A Day in the Life of Francis – A Medieval Boy #MedievalMonday
Francis’ long brown hair whisked in front of his face. He stood and lowered the stick as he rolled his eyes in disgust. The wind pushed his carved sailboat across the moat—too far for the long stick to retrieve it. Normally, he wouldn’t care but this was a gift from his uncle Hunter. He ran along the moat’s edge, across the drawbridge, and carefully slid onto the steep gravelly narrow strip of land against the castle wall. It was twenty yards to his boat. He sat in the dirt after retrieving the boat, waiting for his ribcage to stop heaving. He was not concerned that at eight he had lived a third of his life.
Francis missed the farm. For one of many reasons, the water did not smell like the privy. They had lived within the castle walls for two years. The narrow streets with the overhanging houses almost touched at the roofs’ edge, reminded him of the dark cave in the hill next to the barley field—he had once been terrified there overnight. Also, there was father always shouting about something called taxes. These were good reasons to risk playing outside the castle wall.
Last night, conversations about health dominated father’s and mother’s evening after a dinner of venison pasty and ale. Throughout the night they whispered of the death of an uncle, two aunts, and a cousin dying of smallpox, typhoid, diphtheria, and dysentery. It seemed Francis’s relatives were like lightening rods for bad health. Mother pleaded they move back to the farm, as they were now exposed to many potential carriers of the black plague—the most important discussion at the market.
The flagpole’s shadow was almost inline with the stone, which marked the middle of the day. Francis gathered his toys and wished the walk back for lunch wasn’t uphill. He was already breathing heavy as he approached the butcher shop—the sixth shop inside the gate. Glaven, Francis’s former playmate, was now working as the Butcher’s apprentice. He was twelve. The bucket containing manure, hooves, blood, and cow entrails dripped all the way to the sewer drain.
Next, he waited outside the tannery to waive at dad, who sat the bucket of tannic acid, hair, fat, and meat bits on the dirt floor to return the gesture, and swat at some flies. Father then poured the lumpy pink and brown contents into the drain connected to the sewer water supply. Some of the liquid trickled across the floor toward the butcher shop. The tannery was placed there so the hides could be processed before they hardened.
He continued walking uphill and stopped to use the hill top privy. He wiped his hands on his pants as he walked home two doors down.
As a young boy at family gatherings, I recall listening to the men after a meal. The opinions around the subjects of politics, car brands, hippies, and rock n roll filled the room with energy like aromatic smoke from a pipe. But, when the story telling began everyone found a seat or patch of floor. We sat for hours absorbing the stories, fact or fiction, that shaped who we became and it strengthened our imaginations. Fifty years later I know that a world without imagination would be pretty boring.
Winter’s Thief is the first of a four book series. Soft cover books available at your favorite Internet bookstore, or at the website www.AndeanWhite.com. The e-book version is available at Amazon.com.