The Farm Ch. 05bySumacandIvy©
Straw and Kabul
They fell into an easy rhythm in the thatched cottage. Food appeared at the door each morning. Prize carried water and cleaned the well furnished rooms. He fed and watered the mare in the small stable though the odor of damp straw riddled him with fear. He knelt at Gordy's side as he read or worked at his desk.
They moved to the bedroom up the polished wooden stairs. Gordy slept in the bed. Prize slept on the hearth. Gordy demanded much and Prize gave more. He kissed Gordy's thighs and opened his lips each morning to accept Gordy's erection. That was his goal. He made the tea. He lay supine and relaxed as Gordy sipped brandy from the hollow of his throat. His bruises faded from purple to yellow. He waited until he was called. He was teased and examined. He relieved his straining cock if Gordy sent him out to do so. He started a kitchen garden. He feared the locked armoire that stood by the front window; the one Gordy opened with a large key and spent too much time touching the objects that lay within. And he feared the day Gordy applied those objects. He became an object in Gordy's cottage. He was not beaten nor slapped.
He was not loved.
* * *
Gordy sat tipped back in his chair by the blue kitchen door and watched as Prize turned the soil, planted, weeded, watered bucket by bucket from the well, and smiled as the tender shoots broke through the dark earth. The sun glistened on Prize's skin. His skin turned from marble to ale. His muscles hardened. He put on a bit of weight. His pubic hair grew soft and fine. At evening he came to the sitting room washed and fresh. He clicked the shackle to his ankle and sat cross legged on the rug. He waited while Gordy ate his dinner at the sturdy table. He crawled to eat from his hand, his hands clasp in the small of his back. Gordy kept his word and did not rape Prize. And Gordy felt ennui grow.
The morning started badly. The solicitor's papers in the basket sent up by Nanny Grey held nothing but tedium. Gordy threw them aside. He tried to clear his head by watching Prize at the well filling buckets for the garden. At first the sight of his strong shoulders moving under the collarless cotton smock intrigued Gordy, but his interest drifted. He gazed at the sky and saw darkening clouds gathering. He felt himself anger that Prize drew water when rain was imminent. He returned to the cottage and tried to put his mind to his papers again, but the words swam. He picked up a slim volume of poetry, but the verses fell flat. He walked the room laying his hand on this object or that, but nothing pleased him. He listened to the sounds of Prize working in his garden, but the sound of the shovel turning the soil rubbed his nerves raw.
The tea was cold. There was dust on the sideboard. The rug looked faded. The food Prize placed before him was dull. Gordy was tired of eating from hampers. He left the food untouched and moved to the sofa and picked up his book and tossed it back down. He called Prize to him.
"Pour me a sherry." Gordy looked at his writing desk and the papers strewn across it. Prize handed him his drink. Gordy set it aside without tasting it. Prize waited. "What are you waiting for?" His harsh voice caused Prize to step back suddenly and reach under his shirt for the drawstring of the thin cotton paints he wore. The gestured caused Gordy to jump toward him in anger. He knocked his glass from the table and sherry spilled on the cuff of his trousers and boot. "Look what you did." Prize reached forward with the hem of his shirt to sop up the liquid. "We have napkins and cloths for that. Don't you have any sense?" Prize stopped, dead still. He looked questioningly at Gordy and moved to pick up the napkin next to the uneaten lunch. "Did I tell you to do that?"
Prize looked at him in startled confusion, "But?"
That one word broke the dam in Gordy. The papers unread, the isolation, the cold food, the bit of dust, and flat poetry. "But!" He lunged at Prize and grabbed him by the back of his neck. "But!" He pushed Prize across the room to the armoire. "You say but to me."
In his fear and confusion, Prize resisted. Gordy felt his anger boil over. The armoire unlocked and the doors flung open. Gordy reached inside and pulled out the collar with the iron disk. He thrust it into Prize's face. "Remember this?"
Prize remembered it well and the sight of it struck to the heart of his fears. He nodded. The collar clicked quickly around his neck. The iron disk cold on the hollow of his throat. The cold spread to the place in his memory where Brutal, Cruel, Miss Liz, and the straw-strewn cell resided. Prize stepped backwards and landed sprawled on the floor. He tried to wriggle away, but Gordy grabbed him by the loose shirt and pulled him back to the armoire and drew out a riding crop. He slashed once, catching Prize on the back of the shoulder as he tried to escape. He drew blood, a thin line of red seeped through the cloth as both men held still in stunned silence. Outside a lark started its song. It was an act without thought or plan. It was graceless. Gordy threw the crop from himself as if to distance himself from the act. Prize touched the wound on his back. He looked up at Gordy and extended his blood smeared hand.
