Blood on my Hands

Originally Published at on 2012-04-25.

There are Jesuits eating lunch in the plaza when the man steps though the archway. He is road worn, wearing leathers and furs caked in dirt. He steps from the gates towards the missionaries and Father Cináed stands to invite their guest to share their meager meal. Then Cináed sees the blood.

“You need medicine, stranger?”, Cináed calls out.

“Just soap.”, the man replies.

Cináed looks to his fellow Jesuits for guidance but they only give him conflicted stares. Cináed nods to himself and begins to walk towards the man. When Cináed pulls his eyes from the blood he sees a gaunt man, unshaven with dark filthy hair. His close a frontier typical, layered for cool evenings but easily stripped down for the hot summers. Then there is the blood. Up to his elbows this man’s hands and arms look covered in gore.

Under this breath Cináed whispers “dios mio” and crosses himself. The man’s hard steel eyes never waver but he turns to leave the plaza. Cináed hesitates, almost lets the man leave his mission, but calls out to him before he steps back into the archway.

“We have soap. Please, come clean yourself. If you can work we can feed you too.”, Cináed says.

The man doesn’t reply, but turns back around and follows Cináed into the mission house. Once inside, Cináed fetches a basin and water for the stranger. He pulls out a small hunk of soap and a hard brush they use to clean mud from horse hooves. When he steps back into the room where he left the stranger the man is sitting at a table, bloody arms resting on its surface.

As Cináed moves towards the man he unconsciously begins to mouth a silent prayer, “… da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos…”

“Don’t pray for my soul.”, the stranger says, “Just give me the soap.”

Cináed, embarrassed for a moment, hands the man the basin, “If you need anything else I’ll just be outside.”

Leon sets to work. He scrubs down his hands and arms, turning the clear basin water a deep red. The blood on his arms comes off easily enough but he has to work to clean his hands. Especially under the fingernails, it seems like no matter how much he digs there is always blood under his nails.

When he finishes he strips down his underclothing and beats the dirt from his jacket and pants. He takes it upon himself to get clean water to wash his face and hair with. It takes him hours to clean himself up and, true to his word, Cináed leaves him in peace.

When he finishes he steps back out into the plaza to see the Jesuits have all went back to work for the day. He steps out of the plaza and into the fields behind the building to look for Cináed. He watches them work for a moment, they silently gather their harvest and prepare it for the coming months. They won’t have snow but the nights will get too cold for crops to survive.

Leon spots Cináed out in the field and begins to make his way over to him. He steps carefully, not wanting to crush any of their hard work under his boots. When Leon steps next to him, Cináed starts.

“I had thought you had left.”, Cináed says.

“I had a debt to pay.”, Leon says.

Cináed shakes his head, “Not for simply water. That is why we are here.”

“Thank you.”, Leon says and turns to leave.

“Where will you go?” Cináed asks before Leon can step away.

“To get my guns back.”

Posted in Writing and tagged .

Leave a Reply