The aerial view confirmed it: bones. The craft’s lens was able to focus closely enough to identify a femur, a tibia, scattered bones in the shadow of a great rock. The sight of them was a blow that knocked me nearly unconscious; can this be happening again? Years later the discovery of my missing daughter still tears at my heart.
And now, again. How long had these been hidden in the shadows of a field of greys and iron reds, unperturbed by air or moisture? Did anguish like mine, millennia before, on another planet, fade with its atmosphere?
I eked my way painfully down the steep tree-covered slope, watching for every root, loose rock, slippery leaf, clutching feebly at each branch. A fall at this age would do me in, though it wouldn’t be the worst way to go, with the damp soil against my face, the rich aromas of pine and cedar filling my senses. That’s why I took the chance.
I wanted to see the place I’d sat 70 years ago, a little boy pretending to fish, dreaming about Indians and bears. And again, later, finding shelter from my family. And again and again: a life.
The two sat at the boardroom table. Marketing Director Lauren spoke first: “The mushroom will confuse your clientele; it’s too tough to sell.”
“Really? It’s just a mushroom.”
“I’ve talked to everyone involved and the only one who thinks it’s a good idea is your agent. But he would, wouldn’t he? That’s what agents do.”
“But I want to paint a mushroom.”
“That’s fine, Jack, paint all the mushrooms you want, but you won’t make any money. They don’t want pictures of things, they want designs.”
“All right, fine. I’ll take the mushroom out.”
The group sat around Jack’s table in his light-flooded studio.
Lauren, his Marketing Director, unbuttoning her suit jacket, leaned back to study the huge painting. “Darling, the mushroom will confuse your clientele; too tough to sell.”
Jack’s Agent, Max, spoke up: “We know, Lauren, they won’t expect realism, but…”
“The mushroom gives me something to write about!” exclaimed Lisette, Jack’s Publicist.
“Max, you always stand up for Jack,” challenged Lucius, Jack’s Gallery Owner, “but his fans won’t buy the realism.”
“But my medium’s still house paint, and mushrooms — that’s my vision!” Jack pleaded.
The light from the distant fire is lovely, a golden hue infusing everything around with a glow that seems to come from within. The forest is strangely quiet, peaceful; sounds echo to you faintly, like a child in an afternoon nap. While the fire is far away, the sweet scent, like bread baking, fills you with a feeling of comfort and security.
Suddenly, you find yourself standing in the middle of the shallow river, searing heat burning your lungs, dead fish floating past belly up, heavy machines grinding and roaring, trees crackling and exploding in sparks.