Puerto Rico Journal – Blog Post – Day 11 #Blogging

Playa Montones

Drove out to Playa Montones Beach in Isabela, PR.

I will never forget the beauty of the ocean as it crashed against the rocks a little out at sea and sprayed above them. As a result, an enormous tide pool was created, perfect for snorkeling safely.

The tide pool ranged in depth from half a foot to about fifteen feet deep and was filled with an array of tropical fish. This was my first time snorkeling. As someone whose family was not big on vacations growing up, this was a childhood dream come to fruition.

The water? Crystal clear, aquamarine blue, and luke warm, lapping gently against white sand. Tired from snorkeling, Dan and I found a spot in the shallowest part of the water and laid out on the sand while the gentle tide swirled feather soft around our bodies and the magnificent Caribbean sun wrapped us in its warm embrace and tinted everything in a golden glow. I could have laid there forever.

Well rested, we grabbed our towels and backpack and trekked out to a nearby cliff overlooking open ocean. After the serenity of the tidal pool, it was amazing to see the ocean in all her power and glory pummeling the bottom of the cliffside so ferociously it sprayed onlookers, the way a whale might spray it’s guests in the soak zone at Sea World (yuck, Sea World).

After this we walked to a little strip of buildings (more like ramshackle huts) and ate an enormous plate of loaded nachos while looking over the ocean and enjoying the relaxed babble of people under influence of the Caribbean’s spell.

The nachos were different than any nachos I’ve had back home. Topped with pepper, chicken, onions and white cheese dip. I’ve enjoyed trying new foods while I’m here. Bread fruit, for example. Grown in the yard of the hostel. It was a fruit originally brought over by the Spaniards and fed to their slaves. Plantains as well, which are so delicious and, to be quite honest, taste like potato. In Puerto Rico, they hardly use potato or corn products, there’s simply no need. All of this grows in the yard of the Dancing Tortugas, along with enormous papayas.

Another thing I’ve tried for the first time is pork. And what a way to be introduced to it!

Sean bought the pork from a roadside stand and even though that may suspicious, it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. I truly believe it boils down to the fact that here, in Puerto Rico, everything is basically “organic”. Grown naturally, no artificial preservatives or hormones. I’ve seen cows and horses trudging up the rural streets around here multiple times like it’s the most natural thing in the world. They aren’t afraid of cars and are not bothered by people such as myself, who get out of the car to pet them. Just like everything else on this island (whether it’s dogs, cats, or humans, this feels like it’s the way it’s supposed to be.

That’s one of the many charms about this island, the little food stands on the side of the road where one can buy the most delicious fruit and meat and refreshingly cold drinks. Where one can purchase a bushel of bananas and oranges for next to nothing from a sweet little old lady while sitting at a traffic light and it’ll be the sweetest fruit you’ve ever had. Ah, the freedom.

What I am really dying to try though is a fresh coconut. Then I’ll be good to go.

A Dance With Fate – A Short Story by B.M.H #creativewriting #fiction

Charles Merrick was a fifth-generation farmer in the Kennett Mountain range of Northern California. He was the owner of a large farm, a devoted husband, and father to several lovely children, but it hadn’t always been that way. He was the son of Wesley Merrick, a tall man and the son of a farmer himself. Wesley had run Wayward Farm, and it was there that he had raised his family.

It was a good, green land, close to clean water, fertile forests and rich soil, all shadowed by the never-ending range of the Kennett Mountains. Wayward Farm was known for producing the finest beef in the county and for that reason, the Merrick family lived comfortably.

Wesley’s wife, Loretta, was a tall, strong woman, perfectly fitted to play the part of a farmer’s wife. She’d birthed five boys and gone back to mucking out the sheep barn two weeks after each child arrived. That was why it came as such a shock when illness struck her during the pregnancy of her sixth child and she died giving birth to a little girl. The boys named their sister Daisy, for she was as frail as the stem and boasted hair like the flower.

Loretta’s illness greatly affected Daisy’s health and she grew up with terrible coughing spasms that would wake the entire household and send them rushing to her bedside. At last, Wesley called for the Doctor who diagnosed her with having fragile lungs. She was not to run and to keep away from dust, a difficult task for one growing up on a farm.

Shortly after Daisy was diagnosed, Wesley remarried a young, Dutch woman of about twenty-three to cook and clean and take care of his children, particularly of Daisy. His new wife’s name was Jolene and she bore him two more sons, twins, named Jack and James. Though Jolene was a suitable wife, she was not much by way of nurturing. It was as if motherly instincts had been lost on her and she often went about her days with a vacant look in her eyes or a distant expression spread across her lips.

