It Only Hurts When I laugh


The Apprentice groaned as he adjusted his posture into a kneel.
And dipped a rag inside a bucket of water,
Wiped the moistened cloth across a puddle of urine.
Yellow splotches of undefinable shapes took form on the rag’s surface,
Before turning black as coal from dirt adorned on the cobblestone floor.

“Yes, be sure you get it all, boy!”
The Executioner’s voice commanded behind his shoulders.

Through his peripherals he met eye contact with The Executioner’s gaze,
With this stare embraced a scowl.

“Why are you looking at me like that, boy?”
“Like what?” He asked.
“Like I raped your mother.”

He dropped the rag,
Raised his stance until he was eye-level
With the Executioner’s chest. “Don’t call me a boy!” He exclaimed.
“Oh yeah? Why not? What makes you different
From all the other boys your age?”

The Apprentice puffed his chest like a silverback challenged for territory.
“I am a man, a killer, not a boy.”

The Executioner laughed. “You’re no killer, not yet at least. “
He presented The Apprentice with a light push.
This caused him to stumble backwards a few paces.
As he balanced
He lowered his brow until wrinkles contoured
Along his forehead accentuating the scowl.
“You want the title of a man? You must earn it!
Right now.”
He pointed towards the floor.
“You’re to be on your knees
Cleaning up the piss
The executed presented as their goodbyes.
This is something a man doesn’t do.”

“So, what makes you different than me? Huh?
Just because you can push me around
And give orders. This power you think you have!”

“Power! Ha!” The Executioner stepped forward towards The Apprentice.
“I have no power. Death has the power…I am just following death’s orders.
What makes me a man.”
He reached out and grabbed The Apprentice’s collar,
Pulled him close enough
To where he could smell onions
On The Executioner’s breath.
“What makes me a man is the acceptance of my responsibility.”
“Which is?”

A crow landed on the windowsill barred by three metal booms.
The bird began to caw,
The noise echoed throughout the prison,
Pulsating in the prisoner’s ears
Like a heartbeat.

“All these men in here will be dead soon.
Some accept this by pissing themselves,
Or they weep…some beg for mercy.
But no matter what
They accept this fact.”

He dropped
The Apprentice from his grip.
The young man glared at the floor in shame.

“Look at me boy.”

He peered up
Stared in the direction
Of his master’s pupils.

“When you’re the one pissing
Because you understand the responsibility of death,
Not the one complaining about cleaning it up,
You will be a man.”

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