taken from me. She is not of this earth anymore. Georgia awaits me in heaven.

Georgia was taken from me last spring as she crossed a street. She was killed by a drunk driver. Winter is now coming on and the murderer has still not faced justice. He has money and a very good lawyer. His trial has been postponed repeatedly.

He may have money and a good lawyer, but I have my granddaddy’s Colt .45. I have decided to be judge, jury, and executioner. I have waited long enough for justice.

He goes out to the clubs every night. He does not drive now. He has a Cuban drive him in his big fancy car; the same car that took my Georgia.

It will be tonight.

As I wait in the alley for the murderer to emerge from the newest, hottest club on Miami Beach, I think of Georgia.

My Georgia was only nineteen when we met. She was in Miami visiting a friend, and the friend suggested that she see Fort Lauderdale before she went home. I was at the bar in The Elbow Room, sitting on my usual stool, when they walked in. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but that night I had my doubts.

I sat there and looked on as a few guys hit on Georgia and her friend. They all walked away empty-handed. Normally, I wouldn’t have made a move, but something drew me to Georgia. She was full of life. If I could see someone’s aura, I’m sure hers would have been a light blue. A loving and pure soul was she.

To make a long and loving story shorter, I sweet-talked her phone number out of her. At that point, all I wanted was to get laid. But that was before I fell in love with my Georgia.

I called the next day. We went sailing on my boat. I told her to bring her friend along so that she would feel safe. The three of us sailed the bay and then ate a picnic lunch on Elliot Key. As we sailed back, the sun was setting into a fiery western sky .

We hit Dinner Key just as it got full dark. By then I was in love.

My home base is Fort Lauderdale—about two hours up the Intercoastal Waterway.

I asked Georgia to sail up there with me and I would send her back to Miami in a cab. To my great surprise, she said yes. Her friend left us and I cast off from the dock.

Two hours later, in a cove off Dania Beach, we anchored and made love. The sweetest most loving love I have ever known. From that moment on, she was My Georgia.

She flew home, settled matters and came back to me. We had two years of love and life before she was taken from me. In that time, I learned how to love another human being. I learned of tenderness. I learned of love. And because of what was done to My Georgia, I will kill a man tonight.

It’s coming up on 2:00 a.m., about the time the killer heads for home with his conquest of the night.

I see them now, the three of them—the murderer, a girl, and the Cuban.

My quarry has his arm around the tall, skinny girl. She sways on her high heels. She wears a silver dress that reflects the pink and yellow neon lights of the bars they pass. He weaves as he walks. I hope and pray that he is not too drunk. I want him to know why he is going to die.

I step out of the shadows to block their path. I stand before them and tell the girl to hit the road. She hesitates, but when I raise the gun, she finds someplace else to be.  I then turn to the Cuban. “This ain’t your fight.”

He also hesitates. So I explain it to him, “In one minute, your boss will be dead. Do you want a piece of what is about to go down?” I reckon he didn’t because he shrugged and walked away.

Now it is just me and the murderer.

“This is for Georgia,” I say as I put a bullet into his shocked face. His blood and brains splatter onto the wall behind him. So simple to take a life. So very simple. I did it with a gun … he did it with a car.

I thought I would feel better killing the son-of-a-bitch. But you know what? It does not feel good to kill another human being … although I am glad I did it.

Now I’m waiting for the cops. I hear the sirens nearing. But I am not worried; I will not be here when they arrive.

With the barrel of the gun in my mouth, I think of My Georgia and tell her that I am on my way.

When I see the first cop car approach, I slowly squeeze the trigger.

She Was Born

She was born a free spirit.

She was the most beautiful woman in all the world.

Her name was Maria.

She touched me . . . she loved me.

I was not worthy of her love.

But she loved me nonetheless.

Then one dark night she was taken from me.

It’s now early morning.

I awake because of the sound.

The scream.

The horror.

But dreams can fool you.

I am alone.

It was I who found her body.

Her dead eyes looked into mine, but she did not see me.

I beheld her broken body, but it was not the woman I had loved.

Her essence had fled to another part of the universe … to another realm

I retrieve my gun and go in search of the man who had killed her.

He’s where I knew him to be.

I raise the gun and stick the barrel into his ear.

