Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Dice- a short story

          Dear reader, you are most likely sitting in your parlor or on your veranda. No doubt the ruins of Charleston are very clear in your mind, and the rubble that the Late Unpleasantness shaped out of the lowcountry. No doubt that this unpleasantness was not an act of the Divine, but I shall relay to you-genteel reader- the Divine warning that a few young men in the pleasant and lovely days of yore heeded well. 
It was a misty day in April, 1861-though it thundered not and the sky was completely emptied of any lightning. A young  man- being a peaceable man, and a gambler as well- walked into Bob's Tavern in the village of Columbus, Mississippi. He wasn't one to drink, unlike his friend Floyd Burgess. He would oftentimes descend into a musky cellar, and lean back in his chair to listen to the rush of the nearby Tombigbee River-whose stream nearly met the glass of the single cellar window. This particular April day-the 12th of April to be exact- he amused himself with a pair of specially made dice from India. He inspected them in his hands-they had eight sides. He had an entire bag of eight sided dice-which unfortunately perpetuated his addiction to the sport of gambling by making the odds more extensive. He knew that gambling solved many of his problems-yes, solved them by worsening them. Alas, he didn't harness the will to take his habit under control.       One of the die landed on an add on the yellowing newspaper on the cellar's main table. "Charleston Mercury," he mumbled to himself. He scanned lines under the main title-a creature of habit- before he read the broad print atop the page. When his eyes deemed it a fit time to inspect the main title, they jumped back into his face. Our protagonist saw the line: "Fort Sumter Fired Upon. A Call for Southern Recruits." Before he could fully process this information, two of his friends joined him in the cellar. One had grayish white hair in a braid, and wore spectacles. He smiled to see his friend reading the paper-a pursuit not often followed by gamblers. His name was Eran.
       His other companion-Preston- carried a musket and was clad in a horrendous butternut coat. The two joined him at the large mahogany table, and sat by him. "Are you going to join?" Preston inquired urgently. He sat his musket against the stone hearth, and leaned closer. "You have to join. You absolutely must join Anath. The war can only last a month before we beat them Yankees,"  the young soldier told to his gambler friend. He preferred his friends to call him by his nickname, Nate, but he knew in great matters of importance that his full name was announced. "He need not do anything but that which God wills," Eran said with a stern voice. Preston looked back at Eran, knowing that the wise man never agreed with his quick judgments. Anath looked up at Eran, and then at Preston. "If I get two roll of the dice with the same number, I will join. How about that?" he inquired angrily. His peace and quiet had been disturbed by Preston's demanding. Eran spoke up. "Anath, make sure that you pray about this first...I wouldn't leave this up to chance," he chided. Anath nodded that he would comply. He shook the dice in his hand, and let them fall upon the table. They landed on a one and a three. Anath the gambler smiled, knowing that he landed on a lucky roll. "Stop Nate, come on! You know that it won't be dangerous. I doubt more than five men die in the whole thing. The Yankees are bad marksman," Preston urged. Anath shook his head, and informed Preston that he would now add an extra die to the 'game' due to his pestering. Eran and Preston watched intensely as Anath shook the dice in his hand. He let them fly onto the table-resulting in a 6, a 1, and an 8. Anath slammed his hand on the table. "No enlistment for me!" he exclaimed.
        A year passed, and despite the luck of the gamble, Anath was drafted into the Confederate Army in 1862. Eran stayed at home in his cabin. He was a spiritual man, and received many a message from the Holy Spirit. He was by all means a modern day prophet, but he didn't wish to relay this information to his peers for he was quite humble. He and his wife wrote Anath a letter, telling him to come home as soon as possible. He began to believe that the south would loose-and most of Anath's regiment would be obliterated. Three years past, and on a sunny July day in 1865, he heard a thud on his door. He opened it, and there stood Anath. "Preston died," he mumbled, and embraced his old mentor. Tears streamed down his face. Eran embraced him, and let go. Anath found a seat on an old wooden chair, and he put his hands in his face. "Not a month. Why would he even deceive himself? It took four years. And five men dead? Why they say now 618,000 men died in the whole war! Why would he bring me into this?" Anath cried, and mumbled to himself. Eran put his hand on his shoulder. "I tried to tell Preston. I suppose he gambled his destiny."

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