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Pieter Emily (Part 1 of 3)

By
September 4, 2009

Pieter Emily will be presented in this magazine in three parts.

Do Not Take the Low Road

The world is old, and wherever there is room for a body to sleep, there something has died.

I

—Pieter Emily, said they one to another in the furrows and fields.

—Pieter Emily, whispered they the children beneath the wooden boards of the raised village.

—Pieter Emily, said Elsbeth Grinner, beneath her breath.

And she left her loom and went out into the street.

It was a clear day and dry. Marla Kranth was standing speaking to the mayor’s wife. Both wore long dresses and heavy shawls made from the cloth that was the village’s trade.

—Marla, said Elsbeth, is it true?

—True and more, said Marla. He’s breathing the same air as you or me.

The mayor’s wife interrupted. Her face was narrow like a shrew, and it was said by some that she bit the mayor in his sleep to weaken his brain.

—Jasper spoke to him, face to face. Pieter Emily. Out on the low road, and Jasper looking for a sheep that had strayed. Pieter was there, behind a tree, just watching him.

—Pieter? On the low road?

Both women nodded in a dark, disapproving way.

—What did he say? asked Elsbeth.

—Pieter reminded him of the green book. He said it was late in the year for anyone to be out on the low road.

Marla whistled a long whistle.

—But what did he look like?

—Like a boy in a wooden-coat, said Marla. Just like he always looked. Jasper said he hasn’t aged a day.

  *       *       *

A week passed and a week. On the fourteenth day, Elsbeth closed up her shop early and sent the other weavers home. She was, it was generally agreed, the best of Firsk’s weavers, and that meant she was one of the best in the world. For there is nothing like Firsk-cloth, and there never has been.

She was born with a feel for the thread. The day she touched a loom she knew it was a beast akin to her and that if only she would speak it would give her whatever she desired. So slowly and quickly, slowly and quickly she learned to speak to the loom, and when she was fourteen, she was given a shop, and given the charge of many weavers below her, and people who came to the town would sit on chairs in the corner of the room and watch her as she worked.

Since then, her skill had only grown. She could do in an hour, the work of days, and in days, work that no one could do in any quantity of time. At the age of forty-three, she was thin like a reed, with a wicker strength. She wore only the simplest clothing, made from her own cloth and sewed in the closeness of her rooms.

She lived with her sister and her sister’s husband, in a tall house set away at the edge of the raised town. It was not an outbuilding, as the farmhouses in the fields beyond. But it was thought less of, for once it had been a freestanding structure, and only during her childhood had the village grown to reach it with its tight wooden streets and walks.

It had been Pieter who’d shown her the way up trees. She in turn had taught him to lie. For Elsbeth Grinner was an expert liar and always had been.

She and her sister had been the same at birth. They had had the same dream every night of their common childhood, and would recount it anew each morning. But when Elsbeth was taken away to the loom, Catha took up the needle and thread. As a seamstress Catha had no match in Firsk. Her husband, Jaim, was a trader, one of those who took the cloth through the mountains for sale. He was a large man, and of a wonderful quality. Catha loved him as a wife, and Elsbeth as a sister. For Jaim was sullen and ill-mannered in all save his speech with them. We should all be lucky to have such a one for a friend, and they knew his worth.

To that house, then, Elsbeth went, out her shop door and along the street. She passed shops where the people were crouched in rows before looms, or others where men and women were set to carding or spinning. The wood of the town was like a box, she often thought, with all that was needed laid out within it. Well, that and the fields beyond.

—Pieter Emily, she said beneath her breath.

They were the same age, she and Pieter, the same age to the day. His father had been a hunter, his mother, a weaver in the town. Their houses had stood side by side, looking in on each other, listening to each other’s secrets in the long winters, the brief mists of summer.

It had been Pieter who’d shown her the way up trees. She in turn had taught him to lie. For Elsbeth Grinner was an expert liar and always had been. She had, in fact, never been caught in a lie. Not once. She was most certainly the soul of truth.

In fact, she had not lied in many years. There was no reason to. Her life was all seriousness, all cloth and candles, all evening.

As she went her way, a man came out from beneath the eaves of the grocery.

—Elsbeth, he said, have you seen this?

A handbill had been printed, and he gave it her to look at.

_______________________

The MATTER of PIETER EMILY


+ +

Village Meeting


+ +

Third Bell from Dusk


_______________________

Elsbeth nodded to the man.

—Harfor Locke, thank you. I shall see you there.

He retired again below the roof, leaving her with the handbill, as the other shops too closed and the street began to fill. Yet no one jostled her as they passed. Many looked to her and looked away, and those who met her eyes nodded respectfully. What the town did was what she did best, and strange as she was, she was admired by all.

