Bearsville Fiction Saga, fragment, 17 July ’17

She was wearing surf shoes. He knew she liked to feel the ground underfoot, and would walk barefoot if she could do it safely. He wished she had dressed more carefully. Denim shorts and a lightweight striped-cotton shirt were not going to keep the bugs off.

She was walking west along the access road, shoulders slumped. Birds’ songs dropped into the forest, like celebratory mini-bombs. She seemed distracted, maybe even unconscious of the birds’ music.

To her south, the Sawkill gurgled over clusters of boulders left by thousands of years of thaws and floods. To her north, forest understory rustled when brushed by her knees and shoulders.

He worried, when she shortened stride and stayed more on her toes on slippery patches of moss. He worried, when the forest touched her shoulders, prime landing spots for ticks. He worried, as she walked, that she might not come home.

Though his following her was urgent, he didn’t want her to know he was there. So when when she stopped by an old wild-apple tree, he ducked.

She raised her chin to peek up into the tree. Her mouth was turned down. Maybe she was counting time lost, in her so-far no-vacations life?

A couple of squirrels lunged through the tall tree’s branches, making a muffled ruckus. Every few moments, leafy twigs or small, green apples fell through the tree, onto the forest floor.

Bearsville Fourth, 2017

Not a bird called, no animal moved. The Sawkill rippled beyond the fence, under a turquoise-and-lapis sky.

Trees seemed close, as if they’d taken a step or two in her direction, holding their breath, touching limbs, leaves quiet. No insects buzzed.

When a cloud blocked the sunlight, something shifted. Evening had come.

A rabbit ran from a neighbor’s yard to the mossy shed near the woods where its burrow lay. A couple of birds fought silently in a tall wild-apple tree. A banjo twanged, and then a chime-like bell. Dinner?

The evening’s action should have been on the lawn, spread out before her, its varied textures and colors mapping this tree root system, or that habitual block of shadow. But now, as darkness lowered itself into the yard, the tiny to mid-sized creatures that normally ran, crawled, hopped, slithered or flew through it were nowhere to be seen. The space between house and woods, theirs and usually safe, was this evening motionless, except for the rabbit and a newly-calling mourning dove.

Do wild animals have calendars? Do they tell stories and count time, around their equivalents of campfires?

For her, an earthy, bright perfume of peppermint, sweetening, and mixing with, soft sparkles of pine and a diffuse base note of general ripening and decay, plus the talk of crows and jays these past few early mornings, said autumn was on its way.

A chipmunk ran out to the edge of the deck. Its target was a clump of sage laden with seedheads. Firecrackers started up. It ran away. The crackers stopped. The chippie ran out again. The dove lullabied the evening with a sad, soft cry, while from far away came a big, though faint, sound of real fireworks.