His brains spray out.

His blood forms a red mist that floats in the air … for a brief moment.

He’s gone.

Good … very good.

But his death does not bring back my Maria.

Now I will join her.

The gun barrel feels right in my mouth.

I pull back the hammer.

My hand is on the trigger.

My mind is on Maria,

I squeeze the trigger.

I am no more … until my essence is reborn.

Maria will find me.

Love is like that.

A Day for Dying

My man was killed yesterday—run down by a drunk driver while crossing a street.

Henry was my life. Henry was my everything.

He was a long way from home when he died. He should have been here with me, not out chasing money.

It was me that drove him off. I was always going on about how I wanted this and how I wanted that. Now all I want is my Henry back.

It don’t seem right that I’m here and he ain’t.

I think I’ll go to him.

The mountain ain’t that high. I can be up on top by sunset.

I’m wearin’ my wedding dress. Henry always said how pretty I looked the day we was pledged to one another. How my hair trapped the sunlight, how my eyes laughed, how he became weak in the knees as he stood next to me before the preacher. How much he loved me.

As I climb the mountain, I smile. I’m thinking on my Henry. I’m thinking of the time we was kids and went swimming down at old man Ives’ watering hole. It was the first time Henry ever did kiss me.

The sun’s going down; the clouds are orange and pink with purple ’round the edges.

I’m now up on the ridge.

Henry always said I didn’t have a lick of sense. I reckon I don’t.

I loved you so much, Henry, and I am so sorry for my evil ways.

It’s a long way down, but when I get there, I’ll be with my Henry.

 

 

Bless My Soul

I’m so in love. She is so fine. I don’t give a damn what anyone says. She’s my girl. She’ll always be my girl.

I met her in church. I was on my knees praying for forgiveness. She sat down next to me. Her smile … her eyes … set me free.

My soul was in torment. I was a sinner.

Her name is Ecstasy.

She came to me when I needed her the most.

She raised me from my knees.

She had me stand as a man.

I had done bad things. I was a wretch. But she blessed my soul.

Please, please, I must have a little more time.

Please, please allow me to make amends.

If you knew how I regret my sins.

How my heart yearns to set things right.

But my time has run out.

She points the pistol at me.

Ecstasy says that I must die this night.

So be it.

Bless my soul.

‘Nough Said

It’s 3:07 a.m. and I am thinking of you, my love. I am also thinking, How did I ever get myself into a mess like this? I am hiding in a culvert—a cement pipe—under a farm road I found myself on; I am a hunted man. Still, my thoughts are of you. The water flows around my ankles, and it is cold. For the moment, I’ve thrown the hounds off the scent. I hear their barking and baying retreating in the distance.

Perhaps, my love, I should start at the beginning.

Do you remember the last time we saw each other? It was a week past, at the church social. You wore your pink gingham dress. You know, the one I like so much, the one with the purple and yellow flowers on it. And you had on the sunbonnet I bought you for your birthday. You sure were a pretty picture. Well, that’s where all the trouble started.

I reckon you wondered what happened to me that night. I mean, why I never came back when I went to get you some punch. You remember that fella that came up to us and asked you to dance and I sent him on his way, telling him you were spoken for? That was Jess Baker; he lives up by Big Gap. Him and his family been croppin’ up there since Ol’ Dan’l Boone was in Congress, before that even. The Baker boys are a mean lot; they don’t take kindly to a slight, real or otherwise. And Jess’ uncle is deputy sheriff up in that neck of the woods.

Well, my love, this is what transpired. I was standing in line at the punch bowl when Jess comes up to me and says, “Thar’s a fella outside running down your woman. If she was my woman, I’d let no man talk the way he’s a talkin’. I’d have to do somethin’.”

I should have let it go, but what Jess was sayin’ just got my dander up. So I asked him to point the fella out to me. He agreed to do so, and together we walked out into the night. As soon as we got outside, Jess says, “He’s over this a way,” and led me ’round the corner of the church. And, my love, that is the last thing I remember until I woke up tied to a hitchin’ post.

Standing over me was Jess, his brother John, and their uncle, the one I told you about—the deputy sheriff. His name is Samuel. They must have thrown a bucket of water in my face to bring me ’round, because the drops were still falling from my hair onto my face.