  *       *       *

An hour and she stood again with the handbill in the doorway. Her sister’s shadow could be seen in the kitchens beyond, moving here and there.

Since Pieter Emily had been seen, a rash of trouble had begun. The farmers on farms closest to the low road had found animals dead, their throats cut. A house had even burned. Jerome Liddel vanished one day from his fields, and his wife was in tears in the streets asking for justice. Old Caleb More swore he saw a fox carrying a child in its mouth, but no child was missing.

Was it strange to think of a red fox in all that grayness, running with a white goose in its mouth? Many dreamed it, and wept upon waking, so lovely was the drawing in and out of breath in the goose’s heaving chest.

—The green book, said they one to another.

Elsbeth passed by the kitchens but did not look in. Her sister looked up and saw her, but said nothing. She knew the degree, the direction of her thought. For once many had thought Pieter would ask Elsbeth’s hand. But he had not, and then he had fallen out with Algren Johns and Leonard Falk, and had fought them together, with Saul Cross and Imren Jacoby, Locke Arsten and Jaim himself as witnesses, and Pieter had shot them both through the chest with a pistol. Yet Falk had been just as quick. Wounded by Falk’s pistol ball, Pieter had staggered off into the woods. That had been twenty-five years ago. There hadn’t even been a search for him. His mother had gone through the town again and again, begging for help. But something about Pieter had been dark, and no one would help. Catha’s father had forbade them to go, and they had not. Then there was the matter of Algren Johns’s, of Leonard Falk’s funeral. Time had simply passed, and drawn a quiet over the whole business.

If Elsbeth was as serious as earth on earth, then this last week had seen her grow grimmer still. Catha worried and worried, and by the fence with Jaim at first light, she’d asked him what they ought to do.

His face hadn’t changed. He’d said nothing at first, and then,

—Something’s likely to be done. Things can’t go on like this.

And now there was the meeting. Anders Lew had knocked on the window at half three to announce it. What would be said? She shuddered in spite of herself and hurried on with the preparations for supper.

  *       *       *

One bell. Two bells. Three bells in the dusk, and the people came through the streets.

Elsbeth walked with her sister. Jaim trailed behind, speaking to the smith, Canter Maynard.

So many steps in the thin darkness of the town. Lamps were at every corner, and the wood gave a comfort, a drumming as of life.

As she walked, Elsbeth thought of the pattern she’d begun that morning. She could see all the threads in her head, could watch them shaking and forming together, twining and joining. She wanted then to go to the shop and sit down at her loom, but her sister’s hand on her shoulder recalled her.

—Are you all right?

—Just thinking.

And then they were at the meeting house. And then they were taking seats near the back. Almost the whole town was there, some three hundred. Only half the farmers, of course. The flocks and fields had, after all, to be watched, most of all now.

Looking around, Elsbeth saw fear in the shapes of backs and necks, the imposition of heads on necks, the taking up of gowns and blankets, hands, white and gaunt, pressed against the benches.

How could she, of all people, find her way through this maze of confused words and thought?

  *       *       *

The Mayor stood to speak.

He called for order, and after a while, the rumbling ceased.

—I stand here before you as an act of free election.

It was the invocation called for at the beginning of every meeting.

—A matter has risen that needs a consensus. The murderer Pieter Emily has been discovered living not fifteen miles from this spot where I stand.

A great noise then rose up in the hall. Rumor, certainly, had had its way with the town. Everyone had heard Jaspar Mign’s tale, whether from he or another. But this was the first general confirmation of its truth.

—Order, order, shouted the Mayor.

He slammed a staff down on the raised platform and the crowd grew quiet.

—The facts of the matter, said the Mayor. Pieter Emily vanished almost twenty-six years ago, leaving two of the town dead. It matters not at all that it was a duel, or that they were two and he one. The rules forbade such duels then, just as they do now.

A man spoke up in the third row.

—My daughter saw a man inside our house not two days ago. From what we can tell, it was Pieter Emily!

A din rose up at this, with nearly every member of the town declaring themselves aggrieved in one way or another.

Then Jaspar Mign stood up, and all fell silent.

—He said the green book, said Jaspar. He said the green book, and now this is on us.

The meeting fell into chaos and nothing could be done for some time, with some swearing that Pieter was to blame for all the present ills, and others swearing that he was not. Someone began to draw up a vote on the matter, and the white and black painted sticks were brought out in the long iron box, but the measure failed, and no vote was taken. Finally, the candles burned down and the meeting was closed, to be resumed on the next day, and everyone was sent home.

