My first real job, I squired for the Freelancers, a full contact jousting company working on the Eastern Seaboard last I checked. I don’t remember when they started calling me Worthless. It was an honor. More on that later.
I was thirteen when I got the gig and in mortal danger all the fucking time. My first day on the lists, technical term for the field where grown-ass man nearly kill each other dressed in metal, I narrowly escaped trampling. It was the baston round, where the knights lock in their helms and beat each other on the head with wooden dowels. They ride back and forth across the soil and it’s all pretty well choreographed.
Except they can’t see.
So there I was, cresting puberty and about as self-conscious as every thirteen year old should be. The Lead Squire that year, I believe her name was Brandi, told me to crouch back in the bushes when the knights rode past. My job was to collect any pieces of baston that broke off.
Yeah. They wail on each other pretty good.
I found a break in the hedges and settled in. The branches poked into my black tights, and the short green tunic I ordered online rode up to show my ass if anyone cared to notice. I was thrilled. Living on a battlefield I’d read in Once and Future King and a dozen other novels.
Metal clangs a lot louder when you’re on the lists. Your adrenaline soars. When they finished their bout and turned to charge down towards my end of the list, I awaited my chance to dive in and help out. They rode those hedges awfully close, though. Right along. And I had a spot picked out but there wasn’t room for me to squeeze all the way back.
A mount called Max didn’t give a shit I was in his way. And his knight didn’t know I was there. I couldn’t breathe.
I heaved back into those shrubs, smashing undergrowth as a stirrup shot like a cannon past my nose.
Holding the stirrup, I gaped at the knights beating each other. One of the greatest moments of my life.
This post started as a diatribe on timeliness. Also, I didn’t have time to explain my nickname, Worthless. Guess those’ll wait for another time. Meanwhile, I’ll haunt your thoughts and dreams!
… ten pushups per minute, and for Worthless that meant face in horse shit…