Second Chances
Chapter 1

Copyright© 2012 by Allan Kindred

I knew a man once. It was a long time ago. His name was Casper MacDoogle. He used to patronize the same bar I did. Of course he had been patronizing that bar several decades before I came along.

I was a young man in my early twenties, twenty-three to be exact, fresh from the battlefields of World War Two; he was old, gray, and wrinkled. He understood much of my angst for he was a World War One veteran himself. Neither of us was originally from New York, but that is where we found ourselves in those days.

He wasn't famous or rich, but to the people who knew him he affected their lives most profoundly. It wasn't the way he talked; he didn't believe in preaching, although his raspy voice was strangely soothing. It wasn't the way he looked for one might look upon him and look away with disgust, with his myriad colors of patched up clothing and his long gray scraggly beard and unkempt hair, saying what a bum.

With his right boot taped together so it wouldn't fall apart and the many scars across his face he looked like what most people choose to call worthless scum. He wasn't of course. He was just a man who had a less than favorable hand dealt to him and made something from it.

As old Casper used to like to say, "I bluffed my way through it."

But never once did he complain that life was unfair and never once did he let it affect his judgment when it came to making the decisions of everyday life.

To of have heard him telling stories about his life one might have fallen into a state of shock and disbelief. At first I found his stories hard to swallow, although nonetheless entertaining.

It wasn't that the stories couldn't have happened, it was just that I wasn't sure if I would have taken the same paths. But, now that I sit here old, gray and wrinkled myself, looking back upon my life fondly, I see him walking beside me and the parallels are there. His influence was profound and this is his story that is why I do not bother naming myself.

Born into a hard working family who made their living as craftsmen, the MacDoogle's supplied all the local villages with the wooden crafts needed to survive in a harsh climate.

They built doors that could stand up to the strong winds and keep out much of the cold. They built the handles for tools such as hammers, picks, shovels, and hoes that they used to extract what they needed to live from the land. They supplied the necessary furniture such as beds, chairs, stools, tables, storage cabinets and the like. And, from time to time, they even made statues to stand tall and proud to symbolize their way of life of pride and honor.

His life, Casper's that is, was not easy in the Highlands of Scotland and as an only male child in the late eighteen hundreds he was forced to grow up fast. His stories of his childhood in Scotland were amusing, but uneventful. He would sit there on his old familiar stool and get a child-like expression on his old haggard face as he began to tell a story of an eight-year-old boy who got to hang out with the men for the first time without his mum pestering him.

One of the older lads, maybe seventeen, was whooping and a hollering and saying, "I finally got me some."

All the men were patting him on the back saying, "Looks like old Timothy has grown up into a fine young man."

Casper being only eight-years-old didn't know what they were talking about, but he sure liked the attention the older boy was getting so he exuberantly yelled, "I'm gonna get me some too!"

The men burst out laughing. He turned bright red in the fading light of day. Through uncontrollable laughter one of the older folk said, "Earl, looks like your boy Casper is becoming a man faster still." And they laughed again.

However, it wasn't until he hit his teenage years that he truly started to show himself. Not so much of what he had been, but who he was going to be. By the age of fifteen he was nearly six feet tall and a handsome lad. A few years back they welcomed in the twentieth century.

High in the mountains the people chose mates early, more out of necessity than love, but he chose to wait until he found the lady to love like the ones he had heard about in the stories his mum read to him by candlelight during the cold winter days, about princesses falling in love with common boys.

He knew he was meant to be more than he could be in the desolate world of the Highlands of Scotland. His dreams told him so. His dreams showed him magical places and far off lands with strange people and customs; it was there he knew he would find his princess.

It wasn't until several days before his sixteenth birthday that the opportunity of change showed its ugly face. He was coming back from a hunting expedition with his same aged cousin Louie. Louie was smaller than he, maybe five foot eight, but he was stocky. With his shaggy brown hair and big brown eyes he looked like a wolverine and he could fight like one too. It was then, as they were approaching their village, that they noticed the pillars of black smoke coming from the village.

