The Fairytale of Glenda Scott

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write a fairy tale about an outsider trying to fit in.... view prompt


Fiction Mystery

            Glenda Scott was the product of violence, deceit, and one man’s almost immortal cruelty. Scott wasn’t her father’s name. Nor did it belong to her mother. It was a pseudonym given to her to disguise her identity. River was her mother’s name. She was sought and killed high up on a mountain by her husband, who did not father Glenda, but felt betrayed by her conception. Glenda knew pure happiness before her mother’s murder, and she would find it again, but not before she disappeared into the heart of wildness and befriended the creatures who would bring her back to herself.

            When River died, Glenda could have sobbed into her lover’s embrace. She could have quietly painted a picture, written a poem, or meditated on the better times. She didn’t have to put on her belt, grab her pack, and walk until her feet bled. 

Ignoring the cold temperatures of the autumn night, Glenda strolled mindlessly from her home, turning blindly south on the I-93 on-ramp. With the help of the crows, Glenda was ushered off to the side of the road whenever cars were approaching. Moose and bear made themselves especially visible on the opposite side of the highway whenever law enforcement came through.

            Nature knows how to hide deep sadness. This is why humans do not believe that creatures of the wild have feelings. Vole and eagle, deer and owl, hummingbird and salmon, they all felt Glenda’s sadness on this night, and they all wanted her to wander safely while it was wandering that needed to be done.

            Nine hours after leaving her home at twilight, Glenda was arriving at the southern entrance to her favorite wild place as dawn broke over the Pemigewasset. Many of the creatures who had assisted her this far had to make themselves scarce from daytime predators and the everwatching eye of humankind. If the moose and the bear, the crows and the skunks, or the raccoons and fishers acted strangely, all kinds of humans would start paying attention to them, and that could lead to the discovery of the Nature Beings.

            Without any options left, while still mourning, Glenda turned due north, and traveled into the Wilderness. Glenda had earned recognition for traversing this area, on foot, very quickly and often. Being respectful birds, who preferred their distance from humans, the peregrine falcons kept the humor they found in these accolades to themselves. “On foot?” they laughed. “Quickly?” they joked. The mountain lions, hares, and coyotes would quietly jest about the comedic triumphs of human speed. But natural things do not judge. They discussed, on occasion, their confusion over why the humans chose to go up and over rocky mountain summits instead of staying under cover, away from crowds, and avoiding steep climbs. But then, like all natural things, they decided that puzzling over these nonsense things was as important to them as a warm nap. And so, they napped.

            Glenda’s boots took her to a quiet place beside the Pemigewasset River. There were large stones to curl up beside and tall trees to block the predawn winds. The birds did what they could to pile soft woodland duff and pine needles so that Glenda would have a mattress. The beaver dragged some logs over to create three rough walls. Bear and deer scraped the dead bark off the sides of tall dead trees so that raccoon and coyote could pile it against the stone where Glenda might make a human fire to warm her. The welcoming two-tone call of the black-capped chickadees drew Glenda to a southern facing boulder. As the little birds called their song, a mesmerized Glenda followed and lay down beside the perfect boulder. The boulder would collect the heat of the morning sun and be nicely situated to reflect the flames from Glenda’s fire, if she awoke and felt inclined to make one.

            The mattress, the boulder, and the beaver log walls were enough for now. Glenda lay down where the Chickadees called and fell asleep so quickly, so completely, the crows had to direct the raccoons on how best to remove her belt and pack without disturbing her. When the rest of the animals had retreated to dens and nests and hunting places, Coyote stayed and kept watch. The rest of her pack went off to create a perimeter around Glenda, but Coyote remained close by.

            There is a magic time when shadows go into hiding. This time is human-noon, and it is halfway between daybreak and sunset. This is when Glenda awoke to the throbbing in her feet. At first, she was glad for the pain. It was all she could think about. It hurt so much she could barely remember to blink or to shiver. But then she realized why she was thankful. For when the pain went away, all Glenda could remember was that her mother, River, was dead. Saddened by her loss but allowing her mind to work on instinct, Glenda removed her boots, her socks, and her clothes and set them on the boulder beside her belt and her pack.

            Despite the aching in her feet, the stiffness in her joints, and the cold of the Pemigewasset River, Glenda submerged herself in the cleansing and revitalizing powers of the mountain waters. She cried under the current until she had to surface and gasp. Her gasp came as a roar. 

She broke through the current. Glenda shot up into a powerful stance and released all her hurt at once. From her bleeding feet to her aching legs to her broken heart, Glenda shook the ancient summits of Mounts Lafayette, Bond, Carrigain, and Osceola.