Wayward Farm made enough to put clothes on all their backs and a pinch leftover to repair any damages to the house or barns. Wesley even bought a new tractor one year and taught all his sons to drive it through the fields.

The seven Merrick boys grew up healthy and strong, each with predestined futures of becoming husbands and fathers and farmers. Before his youngest son had been born, Wesley had purchased plots of land to the north and south of the family farm to disperse the land when his boys came of age. His oldest son, Roy, would inherit Wayward Farm when he was old enough, his second and third sons, Kerry and Henry, would have the land to the south, and his fourth and fifth sons, John and Charles, would be given the land in the north. Jack and James were still too young, and his daughter would go to whichever brother would take her.

The age difference between Loretta’s boys spanned ten years, with Roy being ten years Charles’ senior. When Charles was eight, the World Trade Center was struck down and the War on Terror began. He watched Roy join the army, and when he was twelve, he watched Kerry, Henry, and John join as well. This made his father very proud and it was always with great bravado in his voice that Wesley boasted to his neighbors— some of whom had only daughters, some of whom had lazy sons— that his four eldest boys had gone off and joined the ranks all on their own accord.

Charles was next in line to join the army and he knew it, but in his eighteenth year he did not go, nor did he go the next four years after that. It was on the eve of Charles’s twenty-first birthday when Wesley finally confronted his son. The men were chopping wood before supper; the light fading behind the lonely mountain range.

“Son,” he said. “Did you ever think of joining the army, like your brothers?”

Charles had known the question would surface sooner or later and he had been given enough time to think up an adequate response. He would go to his land, set up a farm, and become business partners with his father. And so he cleared his throat and said:

“Father, I am not a military man, like your sons before me. I’m a farmer. With your permission, I’d like to go to the land you have given me, set up a farm there, and share the rewards of my efforts with you.”

After he finished talking, Wesley leaned on his ax and fixed him with a queer expression.

“Charles,” he said. “Your brothers will inherit their land when they are discharged from the army and, if they should choose, they can become farmers, just like you wish to be.”

“Yes, sir.”

“But they will have something you won’t.”

“Sir?”

“Hardening experience. War thickens a man’s blood, it makes his flesh difficult to rip. He can endure the toughest storms. All things a good farmer ought to possess. What will you have if I simply give you the land without first acquiring any hardening experience of your own?”

Charles grew quiet with contemplation. He had seen the changes in his brothers when they returned home on leave. He’d seen the dark, hollowness behind their once jolly, brown eyes and it unnerved him. If this was the kind of hardening that his father spoke of than he did not want it. Wesley was scratching his upper lip, obviously mulling something over in his mind. Finally, he nodded.

“I will give you a herd of our cattle so that you may have something to start with, and when the calves drop in the spring, you will give me a quarter of the babies; that will be your way of paying me back.”

Charles was stunned, he had not been expecting this, but he was pleased, and so replied with a very buoyant, “Yes, sir!”

Wesley held up a hand. “I am not finished. Before I give you cattle, before I help build you your farm, I want you to spend the remainder of summer out there in the land, alone, without a home, without a truck, without a phone, without comfort, without any cattle, so you may experience an ounce of the discomfort your brothers are experiencing. Survive on your instincts and, after the last warm wind of summer has blown, if you do not ride back home, I will help you build you what you desire.”

The offer was on the table, and when an offer from Wesley sat so heavy on the table, like a brick on a glass table, one did not refuse it.

Two weeks after his twenty-first birthday, Charles packed his belongings, saddled up his horse, and set off north to find his land. It was an empty habitat, virgin to man’s touch; wilder than a pack of wild dogs. Above all, it was beautiful. So beautiful that Charles was obliged to stop his horse and wipe away the tear that cascaded silently and without permission down his cheek as he reveled in the overwhelming beauty of this uncharted territory.

Charles pitched his tent in the tall grass and slept beneath the stars. He had never felt so at home, nor so frightened at the great expanse of the untamed. He was free to be unbridled— a mere human nestled in the valley which rocked him in her great bosom each night. The mountains seemed to come alive at night and speak to one another. The wind whispered secrets to the forests up the hill, which were dense, and dark, and sometimes sinister, especially when the last light had faded from its depths.

During his first few weeks there, Charles took his horse and explored. Fields spread for miles all around him and the snow-capped mountains in the distance looked no bigger than his forearm when he held it up in comparison.

Charles loved to watch this world from within the folds of his tent. Deer and elk, foxes, and hares, and occasionally a lonesome moose would wander into his area. He loved to watch the deer with their fawns— the young bucks play fighting in preparation for adulthood and chase poor raccoons, groundhogs, and rabbits through the tall-grass and back into the dense forest. Sometimes snakes would slither through the grass, leaving narrow trails in their wake. Charles was not too fond of them, but they made for decently tasty meals on the nights when he was too lazy to hunt for a rabbit.

