Erosoi Scene II
“You’re not going to flake out on me are you?”
“You cheated,” whined Bran, hands on his knobby knees, fnasting his reply.
“Cheated!?” Despite his best efforts to resist, his smile found its inevitable way. “I counted to three.”
“Yeah, but you started running on one!”
Erosoi laid an arm over Bran’s shoulders. “You know I’m just kidding kidder.”
“You are going to be able to keep up right?”
“Hey,” he said, standing straight. “I’ve been stuck down here just as long as you.”
“You don’t see me huffing and puffing.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can we just get going?”
Erosoi, the trail to the canyon’s rim to his back, turned his attention south. Flocks of sheep grazed in the grasses along which they’d just raced. Two dozen robins sought worms in the still wet grass. Thrushes (both the song and the thistle) proclaimed their stubbornness at a scold of invasive jays. And not fifty paces away stood the oaken Great Mother to whom he waved a cheerful goodbye.
“Crikey, Erosoi. Can we just get going?”
Erosoi lowered his already low set eyebrows. “I’ll be buggered if you’re gonna talk to me like that, Bran.”
“I’m excited as you are Erosoi. I mean, you can’t stop moving.”
Erosoi fixed his feet and crossed his arms and hiked those thick, ideally shaped brows.
“Sod this for a lark,” Bran surrendered, breaking the awkward silence. He took his dagger from the leather scabbard at his waist and turning to find an old branch, proceeded to strip it smooth.
Erosoi, his gaze meandering over the canyon spread out before him, let a breath, heavy with everything he was about to leave behind, fall and turned, satiating his lungs with buoyant air, to the trail ahead. “Sorry kidder, just a little in bits, you know. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back.”
Bran nearly dropped his new walking stick and Erosoi took his first step up the long winding incline. “You’re not serious?”
Erosoi turned not to look over his shoulder and replied in the affirmative.
“Why? What happened?”
With neither pause nor break in his advance, Erosoi, determined to let yesterday remain just that, recounted the whole episode and the thoughts with which he wrestled, but did not let his retelling distract him from savoring his first ascent since the snows broke. He interjected into his story various observations as he, with the concentrated eyes of the shithouse rat, made a concerted and deliberate effort to take everything in. He twice mimicked the green woodpeckers’ loud kluu-kluu-kluus. He directed Bran’s attention to a jay half-hidden in the brush fishing for acorns and a sparrowhawk, black in the bright blue sky, circling over the dark forest to the north. Beetles and dragonflies and other little things crawled and buzzed and chirped. He offered simultaneous good mornings and good-byes to the woad and the flax and the madder and pointed out “that hawthorn” where “he and Henwen went hot and heavy,” the birch where Bella bared her baps, and by the time he said everything he needed to say about last night, they reached the rim and Erosoi turned to examine the canyon from which he emerged.
Densest to the north, the forest of oak and hazel and hawthorn and birch tapered on its way south along the eastern and western sides, where, at its southernmost reaches, the canyon rim lay bare. He combed his hair and entered the forest to a long, slow, moaning-wind welcome. And with that wind’s moan, the kind of moan a woman exhales when her champion, returned after a lengthy campaign, caresses her cwm for the first time, Erosoi knew Cuhmal mistranslated. Not that he didn’t get the words right; rather, he missed something in the grammar. His translation put the song in the future, but Erosoi knew the birds glad-warbled of the present: everything was alright, always already alright.
Sap dripped from wet trees in the deep forest’s virgin dark and with his first gentle steps, he could almost feel the forest arch her back, grind her hips. He caressed the trees, rubbed their leaves between his thumb and forefinger. Shadows trembled and shivered. Branches grabbed his cloak and his bag. Low lying shrubs pulled his trousers.
And there, not twenty paces away, stood the squat pink salt cairn. Approaching it with the reverence about which Achtland taught him he must always maintain, he adjusted his trousers, palmed the stone, rubbed its flattened top, and leaned forward for the kiss. The wind wuthered, then howled; the trees shuddered, and a trickle of rain fell from a heavy cloud, a cloud, by all appearances, longing to rain much more than it did. Erosoi lifted his head and the wind sighed.
“Fucksocks, Erosoi. Are you done messing around?”
“Go swivel yourself you grizely chatterfart.”
“Chatterfart!?” Bran snorted, and led his best friend forward, his arm draped over Erosoi’s shoulder.
Down on her knees, the forest begged him to stay. They could create a world together here, she promised. She pleaded with him to forget, to put yesterday behind him. Her palace of conception burning, she touched upon his sense of pride, tried to chide him into staying for now, in this moment of vulnerability, she would need him most of all. And if he stayed—she leaned in to whisper—she would make it all worthwhile. His heart raced at the prospect, but he narrowed his eyes when he saw through her pleadings and assayed her, still on her knees, the tears in her eyes as clear as the song of the nightingale.
Bending one turn too many, the twisting and spiraling within which the oaks retained their strength and quiet fortitude popped and exploded and Erosoi, his jaw clenched lest he say something he regret, spun and marched with the force, the speed, and the strength of strides born from the union of detest and war. Eyeballing the distant light at the edge of the forest, Erosoi kept his mouth shut, though the whites around his knuckles betrayed the grudge he bore against just another crackling dandilly who would hold him down. The vast rolling grassland a single step away, she, in one last ditch attempt, snagged him at the collar. She brushed him with one final wandering aroma and Erosoi, stuck for a moment in his roots, broke the nimble oak branch; he threw it to the ground and with one final victorious step, abandoned her for the world, now wide open, in front of him.
Back turned, arms raised overhead, Erosoi presented the forest a two-finger salute and ran his comb through his golden hair. His crowning glory.