11. Gondorian Idle
It was without question that if Boromir could not indeed return home, he must seek out some sort of work. Morgan had never pressured him, but Boromir felt it insulting to be always idle while Morgan, a woman, earned their means of survival. For a while they sat discussing what possible careers a medieval soldier like him could possibly have.
"Are you crafty?" Morgan asked, but was quick to rephrase her question. "I mean, can you carve wood? Can you whittle?"
"Nay, I am no artist. You saw my drawing of Middle Earth. Twas an embarrassment..."
"It wasn't that bad," Morgan said, though knowing full well that she had no comparison. "Well, what about a trade? Do you know how to...shoe horses?"
"Nay, for we have blacksmiths..."
"Can you make stuff with metal, like swords?"
Boromir shook his head, no. "Tis the smithy's duty."
"Well, what do you know how to do?"
Boromir felt frustrated beyond all measure! "I am a soldier, Morgan!" he said rising off the sofa and striding about the room restlessly. "Strategy and battle is all I know. Your warfare is completely unknown to me, and I of little use to it! What can I offer when all that I know is obsolete? Regardless..." he turned to the window, and mockingly opened the curtains looking outside. "There is no war to be had here, so what am I to do?"
"What about what Wyatt said, about how well you taught sword fighting?" Morgan said, perfectly calm despite his disheartened manner.
"What use is such knowledge here?"
"Things don't necessarily have to be of use to learn them. Everybody has hobbies. I wonder..." Morgan strode down the hall to the computer and turned it on.
Boromir followed, in spite of his dejected pride. "For what are you searching, Morgan?"
"Something I heard Lakeesha say the other day, talking about taking a Continuing-Ed course on her Tuesdays off. It's a course for adults who aren't trying to get a diploma or anything, they're just taking a class of something that they're interested in. I'm just wondering..." she said, typing in her query.
"And what is Lakeesha wishing to learn?"
"How to knit. Apparently, it's therapeutic... Yup! Here it is! Asking people who are interested in teaching courses of general interest to apply here. What do you think?"
"You think I should instruct sword fighting? In a school?" Even to Boromir it sounded incredulous.
"It might be a stretch; they may not go for it, but we can give it a try. Hey, you already have three references! Me, Wyatt, and Lakeesha!"
"I do not know..." Boromir said shaking his head uncertainly.
"Look, what do we have to lose? I say we apply, all the forms are here, and if they reject the idea, we haven't lost anything, right?"
"Aye, alright," Boromir said, and sat down beside her.
"Just so I know, how many people do you think you could teach at once? Remember, whoever will be taking this course, will be no soldier. Just some Jedi wannabes..."
Boromir thought hard. He had never trained alone before. "I should say fifty."
Morgan nearly choked on her sip of tea. "Well, as we only have 15 swords, how about we say a dozen?"
Yet, the labour of filling out all the forms had been in vain, for as Morgan called Wyatt asking him for a reference, he said something which she had not yet considered.
"Does he even have a Green Card?" Wyatt asked over the phone.
All of Morgan's hopes came crashing back to earth. "No... Shit! I didn't even think of that! Wyatt, he doesn't even have a passport! They'll never let him teach!"
Wyatt sighed. He couldn't help but like Boromir, and could only imagine what a man of his ability must be forced to endure. "What about your neighbour up the road with all the horses? What's his name? Curt Watson?"
"Yeah. I know he's a strange old fart, but why don't you talk to him and see if he needs a farmhand? I know it's not glamourous or anything, and below what I'm sure Boromir's capable of, but I should think he'd be used to horses, and maybe he'd enjoy it."
Morgan knew it was a stretch, not to mention a step down for Boromir. "It's not a bad idea," she said, though not entirely sure how Boromir would feel about the suggestion.
On her way home from work, she stopped off at Carl's farm. There were three large barns, each with chipping paint where the words "WEBBER & SON FARM" could still be seen. The house had faded yellow bricks, a long covered porch at its front, two stories, and was well over 150 years old. When Morgan had moved there 8 years ago, she had met Carl, and their camaraderie had been immediate. He was in his seventies, looked like he only shaved once a week, and crustier than an old, rusty nail. However, he had an endearing surliness about him that made Morgan think of a grandfather that she had never had.
"Hey there, Missy!" Carl said as Morgan got out of her car. "Whatcha doing here? I don't need no bed nurse, thank you very much!"
Morgan smiled. This was always how it was. He called her Missy, and teased her about being a nurse. Deep down, his heart was as good as gold.
"How are you doing, Carl?"
"Hangin' in there, but it's been hard, lately. I had to fire that stupid Flagherty boy. God damn teenagers! Think they can come and go as they please and expect to get paid for a full day, and only do half a day's work!"
