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This little dip into the macabre was built on two things:  While doing some genealogy work in a dusty old courthouse, I ran across a note on the back of a marriage bond, "...late of this county."  For some reason I liked that, the simplicity yet completeness of it.

 The second was when a friend was helping us dump some wine (our first attempt at winemaking) that had gone very, very bad.  She said, as the blood red wine poured from the 5 gallon bottles, "Something should be said."

I took her at her word and wrote something.

Parable of the Demijohns

The wine was bad.

Now Reverend Michaels down at the Old Crossroads Church would not have thought it so, and Mother Blakely would have gladly served it in her village tavern.  Most likely, she would have painted one of those large fancy signs touting it like a huckster at the county fete.

And if fact were known, no one in the county would have turned down a bottle or three.

But none of that mattered.  They hadn’t picked the grapes, pressed the pulp or racked the fermenting juices.  Squire Miller did, or tis’ closer to true that his day-men did.  But the effort lacked that perfect bouquet for his pinched-up blue-veined nose.

He ordered it poured out on the ground saying, “Tis fit only for the worms and vermin of the dirt.”

The brothers, Charles and Dickie Blakely, his day-men, tried to save it, but the Squire was set in his way and commanded them to anoint the ground as he watched; no chance to set aside a bit.  The Squire stood and counted the twelve demijohns as they were tipped and the wine poured as blood from a deep and fatal wound.

The ground, dry from weeks of no rain, swelled and rose like a living thing to hold the wine as long as it could.  The open, close cut lawn between the manor and the cellar cave became besotted with twelve separate dark purple pools although each whickered bottle had been spilt at the same sacrificial loading dock.

The two hirelings refused to work near the pools.  Birds that pecked a fine life from the many worms in the deep and rich loam migrated to the less nourishing stockyard.

Squire Miller ordered Charles and Dickie to dig small channels to drain the twelve pools.  They hemmed and hawed and shuffled their feet like children asking a teacher if they could go to the privy.

The Squire, face reddened, boomed at their hesitance calling them scared as virgin brides on their wedding night and proclaimed that with the coming of the next morning, either the blood red wine would be gone or the two men would.  He stamped off to the manor, his lonely retreat where no virgin bride had ever spent a wedding night.

Night fell upon the montage of the manor and the twelve great blood pools in a crude circle of loud silence.  No crickets, no night birds and no bats flitting through clouds of flying insects, no clouds of flying insects.  With the rising of the waning quarter, a soft lunar light bathed everything in gray-white except for the bloodstain of the sacrificial bacchanal.

Squire Miller could not sleep in the unheard noiselessness of the night.  He rose from his bedchamber when the quiet was ever so slightly scarred by the soft sounds of murmuring.  He reluctantly staggered to the rear of the manor, chilled by a growing mist flowing through the half opened door of the kitchen.  Looking through the uneven glass of a passing window, he saw twelve formless wisps floating in a circle just a foot or two above the ground.

The Squire pressed against the bottom of the Dutch door and it slowly opened.  The murmuring sounds had become a beckoning.  In fits and starts, he stumbled out, bare footed, his nightshirt hanging well passed his knees.  He entered the circle.

Morning came and with the sun, so did Charles and Dickie.  The sight that met them rendered them mute and frozen.  For many minutes the two stood, rooted to the spot, staring fearfully.  Charles broke the spell and started running off, yelling back to Dickie, “I’ll get the constable and old Doc Mabus!”  After a few more hasty steps he added, “The Reverend too!”

With the sun high in the midday sky, a small crowd watched as the doctor bent over the form of Squire Miller lying on his back at the center of a circle formed by twelve demijohns, each filled to the top.  The doctor walked up to the constable and the curious onlookers, “Yeaup, that’s blood on his night shirt at the knees, like he was kneeling in a pool of blood.  It’s not his, not a scratch on him.  Although from his pale look, I can’t see how he has much blood left in him.”

“If there isn’t a scratch on him, then how did he die?”

“I’m going to put heart failure on the parish register, but I’m telling you here and now, he was drown…drown in wine.”

Later the body was removed from the center of the glasshenge and taken to the Crossroads Church.  The twelve silent jurors disappeared during the night.

 After the funeral, a big fancy sign was painted at Mother Blakely’s, touting the virtues of, “The Wine Spirits of Squire Miller, late of this county, his best.”

 © October, 2003, Fred (Woody) Hendrick

Hummm?

Let me know what you think and don't worry, I have a thick hide.  Woody