The Beryl Delve, ©2017 by p. elliott doherty
Sweetbriar’s land was a stage. Every time he looked up from the corral he was either plugged with genteel questions about his quarters or witness to a picnic or an ad hoc concert of tinny, soup can instruments on the slant. He laughed at the boys with their guitar and horn, knowing they were accomplished and compelling men, but under the thresher of the southerlies they sounded like a garage sale in a twister. He’d prepared two mounts for the day, but no one took on the delight; they were either too timorous to take up the riding or too engrossed within the stages of their transmutation to fall back on the traditional whimsy. Sweetbriar assumed it was the latter, and he was determined to get more than one of his visitors saddle-topped before their days wrapped. He’d seen this before. By the end of the experience many would transition to riding—it was their best way to return to the known world.
____Rinn ambled up from the lodge house and wrapped his arms over the main gate of the corral. His eyes were burdened. “I’m pushing up the recon for Emeline,” he said.
____Sweetbriar righted himself and smiled. “In the middle of all this?” he said.
____“And I’ll need your boy to help, if that’s all right.”
____Rinn shook his head. “I’ve dreamt uncomfortable things about her, recently. I just have a feeling my sister needs to find a way home. She’s at a crossroads. I think we can bring her back.”
____“You’re leaving Tenorio and me to cover the kinders while you’re away…and you’re taking my boy?”
____“I’ll be forever indebted, old friend.”
____Sweetbriar leaned into his pitchfork and bristled at the prospect. After a full minute of measurements he arrived at a condition. “You’re not only taking my kid but my best hand,” he said. “Now I know you’re going to counter by telling me that Tenorio will offer up his own hires to pitch in, so that absolves my first protest to your request…but here’s the issue—you’re not enough. Brandon will go hog wild down there. He needs fulltime sitters. Sitters disguised as mentors, if you will.” Sweetbriar gazed across the wide plain to the east rim. “I think we have an understanding if you take your two friends with you.”
____“Carey and her man?” said Rinn.
____“My boy likes David, and Carey shows a knack for reining in waywards. Brandon’s a colt—he’s going to need wranglers.”
____“Understood and agreed.”
____“Now there’s a chasm of resentment between your sister and you that won’t ease just because you’re there,” said Sweetbriar. “What’s in your playbook to keep her from jailing you on kidnapping charges?”
____“Well, firstly, I’m nearly certain she’s there on her expired visa, so representation as a resident is out. And secondly, she’s family. She should still love me.”
____Sweetbriar roared. “Family! Love! Candy and nuts!”
____“She shouldn’t take our visit as a threat. And ‘kidnapping,’ as you put it, is hardly the method on the table. I need to talk to her. We need to center ourselves and trust each other again.”
____“Your sister left you for dead the second you lost Alison and Drew.”
____“If you recall we both sent Emeline to Costa Rica as a wellness exercise,” fumed Rinn. “She was more than compassionate about my losses.”
____“That’s because you were blind drunk and only remember the hugs…” Sweetbriar paused and ventured back two years in his scrapbook of watermarks. “I spoke with her about you. She was still convinced you were ‘an obsequious sham,’ as she put it. ‘A tragic people pleaser.’ ‘A dramatist of empty calories.’”
____“She’s a writer, too. Writers love hyperbole.”
____Sweetbriar folded his hand. “Listen. I understand that she’s the last of your entire tree. I know that you have untold things in common and that you love her and that she’s the only witness to your childhood and whatnot…but I think it’s not only a might reckless, but I also believe you’re overreaching, here. She’s not going to be pleased to see you, especially if you’re assuming command of her life choices and bearing, and that’s all I can tell you.”
____“She’s family, you’re right. And that is the principal rationale. It’s the only rationale that compels any defensive risk. I need her in my life, Sweet.”
____“Family,” Sweetbriar sighed. “Ask Hamlet what he thinks about family.”
____“He’d say, ‘Close your eyes, this won’t hurt a bit.’”
____“Okay. Be gone. And thanks for the false courtesy of advisement. But remember why we sent her there in the first place.”
____“It was to prevent her suicide,” acknowledged Rinn.
____“And she stayed. And she lived. Why do you want to fuck with her survival? You know your track record in that area of support is nil, don’t you?”
____“Is this your chance to pull an all-star from the abyss? Are you through rehearsing? Is she a feather in your cap?”
____“All right, already, I get it,” Rinn conceded. “Thanks for the smothering. If your abuse is anything like hers I think I’ll manage it.”
____“Just remember those questions when you’re there, Rinn. If you let your personal pain run the show, then the show will outright become your personal pain.”
____“I thought you were done on the subject, Sweet.”
____“I am, I am! Now just leave before I dump all this shithoney and tag along myself, you remorseless archetypal wreck of an asshole.”
____Rinn waved goodbye, gratefully bruised by the heavy hand of a friend. He walked the wide span of the slant to the east rim and to the once casita of his sister and the now dwelling of his new friends. Carey had met Emeline briefly, during the darkest of Rinn’s days, but his sister was embarked soon after their meeting, leaving Carey to pick up Rinn’s pieces. Rinn thought the idea of condemning his only woman friend and her companion to paradise with him could be redeemable if they’d only keep charitable minds.
