Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Rolling Hunter of Guernsey: It Begins


I don’t know what the Nazis were expecting when they landed on Guernsey, but I’ll bet you a ripe tomato it wasn’t this.

They dropped bombs on our harbor before they came, but all they took out were the boats the farmers were loading to send goods to England. The King had pulled his soldiers off our island long before. Took our kids too. Took my daughters to where it was safe.

They left me here, though. Preserve the future and abandon the present seemed to be the official strategy for the Channel Islands.

When the Nazis finally marched down our streets, we didn’t fight them. We didn’t cheer them, either, but we didn’t fight. Wouldn’t have been prudent. They had guns. We didn’t.

All we had was tomatoes.

And that’s when I got this bird-brained idea.

I went to my oldest daughter’s bedroom and fetched her roller skates. Went to my youngest’s and took one of her baby-doll’s dresses. Then I went out to the barn and loaded up a burlap sack with the rottenest tomatoes I had. Cut eye holes in the dress and pulled it over my head, strapped the skates to my boots. I figured it was like Nan and Su were with me.

Then I took off back to Main Street.

I rolled along the alleyway, watching through the gaps in the buildings as the Nazis marched in strict columns down the cobblestone street. I wheeled up through the shadow next to the movie-house and waited until the second-to-last row of soldiers was passing by. Then I wound up and pitched the juiciest missile I could at the shorter solider closest to me.

Hit him right in the face.

By the time he and the others reacted, I was already speeding away.

I got around to the tavern where I could see them all running toward the theater. I lobbed another tomato at a soldier’s back. It popped between his shoulder blades and made the uniform look how all Nazi uniform’s ought to look.

That really drove them crazy.

As I sped down the alley, looking for my next perch, I nearly ran right into old Farmer Locke. He grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me into a shed. Didn’t say a word, just took three of the tomatoes from me and went on his way.

The last place I wanted to get my shots in was at the church. I crept up along side of it and took aim at the Nazi in command. I wound up to make my throw, but one of the soldiers must have seen me moving. He and four others started heading my way.

If this was how I was going to go, then I was going to get one last shot in.

The Nazi-in-Command’s hat flew off his head and tomato juice covered his face.

The tomato was still in my hand.

Old Farmer Locke stepped out of the shadows next to the bakery and lobbed another tomato at the soldiers. Every one of those Nazis ran to grab him and get a hit in. As he sank beneath their blows, he yelled so I could hear, “Now Grendel and I are called together, and I’ve come.”

I felt my face grow pale, but I ran away as fast as I could. All the way back home, where I fished out a book I hadn’t read in years. The book Farmer Locke had quoted.

Beowulf.

“They have seen my strength for themselves,
Have watched me rise from the darkness of war,
Dripping with my enemies' blood. I drove
Five great giants into chains, chased
All of that race from the earth. I swam
In the blackness of night, hunting monsters
Out of the ocean, and killing them one
By one; death was my errand and the fate
They had earned. Now Grendel and I are called
Together, and I've come.”

A sat, shivering, on the floor of my room, realizing that Farmer Locke had seen something in the tomatoes I hadn’t. I thought I was being a nuisance, letting my anger fly in the moment of my rage.

Farmer Locke saw something else. He saw behind the doll-dress mask, the undersized skates, and the rotten tomatoes. He saw in me what I hadn’t.

He saw a Monster Hunter.

And, as I looked in the mirror, I saw it, too.


This was the start of my adventure.