Mrs Rae received a letter on smokey paper written in the light of flame and buried inside a can in a shallow hole adjacent to the stream where were found huddled together in the trickle that could not protect them, a woman, and she and her children burned together in one mass, in that trickle that could not protect them, and on being found, were unable to be separated, one apart from the other, and at the bottom, an infant child, having drowned, mostly preserved, crushed into the creek mud, only his tiny foot blackened. Mrs. Rae received that letter.
That the woman even had time to write or scribble in the red hot dust, dark as it must be, and probably wrote on the run still expecting to get away, or wrote before they started off, and just in case…and that the ink is run with the moisture of the mud, and most of the note unreadable, but for the determination that emits wordlessly from the page.
And that someone found the can, for they must have stepped on it, and noting the cover off, and pen and paper within, a bit of that paper still whitened at the edges, and the whole scene so out of place, and that someone picked up the can, tenderly, as if knowing what it must contain, and saw the address, and rather than lay the words on a cross, on site, saw that it was sent off to the address visible, and that it arrived at Mrs Rae’s a couple days later.
And that Mrs. Rae held the note for a long time before she could unfold what was left of it, and that this note came from her twin sister, and that she cried, huddled into the corner so that her children would not see her face, while her arms clutched her shawl tightly to smother the anguish, so that no sound but an erratic gasp for air resounded from the corner, and the world thrust at her and subsumed her into nothingness, darkness, and that this is happening in 2022.
What’s happening mommy?
And the children could not get her to respond for the longest time, and the older shooed the others so they would stay away, and distance was created for a cavern so deeply blocking now to the next, what might be possible, unknown, and the children sat in the hot yard, and pick at the dead grass to make tiny homes for the baby rabbits, and that no one comes to see if everything is alright, even though the news had circulated through the airwaves and across the tongues of neighbors, and these people thought: Only by the grace of God go…and that they neglected their roles, and their responsibility in the evolution of calamity, one they follow one upon another, no, the cause could not be…could not be traced back to any one of them.
And that it is a slow death to stay outside too long, and that it could be a slower death to hide inside, praying away feverishly, for, what could have brought all this on, and why, and that the hunger pains grew as the crops failed, and the store shelves were barren, and even insects were unable to be found, to be eaten, as few remained, and leaves from the trees browned and held no moisture, and the few handfuls of grain that could be found were quickly harvested, and that even rats were roasted on a stick.
And a man has built a cavern into the long back, far above the river that still flows, and the cavern is lined thickly with anything he might store, and it has a coolness that refreshes, and he can air out and stretch, and then he builds a second for the passerby, and a third for the homeless children, who are so afraid.
And that they were still to die there too, and all the others….