It’s not like we’re Aguirre in the Amazon, he thought. We’re not the wrathful instruments of God…
Ingrid would emerge from the east canyon floor, unseen. She had taken an early morning constitutional after breakfast and had happened upon Carey’s easy fissure with nothing but lusting curiosity at her fingertips. She was not on the immersion schedule, she knew, but the happening of this exposed gash in Gaia became far too enticing to ignore. She had only to slip her feet into the shelter…
____The prelude did not intimidate her; she was in her preschool yard, having sand thrown in her face by an ADHD-addled boy named Josh, a boy who loved her and just simply didn’t know quite how to gesticulate his love. The pain didn’t arrive from the hundreds of granules swimming under her lids, but from the teacher who discovered her blurred form running for the bubbler. As she rinsed her eyes clean the teacher clawed her nails into her shoulder and seethed about the recklessness of running, and how that recklessness would lead her directly into a ‘time out’ session in the beanbag pen. The experience flirted with any nostalgic dream, and it wracked her baited masochism with its timidity; she was anticipating deeper trauma, and the flashback left her with the clamminess of a zoo tourist on a hot afternoon. There came a following merging flight, one that matched the vague imagery of her pre-K hopscotch—a brief skim between the platinum-grey of the stratosphere and the jet void of entirety, followed by the blinding flash of the emerging sun. The accident, however, unwitting and gentle, struck as she fell under the alluring decision to fall asleep.
____A host of storms followed, coursing through the pathways of her mind. A cut seared her childlike foot, infecting her with prickling heat and staining the ground a dime store lime yellow. Her mother glowered at her from all angles with brilliant fluorescent eyes. Ingrid dangled from cliff tops and dizzying banisters, her inner ears hammering her skull like shoddy plumbing. After becoming planted in the center of an empty classroom she remained for what felt to be an hour, staring at the glyptic construction paper banners above the chalkboard, throbbing from the brightness of the light banks above, stroking the scarred urethane layers on her olivine, heat-formed chair, hearing the lament of an endlessly passing train out the bulky slats of the box windows. The room fell black for another seeming hour and she waited for a reprieve. Occasional streaks of purple light shot across her vision with the zipping sound of young, cooing mallards. She felt her insides losing mass. She danced at the fringe of disintegration.
____A burp of natural thunder shook her to consciousness. Ingrid groped for the portal’s rim and lurched out of the hole. By the time she cleared the canyon floor she had reclaimed her name and location, but other qualities were slower with their return.
____Approaching Carey’s gate, Rinn caught the specter of a limping Ingrid on the rim of the slant, her eyes downcast in self-admonishment. He ran for her and held her up by her shoulders. “You’re drained pale,” he said. “Where have you wandered?”
____“There was an upright hole,” she confessed. “A side fissure. I took a nap inside of it.”
____Rinn rolled his head in astonishment. “Are you…compos? Can you regain yourself?”
____“Drunk to the nub on experience, I suppose, now.”
____“We have an immersion schedule to keep you safe, Ingrid. What compelled you?”
____“Too many questions. Too much pain. Instant results. Pick one, Rinn.”
____Rinn beheld her rising eyes and their emerging mischief. This poet had scraped her bones on the rock, he thought. And she hadn’t regretted the inevitability. Her flaxen bob matted against her ears and she stretched like a child after story time. Rinn took the spectacle inside of him, knowing this accomplished woman would rarely again invite such a glimmer into her fold. “You’ll need a mountain of rest, you know,” he scowled.
____“I need out of here,” she confessed. “This circus of truths will immolate me. I…I thought I would expand my awareness here, but it turns out I’m just lobotomizing myself. I want to know what I know. I don’t want the unlimited. My body wasn’t built for all the light in the universe. The beauty of humanity resides in our limitations. This kind of hurt is unnatural.”
____Rinn nodded and was struck with a blow to his heart. “You jumped the gun, Ingrid,” he said. “You know our assurances fade when a gal jumps the gun, but you’re a brilliant, seeking individual. I would like to offer anything for you to stay.”
____Ingrid folded her arms and slowed the trembling. More thunder rumbled overhead. “I need turpentine for my soul,” she said.
____“Would you settle for Costa Rica?” Rinn knelt and shook out his arms like a vaudevillian. “You know my sister, Emeline Zee?”
____“The writer? She’s your sister?”
____“Sometimes, when she’s plied with wine, she admits we’re related, yes. In any case, four of us are going down there to convince her to return to Beryl. She left unfinished, like you are now, and I believe we can bring her out of her fog. Will you join us?”
____“I feel sick.” Ingrid bent and vomited to the left of their conversation.
____“Well, think it over. In the meantime we need to get you to Sweet for a checkup and a rest regimen. Let’s make for the lodge.”
____“I’m sorry I shit all over your home, Rinn.”
____“It’s expected. I’m impressed.”
____“Trauma. Rebel. Vomit. Me.”
____“Indeed, in its fullest fledge.”
____“I’ll ponder your invitation.”
____Rain populated the ground around their feet. A sweet hush of ozone swelled to their faces, releasing the bouquet of thornscrub and lavender beneath their shoes.
Rinn widened his spirit and stride as he harbored the rare and delicate uncertainty steering his future hours. Dread or error in any of his efforts no longer carried meaning--it was now down to death or pleasant surprises.
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