I am very grateful to the Hewnoaks Artist Colony for granting me a residency during the summer of 2014. Without this enormous support, I would be much more story poor.
A SHORT SHORT FROM THE BREAKFAST NOOK OF SANS SOUCI, WITH THANKS TO HEWNOAKS:
- BACK TO JAMESTOWN-
It was Johnna’s third day in the mountains. A breeze rose from the valley, making the leaves dance. Johnna stood still to watch.
Her lineage went straight back to Jamestown, but there things got murky. Her understanding was there were a lot of deaths, and sometimes identities were moved into. Like one might crawl into the hide of an animal killed in winter. The settlers had had to fight. With the natives, but also simply for survival. Some historians claimed they ate each other. Others said not a chance. But there’s evidence. There’s a fossil record. Small hash marks on femurs and humeri where instruments banged while stripping the meat away.
It was the Indians that did it, the detractors say.
But buried inside the settlement? (The rebuttal.)
Many of the bones are those of children.
Maybe they wouldn’t have made it through the winter anyway, Johnna thought again. She placed her right foot on a small boulder that turned over under her weight. She balanced herself, but a shimmering line of heat had already flashed across her forehead. Another wind blew up from below, and Johnna looked to the trees to enjoy it. She was at six thousand feet. She closed her eyes. She could still see the flashing pale undersides of leaves. When the world went still again there were voices coming up the trail behind her.
Two men, it sounded like. They seemed to be talking about, of all things, cars. They wouldn’t have seen her yet. She moved off the trail, into the trees. It was one thing to pass hikers coming from the opposite direction, to say hello and trade quick advice about the trail ahead, but this joining of paths was awkward. She’d already spent a whole afternoon trying to shake a Canadian.
Some of the trees where she crouched had pale, exposed roots. What the article hadn’t mentioned was how proteins affect the genetic code. What her own bone mass might have to say about proteins consumed back then. She just didn’t know.
If she didn’t give the men enough time, she’d be constantly aware of them up ahead, of the possibility of catching up. If she waited too long, other hikers might come along. She crossed over the trail to where cold clear water rushed over white rocks. It felt good to unclip the belts of her pack, to let it slide off her shoulders and onto the ground. She felt a pleasurable tingle as the air touched her wet back. She rolled her neck and got a few good pops. She got on her knees and splashed water on her face. It was exciting to know this water came from there. She’d caught glimpses of the peak through the trees. She’d be above tree line soon. She bent lower and cupped her hands to carry water to her mouth. She had iodine tabs in her pack, but she knew the water was clean this high, and she drank it.