When they saw I was awake, Jess grabbed me by the hair and pulled my head back so I had to look right into his mean brown eyes. He said, “Us Bakers is a queer bunch, when insulted we just gotta do somethin’ ’bout it.”

When he had had his say, the other two laughed. I knew those words, and I knew the laughter did not bode well for me. The three of them then went into the house and that is the last I saw of them until the next morning. I was left tied to the post all night.

Natural to say I didn’t get much sleep that night. When I heard the Baker boys emerging from the house in the morning, I feigned being out. But through the slits of my eyes, I saw Jess pick up the bucket, walk over to the pump and fill it with water. He walked back to the post and threw the water straight into my face. I pretended to come ’round, and he said, “We got chores to do, you stay right thar. We’ll be back presently, then we aim to have us some fun.”

As they walked away, I tried for the hundredth time to free my hands. My arms were behind me, one on either side of the post, and my hands tied at the wrist. During the night, I had rubbed the skin from my wrist. It hurt awfully to continue trying to get free, but I knew other things would hurt even worse if I was still tied and waiting for the Bakers when they returned at the end of the day.

The morning drew on; the sun beat down on me, causing a powerful thirst in me. As the noon hour approached, I heard the Bakers returning, so I once again pretended to be out in the hopes I might get another bucketful of water in the face. I was hoping that this time I might catch some in my mouth. My head was hung down, and looking through the slits of my eyes, I saw Jess’ boots stop and stand before me. Then I heard his brother John say, “Not now, Jess. We gotta eat and git back to work. ’Sides, we promised Uncle Sam not to start nothin’ till he got back.” With those words, Jess kicked at the ground, hitting my chest and chin with earth.

After they had returned to their work, I redoubled my efforts to get free. The pain in my wrists was unbearable, and my arms had gone numb. But I persevered, and along about sundown, I slipped one of the ropes. I was frantic; I knew they’d be along anytime. I managed to slip the remaining rope, and I was free. My arms were still too numb to do anything but hang limply at my sides. But I needed water bad, so I got to my knees and flung my arms around the crossbar of the hitchin’ post. And using the crook of my elbows, I hoisted myself up.

Once up, I staggered, more than walked, over to the pump and knelt before it. I grabbed the handle with both hands, put my head under the spout, and pumped that cool water onto my face and into my mouth.

When I had quenched my thirst, I stood and listened—nothing. The sun was below the horizon, but there was still a little light and I still had a few minutes before they returned, I hoped. I went into the house looking for a weapon; about then my arms were beginning to get their feeling back.

It was dark in the house and hard to see, but after a moment, my eyes adjusted to the gloom and I saw an old-fashioned single-shot rifle leaning against the bricks of the fireplace. I went straight for it, lifted it, and checked to see if there was a cartridge in the breech. There wasn’t. I looked about for a box of cartridges but saw none. I had to move, they’d be back anytime now. I took the gun. I could use it as a bluff or at least it would make a dandy club.

As I was leaving, I saw the two brothers walking up the road. I darted back into the house and made my way to the back, slipped out of an open window, and ran into the woods. I knew that the moment they saw I was gone, they’d be after me. And I knew from talk that the Baker boys could track anything … some said they had Injun blood in ’em.

As I ran into the woods, I made my first mistake—well, my second mistake, if you count leaving the church with Jess in the first place. I had never been to the Baker place, and I didn’t know if I was north or south of Big Gap. Their cabin stands at the foot of the mountain, so I knew it wasn’t east or west. Then I thought that even if I knew my way into town, Sam Baker was the law, and if he saw me, he could haul me away before I could say a word. So I decided to go up the mountain.

My only advantage was that they wouldn’t know how long of a start I had on them. For all they knew, I could have been gone for hours. Or so I thought. As I was walking deeper into the woods, I heard, “Hey you, we know you ain’t far, the earth is still wet under the pump. As soon as we et somethin’, we’ll be a comin’ for ya.”

If they were going to give me a few minutes start on them, I thought it prudent to use the time to think, and not run. What was my plan to be? You know me, my love, I’m a city boy; stalking, and tracking is foreign to me. I’ve never hunted in my life, and now I am the hunted. I needed a plan to first of all get rid of Jess and his brother, and then to get to a place of safety, anywhere but Big Gap and Sam Baker.

