In Gorse He Shook

In gorse he shook, panting. There was a crocus in his buttonhole. It was wilted now. The morning was a damp one, and he had no hat, for it had snagged on a thorn-bush a mile back, and in his hurry he could not stop to retrieve it.

Like King James I, his tongue was overlarge for the mouth that contained it, and he was forever slobbering. Overhead, the flak from fighter jets drowned out birdsong. As it was, he could never tell the call of one bird from another. His ears simply did not have the ability to distinguish.

Often, as now, he thought of the custards of his childhood suppers, thoughts that made him slobber all the more, shaking in the gorse, hatless and ignorant. He came of good family, ruined by peculation, grumblers all, moaning at their misfortune. But he did not moan. He had a different bent.

I shall follow my own star, he had said, almost his first words, rendered barely intelligible by that too big tongue. Follow it he did, even when it was invisible in the morning mist. Shaking in the gorse, he scanned the sky for portents, but could see aught but the blur of milky half-light. He struck a match and set fire to a flare. Up it went, fizzling orangely.

They came for him before noon. The mist had dispersed, and the fighter jets had long passed.. Birdsong could be heard again. They interrogated him about his hat. There was no question but that he must retrace his steps as far as the thorn-bush. Hatless, his petition would never be heard. He stumbled back the way he had come, before dawn. Everything looked so different in the blaze of noon. So different that soon he was lost, so lost, and instead of the thorn-bush he came upon a blue and splendid lake upon which thousands of swans were arrayed, all gazing directly at him.

He slumped to the ground and took from his pocket a Brazil nut. Would he pop it into his mouth or plop it into the lake? What would you have done, in his place? Your answer should be roughly two hundred words in length, on one side of a sheet of paper.

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