In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods

Free In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell

Book: In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Matt Bell
in the sound: Perhaps, but even if that was so then still that was not the way here. And in her voice I heard something so like the voice of my wife, some similar tone to that with which she had told me how we would make the dirt our own, how with new rules we would shape from it the world we wanted.
    The bear woke me from my memories with more of her voice, and then she told me that upon the dirt between the lake and the woods, always there were two that appeared, and always the two made a single child.
    She told me that now there were four, and too many children besides, because ours was both boy and cub, and perhaps none of the four was set upon the right place, nothing shaped as it should be shaped, and when she was done telling me this she told me what she thought should be done to put our world to right—what should be done to my wife and to one other—so there might be a right number of each, of male and female, mother and father, parent and child.
    With loud and quiet roars, with a variety of vocalizations I had never heard before, a bear-song simpler than our own speech but supple enough for possible truth, she told me that if I would return her cub to her—and if I would also punish my wife for taking him—then she would take care of the other, my own complement I had not yet met, and afterward the numbers would be better balanced, as always they had been intended.
    I nodded as I listened, but I knew she was not quite right, forin all her calculations she did not count the fingerling. He was my secret alone, and so long as he was within me, then there was no proper math.

T HE BEAR’S CARAPACE SHIVERED, HEAVED . She lowered her shoulders to the ground, then motioned with the wedge of her head that I might climb up. I searched for purchase among her bones, dug out handfuls of fur and slipped flesh before finding promontories on which to make my nervous clenching, and after I was right-straddled atop her the bear leaped out of her chamber, climbing sure and swift into and up and through the deep tunnels to the surface. Outside her cave, the bear charged through the woods, whipped through branch and thorny bramble until my face and arms were scratched and scraped, each new blemish drawing what blood remained, and before I could voice any complaint we were arriving, already back at the burying ground.
    There the bear slowed, circled once, then stopped and stood upon her hind legs, raising her half-furred face above her shoulders so that as she ascended I fell from her back, landed hard. Freed of her burden, she remained standing to howl at the moons, which at first continued their slow arc unfazed by what sound she hurled at their shapes, no matter how she carried on.
    Frustrated, the bear lowered herself, then stood to howl once more, and this time I thought I saw my wife’s moon shake in its circuit.
    And so again I said that I would do as I had been asked, this time in my own voice: I would enter the house, I would seek out my wife, and in the deepness I would convince her to give up the foundling.
    OR ELSE TAKE HIM FROM HER , said the fingerling, from out of my mouth, and then again the bear shook its hackles, again it roared until all the woods and my wife’s moon shook around us, and still there came more sound from the bear, more spit-flecked thunder and command, and then from the surrounding graves came that exodus I knew nightly happened but which I had never before seen. As I watched, broken-boned deer and elk and moose pushed forth from the forest floor, and then cougars and muskrat, wolves and coyotes, beavers and squirrels and rabbits and skunks and chipmunks and wild goats and boars, partridge and pheasant and peacock and grouse and all other manners of beast and bird, each called by the bear from whatever shallow place I had buried its shell. I recoiled as they stumble-rushed into the thickets or failed to take flight, for all the wrongs I had done now came past me on all sides, their injuries

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