So, my love, this is the plan I came up with. I would go halfway up the mountain and circle around to the east and descend, and just hope I reached a place of safety before the Bakers caught up with me. It’s just too bad things didn’t work out that way.

But I’m getting ahead of my story. By the time I decided on my plan of action it was full dark, so going up the mountain side was slow work. I ran into trees, hit my head on low lying branches, and tripped and fell over logs and large stones a number of times.

Just when I’m thinking that there was no way in hell that the Bakers could track me in the dark, I saw the light of a lantern below me, maybe three or four hundred yards down the mountain. At this rate, they’d be upon me in no time. So I did the unexpected, what only a man filled with fear would have done. I climbed the nearest tree and went right for the top.

You know, my love, sometimes the unexpected works. They passed right under me and continued up the mountain. I sat on my perch and watched the lantern grow dimmer and dimmer until it was out of sight. At that point, I decided it best to stay where I was until first light. Blundering around the mountain in the dark would only have brought the Baker boys and me together.

The next morning, I climbed down from the tree and set about trying to get back to you, my love. That is the thought that has sustained me throughout this week. Just so you don’t have to relive the entire week with me, I’ll just say that I got lost up on that mountain. The Bakers, with Uncle Sam’s help, brought in dogs to hunt me down.

Just know that I got lost on the damn mountain. I’ve gone a week without real food. Oh, I’ve had some grubs and some worms. Even found some berries yesterday. I’ve been licking the dew off leaves in the morning to quench my thirst. And for the whole week, the Baker boys have been one step behind me.

This morning I finally made it down the mountain. I don’t know where I am; as I’ve said, it seems to be a farm road … wait … the hounds … they’re comin’ back this way. You know, my love, there is a time when a man has to be a man. I think my time has come. Know that I love you, and I would have asked you to be my woman if this had not happened.

The baying is coming closer. I will not be hunted any longer. I will not hide any longer, my love. I will stand up and be a man, or at least die as one. Please, my love, come walk with me, give me strength. I am leaving the culvert now. I see the men in the distance. It is my intention to walk up to Jess, or one of the others, and take a stand.

They are firing their guns at me now. Bullets are passing me. The ones that are close to my ears sound just like bees flying by. Stay with me, my love. I fear not when you are with me.

A bullet has just hit me in the shoulder, but has not knocked me down. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt. I will continue my march of freedom. I will not stop until I am dead, or they turn and walk away.

I’ve just been hit. I know not where, but I am lying on the ground. I’ve tried to get up, but I seem to have no strength. Is it because of the wound, or the lack of food?

Things are nice now, I am at peace. I’m looking up at the bluest sky I have ever seen. And the clouds are so beautiful. Look, my love, you see that one? Doesn’t it look just like a dog?

It’s getting dark on the sides. I mean my vision is like I’m looking through a tunnel of some sort. And the tunnel is getting smaller. I can’t see all of the sky. I can see only that one cloud … you know, the one that looks like a dog. Now, I can see nothing. I think I am dying, but dying with you by my side is so sweet.

’Nough said … good-bye, my love …

 

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Bye, Bye Baby

red-dress-ll

I wake up every night ’bout midnight. I just cain’t sleep no more! I cain’t sleep ’cause my woman’s driving me crazy. I told my woman a long, long time ago she was gonna drive me crazy. To keep my peace of mind, I’m gonna have to kill her this night.

I’m walkin’ the dark and empty streets with gun in hand. I’m lookin’ for my woman.

If she’s with another man, I’ll kill him too.

Bye, bye little girl . . . tonight you die.

Bye, bye lover . . . bye, bye.

I see you through the window at Mose’s Place. You have on that red dress I bought you last year. You’re sittin’ with another man.

I ain’t got nothin’ to lose. I open the door and step inside.

The music, the cigarette smoke, and my sorrow assault me.

I know what I have to do.

You’re laughing at something he has said as I walk up to the table. You’re having a good time. I’m happy for you.

Bye, bye baby.

The first bullet takes off half your lover’s head.

I take my time with the next shot. I want you to know that you’re gonna die.