The gesture was simple, but Gordy took it as an accusation and his anger and frustration returned fiercer and hotter than before. The bloodied hand pushed him in opposition of his inclination. He never used his crop on the mare. Yet he bloodied Prize without plan or thought. He left him kneeling stunned on the floor and turned to the armoire and withdrew a pair of manacles.
"Give me your wrists." Prize did and the irons clicked in place. His whole body sagged in resignation and fear. Gordy wrapped his hands around the chain and pulled. "Stand up, you stupid whore." Prize moved shakily to his feet and looked into Gordy's eyes. "Don't look at me like that. What did you expect?" Gordy pulled forth a fat, leather-sheathed dildo and pushed it in Prize's face. He pressed it to Prize's mouth. "Take it. Open your mouth and take it." Prize pressed his lips together and turned his head. "Do you want me to shove it up your ass?"
Prize shook his head and parted his lips. "Please, no." Nothing more. He looked with despair directly into Gordy's eyes and parted his lips.
"Easy, isn't it." Gordy dropped the dildo. It made a dull sound as it hit the floor and rolled a few degrees to the left.
One more reach into the armoire produced a chain and shackle. "Come." And Prize took a few awkward steps; Gordy pulled him through the doorway to the front garden, over the drive, to the well where he stumbled. Gordy grasped the back of his neck again and propelled him forward toward the stable. The shackle chain chimed merrily. "Move."
Prize tried but his knees were pudding. Every muscle in his body recoiled from moving. He wanted to break free and run. His mind held him tighter than the chains. He staggered like a drunk towards the dark interior of the stable. Gordy pushed him into the first stall and sent him sprawling into the straw. The mare in her stall snorted in surprise. Prize scuttled away to place his back to the rough wall. His loosened pants trucked down to his knees by his retreat. Gordy advanced on him. Prize raised his wrists to cover his face. His body wanted to bring the iron manacles down on the crown of Gordy's head. To split his skull but his mind cringed and the wrists and hands moved to protect his own face and head. His pants were yanked off and the shackle snapped on. The chain looped around the base of a support beam and locked in place.
Gordy glowered down at him and surveyed the scene. The shirt was drawn up exposing one buttock. The shoulder with the spreading red stain turned toward him. The turned face filled with anguish. "Don't say a word. Don't look at me." Averted eyes.
Gordy took the mare from her stall and saddled her. He slipped her bridle over her head and slipped the bit into her mouth. He stroked her neck to stay the trembling in his hands and said something soft and led her from the stable. He didn't look back at the half-naked man in the straw.
The mare cantered easily down the grade. Two cows lifted their heads to contemplate the passing horse and chew their cud. Tiny puffs of dust hung in the air at her passing. A hawk circled on the updrafts caused by the darkening clouds. A tidy cottage came into view beyond the bend and a small copse of laurel at the bottom of the hill. Nanny Grey stood at the gate, a hamper of food on her arm. Her husband stood in the stable yard harnessing the pony to its cart.
"Master Gordy, Lord Downcliff, what brings you here? My man and I were just on our way to deliver your supper." She lifted her hand from the gate and waved to the old man in a worn cap. "Come take Lord Downcliff's horse, William. Master Gordy, you look a state. Come inside and sit." She steered him by the elbow up the path and into a tidy room. "Sit here." She guided him to a worn horsehair chair. "You're flushed. I pray not's a miss."
Gordy collected himself. "Just out for a ride. I thought I'd stop for a little visit and see what gossip you wanted to share and perhaps spare you the trip."
"Let me make you a cup of tea." She placed a practiced hand to Gordy's forehead. "You're nay over warm."
"Don't fuss, Nanny. I've only stopped to save you a trip. Oh, I said that. Tell me the news."
Nanny Grey made him wait while she made tea and sliced a seed cake. She poured and offered him a slice. "Still milk, no sugar." She smiled. "The folk do wonder at what someone like you's doing up there all summer. I told them you's writing poetry and painting landscapes. And what's that word you used? Oh yes, living a pastoral life." She smiled and patted his knee. "It's all going well, Master Gordy? And your guest. He's well?"
"He's doing better, Nanny. I hope to be able to move him to London soon."
"You're a dear friend to care for him so." William could be heard scraping his boots at the kitchen door. "The hubby is in for his supper. Will you stay? Sure your friend will get along without you for a bit."
