Doug Bruns

The False Cross (Part III)

In Adventure, Writing on June 3, 2012 at 6:00 am

The Southern Cross

Below is the ending to my story, The False Cross. Here is a link to part one. Here, part two.

All day it rained. The sky was a shade of concrete. Anne napped, cleaned the lodge, then napped again. As a child she had liked rain. It instilled in her a comforting calm, a forced relaxation. But as everything was other than before, so too the rain, which no longer relaxed her. Rather, it depressed her.

When Franz returned he was cold and, despite his rain gear, soaked through. He excused himself from dinner and crawled into bed shivering. He could not afford to get sick. His clients had come from far away and had spent significant money to fish the legendary rivers of Patagonia. One of his new arrivals, from South Africa, was a man named Reefer. Anne found his accent provocative and at dinner that night she joined the clients in Franz’s absence, sitting next to him. She was entertaining and laughing and full of life. Even to herself she appeared happy.

When she got into bed, Franz’s teeth were chattering, but his fever broke by morning.

The night sky of the southern hemisphere was familiar to Reffer and one clear night he pointed out the Southern Cross. Anne, for all her years in Patagonia, had never seen it and she hung on Reffer’s words as he explained that the Southern Cross is sometimes confused with the False Cross which is close by, less bright, and with stars more widely spaced. She relaxed her eyes and peered into the infinity. At one point she rested her hand on his shoulder. A week later he was gone and Anne wondered, if she’d asked, would he have taken her away with him?

* * *

The end of the Patagonian season is singularly dreary. Anne thought of Indiana where it was spring, remembering her youth on a street lined with oaks and a neighborhood brimming with kids on bikes. She pulled on a fleece and her rain-gear against the weather and left the lodge.

Bear sniffed the ground next to her. Franz had gone to Porto Monte to pick up the last clients of the season. He would also bring the supplies ordered on his trip two weeks previous. He would bring the mail and magazines and news of the world. From her bench on the island summit Anne watched his returning boat, its wake, a speeding V pointed at her heart. She tugged at her fleece and interlaced her gloved fingers. The south face precipice was sheer and she wondered were she to jump would she fall direct or possibly hit a crag? “There are a lot of ways of killing a woman,” she said to no one. Bear was tired and despite the cold and wind was curled up asleep under a sheltering tree.

She’d lost track of the seasons in Patagonia. Is this five, six? Each season had further isolated and diminished her, as if pulling her out of light and into deepening shades of grey. She used to be confident in her strength, but every day she grew weaker and feared a reckless sprint to the end. Yet, she was not lost entirely. Such was the nature of her condition: monitored.

Daily, sometimes twice, she fired up the satellite phone and watched the searching screen. Every day it failed to find a connection and she would turn it off and dutifully return it to the cradle. She slept during the day and at night she would lie awake fearing the return of the black diesel. Franz slept heavily and the dogs slept on the floor at their feet.

* * *

She rose. Bear turned and watched her as she slipped out of bed, then followed her out the door. In the morning, Franz found the dog at the end of the dock, looking to the water.

Two panic-stricken days followed until he realized that one of the seven boats was missing. Two years later he received a card, postmarked Paris. He recognized her handwriting. It simply read, Fish are our friends.

– the end –

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