Times slows, I see the fear in your eyes. Your face is splattered with your lover’s blood. It goes well with your red dress.

Bye, bye baby . . . bye, bye.

She Was Born

Maria

She was born a free spirit.

She was the most beautiful woman in all the world.

She loved me and I loved her.

Her name was Maria. Her soul told my soul that I was worthy of her love.

She touched me . . . she loved me.

Then she was taken from me.

It was morning. The sun still hid its light beneath the horizon.

I awoke because of the sound.

The scream.

The horror.

I ran to where I thought the screams originated. But dreams can fool you.

I was alone.

Maria had died the day before.

It does not matter. We all die. We are all born with a death sentence.

It was I who found her body.

Her eyes looked into mine, but she did not see me.

As I looked at her broken body, I knew that was not her.

Her essence had fled to another part of the universe.

She was my love.

Now he must die.

I retrieved my gun and went in search of my brother.

He was where I knew him to be.

I raised the gun and stuck the barrel into his ear.

His brains sprayed out

His blood formed a red mist that floated in the air for a moment.

He was gone.

But his death did not bring back my Maria.

Now I will join her.

The gun barrel feels right in my mouth.

I pull back the hammer.

My hand is on the trigger.

My mind is on Maria

My finger squeezes the trigger.

I am no more until my essence is reborn.

Maria will find me.

Love is like that.

Andrew Joyce’s Molly Lee

Three Steps

cowboy

I am three steps from meeting my maker. Three more steps to the noose. I am ready to die; I think I deserve to die. I have killed before, but never for such a frivolous reason as brings me to these last three steps.

The whole mess started down El Paso way when I walked into the cantina. It was a bucket of blood, a real dive. But I had a thirst and it was the first saloon I saw as I came into town. Once inside, it took my eyes a moment to adjust to the gloom. When I could see again, I saw a bar against the far wall with only two men at it. They had their elbows upon the bar, staring into their drinks. A few tables separated me from the bar and they were all empty. It was mid-day, so that was no surprise.

I made my way to the bar and put my foot on the rail. The barman was a little slow in coming my way. I had just rode twenty-five miles and the dust was thick in my throat. I had no patience for a slow movin’ barkeep. When he was opposite me at the bar, I grabbed his shirt and pulled his face to mine. Looking him dead in the eye I said, “Give me your finest rotgut and if you dilly-dally, I’ll put a bullet in your leg.” As I said it, I drew my .44 from its leather and pointed the barrel at his right leg. His eyes widened and he reached under the bar and came up with an almost full bottle of some good stuff. “Here mister, it’s on the house,” he said.

Now that that was taken care of, I leaned my back against the bar, and leaving the glass where it was, took a good pull from the bottle. I had rode my horse almost to death. I had to move fast, they were on my trail. I mean the posse. Yes, I had killed two men, but they were trying to kill me. I finally lost the posse in the badlands. Now I’m only a few miles from Mexico and freedom. But as it turned out, I might as well have been a million miles from the border.

I don’t know what she was doing coming into that hellhole of a bar, but when I saw her, my plans changed. She pushed through the swing doors as though she owned the place. And in a way she did. She was tall and blond. Her hair was up and her smile could kill. Her figure had more curves then a coiled rattler. Her eyes were gray and they looked my way.

She came right up to me and said, “Ain’t you the big one.”

Without a word, I took the empty glass from the bar and poured out some of the amber liquid into it. She took the proffered glass from my hand and said, “My name is Rose and I like a man that will buy a girl a drink.”

When the bottle was half-gone, she told me to grab it. Then she took me by the hand and led me to the stairs. We ascended to the second floor to a door at the far end of the hall. “This is where I call home,” she purred. By now I had forgotten about the twenty-five dust coated miles, the posse, the killings, everything.

Once in the room with the door locked, she pointed to a table and said, “You’ll find some glasses over there, pour us a shot. I went to the table and found the glasses, blew the dust out of them and did as I was told. When I turned around with the glasses in hand, she was sitting on the bed. Patting the mattress she softly said, “Come and sit by me.”

