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Monday, April 2, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Tom Laverty

The True Story of Captain Tobias Hume

The legend of Captain Tobias Hume is told as a series of arguments between a maple and a squirrel. Neither of them in liege with a cover of ferns that mimicked the wind.

The maple told the squirrel:

A man with a black feather on his hat crossed the Thames River in search of gold, only to find long stretches of land barren and lifeless.

The squirrel said the story was about:

a man in a black-feathered hat, but instead of crossing a river he crossed a sea in a wooden ship, and took swords up in a foreign army.

The maple rustled his bough at the squirrel and continued with his story:

After crossing the wide river, the man in the black-feathered cap came upon a stand of spruce during his walk across the dry, barren land, and from the spruce the man made a large, hollow sculpture in the shape of a woman. And the man sat looking at the wood, wondering what to do with it. He held it up, spoke to it, placed things on it, tapped it, and shook it; but when the man tapped it, he was the most happy because it made a deep, round boom!

Wait, wait! said the squirrel:

The man, after fighting many battles in a frozen country, was taken aside by his general, and the general said, “I make you Captain, Tobias Hume, for your bravery on the field of battle and your camaraderie with the soldiers deserve it of you. You have fooled our enemies with your tactics. Now take this command and lead our men to victory.”

The maple, now upset, continued his telling:

No, no no. Now, as I was saying, the man was most pleased when he tapped the wooden thing he made. Many weeks passed while the man tapped and tapped, making unique sounds with each spot he tapped. Then, one day, a four-legged beast came laboring across the wasteland, and after many minutes, the beast stopped, standing in front of the man, and died with a deep gasp. So, the man cut the beast open and from its entrails he made long, taut strings. He put the strings on the womanly wooden thing, and he strung the strings from her neck to her bottom. Then the man took some strands of the beast’s hair and attached them to a thin piece of wood.

The squirrel had moved to another bough, and was loyally chipping away at a nut, but he'd heard enough of the maple’s story. He stood on his hind legs, spit out a seed and said:

And so the man, now Captain of the strange army, truly missed his homeland and so he set forth with his sword across the lands he’d conquered, and the river he’d crossed. But before he reached his home, he was confronted by a cast of soldiers who offered to pay him to lead their troupe into battle against the very same army he was captain of! The man, poor, hungry and lonely, decided to lead the army. So, he set forth with his new soldiers, to fight his old army. And that is how the legend goes, said the squirrel, putting another nut in his mouth.

The maple, looking at the squirrel with a long eye, said:

And so the man took the piece of wood with hair on it and ran it along the strings he had put on the wooden sculpture. The sound it made pleased the man like he had never been pleased before, and soon, it was all the man could do - make these woody womanly sounds. It consumed him. The empty land around him sprouted trees and animals, and roads; even cities sprouted up, and the people came forth from their houses just to hear him run the hairs against the strings of his wooden sculpture.

And so the legend of Captain Tobias Hume is told, as a series of arguments between a maple and a squirrel.

Tom Laverty's work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Passages North and Unsaid vols 4-6. He lives in Detroit and is editor of Pigeon Town.

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