He's Smiling at Me
A Short Tale By Andrew Peregrine
The child looked down at her feet on the warm, dry sand. She felt happy and
warm inside. It was as if the warmth of the sun on the sand was dissolving into
her. She could hear shouting behind her. It was her mother.
"What are you doing here, here of all places ?" she said, flinging her arms around the child. She was trying to be angry, but couldn't hide how glad she was to find her daughter.
"I've told you not to wander off, and not to come here. It's a dangerous place the way the people are behaving today." Her duty of anger complete, she hugged the lost and found child.
There had been a big crowd here today, but now it had almost dispersed. Just one or two dedicated souls waiting for the three men to finally die. Now that the sun was getting lower, you couldn't see them properly. They were simply contours along the stark wooden crosses. A while ago they had screamed with pain. Their screams had turned to thunder, and lightning had raged the sky. But now they had gone beyond pain into a silent anguish. Soon they would be dead.
A tired but dutious Roman guard approached the mother and child. He was exhausted, even the Romans had been tested to their limits of discipline today. He half heatedly prepared his spear and pointed it at the mother.
"Move on now, go and join the others if you want to watch," he said with a little disgust.
The mother turned her child away and they walked back to the city. When they were halfway across the sand, between the crosses and the city wall, the child turned and looked back.
"Look mummy," she said, "He's smiling at me."
The guard watched them go. He turned back to the group of his cohort near the sentry post. The men were gathered in various emotion around one man. He sat on the floor, a hammer to one side of him. He was surrounded by nails that had fallen forgotten from his hand. But his fellow guards could only see that he was crying.