Well partners that was all she wrote. We had our booze and food sent up, and for the next three days we did not leave that room. I have never known a woman like her. I’ve mostly only been with whores, but she was no whore. She told me that she loved me. We spent three days exploring every inch of each other’s bodies and I fell in love for the first time in my life.

It was on the morning of the fourth day that my head started to clear. We were lying in bed, I was on my back and she was propped up on one elbow running her finger down my chest when she said she wanted to go to Mexico with me. I told her that was fine by me, but there was no rush. That’s when she got a funny look on her face and exclaimed, “No, we have to leave today!” Before I could say anything there was a knock on the door. I got out of bed and slipped on my pants. I knew who it was; it was the little Mex boy who had been bringing us our food and booze. I usually took the tray at the door and handed him a dollar. But this time was different. He beckoned me out into the hall and asked me to shut the door. When the door was closed behind me he whispered, “Senor, you have been good to me so I must tell you that you are in great danger.”

I took the tray from his hands and said, “Don’t worry son this is the kind of danger I like,” and winked at him.

I started to turn, but he grabbed my arm. “You do not understand. She belongs to another man, a bad man. She has done this before and three men have died. Her man will be back tomorrow, so today she will ask you to leave and take her with you. If you are here tomorrow José will kill you.”

I put the tray on the floor and asked the boy to tell me all that he knew. He told me people were making bets with each other if I’d get away before José got back or if I’d be planted up on the hill with the other three. It seems Rose, my great love, was using me to get away from José. In this country a woman can’t travel alone. And besides, the boy told me José leaves her with no money when he goes away.

The news kinda punched me in the gut. I gave the boy a five-dollar gold piece and thanked him. Picking up the tray, I entered the room with a smile on my face.

“Where have you been? I missed you big boy,” she intoned.

Still smiling, I placed the tray on the bed and told her to have some breakfast. I was going to have a drink. I had me some thinking to do.

As I sat in the chair and watched her eat, I weighed my options. We could leave together and avoid this man José, or I could leave alone. Or, we could stay and I’d have it out with José. The problem was I didn’t know if she was worth it. She had played me. If I took her with me would she ditch me once we were in Mexico?

I was still thinking on those thoughts when she broke my reverie by saying, “I want to be out of here by noon. I’m going to take a bath; you pack and then settle our bill. I’ll meet you at the livery stable.” Still smiling I answered, “I’ll see you at the livery.” She gathered up some clothes, got herself dressed and left to take her bath.

When she had gone, I sat there in thought and added another option that I could take. I could just kill the lying bitch and be done with her. What to do? What to do?

I put on my shirt and boots and went downstairs still undecided. By the time I reached the livery I had decided that I’d leave without her. She was a fine looking woman and the sex was good, but I had enough trouble and I didn’t need no crazy man after me. I saddled my pinto and started down the street at a slow pace. As I passed the saloon, Rose pushed through the swing doors and saw me. She dropped her bags and ran up, grabbed ahold of the saddle and walked along side. Looking up at me she implored, “Where you going? Wait, I’ll get my horse.”

“I’m sorry, it was nice, but this here is where we go down separate trails.”

She wouldn’t let go of the saddle, so I picked up the pace a mite. She still hung on. Then I saw her look down the street and the look on her face said it all. She let go and hightailed it back to the saloon.

I didn’t have to look, but I did. Astride a sorrel rode a big man, a big mean looking man. It had to be José. As we came abreast of each other he grabbed the reins of my horse. There we stood, eye to eye, neither one of us speaking. Finally he said in a very deep voice, “Whatcha doin’ with my woman?”

“Nothing, just trying to get outta town,” I answered.

I saw it in his eyes; he was going to draw on me. I may be slow when it comes to women, but I’m fast on the draw. I had a bullet through his forehead before he cleared leather. That was my mistake, that and taking up with Rose. I should have let him draw first. The whole thing was seen by the town marshal and I was quickly arrested. I thought for a moment of killing the marshal before he arrested me, but I never did kill no man that was not trying to kill me.

For three days I knew of love. In three steps I die.

Beauty and the Beast

Princess

Once upon a time, in a far off land, lived a princess. She was beautiful to look at and her every wish and whim was carried out by her court. If she desired something it would appear no matter the difficulty in obtaining it or who had to die. Her father, the king, had brought her up telling her that the kingdom and everyone and everything in it was hers to do with as she pleased. She was an only child and the apple of her father’s eye; her mother, the queen, died giving her birth.