There were so many different species of birds including ones Charles had never seen or heard before. They swooped from tree to tree, mating and caring for their young, in a world he would never be permitted to see. Hawks circled the sky looking for their next meal and crows hobbled around in the grass, pecking at worms or other insects, squawking so obnoxiously they shook smaller birds out of their nests.

Despite the abundance of the wildlife around him, the bugs were by far the most prosperous and, as it was the middle of summer, Charles did not go without suffering. He received numerous bites daily, and this worried him, but he had yet to feel any effects from them—apart of severe itchiness—and so none appeared to be fatal.

Lightning bugs lit up the meadows at dusk and Charles would catch them in the palms of his hands, as he had as a boy. The cicada bugs screamed so loudly at night and the crickets bellowed back and the two species would go at it for hours until the wee hours of the morning broke the fight. Of course, both sides never won and they would continue their row the following evening.

The sunrises were Charles’s favorite part about the land. Each morning, he’d sit outside his tent to watch he pale blue of early morning transform into pale yellow. Then the light would hit the western side of the mountain range and careen over it— a great liquid pink and gold— until it hit the ground running and spread covered the entire land, warming everything in its path. By that time, the birds were all chattering away in the trees and life in the valley resumed its natural flow.

The days in the wilderness were lovely and Charles enjoyed himself on horseback, galloping through the fields. One afternoon, he stumbled upon a lake and, stripping down to the bone, cooled off in the clear water before napping under the shade of a tree.

It was freedom such as he had never experienced before. The days were friendly, but the nights… they were something different altogether.

Coyotes patrolled the outskirts of the field, and once, in the not-so-far-off distance, he heard a wolf howl. He worried for himself and his horse on many occasions and spent many sleepless nights keeping the fire going while watching for any movement in the forest with his gun by his side. He was always grateful in the morning to find his horse still alive, grazing only a couple yards from the tent.

He knew things were lurking in the mountains, things that could easily kill him, but Charles was a skilled man, handy with a gun and knife savvy too. Wesley had taught him not to fear wild animals, but to respect them and to defend himself against their power if need be, but Charles had always had the comfort of home to separate him from the wild, the company of his father and siblings. He had never been alone as he was now. It was a much different experience, being alone, feeling like the eyes of predators were upon his back every second of the night and knowing that he would be defenseless against them, if not for his gun.

Sleepless nights, nervous sweats, and hunger pains all began taking a toll on him by the end of the first month. When after five days he hadn’t shot down a meal, he resorted to picking berries in the woods. He’d packed up his things and begun to ride home, only to turn right back around. The thought of his father’s face when he arrived on the doorstep was too much to bear and he knew he could not return home.

Despite the discomfort, Charles loved his land. He knew the wildness would soon end though; that livestock would litter the fields around him and a fence would be put up, along with barns and a house, thereby cutting him off from the rest of the wilderness to an extent anyway. He was excited about the future, but part of him wished to remain a wild-man of the wilderness, just him and his horse, and his gun. He could become one of those loco mountain men his father had so often warned him about… but no, he could not. He would become a farmer and make his father proud.

On the night before his father was to arrive, Charles sat in his tent. It was sometime past nine o’clock. He had just finished off the remainder of his rabbit stew and sat picking his teeth with one of the bones. He could hear his horse pulling up grass outside and the cicadas and crickets were going at one another, as was tradition. By the light of a lantern hanging above him, he read a book of hymns. It had been his mother’s and she had often read it to him and his brothers before bed. He had taken the book with him before he’d left Wayward Farm. He found great comfort in the hymns and often recited them in a whisper on nights when he felt anxiety in his bones. When he turned the page, a shadow crossed over his tent. He glanced up. He heard a rustling in the grass and the moan of a large creature, then the shadow of a long snout appeared on the wall of his tent.

Slowly, quietly, Charles set his book down and reached for his rifle in the corner. He blew out the lantern. The heavy footsteps of the bear indicated it was just outside his tent. His horse had stopped grazing and Charles was sure the poor creature would be killed. His heart thundered against his chest. He dared not make a sound, dared not move, hardly breathed. The bear continued to snort and huff its way around the tent, stopping here and there to sniff at the air. At last, and by some miracle, the bear’s steps wandered away, but Charles did not sleep the rest of the night, nor did he move an inch, not even when the first signs of daylight broke through the holes in his tent.

He dared not move until well past eight o’clock and even then it was with caution. To his surprise, he found his horse still alive and grazing. He gave him water and a pat on the side. His horse might be okay, but his food supply was completely ravaged. Charles set about starting a fire then sat around the flames for a long while, plucking grass from the ground with the nook of his finger.

