He envisioned market squares bustling with people, with sellers offering anything you could imagine. Wool, cotton, silk for the richer folk, meats, buns, duck, rugs, pelts, leather. There would be smoke in the air from the cooks and the smoke shops. Voices would be heard everywhere, either hawkers trying to convince the crowd that they have quality stuff, or buyers trying to haggle the price. Some of the storefronts were tents dirty from the years and the smoke, while others had wooden walls. There’d be wooden pull carts and browsers and even a dog or two. Small pigs would squeal in their pens while men would get thrown out of a tavern. A man selling tonic would be on a small stage telling people of his “miracle elixir” while a woman with a vending tray was selling sweet buns. Horses would kick up dust from the road as they pulled carts or carriages.
Or a small village with a town square. There’d be a boarding house on the right and a tavern on the left. Houses with thatched roofs would line the roads, as well as a few shops. A cobbler, a seamstress, even a butcher found a home here. You would hear the blacksmith banging away in the distance next to the stables. There would be people milling about, chatting to each other or passing out greetings. The town hall would be preparing for the nights festivities of whatever they were celebrating. The air would be crisp and the trees tall as maidens set out their laundry to dry. The wealthy would ride into town in gilded carriages pulled by well trimmed horses, eager to eat at a particular restaurant or attend a social function. There would be a few soldiers drinking in the tavern as the smell of food beckoned you in.
And where was he? He was stuck on his father’s farm, ploughing the field for the next harvest. He wanted to see the world, not just imagine it. He wanted an adventure that would take him away from the farm and their meager house, a wooden structure that dad built himself. Out there he could see what goes on while he’s toiling away. He would see sights, sounds, and colors that he didn’t even know existed. On the farm everything was brown. The house, their clothes, the fields. Nothing changed, and each day was like the last.
“Martin, you’re plowing too long again!” His father Barouk was yelling at him from the house. Martin looked up and saw that he went past the usual plough line, again. “Sorry Dad” he called back. He reined in Milly, their grey plough horse, and turned her around. His brother Drake had the other plow with Dancer, the brown plough horse that seemed to be his favorite. While he was lifting and repositioning the plough he could hear his brother laughing at him.
“You’ll get a punch for that” he called. Martin winced in forethought. His brother’s punches were hard, and he didn’t care where he landed them. It was just another thing that made Martin want to leave. Ploughing was hard, lifting the plough was hard, following a horse through the fields was hard. Not that he minded the tough work, it just wasn’t something he saw for himself or his future. He wanted more, and he knew that more was out there.
Maneuvering the plough and the horse was awkward work, because he had to carry the plough back to the field to where he should have stopped all while maintaining control of Milly. Once in position he whipped the reins, which had the effect of causing Milly to loosen her bowels as she began her slow walk. Great, thought Martin, that’s another pile of manure he has to walk through. He tried to gingerly walk around the larger pieces, but he couldn’t avoid them all and keep the plough straight. This was another reason why he wanted to leave. While his brother and his father didn’t think twice about it, Martin hated walking through dung. It caught on his leggings and shoes and the smell never really went away.
Martin saw his father waiting on him as he finished the line. Oh great, he thought, another lecture. Perhaps I can start a new line before he got a chance to talk.
“Hey dad, can’t stop to talk, gotta’ catch up with Drake” A feeble attempt at mollifying that wouldn’t work anyway. His dad had walked up and took hold of Milly’s bridal, forcing them both to stop.
“Dad, I promise, I won’t mess up again, I just need to get back to work.”
Barouk, a sturdy man who had been a farmer all his life, just stood there and looked at him with a stern look on his face. He wore the same grey vest over the same grey tunic over the same brown trousers that he’s had most of his life.
“What’s with all the daydreaming?” he asked. His voice had the qualities of sternness and caring. You knew you were in trouble, and you knew he was concerned at the same time. It was always hard to lie to him, because you knew that he would detect it instantly, at least from Martin. Drake told many lies, but whether dad heard them or chose to ignore them was a mystery.
“Dad, it’s nothing, really” said Martin.
“And yet you’ve managed to go past our lot again. Perhaps I should just leave this to Drake, although leaving him to do the field by himself wouldn’t be fair.”
“No, no, I got it. I’ll pay more attention, promise.”
“Barouk looked at him long and hard. Martin was beginning to squirm under his gaze. Finally he nodded, said “Alright son. Just keep your head on your shoulders. I need it down here minding the work.”
“Yes Dad”, and Martin began turning Milly after Barouk let her go.
Before he got her fully turned they heard a commotion down the road. Barouk put his hands over his eyes to see better.
“That’s Jeb, tearing up the road. What’s he gone on?”
Their nearest neighbor was atop his cart, snapping the reins on his horses to get them to go faster. It was not his usual pace, and this made Barouk and Martin curious.
Just as Jeb was about to pass he saw them standing there and pulled up on the reins. The horses complained, having to come to a sudden stop with the weight of the empty cart behind them.
“Barouk!” he called. Their coming! Hide your sons!”