curio by laura ellen scott

 

 

Inking

In the chronicler’s history there were only summers and winters, extremes of drought and snow. His coat was too long for August, too light for January, and as he made his way through deep snow to meet the courier, picking up boot and knee, boot and knee, across the pristine field, he described a particular angle. A spider? Or—

He made his way across the cracking desert to meet the courier, wading through vapors and emanations. Long coat flapping in a wind otherwise unperceived by any soul.

He gave over the documents to the courier, usually by hand, fingers dripping down in the same grip one would use to release poisoned corn or retrieve a poisoned rat.

The courier, endless by necessity, was immune to the chronicler’s urges. But once upon a time, the courier put his four year old daughter in a tented play wagon and pulled her out to the desert. She wanted to meet the chronicler and marry him, she said. She would not be denied. But the chronicler never came. The courier dragged his daughter home again, and when he pulled back the canvas she was gone. In her place a litter of five newborn coyote pups suckled the air. Starving without their mother.

The courier hoped not to make that mistake twice and stopped listening to his children altogether. He raised the coyotes as his own. The next winter, the chronicler gave the courier the whole story and more. On paper. A trembling sheaf, extended over an insurmountable snow drift, and this was as close as they ever got to love:

Your wee Emmadine was taken by savages, raised in their camps and married by the age of thirteen. She died giving birth to a monster.

The chronicler inquired of the courier, did he have other daughters, more like that? Unable to discern hunger from courtesy, the courier gave an honest answer.

It took five years to run through the rest of the girls. A daughter each summer, the final account returned in winter. Transaction as intercourse. And always, the courier rode out to deliver the heart breaking news. The chronicler’s stories were made of facts and once transferred became permanent:

My Demaris was crushed by the heifer she inherited and named Demaris!
My Vada Dreama ran off with a sailor! And he drown’d her!
My Phebe left the territory, joined The Friends and was hanged upon her return!
My Libby Caroline nursed soldiers and became sick herself!
My Hepsibeth grew apricots but perished in a rubblestone tower mystery!