When his father arrived with Roy and a dozen other men from the county, he did not tell of his happenings during the night. He didn’t know why, there was no reason not to tell them, but he felt it would betray something, perhaps the wild, which had been relatively kind to him these last two months. Betrayals of the wild would, therefore, betray something inside himself. The bear had not hurt him so there was really no reason to kill it and that was exactly what the men would want to do if they ever found out. He would see if it visited him again during the night. If it did, well then it would be met by over a dozen men with rifles and have chosen its fate.

The men slept under the stars, some within tents, some simply sprawled out atop blankets or in the grass itself. They had long fires and they drank their whiskey, then, one by one, they would drop off to sleep and snore like mountain lions into the wee hours of the morning. To keep their spirits up, they swapped stories of their youth, and their father’s youth, and grandfather’s youth; stories passed down through the generations—of travel, wars, and women. Charles would force himself to stay awake after all others had gone to sleep; when all that remained were the embers of the fire and the melody of the bugs. He would suck on the end of a blade of grass, listening, waiting…

For what, he dared not say. It confused him, but it could not be denied; the bear lingered in his mind and the feeling of its presence haunted him each night, yet caused him excitement. And so, he would sit there, straining his eyes against the darkness, but the beast did not come again. On one particular night, he did not realize he was being watched until Roy came and sat beside him.

“What keeps you up at night, brother?”

Charles was startled by the sudden presence of his elder brother but welcomed the company by offering his flask. After it had gone round, Charles replied,

“Did you ever have the feeling that you were suddenly part of something greater than yourself; that life is not guaranteed, that you’re indispensable?”

Roy chuckled. “The wilderness has done you well then?”

Charles nodded. “That it has… that it has.”

Three months into their arrival, not only had the barns and fence gone up, but a house as well. A brown slated farmhouse, two stories tall, and a well that attached to a nearby stream from which his home would pull its water.

Charles was overwhelmed with gratitude thanked each of the men generously by cooking them a feast on their final night there. He allowed them to sleep in his new home and liquored them up so that no one was left standing by the end of the night. His father, he later found out, had promised payment in the form of a very generous supply of beef, and so it was on happy terms that the men departed. His father told him that he would return in one week and with him, he would bring the cattle. Charles said farewell to his father and brother, sent his love to Daisy and his younger brothers, and waved from his new porch, until the men disappeared over the hills, as boisterously as they had come.

The first night that Charles spent in his new home was a joyous one. His horse was safely tucked away in the new barn and his father had left him three mares to keep the gelding company. Charles opened a bottle of wine and drank in front of his new fireplace. Then he put the fire out and retired upstairs to his bedroom where he fell into the deepest sleep he had ever experienced.

Wesley and Roy returned after one week with a herd of cattle, thirty heads strong. The day went by too quickly, as Charles knew it would. He basked in the company of his family, soaked up the moments of them riding in the fields, drinking by the river, and laughing into the sunset. Then they went away again.

Charles had not gone away to war, but the wild acted as his drill sergeant. It woke him up early each day and kept him up late at night. It starved him and made him work for his meals. It taught him about patience and determination. Livestock needed to be fed first thing in the morning and kept in check all afternoon, firewood needed to be split, fields plowed, clothing mended, calves birthed, and livestock butchered for selling.

Chares learned how to cook for himself, how to wash the tub, keep the floors clean, how to bandage himself when he sustained injuries. Perhaps the most challenging task was learning to be alone, having always been surrounded by a slew of family members.

He was so wrapped up in his new-found freedom and life that he had all but forgotten about the bear who had visited him nearly a year before. One night though, sitting in his wooden rocking chair on the porch, sharpening his knife by the light of his lantern, he was reminded of its presence in the valley. Charles looked up when the dog began to bark and growl in a general direction. He stood quickly, brandishing his hunting knife, and shouted,

“Who’s there?”

He was not afraid, this time. He had a home, something to protect. A watchdog helped too. He walked down the porch steps and a few feet into the darkness, still brandishing his knife, his eyes straining to catch any sign of movement. He heard the rustling in the tall-grass, as he had many nights ago. Suddenly, the dog bounded, and then the bear was upon him. It brought him tumbling to the ground, pinning him, yellowed fangs gleaming by the orange light of the porch. A horrible stench of sweat and rancid meat overwhelmed his nostrils causing him to gag and splutter.

Long, matted hair whipped his face and thunderous nails grabbed his skin as he struggled to free himself. He still had his knife and he managed two jabs, one in the cheek, one in the arm, giving Charles just enough time to jump back onto his feet. One of his ribs felt broken and his heart was beating too fast in his chest. The bear, unaffected by the jabs, lunged at him once more, and again Charles found himself on the ground, this time on his stomach. He tired in vain to crawl away, but the bear only yanked him back with its powerful jaws.