            Coyote unfurled from her position beneath a birch tree beside the river. She stood, faced Glenda, and bowed her head. The chipmunks and the squirrels ceased their scurrying and gathering to stand on their branches and bowed as well. All the birds left the sky. They lit on branches, stones, and stumps, facing the human standing in the river, and bent while she wailed. From the river valley, up to the summits, from Glenda’s depths, up through her and out of her, there came forth a torrent of hurt and loss. The wild places around her took in her sorrow, they each absorbed a little piece of her pain, and they kept it. She would not have to feel the burden of River’s passing, she would only have to move forward from her place in the water, and only once she was ready.

            When Glenda had fallen quiet, the creatures of the wilderness went back to their business. Coyote moved soundlessly from the bank of the river and made her way toward the trail where the humans traveled. Glenda was safe and Coyote’s job now was to ensure she was not interrupted.

            Len nodded to Coyote who nodded back. As Glenda slowly dragged her feet from firm step to firm step through the icy water’s current, Len set to breaking down some of the piled bark from the paper birch near Glenda’s boulder. Len knew Glenda would want a fire to sit beside while they got to know each other. Len knew many human things. With the scrape of a wooden match across the boulder, Len had flame enough to add a little more birch bark, then a few dry pine twigs, and finally some dry hardwood sticks. Careful to protect Glenda’s necessities and the mattress the birds had made, Len pushed everything to one side, and hoped she would be comfortable with her camp reshaped for sitting.

            As Glenda stepped up on the bank, she was surprised through her fog to see three river otters making their way past her, into the water, with her clothing. She looked up to see if anything had happened to her other belongings and was relieved to see her boots propped up on some twigs to dry, her belt draped over her pack, and a three-foot bear-creature with raccoon hands and a skunk’s face tending a small fire beside the area where Glenda had slept. She took another step and heard in her mind the soundless reassurance that the otters were taking her clothes to rinse them in the deep cool waters of the Pemigewasset. Once they were clean of debris and the sadness-smells, they would be returned and left to dry beside the fire. Glenda turned to where she presumed this information was coming from and nodded to the bear-creature, Len. Len nodded back and gestured for her to sit.

            Glenda, well-trained in Wildness by Wolfgang Schroeder, opened her bag, withdrew a coral-colored sarong her mentor and lover had purchased for her in Mexico, wrapped it around her waist, and put on her belt. She adjusted the tomahawk to her side, and the knife so it sat across her lower back. With her pouch slid to her opposite side, she sat comfortably cross-legged, facing her host. Len pointed to the pouch and asked in Glenda’s mind, if she had tools for making metal edges sharp. Glenda responded that she did. Len withdrew their knife from beneath their long leather vest. It was almost half as long as Len, more like a sword in their hands. They handed Glenda the knife with graceful reverence. Glenda understood the request was that she sharpen the blade while Len tended the fire.

            With the fire at full blaze and plenty of large sticks put by for an hour’s discussion, Len sat to patiently watch Glenda finish the sharpening task. Glenda was an expert and performed the movements meditatively. In her pouch she carried a course stone, oil, a fine stone, and a porcelain rod for maintaining her own tools. She used each of these in turn, then removed her belt and stropped the finely sharpened blade fifty times on each side against the course leather. Len received their tool gratefully, and as they inspected Glenda’s expert work, Glenda awed at the knotty muscles in Len’s arms and shoulders flexing wildly as they inspected their tool from every angle.

            Len sheathed their blade, they sat, and began to make Glenda understand what was happening.

“Your joy is gone for now, Glenda. River was murdered just a few miles from here. You will hurt for some time to come. However, you will hurt more if you take vengeance. You came here so that we could help you avoid vengeance and instead focus on the wild places that made you and your mother so happy while you had each other. If you stay, if you listen and learn, you will feel River again. You were on a walk away from everything you love because you lost one thing. That is a dangerous kind of sadness. We are taking you in, for a time, while Wolfgang deals with his own kind of loss. But you two will be together again. Now rest. The otters will dry your clothes beside these flames. I will prepare the others to meet you. We will take our time on the way back and let your body heal before the journey. Rest now, Glenda. I am Len. I will be your Nature Being until the day you die.”

            Len stood, patting their long knife in its sheath, and gently brushed the back of their hand across Glenda’s forehead, and bowed. Glenda did not have any questions. She was content to sit beside the Pemigewasset River as Len effortlessly walked, not up the path, but out along the banks of the river. They picked up small stones and closely inspected each one before dropping them to the ground and moving on. The sun shown, and as promised, the otters returned Glenda’s clean clothes and hung them beside the fire.  

              River was gone, but that was not even the only tragedy. Wolfgang was alone, but only for now. Glenda had an inclination that a new project would present itself to distract him while she was away. Len had promised healing and teaching which Glenda needed right now. She had fury in her, ever flaming, ever present should she require it. Fury could be useful. But she had sadness too, she always had sadness tucked in tight, right beside the fury. She hoped Len would help her eliminate one while she continued to learn to control the other. She sat beside the fire, her bare chest warmed by the sun, her ears heard only the Pemigewasset, and a chickadee soothed her with both notes of his song.

April 04, 2021 15:57

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