by Aubrey Hirsch
…..Now his beloved state is gone, reduced to ink in history books, if that. He was Franklin’s only governor, and he doesn’t think anyone could feel the loss as acutely as he. When his daughters dance around him, trying to melt his icy veneer, he wants to shake them until their pretty heads come off their pretty necks because they don’t understand. His wife compares it to losing a child, but a child lives seventy years at best. What he’s lost is not a temporary plaything, it’s the ability to be immortal.
…..What haunts him most, more than the ghosts of those he buried in Franklin who now rest in Tennessee, is that no one saw the greatness he saw. He was one vote shy of being granted statehood. In desperation, he even tried to negotiate a deal with the Spanish who, despite their lust for a foothold in the Appalachians, did not send the money.
…..And when it was time to fight for Franklin, to fight for freedom and liberty and the land beneath their own feet, his soldiers wouldn’t charge. They spared shots against their former neighbors, playing at bad aim and jammed rifles. Even when Sevier’s own sons were taken, his men would not fight. He had to retreat like a wounded horse, send an unarmed man to retrieve his boys.
…..All he wants, all he’s ever wanted since his bravery in Lord Dunmore’s War and the Revolution and his days killing natives on the Nolichucky River, is to feel like he is in control of something. This is why he fills his first wife with babies, with so many babies the last one finally kills her. It’s why he fills his second wife with babies, too. And why he puts babies in the bellies of the Chickamauga women and the Chickasaw women and why he will never stop. Because John Sevier will not leave the planet without creating his own nation. And if he cannot do it with votes and government and treaties then he will do it with sweat and blood and semen. When he climbs onto his wife in the dead of night and she screams, Enough, he will growl back with whiskey breath, It will never be enough.
…..When he thinks about what he loves most, he doesn’t see his wife or the faces of his children. He sees the flag of Franklin: its soft but heavy fabric, the thick red border, the image of the sun rising over the French Broad River. But that flag exists only as a sketch, as ink on paper, as a feeling in his heart, and as a dream he wakes from every morning facing fresh pain.
Aubrey Hirsch‘s work has appeared in print and online in journals like Hobart, Third Coast, PANK, Annalemma and SmokeLong Quarterly, among others. You can learn more about Aubrey at www.aubreyhirsch.com.