The dog’s desperate barking seemed a million miles away as the bear’s snout raised high into the heavens, ready to ascend upon his frail and defenseless human body. With his final bit of adrenaline, the last of his strength, Charles managed to turn onto his back and raise his knife. By some miracle, he brought that knife through a soft spot in the bear’s neck. The bear let out an awful sound then it swayed horribly. Charles crawled backward, away from the body, before it came down hard upon his legs with a thud and a crack. He yelled out in pain, his leg was surely broken under the weight, but he was too weak to move the body. He collapsed backward onto the hard dirt and stared up at the stars.

The bear’s laborious breathing slowed and eventually stopped and its long tongue hung out of its huge mouth. Charles was only vaguely aware that the dog had come to sit beside him. The stars became blurry and the sky blacked out as Charles’s consciousness momentarily left him. He did not realize it then, as he lay there bleeding and spread-eagled in the night, but that was the first time he had battled with fate… and won.

© Words Eternal

The Hunt – A Short Story by B.M.H #creativewriting #fiction

 

A strong wind spiraled off the mountain top, setting motion to the deer’s mangy coat. She wasn’t much more than skin and bones, but she was food.

Elliot raised his bow.

Snap! Snap!

He could not have anticipated the squirrel bounding into view, yet there it was, noisily stepping on every twig as it buried its stash beneath the dried leaves. The deer’s head shot up. For a split second, man and beast locked eyes, then she was gone, disheartening with leaps and bounds into the forest like a phantom. Cursing, Elliot aimed his arrow and shot the squirrel, then he stood to relieve himself behind a tree. For three hours he’d been crouched within the brush and his knees had long since gone numb. He rubbed them gingerly before ambling over to his kill.

The squirrel’s black eyes stared blankly back at him, little mouth frozen in fearsome finality, a small red puddle pooling onto the ground where the arrow struck it. Elliot plucked the arrow and wiped it down, and slung the animal over his shoulder. Muttering under his breath, he set off through the trees.

Winter sunlight dipped heavily through the spidery branches, casting stark shadows across the barren forest floor. Though the day had indicated snow, a pale yellow streak now glided across its bleak horizon. It was almost an hour before Elliot emerged beside a road in the trees. A stone fence ran along the opposite side of the path, meant to mark the beginning of Cahr’s territory. Elliot had been venturing beyond the stone wall since Summer, careful to avoid any guards who might be lurking about.

He squatted behind a holly bush and checked to make sure the coast was clear before scurrying across the road and over the stone wall. When he had put some distance between himself and the wall he slowed to a walk.

It wasn’t long before Elliot emerged onto the edge of his village, tired, dirty, and cold. He was not alone. Others were appearing as well, people with sunken bodies in muddy boots and weathered jackets, carrying small kills like his own. A few communal fires had been lit in barrels and people huddled around them.

Claire was hovering around one of the barrels. A wisp of a girl with feathery blonde hair, pale skin, and wide blue eyes that would have been pretty if they had not been shrunken with hunger. She was holding her hands over the fire, her nose red and raw from cold, but her lips parted into a smile when she saw him.

Elliot nodded to her and moved through the village square.

His home was draped with shadows; not even the thick moss covering the roof was visible. Inside, it was pleasantly warm. Pippa knelt by the hearth, feeding kindle to the fire, but jumped up at the sight of her brother. She took one look at the few animals hung around his waist, gave a squeal of delight, and ran off into the recesses of the home.

Pippa was built like Elliot, long torso matched only by even longer legs. She was a sprightly girl of eleven, on the brink of womanhood, but still holding fast to childhood’s hand. She had the pointy chin and auburn hair of their mother, but the pale blue eyes of their father. Of the latter trait, the siblings shared. Pippa returned a moment later with a severe looking woman. A fur shawl was wrapped tightly around the woman’s bony shoulders and her auburn hair was spun into a tight bun on the back of her pin shaped head. Her lips, the same color as her skin, were pursed as if she were eating something sour.

Elliot began to skin the rabbit, ignoring the gaunt woman in the doorway. Emma, the youngest, was crouched by the his mother’s feet, rubbing her eyes sleepily. His mother bent and scooped the child in her arms.

“Look, my love, look what your brother has brought for you. We will have meat for a week, at least.”

“We‘re sharing this meat with Ursula,” Elliot said sternly. He could already tell what his mother was thinking; that Ursula didn’t deserve the food he hunted because she was one of the dying. A frown began to form along the creases of his mother‘s puckered mouth.

