I was honored to listen to a fabulous reading by local author and publisher Laura Stanfill. The event was yet another engaging Wildfire gathering coordinated by the talented Christi Krug. Christi is a local author, teacher, writing coach and mentor. She teaches classes at community colleges in Portland and Vancouver on writing. Laura, author, editor, and publisher, runs Forest Avenue Press.
She peered at the platform used for cremation where the attendant worked diligently to stoke a new fire. After the flames began to burn, he turned toward the other pyre in which the cloth had already transformed to ash. A large femur bone jutted from the flames and he struggled, using a long pole, to roll a blackened skull back onto the heap from where it had descended.
Maddy stopped short and stared at a slight, ropy man who wore cotton shorts, flip-flops and a dirty tee-shirt. On his forehead was a wide strap that arched past his ears and descended down around the bulky bottom of a refrigerator. She watched as he adjusted the padding on his forehead and with amazing balance and counter force, lifted the fridge.
Desert animals skittered around her feet as she sprinted through the inky darkness to the parachute dropped boxes. She frantically felt the edges of each crate and strained to calculate the volume of rice needed by each refugee to survive.
Maddy and Richard didn’t exactly reconcile but the breezy Swiss culture put out the fire and they found a rhythm. Maddy chose a camping site in a pristine, modern traveler’s enclave equipped with grocery store, laundry and bathing facilities. They quietly put the tent up together. Each morning Richard would find a USA today newspaper which they shared over coffee and pastries while sitting on the edge of the fountain at the town center. They wandered through parks and tasted creamy sweets from Swiss chocolatiers; melting truffles soothed hurt feelings. On the fourth evening over a baguette spread with Schabziger cheese, Richard silently took off his gold chain and set Maddy’s wedding ring on the small bistro table.
His eyes darted up briefly then returned to the bread. He nudged the ring toward the center of the table like a punished golden retriever placing a toy as a request for forgiveness, hoping for some sign of play. The gold band sat solo for many bites, casting a small round shadow on the dark table. It was plain and beat-up from years of busy life and never having been removed. Maddy had friends that took off their wedding rings to exercise or do dishes, but she never had. She’d worn it rock climbing and camping and kayaking. She had dug gardens and pulled weeds. She had bicycled miles and miles and never removed her wedding band.
Maddy crunched the last piece of bread, reached out slowly and slid the ring toward her. She did not pick it up or put it on, just let it occupy her space. It was silent; not helpful in the least. It did not invoke nostalgia nor tempt her with shiny stones. It just sat, waiting to be wanted, reanimated. She sighed, laid Euro notes on top of the bill and palmed the smooth heavy band into her pocket before stepping out into the clear night air.