The Other Works of William Shakespeare, 002 Shakespeare Met

I was sitting in a large moss covered oak tree on the bank of a creek just small enough to babble and just large enough to have pools. The roots by the creek were quite well exposed and through the windows that the roots framed, I could see fish swim and hunt and hide. I sat with my bow strung, waiting for a deer to come and drink. It was a rare warm day late in autumn. Red and gold leaves dreamed of youth as they drifted down the stream.

Many hours I had spent here that day. This was a special hunt for me. My father was to take me to Wales soon and he planned to give me a mans bow. My bow was smaller but I loved it as a friend. To hang it up without one last hunt would have been to betray it. My small bow was bent from being strung too long and scarred from ill use. My fathers Hound Keeper had warned me that the urchins would steal my new bow if I abused it as badly.

The birds became quiet after a light wind send leaves flying. I slowly reached for an arrow, expecting my quarry to gently walk into view. Down stream I heard a voice.

“I see thee, hiding there.” The voice said in a warm, teasing tone.

The lad came into view. He was slowly moving up the stream crouched and staring into the water.

“Thou cans’t not escape me. I have hands and mind and intent. You have but scales and fins and water.”

He moved into close view. I could have shot him twice over. He gently moved, but quickly, never slipping on the smooth green rocks. I couldn’t see the fish he was chasing but by his attention I knew where it was. Starring into the water, never noticing me, he came right to the base of the tree I was in. He lowered his head near to the water and looked into the roots’ shadow.

“I cans’t see thee not. Yet I know where thou art. For you are a large and perfect fish. Thine age has taught you to take care and hide in the most perfect spot. Thy wisdom betrays thee.”

He tossed the boots and bag that were hanging from his neck onto the bank beneath the tree and then sat down right in the stream. He sat perfectly still for a moment, like a stone. His stillness shifted too slowly to notice as he leaned over, head nearly underwater, blindly stretching his hand, then arm, then body into the root shaded pool. His head went under water, under roots as his body slowly drew after his hunting hand. There through the root framed window I saw the back of the fish. His hand gently reached under the fish and then like a lover caressed the fish.

It came to me then that he had been without air all this time. I hesitated not wanting to spoil his hunt, fearing him drowned for sure. But for his hand moving, I would have thought the creek had claimed him. Then in a moment he was gasping for breath, holding the fish by the gills with both hands. Life and joy exuded from him as for a moment he seemed like a creature one with the water rushing around him. He stood and then jumped, twisting himself around to where he was sitting on the roots holding his fish. It was then I realized he was poaching.

“My poor fish,” he spoke, “What grantest thou me for thy freedom and life?”

He lowered his ear near to the struggling fishes mouth.

“No answer then?” He asked as he looked closely at the fish. “Then turnst thou into a lithe maid here in my lap and again your life if not sudden freedom thou shalt surely have. Well then since you refuse to be more wonderful than thou art already. Then surely I will dine so well that I will forgive your mundane being.”

He stood and retrieved his boots and bag. Then he turned and looked up at the tree that held me. Spots of light danced through the leaves onto his surprised face. He expected only to see a grand oak.

“Do you not warn a man when he come near?” He said.

“I don’t knock the brush from an artists hand.” I replied.

He bowed to me. “Would you shoot a poacher in the back as he ran?”

“My father taught me that I would hunt better, learn more and live longer if I refrained from hunting poachers. For thy name I will give you your life, your fish and your secret.”

“I am William Shakespeare, and for your generosity I will lead you to the buck you are seeking. By this I will prove your father wise. In all truth this fish is but half way poached.”

“Half way?” I asked.

“Half way! Here I will set my tale before you to judge. Seeing that you are a fair and honest man I fear no injustice in you decision. I do not have any wish for you to consider me a braggart, yet I will gently broach my skill as a fisherman. Others make a fair attempt at catching any fish. Thou knowest as an archer would, that to but aim at the target and not the center is no way to improve one’s skills. So when I aim to catch a fish, I aim not to catch the closest fish that I spy, but the fish that I most desire. By doing so my skill has grown where when I see a fish, it is already caught. It is only time that keeps it from being in my hands. When I first set my mind to capture this fish, I was not yet on this property. Thus this fish was at least half caught on another premise.”

“Knowing this,” I answered, “I must agree and go even further. I would say that since your skill is so great that any fish you desire is already caught. Furthermore since all fish must at one time pass through regions where you are free to catch fish, then surely you have the right to any fish. This does however beg one question. How do you catch a specific fish once it has reached the sea?”

“Simply this, I cheat. I always pursue my fish upstream.

We walked together almost a league downstream. There He recovered his bow and gear. We drank from the creek and he put his boots back on. Then he led me nearly out of the woods and into the common. There in an unkempt grain field stood a buck with points equaling twelve. Not the oldest I had seen, but still more buck than I could carry. I drew and shot this buck. He leapt and fell spent.

“I fear that this is perhaps more than I can carry, William.”

“We can tie the legs and then carry it on a stave together, your manor is not far from here.”

“You know me then?” I asked as we attended to the task at hand.

“I know your colors, lordship.” He answered.

“No lord am I.”

“I had heard that your fathers favorite son was your age.”

“My uncle and his wife do love me, yet I am not the heir nor do I hold any grievance with my cousin.”

“Then I will not hold any ill to your cousin either.” Shakespeare said.

With that line I knew him to be my friend. In all my life to follow no friend more true or loyal have I met. I swear to you the blind and loyal friendship that this man could give was this mans only true failing. He could see through to the heart of every man, every man save those he had given his friendship to. Though he was always a rogue, he was always charming and in his way quite honorable. Some men grew to fear him. Some to worship him as the best of England’s children. Thus begins my tale, the story of William Shakespeare.

3 comments to The Other Works of William Shakespeare, 002 Shakespeare Met

  • Skip J.

    Excellent story – just excellent!

    One problem I can see – alternative history mite not sell outside of the sci-fi genre. Just my 2 cents worth…


  • No real problem here. I would love to be published and would regret it not being published, but I really enjoy this story and am mainly writing it for my wife. There is a market for spy stories, mysteries and Shakespearean tales, so I am perhaps a bit optimistic.

    This does not quite count as an alternate history. All the dates and events are still there. I plan to footnote this quite a bit. Instead, I have taken playful license, but nothing that will disagree with history.

    It will in fact have the actual history a bit more correct than most histories of Shakespeare do. Most historians have their bias and leave out or walk over details that break with their bias. I instead take details that conflict with my story as challenges!

    There are no blimps, so it really won’t qualify as an alternate history. While there is more technology in this than in the standard histories, all of the technology is quite real and existed at the time. Spy stories need technology.

    While this will not qualify as SF, it will however qualify as fantasy. During my research, the temptation to use the evidence as reported in the day became quite irresistible. This was a time when astrology was used as evidence in court. In fact there was a noble who tried to eliminate the use of astrology in courts of law, and Queen Elizabeth warned him that his arguments were bordering on heresy.

    Here is another odd detail, all of the prophesies that were made in the plays of Shakespeare, have turned out to come true. And they were made in plain English. So Nostradamus is hardly in the same league with Shakespeare.

    Oddly, by ignoring the modern distaste for superstition and mysticism, my tale is one that would have been much more believable by the people of the day, than what modern historians have written.


  • Skip J.

    Oh my, and historically correct too… well history was the only class I liked in school, which had a lot to do with the very little amount of college credit I amassed.

    I will say that if you can get it published as fantasy – while being historically correct – that’s as good as it gets………

    envy, envy, envy…. you’re not good for my mental health you know….


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