WENCH, by Scott Hutchison


Nary a man doesn’t review the merchandise

upon entering, wary eyes scanning tables and corners

and me. They stride or stroll or slink in the door smelling

of earth and blood, wet horse, rust, and a rankness all their own.

They clap and call out Wench!–I pause, then saunter over smiling

letting each and every one of them know there’s a price

for mutton, bread, and sweet gravy for dipping. I listen

closely to their boisterous laughter, pay attention to eyes

without patches, look for orbs of beautiful color that might linger

at day’s end, scanning the sunsets. Experience

has taught me who will prove mean and demanding,

who might tickle my fancy. The thieves sometimes

drink themselves into stupidity and offer me cheap rings,

the cowherds and pig tenders stumble making noises

best left in the barn. The ugly men at least

know that they are ugly. I sleep alone those nights.

Me, I fancy the adventurers, the warriors and mercenaries,

though I’ve learned to avoid those who wear scars over their hearts,

unable to relax their brutalities, even in a soft downy bed.

But occasionally a wanderer places his sword upon the table

and examines its battered edge, nodding to the gods

in thanks, lifting his cup to fallen foes, allowing his wounds

to heal with the meat and root vegetables I place before him,

reverently listening to old men chant and sing of honor

and the dance of death. When such a man’s weary face relaxes

as he looks into mine, we smirk with the knowledge

of how night might restore both our strengths. Later,

lying warm and happily spent, he might ask why I wear

a keen blade strapped to my leg, even during love making.

My life is one of serving roving men. They amble in through the door,

and they always walk out, armored once again. I listen to their dreams

and glittering stories of shields up and axes

slicing down into bone. I and my little knife

are content enough, maybe a little wistful. We know

there is no innocent tenderness, no promise

or quiet moment to trust in without the sharp edge

of tomorrow rising with the sun.


Scott T. Hutchison’s work has appeared in such publications as Star*Line, Postscripts to Darkness, and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  New work is forthcoming from the Atlanta Review and the Carolina Quarterly.

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