   Her father was a cruel king and his subjects lived in abject fear of him. His daughter, the princes, took after him and not a day went by that she did not have someone flogged for a minor transgression.

However, for all her power and all her wealth, the princess was lonely. She had had many proposals of marriage. Princes came from far and near to ask her father for her hand. They brought with them the riches of their kingdoms and laid their treasures at her feet. Nevertheless, she rebuffed all offers of marriage and she grew lonelier still.

One day as she and her father were riding through the kingdom on their magnificent horses, followed by the captain of the guard and his men, they happened upon a young peasant of about twenty summers. He was comely of face and the sinew of his muscles glistened with sweat in the morning sun. Because he was deep in thought and intent on the task at hand, hoeing a small patch of ground. He did not hear the approach of the entourage. Hence, he did not prostrate himself as all subjects were required to do when the king or princess passed by.

The king halted the procession and pointed to the peasant. The captain of the guard, knowing his duty, ordered two of his men to bring the man before the king. But before the soldiers reached him, he turned upon hearing the snorting of the horses. Almost immediately, he was accosted by the two men, and held by his arms, he was taken to the king.

With his face upraised, he looked from the king to the princess and back to the king with a look of inquiry. Finally the king said, “How is it that you do not prostrate yourself when your king passes?”

The peasant, whose name was Tom, simply said, I am sorry sire I did not hear you coming, so engaged was I in getting my meager crop planted.”

The king smiled a malicious smile and said, “There are no excuses. Captain, show this man what happens to those who disobey the edicts of the land. Tie him to a tree and administer forty lashes. And when you have finished chop off his left hand as a reminder to others that their king’s decrees are absolute.”

Then turning back to Tom he said, “I am feeling benevolent today. That is why only your left hand and not your right will you forfeit.”

All though the exchange between sovereign and subject, the princess sat her horse enthralled by the peasant’s bearing and striking looks; his muscles fairly rippled under his tattered tunic. Never had a prince of the realm, or any other realm, so enchanted her.

As the man was led to a nearby tree, the princess whispered to her father. The king’s eyes widened and he asked, “Are you sure?”

Before he could be bound to the tree, the king gave the order that he be brought to the castle and ensconced in a room suitable for a prince. Then  as an afterthought added, “Bath him, burn his clothes and dress him befittingly.” With that pronouncement, he proceeded on, followed by his court and the princess who did not look back at the receding figure of the man she had just saved.

When she arrived back at the castle the first thing the princess did was call for her maidservant. As soon as the servant appeared, the princess eagerly demanded, “Where is he?”

“Who your highness?” asked the girl.

Losing her temper at the girl’s obtuseness, the princess lashed out at her. “The man that was brought here while I was gone! Where is he?”

Finally a light dawned, and the girl told the princess that someone was put in the unused wing of the castle and that there was a guard to keep servants and members of the court out. However, her sister, who was also a servant in the castle, was told to take hot water to that wing and leave it with the guard.

The princess smiled a wicked smile and dismissed her servant with an order that bath water was to be readied for herself. After her toilet, and after dressing in her finest garments, the princess called for a guard and instructed him to bring the man they had come upon that morning to her sitting room.

The guard demurred, thinking that first he should get the king’s permission. But after one look at the princess, he knew that to fail to carry out her command would only mean imprisonment or maybe worse.

In due time, Tom was brought before the princess and he wore a perplexed expression upon his countenance. After the guard left, he stood before the princess a moment before speaking. “I remember you. You were riding with the king this morning. Can you please tell me how I happened to be here?”

“You happen to be here because I wanted you here,” the princess replied calmly.

Tom, not quite understanding, stood before the princess and awaited her pleasure. He did not have long to wait. “What do they call you? she asked.

“I am Tom, son of Tom the Tinker.”

“Do you know who I am? the princess queried.

“You are a lady. That is all I know.”

“That is good enough for now. You and I shall dine together tonight and then you will spend the night here in the castle. Is there anything in particular you would like to eat?”

Tom responded, “If it’s all the same to you my lady, I would like to leave this place. I have someone that will worry for me if I do not return this eve.