He kicked the fence post at the end of his little speech, and Morgan wondered if she was barking up the wrong tree, or just barking mad in general. "You're in need of help, then?"
"Always needin' it, what with these stupid kids fooling around..." He continued to mutter under his breath, and kicked the fence post again.
"Listen," Morgan said, though not entirely sure she should. "I think I might have just the man for you."
"Man, huh? This the fellow who's been living with you? Yeah, I've seen him out there, chopping wood as I was hauling the hay back the other day."
"Uh huh. They say he's a foreigner..."
"Now, Missy!" Carl said, laughing. "You don't come movin' into a small village, and not expect folks to talk!"
Morgan nodded. "He's from England." A little white lie never hurt anybody, she told herself.
"England, huh? Well... He's good at chopping wood, I saw. Didn't mind the labour... Is he good with horses? The last thing I need is some sissy-ass Nancy-boy who's too skittish to get right under a horse if need be."
"He was raised with horses."
"Was, was he? Huh. Well, sure, we can give it a go. But now listen, Missy-girl," he said, half-scolding her with his pointed finger. "If it don't work out, I don't want any hurt feelings from you, ya hear? Even if he is your boyfriend. Though how you young people can live with yourselves, not being married, and living under the same roof is beyond me..."
"Alright, you've got a deal," Morgan said, ignoring his remarks. "He'll start tomorrow, and if things don't work out, no hard feelings."
Carl nodded his head. "Tell him to be here at 7 am sharp! I'll pay him $250 weekly, and in cash. Too cheap for eight hours a day, five days work?"
"No, I think that'll be alright."
Carl nodded again, and waved goodbye.
Boromir sighed. "A farmhand. I am reduced to this."
Morgan's insides felt crushed. She had done her best, and yet, she knew he was right. "I'm sorry, Boromir. It's all I could think of. Never mind! I'll call Carl, and tell him to forget it..."
"Nay," Boromir said rising, trying to best her to the phone. "It is not what I had envisioned my life to be, but it will do."
It was Morgan's turn to sigh. She felt like such a failure. Her feelings must have been evident, because Boromir was quick to grasp her shoulders and say, "I would not say it, if it were not so. Think not of my boorish manner!" he added with a smile.
Morgan managed a weak grin, but was not comforted. It had merely been the only solution that she could think of. If he couldn't get a Green Card, this was all he could do: manual labour that was paid under the table.
Boromir could not speak to Morgan of what a degradation this truly felt. He was meant to captain, not to clean out horse stalls! He was a leader of men, now forced to lead horses. Boromir hung his head in shame. What would his father say?
"Okay, I just need to give you a little warning about Carl," Morgan said as they stepped into the car the following morning.
"I told him you're from England."
"Where is England?"
"Across the ocean. You kind of sound like how they speak... If they ask which town, say...London. Can you remember that?"
"London," Boromir repeated. "Why must I lie?"
"Men in white uniforms, Boromir? Mental hospital and all that? Remember? No one needs to think you're crazy..."
"I see. I come from England. Yes, I think I have it."
"Right. And, just so you know, Carl is a little cranky. Rough around the edges, you know? He's had a tough life..."
"His son was killed in Vietnam." She thought a moment, then added, "There was a big war going on there back then..."
Immediately, Boromir could empathize, for he, himself, had seen so much death. Countless of his own men had perished before his eyes, and naught could he do to save them. "I see..."
"Yeah, and if that weren't crappy enough, his wife up and left him."
"What do you mean, left?"
"You know, divorced...separated...split up. Not married anymore..."
Morgan could only shrug. "Who knows what goes on behind closed doors. Just don't mention them, alright?"
They pulled up the long driveway, and up alongside the house. A lone warm glow could be seen within, and then go out. Morgan looked at the clock. 6:58. They were right on time.
Carl stepped out of the house, and Morgan and Boromir both got out of the car. It was brisk despite it being May.
"Carl, this is Boromir. Boromir, Carl Webber."
"Hey, what kind of a name is Boromir, anyway?" Carl asked, his steel grey eyes bearing into Boromir's.
Hesitating slightly, Boromir glanced at Morgan, but knew this was a question that he must answer. "My mother named me..."
"Well, you are a foreigner..." Carl said, believing that to be excuse enough for a stupid name. "Alright, first thing you can do is set to the horse stalls, feed the horses, clean out the stalls, and then take them out for exercise."
"I work the midnight shift tonight, Boromir," Morgan said, suddenly feeling very guilty for such menial tasks that Boromir was about to perform. "Shall I pick you up at three o'clock?"
