Traveler’s Guide to Old Town and Surrounding Areas
Everywhere this Judas went a bristly grey dog followed him, red eyes as large as milk saucers. Despite its strange appearance, it was friendly to humans, would sidle and bow. This Judas drank lustily, but never lost himself. After nine or ten pints, he’d say, Fellows, I’m drunk, and go home without another word. Husbands grew worried their wives fancied him and dinner conversations sullened. Children followed as he sang a dilatory tune about an aquatic creature who lost his brother in a hurricane and swam the wide seas searching after him. The creature did not find his brother, but sang as he searched and sang so long and so beautifully that over time he transformed into a siren, and a love of his new form replaced any grief. After a few turns about town to memorize the verses, the children started signing too and followed this Judas into the woods. Days later, he returned, but the children did not. He said, This rural life is intolerably heavy, isn’t it, friends, and clapped a man on his shoulder, held him firm. The bristly grey dog ate many chickens, and even a baby goat, but no one felt they should say anything. Eventually one child, Samuel Previn, returned from the woods. Samuel did not recognize his parents and instead seemed to hold himself as the dog’s personal servant, plucking and eating its fleas and foisting baby-talk into its ears. I do not remember if our harvests were made more bountiful by this Judas’s presence. Some said so, while others held more dearly to their ghosts. The Sunday he kissed our pastor on the cheek, this Judas pulled the dagger from his belt for all of us, not the pastor, to see, its silver flash the transom of a dream, and slid it into the pastor’s heart with such love and grace that many were brought to tears. The pastor gaped at the church’s ceiling, his mother’s face, clucking all the while in his throat. An excellent Judas, most of us agreed, and filed into the street.
Tim Earley has written four books of poetry, including Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (Horse Less Press, 2014) and Linthead Stomp (Horse Less Press, 2016). He lives in Denver and teaches online courses in literature and creative writing at the University of Mississippi.