“This food won’t last past three days if we share it with Ursula, and besides, she doesn’t need—” began his mother, but Elliot cut her off by asking Pippa to bring him a bucket. He had long since learned to deflect his mother’s input. Of course, this was more easily done once the bottle had been drained and his mother passed out in her bed or else gone outside to wander the forest. On nights like that, when she disappeared into the trees, he would debate bringing her inside, but the howling of the wolves would guilt him into gathering her in— at least one more time.

Pippa handed him the bucket and he set his attention to skinning and gutting his kill.

“You remember what I taught you about the body?” he asked Pippa; his hands were shaking with hunger. “About the heart and liver?” he took each one out of the rabbit as he named them.

Pippa nodded. “Everything can be eaten, even the bones,”

“But not—”

“—but not the intestines.” She was engrossed in what his hands were doing.

“That’s right.”

Animals filleted, Elliot threw them in the freeze box. When he returned, he noticed his sister’s teeth were chattering slightly. He draped his jacket over her shoulders and went outside to collect more wood.

The sky was an inky pool laden with stars and Elliot stared up at it, his breath catching in the cold. Then he grabbed the ax and headed over to the pile of logs. He split the logs until he had a sizable stack and, gathering them up like a newborn babe, headed back into the cottage.

The refreshed fire roared to life, filling the small cottage with warmth and the smell of burning logs.  He joined Pippa in front of it and she wrapped a wool blanket around them both.

“Food is scarce,” she said, it was not a question.

“We’ll be fine,” Elliot told her. “I don’t want you to worry.“

“I can help you hunt,” she said in a small voice.

“No!” Elliot said firmly and she flinched. He had not meant to sound so harsh. “No, Little Mouse,” he said gently. “It’s too dangerous.”

When the candles were burning low and the wood in the stove was going fast, as it always seemed to do, Elliot placed Pippa in bed beside Claire and covered them both with a thick quilt. He quietly closed their door.

*

Elliot’s boots glided across frozen leaves and moss, stepped gracefully over roots and logs, skillfully avoided twigs, fallen acorns, bark, and other sound makers. A cold wind blew flurries of snow down the trail and he inhaled the air hungrily, tasting winter on his tongue: the leaves, the evergreens, the snow, the frostbitten dirt…

As his mother had predicted, no more than three days passed before the family needed food again, and so he’d gathered up his bow and arrows and headed out  to hunt again. The path began to slope upwards. Soon, he was ducking under thorn bushes and thick brier, crouching beneath bramble, and climbing over fallen trunks, only stopping to gather what little thornberries remained on a thornberry bush.

Up and up and up the trail wound until Elliot was using his hands to pull himself along. At last the trail leveled out and he found himself surrounded by a dense and looming forest. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath and take a swig of water from his canteen. The grove of an enormous pine tree seemed the perfect place to camouflage himself that morning and he settled in, hoping prey would wander by.

His prayers did not go unanswered for very long. He heard them before he saw them and soon their squawking filled the air. Elliot had already scaled the evergreen tree and was seated on the highest branch he dare put his weight on, hidden by two larger branches with flowering needles.

The flock of geese drew nearer, at least twenty of them. Elliot aimed his arrow to the sky, narrowed in on a particular bird, drew back, shot…

… and hit!

The goose screamed terribly, desperately flapping to keep afloat, then fell to the earth, some several yards away. Elliot aimed his bow again and took down another one. By now, the flock had noticed they were in danger and veered away, but he’d gotten what he needed.

Elliot hastily climbed down and headed in the direction of his geese.

It was a ten minute jog through an even denser, darker part of the forest, but at last he spotted one of the fallen geese. It had landed in a patch of brier, neck broken, arrow sticking out of its side. There was no sign of the other goose though and after twenty minutes of searching, he was quite stumped. He was peering around the base of a large oak tree when he heard it, fearsome guttural sounds and a loud crunching. Elliot dove behind the trunk of the oak, bringing his goose with him, knowing that if it were bear, especially if it had cubs, he did not want to be seen.

Heavy footsteps told him that something had just entered the clearing. Breath held, Elliot peaked one eyeball around the side of the trunk, expecting to see a bear, and was surprised to find a pair of feet, long and bony and ending in three enormous claws! Dangling near skeletal ankles was Elliot’s goose, it’s neck snapped sideways, his arrow sticking out from its side. Quietly, Elliot returned to his original position, his breathing coming in short and shallow bursts. Nothing, nothing in the forest had feet like that! 

His hand found the hilt of the hunting knife strapped to his waist. Five more agonizingly long minutes passed until eventually the creature began moving away, dragging the goose loudly behind it. Elliot waited another minute or so to make sure it was truly gone, and then he scrambled out from behind the tree and ran.

