|The Fiddler, by Kai Fjell|
When the Fiddler came to town we turned the biggest of the empty barns into a stage. We sisters painted it the dark green of the fir trees on the ridge where the Fiddler walked from, himself as long as a fiddle bow, with a young face and old hands. It was a rare person could play that instrument well, and everyone had heard about this Fiddler, though nothing of his name or his story, only that he had been passing through, town by town, and each place he played was not the same afterward.
Our town is far out of the way, up a hill beyond the fir forest. Even people who are lost hardly find us, and they are good at finding the unexpected. We are known for our creeks lined with nettles tall to the neck, and the cloth we weave from them.
A little boy saw him coming from a distance, on the road several miles away. The boy was up a fir tree, looking for robin eggs, smelling the sap, feeling the sun. We sisters had already started our painting, but we had not thought he'd come so soon. The green paint wasn't dry by the time the Fiddler arrived. He had long legs.
When he played that evening, nobody could let their skirts or their hats touch the walls. Some of us left with green streaks on our clothes and our arms anyway, and those patches of green would always remind us later. Not just of his playing, which filled the whole barn so that there was no room to move even a hair, which danced and mourned and capered and swayed with the tone of water and of wind, of stone, of the embered hearth, of what it must sound like as roots grow, which moved with the mourning of the lost world in it. Not just of his strange boyish face, his hair a color we had not seen, gold as the summerdry hills; not just his arms long as fiddle bows and his hands old and lined as a grandfather's, his plain-woven wool coat and pants patched of a hundred pieces, his dark shoes the finest black leather we had ever seen, his kind, pale eyes. Not just of the way we all wept for the things we loved, for our losses, for our childhoods in the treetops now gone from us forever, and for some greater, inexplicable sadness that lives like a seed in ever human heart.
No, those green streaks of paint from the barn where the Fiddler played would remind us, above all things, of what happened after, when we stepped, weeping and dazed, back out into the air, into the night which had since fallen, full of stars, and saw that our town was overgrown with one hundred year's worth of blackberry vines, our houses mounds of thorn. Some were split in two by firs that had been only saplings that afternoon.
We had none of us aged more than a few hours, but we had been gone for a century. There were great grizzled brown bears feasting on the berries growing over our houses. Bears, and nobody had seen one since before the Fall of the world. Bears, with the weight of all that time on their backs. The Fiddler was nowhere to be seen, and we were left in the dark, our clothes streaked green, watching the bears move, like great furred mirrors of ourselves, through the waist-high grass where once had been the town square.
|The Bear Who Couldn't Bear, by Trisha Thompson Adams|