Gordy smiled ruefully and accepted the invitation. William stabled the mare and the three of them settled in for lamb stew and warm bread in the kitchen as the wind began to blow cold. Their small talk was interrupted by a flash and clap of thunder.
"There, you can't go out in this filthy weather. I'll fix you a bed on the sofa. I won't take no."
Exhausted from his anger and warmed by the company and stew, Gordy let his old nanny ready the sheets and blankets. And when he moved to the sofa calm at last, she moved to pull a blanket up around his shoulder, and he laughed and stopped her. He slept as the wind whipped the laurel branches and the rain dripped off the thatch.
Prize lay on the straw under the open window and watched the sky turn from pewter to iron. His shoulder throbbed and the manacles chaffed his wrists. He grew cold and tried to pull the straw over his legs though the touch and odor of it repelled him. He found little warmth. The iron tag on the collar felt heavy on his neck. He studied the polished tack on the far wall. Each in its place. Each well cared for. He smelled the leather mixed with horse, and straw. He tried not to listen for the sound of the mare returning or cart wheels on the shell drive.
The wind blew unseasonably cold through the window above him. He heard the first of the rain as it struck the stable wall. The wind increased and drove the drops through the window. Each drop cold on his skin. Prize pulled his knees up and hugged them to his chest to try and warm himself. He moved to find a drier spot and failed. The wind drove the rain in horizontal sheets through the window and soaked his shirt.
He shivered and fell into a fitful sleep. He didn't dream of the cell he dreamed of Kabul and a massacre. Of a soldier of twenty who woke from a blow to the head and a scimitar gash on his side to see a fly crawl on the open eye of a dead lad from Devonshire. Prize woke with the name Rahim on his lips.
Gordy found him curled on the straw damp and shivering. His lips blue. His fear palpable. He nudged his rump with the toe of his boot and Prize recoiled and tried to stand. "Still here."
Prize shot a look at the stable door expecting Halden or worse March to be waiting for him, but all he saw were dripping leaves and puddles in the yard. "I'm sorry," followed by a cough was all he could manage.
Gordy bent and unlocked the shackle. He threw the thin pants at Prize and turned. "You may return to the cottage. Bring the food hamper."
Prize clutched the pants to his chest and tried to stand. He couldn't. He crawled to the doorway and with great effort pulled himself to his feet. The morning sun warmed him and his muscles relaxed a bit. He picked up the hamper with stiff fingers and made his way to the well. He stopped to rest against the cold stones, the moss soft on his naked leg. He used the rain water collected in the bucket to clean his hands and face as best he could with his manacled hands. He brushed straw and dirt from his legs. The movements grew more fluid. Goosebumps crawled on his body. The iron tag on his neck weighed like a mill stone. He continued to the cottage door shuffling and bent and paused to watch Gordy swing the kettle over the fire. He crossed the threshold and waited. The riding crop and dildo were gone. There was no sign of the spilled glass.
"You're filthy." Gordy turned from the fire.
"Come to the fire."
Prize crossed the floor cautiously and sank back on his heels. He settled the hamper on the floor and lifted his hands to cover his head. He pushed his elbows together to hide his face. His shoulders shook and he wept. He wept for the soldier. He wept for the lad from Devonshire and all the dead men in their red coats. He wept for Kabul. He wept for Rahim. And he didn't know why. The kettle boiled.
Gordy watched as he prepared the tea and watched the dark leaves unfurl and the water darken. He marveled at the depth of the agony before him. The naked legs and exposed buttocks. And it came to him as sudden as the storm, this is what he missed. This is what he wanted. It wasn't the blind obedience and the sure compliance. He wanted to drive Prize to this. He wanted to bring the pain and enjoy his anguish, then bring him back and do it again, both were a pleasure. The thin shirt dried and the blood on the shoulder turned brown and still Prize sobbed. Gordy stood and advanced slowly toward him, and Prize looked up at him. He reached for the collar and Prize tightened his muscles in anticipation.
Gordy unfastened it and dropped it on the carpet where it sounded dull as lead; he loosened the manacles, and pulled them from Prize's wrists and rubbed a finger across the broken skin. He crossed to the armoire and placed them quietly inside. He locked the doors and hooked the key onto his watch chain where it glowed in the fire light. He poured steaming tea into a bowl, added brandy, and handed the bowl to Prize who wiped his eyes with his sleeve and rubbed the snot from his upper lip. He drank and placed the bowl on the floor and wept again. Gordy handed him a clean handkerchief.