He was not sure which way he was running, but it did not matter. His heart pounded in his ears, the goose banged against his back, but he did not stop. He had never run so fast in his life!

By the time he found the main trail, Elliot was short of breath and seeing dots. The rustling behind him caused Elliot to whirl around, bow and arrow at the ready, but it was only Claire who emerged onto the path. She took one look at his face and her eyes widened.

“Is it a bear?” she asked at once.

Elliot shook his head. “We have— to get out—of here— now!“ he managed to gasp.

“What are you talking about?” Claire asked him. “I have kills in my traps. Are you alright, Elliot? What’s happened to you?”

Elliot was still gasping for air. “Get—your—kills—now. Go!”

With a quizzical, somewhat concerned look, Claire turned and disappeared into the trees, Elliot at her heels. She lead him to a shady area beside a narrow brook where her traps were set up.

“Hurry up, hurry up!“ he hissed as she retrieved her squirrels. She moved painstakingly slow, un-sticking her kills from the traps and tying them carefully around her waist.

“Alright, I’m ready,” she announced at last.

Elliot led the way back to the main path and hurried her along it. His bow was strung, ready to let fly an arrow. Every little sound in the forest sent him into a panic. At any moment, he expected to see a pair of clawed feet step onto the trail.

The sun was at mid-point as it rose through the branches, so bright, it blinded him in every direction. Nevertheless, his feet found their way back to the edge of the village and he sunk against the base of a tree, his head in his hands. He was not aware that Claire was speaking to him until she snapped her fingers in his face.

“Hello? Can you please tell me what’s going on? Why did you stop me from hunting? I was doing rather well, in case you hadn’t noticed.“

Elliot looked up at her. “There’s something out there,“ he said and watched her eyebrows begin to climb.

“Can you be more specific?“

Elliot paused, trying to remember the details of what he’d seen.

“It had these weird, clawed feet— they looked almost human, but they weren’t—and it made a strange guttural sound.”

Claire’s eyebrows were now raised so high they were in danger of vanishing into her wispy blonde bangs. “So, what you saw was a bear?”

“No,”

“A wolf, then?”

Elliot shook his head, frustrated. “No, I don’t know! it wasn’t an animal, at least, I don’t think it was. Not a human either—”

Claire looked miffed now. “Well if it wasn’t an animal, and it wasn’t a human, then what do you suppose it was?”

“I don’t know! Look, just forget it. And anyway, what were you doing hunting beyond the wall?”

Claire drew herself up to her full height, which wasn’t very tall, and scowled. “I might ask you the same question.”

“Fine. Have it your way.”

Elliot scrambled to his feet and marched off towards their village. Claire followed him, rattling off questions, but Elliot ignored her, until she grabbed his arm and stopped him in his tracks.

“It’s not that I don’t believe you,” she explained. “I’m not trying to be rude, my aunt says that I can be rude sometimes—”

“It’s fine. I told you, to forget it.”

Elliot yanked his arm out of her grasp and turned on his heel. Claire did not follow him this time.

No one, he knew, would believe him about what he’d seen in the forest. It would be his secret forever. It had certainly been the strangest hunt of his life.

© Words Eternal

Riding The Rails – A Poem by B.M.H #Poetry #Poems

The song on my Mp3 player

reminds of all my hours spent on trains.

From Madison to Newark,

to Secaucus to home.

Suddenly I’m seventeen-years-old again,

a mixture of angry and scared.

I think I know it all.

And then I’m nineteen,

riding the dusty rails to Philly.

The train seeming like something out of the 1930’s.

I wave goodbye to my parents,

and their faces stand out to me,

lit by the street lights,

beacons in the dark.

And then I am riding through the forest,

rattling towards my ghetto metropolis.

I despised the city

like I despised Madison,

but I LOVED the train rides there.

It has always been the in-between’s;

the existing between coming and going.

The destination never mattered.

The train:

a good place for lonely people.

 

 

© Words Eternal

Puerto Rico Journal – Blog Post – Day 9 #Blogging

Cueva Survival Beach

Hiked out to Cueva Survival Beach and oh, what a hike it was! Nothing but jagged cliffs and enormous boulders, and crashing below all of this, an ornery ocean. Watching waves roll in and ram against the cliffs, I felt myself entirely consumed by the power of nature. The strength of the waves, the dignity of the boulders, the mystery of the cliffs— a narrow trail twisting and turning through lizard and bird infested jungle—climbing on and off boulders—hiking along ocean (sometimes in the water, sometimes on land)— all leading to paradise. Survival Beach is a completely secluded gem with warm water and bright white sand and a few demolished row boats crashed upon the shore. Here, more than anywhere, did I think “Pirates of the Caribbean could have been filmed here”. We stayed here for a long time, watching the water and basking in the sunlight, our legs humming with excursion of the hike, but knowing this was the best beach we’d discovered so far.