They dropped the carcass of the animal that was to be that week's food. It was a fine looking six-point buck and surely their fathers were going to be proud of the boys, but they weren't thinking of that now, they just ran toward the village.

A band of marauders, raiders who chose to steal rather than work for a living, were attacking and destroying the village. As Casper ran through the village the first thing he saw was his father's shop burning and crumbling in on itself. This was the very place that he had been apprenticing to take over upon his father's passing. But, now none of that mattered. All of it was gone.

And he selfishly thought to himself, "Thank God."

He drew his sword that had been his grandfather's and his grandfather's before him. He slid the sword that his father had passed down to him a mere year ago out of its golden tan hide sheath that he kept strapped to his back with the hilt jutting up between his shoulder blades. With an eerie reflection of light off the old iron blade he runs towards his home. He turned the corner and saw, with several other bodies, his father lying unmoving in the street.

No longer rational he let out a warrior's cry and charged the unprotected back of one of the mounted marauders. He thrust the sword deep into the body of the slayer of innocent people and wickedly turned the sword until he heard the spine crack and saw the life drain out of the man, even as he fell off his jet black horse.

He then heard screams from within his home. He charged in and saw a marauder raping his mother. It was a big brute of a man with long curly black hair, a black leather tunic, and he was beating his mother. Casper's mother Mara had blood coming out of her mouth and nose. She saw her son and hope glittered in her eyes.

As Casper advanced the marauder turned and kept his dagger pointed at Casper's mother's throat. But Casper didn't see the dagger, he continued his advance until he reached the vermin and cut his head off. As the dying body collapsed under its own weight the dagger plunged deep into his mother's throat and killed her.

After he realized what he had done he crumbled to his knees and lay there stunned by what had happened. He was not one to be stunned into silence or frozen from fear so he turned towards the door and the chaos outside to find another enemy to take his rage and revenge out on.

Off in the distance he heard a loud crack. It could only be the sound of a bullet being fired from a rifle. He had seen and heard a modern rifle once before when visiting one of the bigger neighboring cities. His father had offered to buy him a rifle, but he had felt it was more honorable to fight face to face with a sword, if the need ever arose, and to hunt with the bow.

But, the marauders had no such honor. Casper, now feeling the grief of loss thought, "You cowards! You shoot down innocent women, children, and men. You have no honor!"

He was approaching the west side of the village. He was about to turn the corner of the Macmillan's cottage, but he was brought up short by a horse's explosive release of air that sent a plume of mist bellowing into the frigid air. He flattened himself against the wall until the marauder rode around the corner and became visible. Casper pulled the gutless raider off his sweaty brown horse. With a startled exclamation the marauder hit the ground with a thud. The marauder's sword went skittering across the cobblestone road and the raider expelled all the breath in his lungs. He was just a year or two older than Casper, but Casper gave him no respite; he cut his enemy down.

The commotion drew the attention of the rest of the marauders. They stopped, turned and stared at the big little man and then laughed at him before three of them raised their rifles and fired. Two of the three bullets struck their intended target in the left side of his gut and his right shoulder. Casper fell more out of exhaustion than any real threat of death. The marauders, thinking they had killed the last of the villagers and had already looted everything of value, turned and disappeared into the fading sunlight.

Casper awoke covered by a thin layer of snow. How long had he been out? With a great effort he raised himself to a setting position. He then stood and began to search the village for any living people, but he found none. He even found his cousin Louie dead. He seemed to of been shot in the head for it was hard to make out any features and the thin layer of snow gave the corpses a ghost-like appearance.

He saw an enemy marauder lying dead with an arrow in his chest nearby and he thought to himself, "Good for Louie."

After bandaging his own wounds he buried the villagers that he had known his whole life and set out down the mountain for the last time. Down to book passage to a mysterious place called America. It was there that he knew he would be what he was supposed to be.

The source of this story is Finestories

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