The Roughest, Toughest Cro-Magnon in the West Meets Merlin

Sure, I met Merlin. White beard, pointed hat.  

Couldn’t hardly get a word in edgewise. Real talker, a wisemouth.

He was a smart sonofabitch, I’ll grant him that.

Now, it ain’t everyday a cro-magnon like myself meets

such a respected figure in the wizarding community.

I’d traversed wastelands and felled entire species but

Merlin, though he lived most of his life in that cottage of his,

had swayed global politics for well over a century. 

That King Arthur feller wouldn’t have had a chance at coronation

if it weren’t for Merlin’s incantations, his fancy herbs and potions. 

When I entered that cottage, oh boy—reeked of cats and mildew.

Ol’ Merlin, he hobbled out of his bedroom, beard practically dragging the floor,

bottle of strong ale in one hand as he offered his other hand for a handshake.

Looked like he hadn’t washed that hand in ages, but I 

shook it anyway. I may be a rough man, but I’m a gentleman.

He asked how I was doing, how the glaciers fared up north,

whether I missed the mammoths I used to ride. And I told him

life, though it had evolved since my day, was treating me good.

He offered me a drink. I accepted. I tell ya, there’s something sad

in a powerful man brought so low. I’d heard legends about Merlin,

his magic mirrors and metamorphoses, the way he once transformed a moth

into a sperm whale, made the Roman Empire fall

with just a single wag of his finger. But this man, this wisp of magic, he was— 

he was just the saddest sight I’d ever seen. 

Merlin collected cats like some men collect pelts. Named all of ‘em

Arthur, like his old friend. He had an eternity to wait out

before death might take him—just like me. And he intended 

on befriending cats and cats only. And he loved those cats,

fed ‘em all milk and smoked salmon, treated each feline royally.

And at the end of that meeting, after I’d left, I cried. 

Couldn’t help but wonder what the future had waiting for me,

if Merlin’s life would be my life in a few decades.

Crazy what time can do. Crazy what the world will run you through.

Me, I’ve been in this life game so long

I can’t hardly tell what’s real anymore. 

Lane Chasek’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Broke BohemianHole in the Head ReviewNorth Dakota QuarterlyPlainsongs, and others. Chasek’s first book, Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe, is currently available from Jokes Review Press.

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