Title Poor Sport
Marlowe and Kyd
Word Count 700
I headed home.
I knew the small man's name now. Watson had confirmed it, between clenched teeth as they bound his hands. The man I had met, twice now, by chance, was the great Kit Marlowe.
He was a confection of bluster and gloss, he drew the eye. He was a small man, a crowing gamecock. But heavenly words may come from such a man. And they may come from an unremarkable man too. I am proof of that.
Money would be paid to keep Marlowe from jail fever. Allyn would see him moved up from the oubliette; Watson too, I would make sure of it.
This, because Marlowe had been the making of Ned Allyn.
Allyn walked the stage, and the people came to see. They screamed and clapped, and threw things. They swooned over words, stories, plots. They left with their souls tingling. He gave them his face,and the words of other men. They near wet themselves. And they paid, and paid. And they came back again, and brought their friends, and paid. It made money for Ned Allyn. And it made more money for Master Henslowe, the owner of the Rose.
Very little money trickled back to the gamecock. This I knew from my own bitter experience. Tom Watson mocked me for my scrivening. He thought it sport when I took the stage myself. “Sporting Tom,” he called me. It was not sport, merely that I like to eat.
I thought on these things as I walked. I stopped briefly to buy some milk for the pup.
He had not eaten my new play, as it turned out. He had been suckling my spare shirt.. He waddled toward me, wagging his stub of a tail. And I picked him up and lifted him to my face. His little belly was hot in my hand, and he licked at the corner of my mouth.
There was no point in going to the Rose before sundown. I tucked the puppy against my side and slept.
Several times in the dark, Kit trod on someone. Some grunted response at his apology, some cursed him in mechanical tones. Some men were chained to the wall and could not move. Some were not chained, but immobile with flux and vile secretions. Several he kicked by mistake made no outcry. Kit wondered if they were already dead.
At the edge of his vision one candle wobbled light against the wall. It made everything worse. It made the dark thicker. Now he could hear the scurry and squeak at the light's edge. Now he could smell them. The rats that Kit had known were mostly honest things. Fine for a wandering boy to see them, in a field, or swimming in a canal somewhere. Many times he had stopped to watch a rat's sleek streak shooting out of sight. But here there was no freedom, no breath. There was only dark and fear. Here all were debased, rats along with men. Here they were just another horror.
Somewhere off in the dark a voice was praying; a cracked voice, an old man's voice. Latin. They were forbidden prayers of course. Treason to speak them, or to hear them, But the old voice went on and on even so, mumbling the comfort of a dead childhood.
“Here, Kit.” Watson had found a spot by the wall, and pulled him down. There was room for the two of them to curl close, and share a little heat. Kit could feel the sinews of Watson's long leg beside his own. Watson wormed an arm around him. It was friendship, pure, Kit knew. Watson had shared rooms with him, last year. Watson spoke of nothing but women. Kit had kept his eyes and hands to himself. So, friendship offered, friendship returned.
Kit rested his head on his knees. There was nothing left to rob him of. He had no money, they held his sword. He had the skin he stood up in, and whatever was left of his tattered virtue.
Tomorrow would come, he had only to wait. He shut his eyes and tried to sleep.