The Gathering


     Bridget doggedly made her way through the tangle of vegetation, skirting around the boulders that were scattered haphazardly throughout the area that she was traveling through. She laboriously scrambled over those that couldn’t be avoided without detouring too far off of her chosen route.

     She sighed to herself, resigned to the necessity of her mission today. “Always looking for food,” she thought to herself, shaking her head in dismay. Last winter had been extraordinarily harsh, by the time that the spring rains had come and gone, and their regular food supplies returned, there was little save crumbs left in the food storage rooms.

    She remembered her friend, Margerite, one of the village elders, who had taught her most of what she knew. One bitter, blustery day, near the end of winter, the food had been so depleted that they had begun rationing it out. Margerite had come to her, and asked for her promise that she would be strong, and continue to do her part to provide for the village in the coming times… Bridget had questioned her old friend, who had simply smiled and walked away.

     Later, some had said that they had seen Margerite leave, walking out of the village and into the raging storm outside. When the storm had abated a bit, several of them, Bridget included, had set out to see if they could find her, but with no success, finally being forced to turn back as the winter storm swelled up once again, threatening them with the loss of their own lives if they went on.

    It was days like this one when she missed her friend the most. It was a beautiful summer day; the sun was warm on her back, a light breeze wafted through the high grasses, bringing with it the sweet scents of flowers, and almost made her search pleasurable. Almost… except for her memory of what Margerite had sacrificed, in order that, perhaps, her absence might provide enough sustenance for the survival of one or two others.

     It was this memory that drove Bridget, day after day, in her relentless search for everything, and anything that she could haul, drag, lug, tow, whatever… anything they could put back against the coming winter, far away even though it was. She had this maddening, primal beckoning within her mind that would not let her rest one waking moment, lest they be caught unprepared, and someone else might suffer because of her lack of dedication.

    And so she found herself, once again, searching now in territory foreign to her, and to all the others in the village as well. Others were gathering in the easily accessible bounty, but her “madness”, as others in the village were beginning to call it, relentlessly drove her now, as she struggled through the overgrown terrain where none of them had ever journeyed before.

    And her determination was to pay off today: for as she made her way over a pile of fallen logs, she spied before her, in a clearing, a huge mound of… well, she wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but the smell was familiar, and when she took a small taste of it, it was sticky, and sweet, and she knew it from sometime long ago… and that was good enough for her.

    But how to get it back to the village, she asked herself, for it was nearly half her size! Could she find this place again, if she left and returned to the village for help? She shook her head; afraid that if she left this wondrous windfall here, that something else would come along and make off with it. No, she had to figure out a way to get this back, by herself, and right now…

    She sized it up, and after walking around it several times, she took hold of it as best she could, and with a massive effort, swung it up and over onto her back and shoulders, staggering under the weight of it.

    Slowly, step after agonizing step, she made her way back towards the trail that she had blazed on her way here. But with each step that she took, it seemed as if the load was too much for her… it seemed to become incredibly hot, much more than it had been before she had picked it up. Her vision became blurred, and she began to stagger, it was so hot, it seemed as if the food on her back had become a small sun, hot, hot, too hot…

     She dropped to the ground, her life boiling out in the incredible heat… the heat of a thousand suns striking her down as she died there on that hot summer day…


     Frankie shifted one knee on the rough pebbles of the playground, repositioning himself as he kneeled there, picking out another of the ants that teemed along the edge of the picnic area. The tip of his tongue snuck out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated on getting the magnifying glass just the right distance from the little insect…



Authors note: As I said, art sometimes imitates life... at some point in time, most of us have been Frankie... or Bridget!




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