Title: The Way Home
Word Count 751
The Way Home
He had money in his purse. Mr. Secretary, if he spared any thought for such details, would have thought it well to rent a horse. So it was Kit's own ill nature that made him choose to walk. He would go, aye. They could not make him hurry.
But on the third day, after all, he caught a ride on an ox team with a load of bricks for the city. The man was a rustic, his pigskin jerkin poorly cured, not even innocent of pig bristles. He smelled of sweat. Flies rioted, launching themselves from him to drink at the eyes of his beasts. He waved at them lazily with his stick. Strange how often such men were kind. Kit climbed up, folded his haunches, and sat, reading. In his sleeve pocket, in his boot, or stuffed down his doublet, he always had a book.
At noon they were a few miles out. The man stopped to water his team. Kit put the book away and jumped down. He stood a moment, stamping the life back into his numbed feet. The man watched him, incurious. Kit came up to give the haw side ox a scratch on the poll. It pushed against him, affectionate as a dog, wet nose broad as Kit's palm. He gave the man a penny and watched him break into a slow gappy smile.
Close now. This was the province of childhood. These trees had been his to shake, to climb, to know. Tiny bitter apples grew here, remnants of a forgotten orchard. They were just boy-hand sized. They stung the skin, thrown good and hard. There had been great battles, after school. Here had been his games of Troy, his acorn ships, his cloud dragons, and those rambling arguments of little boyhood, Shall we go here or there? Shall we play this or that? And, sometimes alone, Kit had gorged on the apples until his thin belly cramped. He had had a book then too, when he could, which was not always. There was only the Bible at home, to big to lug, and anyway, known. But other books he had begged to borrow.
The bridge, up from the ford, was the same. The wood was gray with age, and the smell of mud was clean to his indrawn breath. The water here was clear and brown. Small fish hid in the shadow of the bridge, hunting, being hunted.
The city gates now, and the cathedral bell-- a strike of sound that surged in the belly and soles of the feet. It had never troubled his sleep in childhood. He had heard it, he supposed, from the womb.
'I have to go home.' Tom Kyd had accepted the words and asked little more. There was no need to insist or explain. Tom's parents were in the ground only six months, it was an ugly pry bar. Kit had not had to use it. Tom had agreed to do Kit's work as well as his own. It was neighborly kindness.
Kit had not, of course, told more than he needed. Less is better, for lies. 'I have to go home to spy on my old neighbors who have done me no wrong.' He had not said that. Still, and often, the words rose behind his teeth. He longed for the truth. Need for it rose in him strong as desire of the body, ungovernable, and likewise dangerous. They had not told him this at the start. He would not have believed, perhaps. But he had seen it in the wry grimace of other agents since.
Deep in thought, his feet had known the way. Here was his mother's gate and her dooryard garden. Around the side, facing the bigger street, his fathers shop window, with the shoes on display. Kit had not come that way. Father would be working, anyway. The back room was full of his work, the smell of leather, the sound of hammering. There would be an apprentice. He did not know now, who. He had not known since the last time he had left home.
He had not been back to know, he had not cared to know. Not since Roger.
This was not the time to think of that. Not now when he was pushing open the door. Not now, when the smell of home was filling his eyes with tears.
“Who is it?” His mother's voice.
“It's me.” Kit said.