Solomon lay on his sleeping pallet in the dark, listening to the owl sing his song under the Carolina moon. The moon had become an obsession for Solomon in recent weeks. Waxing and waning in and out of his thoughts throughout the day as his calloused fingers plucked tufts of cotton from their angry bolls. Tonight the silver sliver beckoned to him from its place high in the country sky. Hanging like a gleaming sickle above the plantation.
The other Solomon turned three precise circles on his bed of hay, mashing down the straw with the rough black pads on the bottom of his paws. The sounds and scents of the thick, black night assaulted his bloodhound senses as he tried to sleep. His ears twitched at the owl’s song and in his nostrils the aromas of all who lived on the plantation danced and swirled together as one. Black and white, slave and master. He fell into a gentle sleep, his paws twitching as though he were running beneath the mossy canopies of his master’s oaks.
Solomon slipped out the front door of the sleeping quarters as quietly as he could. He took one final look at the thatched roof shanty which had been his home for as long as he could recall. Then, once again, he remembered the moon and his eyes searched the heavens. Tonight it was the narrowest of slices. Solomon prayed the shadowy arms of night would wrap themselves around him and whisk him away to safety and freedom.
The deep, mournful howls of the younger hounds roused the other Solomon from his slumber. He slowly opened one droopy eyelid and saw his master looming over him with a large stick.
“Get up, dog!”
The bloodhound scrambled to his feet before the man had a chance to bring the stick down on his broad shoulders. He breathed deeply and inhaled the scent of the dirty, torn clothing his master held under his nostrils. Then he lifted his head to bay at the tiny shard of moon up above and began his search.
Until the baying of the hounds, Solomon thought he actually had a chance. But the eerie cries of the dogs were a sharp blade that pierced his hope. He knew better than to try and outrun the powerful dogs in his bare feet. Their legs could carry them across the county and back before he could make it off the plantation. Solomon cursed the moon and its radiance, however slight on this night. It had betrayed him and shone its beam on his escape like a spotlight. Beads of sweat broke out on Solomon’s dark skin and he drank deeply from the gourd he had filled with water and tied around his waist. It was the only thing he had taken with him on his journey. The cool liquid washed away his despair and he headed for the one place his scent might actually have a chance to hide from a bloodhound.
The dogs darted around the plantation in a frenzy, their noses pressed hard to the ground. Heavy, long ears and thick folds of skin around their faces lifted the scents up off the dirt and waved them beneath their keen noses. Solomon could tell his target was getting closer. The trail was strong and when he reached the swine barn it exploded in his nostrils. The other dogs ran past the barn, but Solomon followed the instincts bred into his blood for generations. He dashed into the dark barn and found a man crouched down in the mire with the pigs. Visibly shaken, the man slowly stood up and looked Solomon directly in the eyes.
There the two Solomons stood face to face. Solomon the man looked at the bloodhound and saw the scars on his body and the weariness among the rich folds of skin. Solomon the dog looked at the man and saw lost eyes and a crooked spine which had been beaten with the same stick as his own, by the same master. A telltale bay rumbled deep in his throat and yearned to escape from his muzzle, but he pushed it back down.
In that moment both Solomons were one; the hunter and the hunted. Living souls who had been beaten down by another.
Their eyes never left one another until Solomon the man watched Solomon the dog turn around and slip quietly back into the night, under the pale glow of the Carolina moon.
“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you…
say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
They will feed besides the roads
and find pasture on every barren hill.
They will neither hunger nor thirst,
Nor will the desert sun beat upon them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
And lead them beside streams of water.”
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