Beasts Sporting in the Fields

Like everything else it started with a snake curling between a woman’s thighs.

When the child was born, his earlobes were long and royal and four hairs on his chest were curled into the shape of a swastika. “He will be lucky,” said his mother, “and a mighty divinity. He carries the sun in his heart.” Child of illegitimacy.

His father was loving, but absent-minded and easily distracted. He went chasing after a woman with hair like an oriflamme or a butterfly. Busy woman, his mother, a landswoman; she tilled the fields and grew the grain and brewed the beer. Her songs were his earliest lessons, bright melodies like sunshine.

When he was four, three men came to the house, lantern jawed and saturnine. “We have come to see you, child. We bring these gifts.” And they spread them on the floor of the house: golden toys, sweet foods, and much that was strange and wonderful. A flute that played of itself; a frog that sang and danced; a wooden horse that could fly through the air.

They walked with him through the fields. “We have a brother taller than the mountains, or had, for he is dead now. Killed, and murdered. What is worse, by his son, our nephew, his body cast into the sea in pieces.”

“Will you kill your nephew?”

“We cannot, child, for he is stronger than we, even were we all assembled against him. What revenge we may take must be indirect.” And so speaking, they pounced upon the child and tore him to pieces.

When they were gone, a tall woman with the eyes of an owl came and took his heart from where it lay among the sweet timothy. The sunlight washed across her face.