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Why Would It Not?

Percy said to Starr, “Of course, it would begin here in Maine. Why would it not?

It would begin with the people and the place of the first light.”


She wrapped both her arms around his right arm and hugged her face against

the shoulder of his canvas barn jacket, snuggling herself into him. It was cold in the

early dawn. There was a stiff wind off the sea. Soon they would light their fire. But first

they would follow the rest of their way down the creek, with its swift plunge of stream

water and chunks of ice before it emptied into the salt ocean.


She looked up his chest and asked, “Will we be in time?”


“For our fire?”


“Yes.”


“Then, yes.”


She said no more. They stood quietly together while listening to the urgent rush

of the stream. A vee of geese passed overhead. Percy could hear the whirr of their

wings beating the air, and she their honking calls while they tightened up their

companionship.


“Let’s go,” he said.


“Steady me,” she replied. “The rocks are round and wet. I don’t want to fall.”


He smiled down at her, which she could scarcely see, but she could hear the

smile in his confidence. “You won’t fall. I have you.”


“Yes, you do.” Then she muttered something.


“What was that?”


“I hope you always will.”


He chuckled. “Me too.”


They were descending along the south side of the stream. Their way pressed

across barrens and through occasional flurries of shrubs, bayberry and rugosas and

fern. Especially the fern, when they tramped it, released a fresh scent of sweet licorice –

almost myrrh-like.



“We’re getting close,” Percy murmured. “Hear those waves?”

“Mmmm.”


“Maybe only fifty more yards. That’s where I laid the fire.”


They arrived at the spot. Percy had lain a medium sized fire of mostly down

wood, white pine mostly, and he sat her down on a large flat rock while he busied

himself with his match. Percy is a one-match man, always has been. Make it work or

go home.


The fire was set on the high gravel of the shoreline, above the final high brown

swaths of dried rockweed. He had kicked out a shallow dent in the beach and set the

fire there. He had left a hole for himself in the side of the fire, and he knelt and struck

his match and reached through the hole to where his tinder sticks and pine bark and

dried grasses were bunched together. He shielded the tiny flame with his body from the

wind.


Ah! There it goes!


He knelt back.


He took a long, deep breath and blew it out again.


“Oh, Percy,” he heard from his woman.


He turned to look at her. She was beginning to be visible. She wore her cable-

knit tunnel-neck sweater, cream colored, above lined jeans, topped with her thin

windbreaker, also cream, and her waxed-cotton down vest, in darkest gray. And Bean

boots of course.


Gorgeous.


She had always seemed gorgeous, from the first, from that night on the island off

Port Clyde, at the picnic, when she had won his heart. And that was all such a very

long time ago – months. Later, they had made their way to this very tip of eastern

Washington County, on Gleason Point, near Perry. The two of them would be the first

humans to see the sun on this particular day.



At the end of their long drive from Castine, he had dropped her for a hot bath and

a long nap at a Chet’s camp on Big Lake, had driven to a spot near this very place on

the last shore, and had built his fire and had gone back to get her.

“Mmmm,” she had moaned when he woke her, naked and warm, and then after

they had enjoyed themselves for quite a while, they had dressed for cold and had

meandered their way to Pembroke and stopped for supper at Sue’s Cobscook Bay

Café, parked beside the jeeps and 4-wheels out front, and had gone in to enjoy a

chicken and pepper jack quesadella (she) and a corned beef Reuben (he).



And now it was dawn and they were back, and the fire was rising and the smoke

smelled good, and there was a wide horizontal ladder of cloud rungs stretching all the

way across the sky in its lower quadrant, darker than amber, graying at each extreme to

north and south, and with a one-quarter sun just over the horizon glowing brightly in a

pleasing harmony of red-orange and orange-red.


“Oh, goodness,” Starr murmured. “Can we live here?”


“No. It’s not ours. It’s theirs.”


“Theirs who?”


“The Passamaquoddy’s and the Penobscot’s and the Micmac’s. We stole it from

them.”


“Then what?”


“I don’t want to use the G-word, so I won’t. But then we stole their children.”


Starr fell quiet. “I know about that, a little at least.”


“I suppose you would know about it a little. What you do.”




She said, “Come over here and sit next to me and put your arm around me, and

we can look at the sunrise and be the very first to see it this day, in the land of the

dawn, and we can enjoy your fire and not think about the bad things.”


“Okay.”


“You’re not thinking about the bad things, are you?”


“No,” he lied.


She snuggled and sighed and whispered, “Me neither.”


She burrowed her mouth up over his collar and into the warmth of his hair. She

whispered. “G-word?”


He whispered back. “Said I didn’t want to say it.”


“But I don’t know what it is.”


He took a breath and let it out. “Thenjust this once. Genocide.”


“Oh!”




After a bit of silence, when the sun was fully above the horizon and the red-

orange and orange-red had become just red, Percy repeated, “Why would it be not?”


“Why would what be not?”


“Why would the healing not begin here?”


“I don’t get it.”


“We would protect the innocent, you and me. You and me, we would defend the

weak. We would exhibit the warrior spirit.”


“You’ve said that before.”


“I know.”


She smiled up at him and replied, “I know, too. It’s what you do.”


He nodded while staring out across the sea. “And I would do it again.”




“You can’t steal a people’s children. They need to be who they are. You can’t

stop them from being who they are. Not decent.”


“I love you, Percy.”


There was a long silence. Finally, he whispered, “Look at the dawn.”


She snuggled. “It’s just us.”


“Used to be thousands of them.” He looked at her. “I’ve got a little drum.”


“What?”


“Let’s dance.”


“What? Now?”


He nodded. “Let’s dance.”


He pulled the small drum from the broad pocket of his barn coat and began

tapping it with its stick, which stick had a small gourd at its end with rattly seeds inside

it. He reached for Starr’s hand and pulled her to her feet in the sand. Holding her hand,

he guided her to take a few steps forward and then a few steps backward, while slowly

circling their fire to the right and while the dawn grew brighter.


He smiled at her and she gave him that smile that lifted him. “I danced here last

night,” he said. “After I built the fire. It was dark, and the wind was cold.”


“You did?”


“Yes, and God spoke to me.”


“God did?”


“Yes. In that gravelly voice of His.”


“What’d He say?”


“Go slow.”


They continued to dance while Starr thought.


“Meaning?”


“No quick repairs. Maybe that. Just touch the one of them, who needs to be

touched.”


Starr slowed her dance and then stopped. She faced Percy, each of them

limned with dawn. She grinned. “It’s like the starfish story.”


Percy grinned back. “I can’t save all of them,” he quoted.


Starr nodded, “But, Percy, you can save that one.”


She stood on tiptoe and kissed his mouth.


“It’s what you do.”




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