A change washed over Prize as he held the handkerchief in his hand. He looked at the clean square and visions of the cell pushed the dream of Kabul from his mind and the cottage pushed away the cell. He reached for his shackle and fastened it on his right ankle. He stopped crying. He felt safe. He was in the cottage not the cell. The fire, brandy, tea, and crying warmed him. Gordy stood before him and he wouldn't rape him. It was a promise. He was Prize.
But somewhere a niggling voice hissed, "Prize sounds like lies."
Gordy placed the food hamper in the kitchen and pulled the wooden tub from the wall and carried it to the Persian rug and set it before the fire. He heated water and filled the tub as Prize watched from his place by the hearth. Gordy removed his coat and waistcoat and hung them carefully on a dining room chair. He rolled up his sleeves and extended his hand to Prize.
"Get into the tub. You're disgusting."
"I know." Prize gained his feet and stepped to the tub. He shackle chain slinked behind him.
"Stop. Let me unlock it."
"Please don't." Prize looked imploringly at Gordy. He felt the need to anchor himself in this cottage room. He reached for the hem of his shirt and began to pull it over his head. The fabric had fused to the slash on his shoulder, causing it to bleed afresh as the cotton pulled away. But Prize didn't mind because the pain kept him from remembering that Prize sounded like lies.
"Stop, we'll have to soak it off."
Prize stepped into the tub, pulling the chain with him. Without enough length, Prize was forced to leave his legs spread and his right ankle hanging over the edge. Gordy pushed him back and down to wet the shirt to the shoulder. He scrubbed the dried mud from Prize's legs, his hand drifted higher. He ran the cloth up Prize's stomach and under the shirt that ballooned on the surface of the water. He circled the cloth down the ribs to the outer thigh and Prize tilted his pelvis to allow the soapy cloth to pass underneath. And Prize was Prize and it didn't sound like lies.
"Please, let me do that." Prize reached for the washcloth and Gordy shook his head no. Prize raised himself slightly and Gordy carefully washed his rear, going deep into the crack. He paused a moment to watch fear flick across Prize's face.
"Look me in the eye, don't turn your head."
Prize looked him in the eye and Gordy let his finger circle the anus and watched fear tighten the muscles in Prize's stomach and thighs. He stopped the soft rotation.
"Lean forward and let's see if I can release the shirt."
Prize complied and slowly Gordy eased the shirt upward and a small rivulet of blood warmer than the bath water slid down Prize's back. He dribbled water over the bloodied area and Prize winced. The shirt pulled free. Slowly Gordy eased it over Prize's head and let it fall to the rug with a sodden thud.
The thin wound lay deep across Prize's scapula and ended in the crease where his spine transected his back. Gordy cupped the water in his hand and let it stream from his fingers across the cut. Prize flinched. Gordy placed a hand on Prize's chest to calm him and murmured softly in his ear. He said gentle words as if he spoke to his mare. The dried blood and fresh blood washed away and swirled in the soapy water. Gordy reached for the brandy on the hearth. He held Prize with a hand wrapped in the black hair and bent him forward. He poured the brandy across the cut. Prize arched and let out a hiss.
"I know it hurts." Gordy pressed Prize back into the water. "Let's try to avoid an infection." He returned to cleaning Prize's torso and paused at the thin scar that ran along the ribs. "When did it happen?"
"I don't remember." Prize looked out at the dining table.
"It must have been a terrible cut. It looks to have been stitched." Gordy touched the white scar where the neat stitches were visible.
Prize said in a flat voice, "I have no recollection of it."
Gordy pulled straw from Prize's hair and dumped warm water over his head. He scrubbed at the dirt. "Your hair is too long. I'll cut it."
As Gordy worked the soap through the black hair his fingers encountered another scar running across the occipital bone. He touched the spot quickly with his finger tips where the hair no longer grew and noted the fine marks left by sutures then asked Prize to stand. He poured warm water over him and rapped him in a sheet. Prize stepped from the tub clean and calm at last because he knew Prize sounded like sighs and in sighs he was safe.
Gordy fed Prize sparingly from the hamper and left him to sit by the fire as he tackled the solicitor's papers. Prize waited dutifully, the clock ticked on the mantel, a soft breeze made the leaves move like a woman's fingers on the keys of a piano. The day progressed like any other. Like any other but Prize's knowledge that he had escaped something terrible. Like any other day but the dream that seemed too real. Lies, sighs, cries. All of these made him Prize.