Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Remember the Death of Alpin!

"Cumhnich Bas Alpin," my father gasped, his last words rattling dead in his throat. Remember the Death of Alpin!

I sat at the foot of my father's bed. His death was more relief than pain to me. He had been eighty years old, living a surprisingly long life for someone that relished the vices of war, drink, and whoring. Old age had done for him, though, beating out the others despite the long odds.

"The family words," Father Bede replied. He sat near my father's shoulder, his head bowed as if in prayer. He kissed his rosary and closed my father's good eye; an eye-patch covered the other. "No truer words have been spoken. Apt they are."

I rubbed my forehead with the heel of my palm. My father dead, and rather than saying something useful, he recalled an ancestor 300 years gone. "Yes, very helpful," I sighed. "You think he could have said something more appropriate, seeing as they were his last words. Maybe, I love you son, or, make me proud?"

"Is there anything better than the words of your clan? The words passed down from father to son? They should give you strength. Remember who you are."

"I know who I am." They were ludicrous words anyway, more a reminder of our hatred for clan Dunakin, and their long ago ancestor Bruch, who slew Alpin. "I wonder why we couldn't choose better words. We're not a small house. We have decent incomes, sizeable lands, old prestige."

But we were stuck with Remember the Death of Alpin, while other clans, such as clan Dougall from the East, had jarring words, like Victory or Death. Words like that inspired a man, made the heart beat faster, the loins stir.

"I think you mistake their meaning." Bede straightened from his stool and stretched my father's green blanket high to his chin. "While they do herald your ancestor's lifelong enmity, they provide other insight. Do you know how Alpin died?"

"No," I conceded.

"He was slain by Bruch," Bede began in an urbane air, "with his trousers round his ankles, and his rear planted in a privy. Remember the Death of Alpin may seem weak to you, but it's better than Don't Get Caught With Your Pants Down."

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