Friday, October 26, 2012

Indian Field - Eric Maroney

'It is better for me to die than to live.'  -- The Book of Jonah 4:8

            Jonah Graves scrapped out the furrow and a cache of arrowheads sprouted from the loamy soil like a bouquet of dusty chicory.  He picked one up and examined it in the speckled sunlight:  sharp ended, blue-black with scoring along its side, notches where it was connected to the shaft, a piece of slender wood long since rendered into ash by wind and sun and rain.
            As a small boy Jonah had once fit a dug up arrowhead to an improvised shaft.  He bound it with some cast off leather laces, found some stiff feathers for the fletching, carved a groove at the base for the nock.  He then felled a young sapling, its trunk still green, and applying his weight, made it taut with a piece of homespun twine.   After a few plucks of the bow, little Jonah Graves intuited that the tension was insufficient.  The arrow flew a few sluggish yards and struck an irregular boulder.  The arrowhead was not secure enough to the shaft, and rather than snapping against the durable quartz, it simply broke free from its mooring like a chick cast too soon from its mother’s nest.
            These were his people’s old implements, but the knowledge of how to employ them had long since vanished from collective memory and communal enterprise.  Jonah used his own wits to make a bow and arrow, and this poor specimen of weaponry would not have killed a squirrel if by some freak of circumstance it had found its way across the arrow’s path.
            Jonah Graves didn’t discard the arrowheads he furrowed up.  He pocketed them in his overalls and at evening time deposited them with a host of their brethren in a large clay pot which once contained molasses.  The origin of this hoarding impulse baffled him.  An unformed sense of respect, a half-image of fear of the dead, a groveling dread for a people who were like him and yet different, akin but sheltered as he was not by a veil of ignorance as deep as the surf shorn shrub oak and pitch pine which wrapped them up and shaded them from the harsh light of history.
            Then three weeks ago this had occurred:  Jonah Graves was hired to excavate a house for Silas Denton.  He assembled with about a half dozen other Montaukett from Indian Field and three Negros from Free Town.  Among them were four men of indistinct race, for the border between Indian Field and Free Town was a porous barrier and the two communities now comingled freely in  church and bedroom.

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