The princess did not like what she heard and answered thusly: “No. It is not all the same to me. I saved you this morning and now you belong to me,” she said with raised voiced.

Tom, not knowing what to make of the tirade, smiled at the girl before him and told her quite forcibly that he belonged to no one save his one true love.

When she heard what Tom said, the princess stood and walked to the door and summoned the nearest servant. “Bring to me the captain of the guard, at once!” She then returned to where she had been sitting and with a smile asked Tom the name of his one true love.

Tom, though he was young, fathomed something in her manner and hesitated. “She lives not in this country. She belongs to a clan eight leagues to the north.”

It was a lie and the princess knew it for what it was. She simply said, “I tire of you.”

It was then that there was a knocking upon the door. “Enter,” the princess intoned.

The captain came in and awaited his instructions. The princess said, “Take this man to the dungeon and see to it that he is not fed this night, nor on the morrow. He is not to be fed until I say so. He may have water, but that is all.” Showing reluctance, the captain said, “But your highness your father has instructed me to treat this man with courtesy.”

The princess, now getting angry, told the captain that the king had issued the command on her behalf. Now she wanted the peasant in the dungeon. The captain, who had been at court many years and was a captain because he knew how to obey orders, did as he was bid. As he led Tom from the room the princess said, “When you have finished with the charge given you report back to me.”

The captain reported as ordered and was given a new commission. “I want you to send men out to find a woman. She will be in the vicinity of where that man was first seen. His name is Tom, son of Tom the Tinker. She will be either his wife or his intended. When you locate her, bring her to me. Now leave, I am weary.”

So the captain sent four of his best men to bring back a single girl.

The undertaking was not as easy as the princess had thought. It was not until the early morning hours that the girl was located. And when she was brought to the castle, no one, including the captain, wanted to awaken the princess. So the girl was locked in a room until her highness awoke and had eaten her morning meal. It was only then that the captain sent word that the girl she desired was in the castle and awaiting her pleasure.

The young girl, her name was May, was brought before the princess at mid morning.

May faced the princess not knowing what offense she had committed. However, she was too scared to say anything. The princess walked around her once, then twice and finally she said, “So you are the little snip that Tom prefers to me?”

Not knowing what the princess was referring to, the girl said, “I am sorry ma’am, but I do not know of what you speak.”

This infuriated the princess, and she yelled, “I am Princess Elizabeth. I always get what I want! Your Tom thinks you are more desirable than me, but if you were no more then he would come to me willingly.”

The outburst had the opposite effect that the princess had intended. May stood straight and with a smile informed the princess that she was proud to love Tom and was proud of his love for her. She added, “Killing me will only strengthen our love.” Then a look crossed her face and she implored, “Where is Tom? Is he all right? May I see him?”

“You ask a lot for peasant girl,” said the princess. “But no you may not see him. He is mine and as soon as you are dispatched we will be married.” The princess smiled her coldhearted smile and called for the guard. “Take this girl to the dungeon and behead her.”

May, contrary to what the princess envisioned, stood tall and said, “You may kill me, but you will never kill Tom’s love for me.”

“Take her from here and do what I have commanded,” screamed the princess.

That afternoon Tom was brought before the princess. There was a table laid with the finest food in the land and the princess bade Tom to sit and partake of the fare.

Tom was hungry, but he hesitated. “Do you think a night without food would have me forsake my love? Well, not one night, nor a thousand nights in your dungeon will do so.”

The princess only smiled and bid Tom to eat and enjoy the repast. “I am not fearful of your love. Her name is May, is it not?”

Tom was startled when he heard May’s name spoken and asked, “What do you know of her?”

“I know nothing of her. Nothing that is except she lies dead below us.”

Tom, not believing his ears, shouted, “You lie!”

“Shall I have her head brought to us?”

It was then that Tom knew in his innermost being that the princess did not lie. He walked over to a window and while looking down at the courtyard far below asked, “Why?”

The princess shrugged and said, “I wanted you and she stood in the way. Now you are mine.”

Tom shook his head and said, “I will never be your.” as he leaped to his death.

The End

      The Beauty of this tale was the love between Tom and May. The Beast should be self evident.