Are you Robin Hood?
A handful of visitors were watching a pre-season rehearsal of the stage fight between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Where he stood under the old oak, half-dreaming in the hum of hoverflies and warmth of early dappled sunlight, the sound of their dance did not trouble the bowman. After a while, he roused himself and stepped out to take a stance beside the large bough which had fallen so suddenly last winter. From this place he might with care thread a shaft through the fringe of trees and strike his mark set up at the far edge of the clearing. It was his habit to bring only one arrow to this, his only morning rehearsal.
Looking away to his left he saw a little girl standing in the gateway, intent on the sight of the colourful targets. He decided that she was safe enough there and nocked his shaft. She in her turn was just about to turn away when a soft but deep thrumming note sounded as a large white-fletched arrow flew from the ferns, crossed the clearing in an instant and bursting with a sharp pop a small yellow balloon set upon a stick between the two target stands. She had seen no-one and only minutes ago, one of the men she could still hear back there on the stage had declared in no uncertain terms that he was Robin Hood, so this was something of a surprise. Who could have shot this arrow?
As she frowned over this puzzle the ferns parted and a tall man dressed all in shades of green stepped quietly into the clearing. The arc of a braced long-bow hung easy in his left hand, its bone-like outer face the colour of aged cream, while the finely grained inside curve had a depth of colour that reminded her of nothing so much as a depth of clear honey standing in a jar.
“Mister!” she called out, running forward and stopping, unsure of herself.
He looked her in the eye.
“What is it chuck?” he asked.
“Mister, are you Robin Hood?”
He smiled and shifted the bow to the crook of his elbow with an ease that spoke of long familiarity.
“No chuck, I don't hardly think so. But I might do until he comes along.”
“Do it again?” she asked hopefully.
He almost frowned, but then smiled again and rummaged in his pocket, coming out with a handful of brightly coloured balloons.
“I'll see what I can do,” he said, picking one out.
Walking down to where his arrow hung loose in doubled folds of heavy green netting, he blew up this larger balloon and fixed it to the end of the stick. Looking at it, he frowned and then picked out two more balloons of the same size but of different colours, blew these up and set them both on the stick, one on each side, peeping out from behind the first. Then pulling his arrow from the netting, with a deft flick of his fingers he span it upon its point in the palm of his hand and then, apparently satisfied, walked back to where she stood. “Stay there chuck, don't move,” he said.
Rooted to the spot she watched him walk away, drawing two more shafts from a sheaf in passing, neatly tucking them point first into the back of his belt before stepping into the ferns, letting the bow slip down into his left hand as he went. She turned and looked across to the cane where three balloons now jostled fitfully. Then, just as she was about to look away, she heard that thrumming sound again. She could not be certain but it did seem to her that no sooner had she seen the first arrow than she heard the sound again, then yet again as a second arrow was followed by a third, as each balloon burst with a loud bang in strict order from left to right and in as much time as she might have counted deliberately from one to three.
When the bowman returned, she had gone.With an almost imperceptible shrug he thought, “Why don't I always shoot like that?” It was not that he did not know, but rather that it would be nice if it would happen more often. What he did know was that he had just touched each mark in turn with absolute certainty and a quiet indifference. At the end of the day, he thought of her again and smiled, thinking of the tale she might tell.
That the man who pretended to be Robin Hood had not come by to say hello was really no surprise.
© Rod Parsons 2015
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