Spent the evening saying goodbye to Jimmy who would be leaving the following day. The seven of us piled into Sean’s tiny car and set off to greet the night. Our first stop was Rex’s Ice Cream. Puerto Rican ice cream is very different than it is in the continental US, being more ice based than cream based and very light and airy. Our second stop was Patanos Supremo where everything was made out of plantains, an utterly delicious and authentic Puerto Rican spot. Last stop was Rincon for yet another art walk. After walking around a bit, looking at vendors and enjoying the sweet aroma of food and spices, the night ended with all of us crammed inside a tiny bar listening to Anbesa Crew, the best reggae band I’ve ever heard.

On another note, there is finally hot water in the showers! Overall, a very good day.

Things Do Pass – Blog Post – College #Blogging #CollegeThoughts

Walking across this wet campus is nothing short of surreal. It’s empty and deserted like the last day of a music festival.

Memories flood the gates of my mind; of summer winds and high hopes. Now though, I walk alone in a dark drizzle. It gives me this sort of pleasurable high to know that it is all coming to an end and that I am walking the space between now and then. I knew these people and places would only be a blip of time in my life for I am a lover of constant change.

I will miss it much. The fields and woods, the midnight walks around the block, the dollar stores chips and cookies, the greasy sausages that make you want to puke, Netflix and the ugly green couch. The amazing blue-collar neighbor and the even children who are always outside playing as if we were still in the ’90s and phones do not exist. Quick-check. Random adventures to Frenchtown, Princeton, and Washington’s Crossing. Walmart night excursions, always a favorite. Discovering new sleepy little towns and strange people that inhabit them. Walks along the canal in New Hope, the historical secret garden.

The best times were easily when it was just the two of us in that huge house before school started before anyone else came into our space. When we would stare at each other at 3 AM in the darkness and silence with only a candle burning between us and come to understand one another. It was ours and we only had each other.

I’ve said goodbye to so many places and it is always bittersweet to leave, but this is the hardest goodbye for me. Parkway House will always have a place within the coils of my heart. I’ll miss my room dearly, the rooftop access, the sunny upstairs bathroom, and sharing a closest with my best friend. I’ll even miss my 8 AM classes; waking up to wash my face in the silence of a sleeping house.

 

© Words Eternal

Puerto Rico Journal – Blog Post – Day 8 #Blogging

Playa Pena Blanca

Visited Playa Pena Blanca today and for the first time since being here, I felt truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the tropics. A seven-minute drive from Dancing Tortugas, Pena Blanca is composed of an assortment of cliffs overlooking the crystal clear, aqua blue ocean. A bit tricky to get to, but worth the drive and short hike. Walked along a path carved between fields of palm trees and the water, stopping ever so often to dip through the mangroves and look out upon the ocean, watching the sunset into the water in a beautiful display of golden light. 

People I’ve met so far….

Norwegian guy, a musician, traveling to Cuba for a few months.

Sid, from India but lives in Houston, Texas

Diego, from Argentina, speaks a little English, very flamboyant. Got searched at the airport for 3 hours on his way to Puerto Rico, but has a good attitude about it. 

2 girls from DC, who I can’t remember the names of.

Military guy, currently in college at the University of Maryland. Has lived in Cali, Texas, and now Delaware.

Sean, the owner of Dancing Tortugas, originally from Cabo Rojo. He majored in Natural Resources and is very involved in local sustainable issues. Likes spliffs, coffee, Pink Floyd, and The Doors. 

Greg and Mel – a couple from DC who look like they are twins. Kind of strange.

Kristen, a girl from Rhode Island.

Army guy with wife and child

2 surfers who smelled terrible and were very rude

Pane mechanic for the army. Has 2 ex-wives and 3 children

Alix, a girl from Michigan who works as a maid and also thrift shops and sells clothing for a living. Currently lives in Detroit, very politically active.

Jimmy, an actor from Michigan (friend of Alix’s) Has a bright red afro

Zach, the manager of Dancing Tortugas, also from Michigan, also friends with Jimmy and Alix. Came to PR in May with no prospect of returning to the mainland.

Molly, a quiet Salvatorian girl, Zach’s girlfriend

Chris, Cali born, travels to Costa Rica a lot to surf. He came to PR to surf but disappointed by the lack of waves. Cuba bound.

Philip, a guy from Germany. Traveling with Chris. DJ’s for a living

Margo, from Michigan, in a Sorority, Zach’s sister, a neuroscience major

Evan, Michigan, Margo’s boyfriend

Alexi, a Siberian truck driver currently living in NJ. The first soul we met upon reaching PR.