Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

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 –

The False Cross (Part II)

In Adventure, Writing on June 2, 2012 at 6:00 am


The second installment (of three) below. (If you’re just coming to this post, you should first read part one here.)

From the island summit the view was a magnificent three hundred and sixty degrees, bordered on the south by a 1500-foot granite cliff. Franz built Anne a bench at this spot and she often spent her afternoon here, sitting aimlessly. She tried to read but lacked concentration. Clients gave her books, perhaps sensing a need, and she would politely accept, but she was no longer a reader and the books accumulated on her shelf. This was a personal loss, for reading had once been a passion. The library reflected the corners of the earth from which a traveler will come to catch fish. She could read French and Italian, as well as converse in German and Spanish. As a child, she exhibited what her parents called a gift for language. But that was a long time ago.

Stone-like she sat on the bench and stared at the horizon. Frequently, an Andean condor would draft from below and linger suspended eye to eye. She wished at times that she was a photographer and could capture such things, but she’d grown used to being less than she wished, such that the notion never so much as settled on her, as hovered, like the bird, quiet and unflapping and with piercing vision. She started a journal two seasons ago, but it depressed her to read past entries, so she stopped.

* * *

When she greeted Franz at the dock he handed her a brown trout, a fish maybe seven or eight pounds, a large fish by any standard but not unusual for these parts. “Swallowed the fly,” he said. “Got it out and released him but he floated to the top.” Ironically, Franz hated to kill a fish. He said that fish where his friends. Anne thought this humorous and the only honest fight they ever had was upon hearing this the first time when she laughed at him. Anne said she would prepare a fish stew. He nodded.

The stew arrived at the client table in a large earthen pot, painted round with a mountain scene. Franz stood among the hungry clients with a ladle. He dipped but came short against the fish curled on the bottom, whole and intact. He lifted it from the stew, examined it, and removed the pot from the table to the kitchen. Maria caught his eye and nodded quietly toward Anne who was standing at the back door looking to the horizon. The night was overcast and the silhouette of the mountains was lost against the sky.

“Can you tell where the mountains stop and the sky begins?” she asked.

* * *

The next morning Anne realized that the phone no longer connectted to the satellite. She told Franz as he was loading the boat, holding the phone at arm’s length. “Dead,” she declared. He pursed his mouth and nodded. His clients sat fast and they soon were off across the water to the Land Rover waiting to transport them to the McKenzie boats. Anne watched them leave, petting Bear, the dog. The island was profoundly quiet and she imagined a mute satellite spinning far above.

– end, part two –