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Mercy I Know Not
I chased Sam through the trees, hoping over the picket and stumbling through some wild berry bushes.
“Bang! Bang, ba-bang!” I hollered, giggling in glee. “I’ll skin your back-side you damn dirty Red Coat!” I yelled after him, my long coppery hair whipping behind me. I slowed, and eventually came to a slow walk, doing an about face. There were the big pines that marked the beginning of Old Man Seamus’ lot. I wheeled behind me, leveling my ‘gun’ at my brother’s chest.
“Aye, easy there yo’ld lassie. Don’t know the real ‘arm one could do wit that,” he said, mimicking an Irish man. He knocked my long birch stick aside, swatting at me. I dodged it and rolled to the ground, before jumping up and bounding out of site, like a graceful deer.
“What I tell you about cursing like that?” he yelled, running after me.
“That I’d ought not to!” I called. I slowed to a light trot, and waited for him to catch up. When he did, he knelt down and clapped one of his big hands on my shoulder.
“You know what mother would do if she heard you, right? Don’t matter that you’re nearin’ your ‘woman stages.’ She’d take you out back behind Little Rosco’s pen and switch you before you got two words outta your mouth,” Sam told be seriously. I nodded humbly. He smiled, the joking, mischievous one.
“So keep your trap shut and stay outta it!” He said, throwing me over his shoulder. He ran, all the way back to the house with me like that.
That was two years ago. Sam always looked out for me, always made sure I was right in the head and that I was nowhere near trouble.
That day was perhaps one of my most happiest to memory. We sang as he took me fishing, and stopped to pick blackberries. Even later that day, when the dam… the darned bullies came knocking on our back door, he answered it with me. They took one look at my brother, his clean blonde hair, his shirt rolled up over his muscles, even the sweat that clung to his chest, and they bolted faster than a fox.
But that night was perhaps the worst. Mother, Father, Sam, they all thought I’d fallen asleep. They all thought I’d never bear witness to the awful things that they yelled at Sam, how he was corrupting me, how he must be devil sent. How could they despise their own kin so much, their own son, the one that would carry on the family name. I never knew, and I still don’t.
“General Washington, Sir, I beg of you! Have mercy!” I cried, falling to my knees. I buried my face in my hands, tears falling onto the general’s carpet. I couldn’t control my tears. I was shaking, shivering, even when the General lightly placed his hand on my shoulder.
“Samantha,” he said quietly. He never would call me just Sam, because my brother’s full name was Samuel, and everyone just called him Sam. “You brother did a very bad thing. I cannot let that go unpunished. I must make a point, if we want this war to be a victorious one.”
“It wasn’t him sir!” I cried. His thumb ran along my collar before stopping under my chin, forcing me to look up.
“Repeat after me, Samantha. ‘Mercy I know not,’” he said. I was smart enough not to disobey him.
“Mercy I know not,” I whispered. General Washington nodded.
“Use that. Fuel your hatred for the British, who brought this war upon us, and who are responsible for the upcoming death of Sam,” he said. I broke into renewed sobs.
“I cannot do it General! I cannot kill my brother!” I choked. I’d burn in Hell, but how could one not? To kill anyone at all, but one’s own blood? That was despicable.
“I told you that I must make a point of such things. Now to bed with you. It takes place at sunrise.”
I slumped off to bed, no more tears to cry, no more emotion at all. I hoped, prayed that this was all just a sick, terrible, horrible joke, a nightmare, some stupid moral lesson. But even I couldn’t come up with even the most boring reason for this.
That night, I remembered all the days I spent swimming with Sam in the pond by Old Seamus’ place. All the times he’d held me after a switching from Mother, or a run in with the school bullies. All the times Sam had been there for me when no one else ever was, and this was how I repay him? A shot in the chest?
I didn’t sleep that night. Sunrise came unfairly quickly. My room had been shared with Sam, but under the circumstances…
I didn’t dress in my uniform. I put on all of Sam’s clothes, his shirt, his trousers, even his socks and suspenders. The shoes were a tad too big, but I could manage that.
I got looks as I exited the barracks, and marched up the hill. Everything from sympathy to pity. I saw Sam there, in his uniform. He insisted on wearing it, I’d been told. His eyes were scared, but he smiled when he saw me there. As if he didn’t know I was to be his executioner.
They put the burlap bag on his head, but he talked to me.
“It’ll be just like how we used to play Sam,” he said. “Bang, bang, ba-bang!” he whispered. Tears filled my eyes again.
“Win the war Sam. For me,” he uttered.
“Raise your guns!” The general yelled. I whimpered, leveling my gun with my brother’s chest.
“Aim!” Washington said. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Just like old times, Sam,” Sam whispered.
We both whispered the same thing.
“I love you, Sam.”
“FIRE!” I pulled the trigger. I wouldn’t disobey. Sam dropped, like an empty sack of flour.