The Hangman’s Hangknot- a flash fiction story inspired by a length of rope. And Woody Guthrie.

It’s funny how ideas for stories come about. I’d been thinking about another story to write, but since I’ve not been flying this weekend, I needed an alternative source of inspiration. Enter the length of rope. No regular rope this; rather proper sailing rope. We at the flyingscribbler hangar are not prone to keep such things to hand.; however, we are shortly to go on a sailing holiday in Greece (oh, the material I’ll have after that!), and have been advised to practice our knots. For this reason, we borrowed the rope after a day’s sailing on the Forth with A’s Dad. I’d been happily tieing the bowline knot for an hour or so when A nonchalantly walked past (he was a scout and so these things come more naturally, apparently) and suggested I write a story about knots. With a  gauntlet  like this cast at my feet, how could I refuse?

I looked on the net for a little inspiration and came across the lyrics for Woody Guthrie’s song ‘Hangknot, Slipknot’. I don’t know this, or any other of his songs, but will endeavor to listen to him soon. In the meantime, and with thanks to A and Woody Guthrie, I offer you the following. (Hope you weren’t tuning in for an upbeat, Saturday kind of story).

The Hangman’s Hangknot

‘Can you tie a knot lad?’ The Mayor looked at Joseph, searching for resolve and stamina.

‘No,’ replied Joseph, ‘but I can learn. I’ve been walking for weeks, I need work.’

The Mayor considered.

‘The town needs a hangman. There’s no one here will do it. Learn your knots and the job’s yours.’

‘Thank you Sir. But who’ll teach me?’

‘Old Jack will. You’ll find him at the harbour. Tell him it’s worth a six month of ale at the Sailor’s Rest.’

‘Job’s cursed,’ wheezed Old Jack through his pipe, ‘Bill Riley, the last in the job, ‘e were forced to tie ‘is own noose.’

‘What was his crime?’

‘The town hanged four smugglers, March last. Only Bill fixed it so the nooses didn’t kill. ‘E cut ‘em down at nightfall and let ‘em loose. ‘E was caught.’

Joseph looked forlornly out to sea. His stomach growled with hunger.

‘I need to learn.’

‘Aye,’ said Jack, ‘and for a six month ale, I’ll teach you. Don’t worry lad, your noose won’t fail you like poor Bill’s.’

Joseph decorated his hangman’s cottage with the knots he’d mastered; all save one which he practised each day with fearful anticipation.

His first gallows were raised against the winter sun as the condemned man was marched to his fate.

‘Another smuggler,’ said the Mayor, as Joseph checked his noose.

Old Jack climbed the steps, hands tied. He raised his old head.

‘Will it hold?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ replied Joseph, ‘I was taught well.’

copyright: flyingscribbler, 2010.

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2 comments on “The Hangman’s Hangknot- a flash fiction story inspired by a length of rope. And Woody Guthrie.

  1. Deanna Schrayer says:

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks so much for stopping in to read my #fridayflash, The Nosy Neighbor, and for your kind comments.

    It sounds like you’re off to a great start with the flash fiction fun. I hope you’ll check out our group, #fridayflash, by Jon Strother: http://jmstrother.com/MadUtopia/?page_id=577 > a fantastic community of like-minded writers.

  2. grandma pat says:

    this is v. good, a perfect example of the short story. A clever idea evoked in clear, simple language, no wasted words.
    Hope old Jack got his free ale first!

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