Fletching

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When you carry a bow, everyone wants to sit next to you, especially on a train. There’s something in the shape of a recurve, something that makes people riding a bus remember immeasurable steppes on horseback and the smell of wool and sheep’s milk—their brown paper bags full to the brim with a rare airag. No one even cracks wise about Robin Hood since his kind hasn’t been seen in these woods for far too long. It’s nothing to joke about anyway. People feel ready when you’re near for whatever comes next. For although they might not be prepared, you, of course, would sling an arrow or light a fire, or drag them to water and out of the night because even bats don’t scare you. Most bats eat insects, after all. A man with a gun is always to be feared; a gun is undiscerning, but a man with a bow has gone out and come back, tested his aim and the ache of a string.

And for the sake of the band, he’d let the lie ride—or at least it would be a lie today. He knew it the moment they began backing away from him—although he should have realized much sooner. It wasn’t his fault. His right eye had been twitching for nearly a week solid. The place was packed for a Thursday afternoon, and he was smashed right up against the wall, right next to a guy who was shooting a procession of arrows blind, each penetrating the butcher paper and hitting all his marks. His armpits were deadly sweaty from what had appeared to be a rather anemic-looking hunger sun in the morning. The first half dozen shots were bank shots, Wild West at its best, had they hit the correct target. Try looking like you deserve that gear you bought while waiting in line to fetch your arrows from your neighbor’s target—archers don’t ride tandem for a reason. Then he stuck one in an impossible corner—only the fletching facing 45 degrees across the line of fire. The poor arrow tips were taking the brunt of the action, but he just kept flinging them and pushing chance to its limits until it was about to break into luck—what kind was up for grabs. It wasn’t until he was in bed later that night that he realized he’d batted righty the entire session. Although he was indeed right handed, he shot with the other hand. He learned lefty—something to do with a dominant eye. It was the terrible realization that he’d shot against logic for hours and wasn’t torn to shreds. This was how it was when he was a child, no way to argue a case, any case, and yet unable to adapt or adjust, only survive. The only recourse was omission: a paltry weapon, easily deflected by those who needed only to get the last word, who have selective hearing, who could take anything except being to blame, whose asses never seemed to sweat in the heat, who didn’t mind the sun in their eyes or the feel of wool on their skins. No noise was too loud for them, not even the string twanging against the corners of their mouths. Then as now, the safest place to be was right in front of the target, staring the bull’s eye down until it charged.

 

Photo By: musume miyuki

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About Author

Carlo Matos has published four books of poetry. His first book of fiction is now available from Mayapple Press. His poems, stories and essays have appeared in such journals as Iowa Review, Boston Review, PANK, and Paper Darts, among many others. Carlo teaches writing at the City Colleges of Chicago and the Rooster Moans Poetry Coop. He has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Fundação Luso-Americana (FLAD), and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. A former cage fighter, Carlo now trains fighters when he's not entertaining clients at the Chicago Poetry Bordello. For more about his work, please visit carlomatos.blogspot.com. Follow him on twitter @CarloMatos46.

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