"Nay, Morgan, I thank you. Your house is but a short walk south. It is no trouble."
"Are you sure?" Morgan asked.
"You heard the boy!" Carl said, impressed. "You only live twenty minutes down the road by foot!"
"Alright, then," Morgan said, and giving Boromir's hand a quick brush with hers, she drove away.
"You can start in the middle barn over there," Carl instructed, and Boromir strode off in duty.
Carl had thirty-two horses on his farm, in a mixture of breeds and colours. Boromir set straight to work, and was quickly surprised at how much he was enjoying himself! Far from feeling degraded and ashamed, his hands knew well what was expected of them, and he completed his tasks with a spring in his step. The musty scent of the barn, of hay and horse, seemed to rekindle a lost sense inside of him. The horses seemed curious about their new keeper, and he enjoyed whispering to them, and rubbing their long faces in greeting.
Hauling water and feed, and raking out manure proved labour intensive, yet it provided something which he had not expected: the glad necessity of occupation. At last he had employment! Time no longer crawled in idle languor. He bustled about, and with every duty completed, felt ever more fulfilled that he was a man who could provide for the woman he loved.
Carl strode in as Boromir was shoveling the last of the poopy remains, and closely inspected Boromir's work. "Huh," Carl said, nodding. He was impressed, but not the sort to throw away a compliment. "Not bad," was the best he could afford. "Take 'em out into the field."
Boromir nodded, set the shovel aside, and let the horses loose to roam free in the pasture.
Carl held back one horse, a chestnut steed with a wild spirit. "Can you ride?"
"Well, let's see ya do it, then!"
Boromir would not have thought it possible, but most of the tools needed for riding a horse were the same both in this world, as was in Gondor! No strange mechanical devices used here, he observed! He fastened the last buckle round the horse's belly, and effortlessly rose up into the saddle. The horse had already began to trot away, but soon it knew its master.
Boromir was reborn, and now free! What untamed beast quaked within the steed, Boromir set loose, and together they ran steadfast and effortlessly over unending fields. After long riding Boromir felt the exuberance begin to wane. He turned his mount about, and made back to the stables.
Carl had been watching, and was no fool. When Boromir jumped off his horse, breathless, and exhilarated, Carl said, "Oh, you have been on a horse before, I see."
"Aye, I said as much."
Carl nodded, but said nothing. He simply seemed to stare into Boromir's very soul, until he at last announced, "Alright, then. Let's eat."
Lunch was not elaborate, Boromir observed. It consisted of steaming chicken soup and hot buttered biscuits, yet for two hungry men, it was gladly met.
"So, where did you learn to ride like that?" Carl asked, still skeptical of his new hired hand.
"At my home...in London."
"London?" Carl said, somewhat intrigued. "Didn't know there were any horses in a big city like London."
Boromir felt like Carl was trying to trick him, and catch him in a falsehood. Normally, Boromir would never do so. Yet, the clear recollections of the mental ward sobered his tongue. This was not a matter of integrity... "Just north of the city, in point of fact," Boromir made up.
"Huh. And how did you meet my Missy-girl?"
"Through her brother," Boromir said, taking a large bit of a buttery biscuit. Not since childhood had he told such tall tales, but in such a hostile country, he felt no shame in doing so.
"The cop, right? Hmpf. So, it's obvious you can ride. Can you break in a horse?"
Boromir looked up, unsure of how to answer. "I know not what you mean..."
"You know, breaking it in, preparing it for riding..."
"Ah, but I was taught to train horses, to harness their will and spirit, and not to break it. A fast horse is always desired, and to procure one, the horse must be taught who is master."
Carl nodded his head, wondering what kind of fruitcake he had in his kitchen. "There's a young filly out there that needs...training. After lunch, let's see what you can make of her."
Boromir nodded, and finished off his soup. It was quite clear to him that Carl was a man not to be crossed.
Carl would not have thought Boromir a man as good as his word, but Carl had no shame admitting when he was wrong. He watched in utter amazement as Boromir held onto the long training reins, and the young grey horse skittered about in a circle. It was plain as day that Boromir was no idiot, and knew well his way around a horse. Carl smiled, thinking he had finally found himself a winner.
Three o'clock came, and Carl strode up to Boromir. "You worked out well today," he said in his gruff crabbily voice. "I guess you can come back tomorrow if you want to..."
"Aye, I shall come again tomorrow."
Nodding, Carl held out his hand and shook Boromir's extended grip. Boromir strode down the long drive, and turned south along the concession road. For the first time since he knew not when, he felt good about himself. That feeling grew even happier when he recalled that with every step, he was closer to Morgan, and home.
A/N: Please review and let me know what you thought!!!
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.