  *       *       *

Elsbeth prepared herself for sleep. She laid her dress across a chair back, and stood by the window looking out across the hills. The night was clear and bright, and her sharp eyes could see far.

They wore the clothes of men, but each had the head of some sheep, some cow, some dove or swan or rat. A mouse with a stick stood on the platform. A frog with a drawn dagger raised it up in a webbed hand.

The village was in a hollow. It was like a great wooden apparatus, laid out flat upon the ground. Hills and fields lay all around, and mountains as well. Mountains took up three horizons, and farther, the fourth. It was a long vale, and the road that ran down from Firsk to the far mountains was the low road. No one traveled it, or spoke of it. The town looked East, through the mountains. East was where trade was. East was the world. To the West, who knew? People had gone there once. But the green book had been written during a time of trouble in the village, and by following its rules, the village had grown and prospered. Look east, urged the green book. Do not take the low road.

Elsbeth shivered in the sudden cold and ran her hands over the thin bones of her ribs, the flatness of her stomach, her narrow legs. She ate rarely, her sister told her, but Elsbeth thought rather that she was like the threads of the loom, that she had grown only more like them with time, and that it was this oneness that allowed her her single pleasure.

For to see the shuttle in her hands was like nothing else, like air through air, like needles through needles.

  *       *       *

The first sleep came and went. Elsbeth rose and set to her ledgers. She could do nothing with them, though, and in the midst of turning a page, she was pierced by the sudden remembrance of a dream.

A child was blowing a whistle louder and louder, and as the whistle grew in sound, the wind came through the teeth of the mountains and the town began to break.

Elsbeth was in the meetinghouse again, and the meeting continued. But all the townspeople were dressed as animals. They wore the clothes of men, but each had the head of some sheep, some cow, some dove or swan or rat. A mouse with a stick stood on the platform. A frog with a drawn dagger raised it up in a webbed hand. She felt at her own face, but there was nothing there to feel, and she was again in the snow at the day’s edge, where light was just breaking through a closing door.

I must speak to him, she thought.

—I must warn him, she said.

And the rustling of night that was listening at the window went away like salt over a shoulder.

Elsbeth dressed. She stood at the very center of the room. The tenth bell rang. She sat heavily on the floor. She stood again.

There are children among us, and in us, she thought. We are guided by what we have been just as much as what we are. If I was at his side so often in the past, should I not now go to see what has become of the present time?

And in a room below, Catha sat with Jaim talking, and Jaim said it had been declared by many that Pieter would be brought to trial.

Yet he disapproved.

—It was no fault of his, said Jaim slowly. Falk had it in for him from the first, and goaded him and goaded him.

Falk, the present Mayor’s brother. The present mayor’s name was Galvin Falk and he hated no one so much as Pieter Emily.

Did we say there was no search on that day 25 years ago? Say then there was rather a hunt. Galvin Falk led some dozen men through the woods again and again, scouring the underbrush for some trail of blood or scent. Dogs were called, nets laid across saddles. Down they went, all down to the low road, where they stopped, gathering their horses’ necks close.

—If he’s gone further, then he’s damned.

And they rode back.

  *       *       *

Firsk was not known to many, for the towns that had its trade were jealous of this trade, and would not share it. The truth is, the prices they paid Firsk’s traders were nothing to the prices their traders received from farther traders. This was the same as one went from town to town, farther and farther, with each place valuing the cloth, yet knowing still less about it.

Each spring, the traders of Firsk would reach the towns just beyond the mountain passes. They would come with many mules, laden down. They would set up a broad bazaar and sit cross-legged, smoking long pipes and muttering strange rhymes.

Much ill was said of these men. Jaim, for instance, knew they were disliked by those in the world. But they were honored, too, for was it not their trade that meant the most?

Yet now the world had been dispelled by the drought.

II

She dressed and wrapped a coat around her and, taking up a stick, went out into the night. First along the planked street, and then off into its ending, and down a stair to the fields beyond. The road was there, a slight ways off. There was hardly a moon, and the darkness was thick, but growing thinner. She stumbled to the road and set out in truth.

The mountains rose, etched as a matter of edges on the dim sky. The trees appeared in strength, as she reached the edges of the farmland, the grazing meadows, and came in truth to where the town ended.

On she walked, stumbling sometimes in the muddling dark, off through the trees where the road lay. I am on the low road, she told herself, and a panic rose that fell away only when recalled herself to what it was she had to do.

I must tell him.

And a light came then behind her eyes as she saw once again the landscape of days gone. They were digging a tunnel, she and Pieter, beginning in the hidden center of a bush, and passing away down into the cellar of Pieter’s father’s house.

Pieter was standing by the bush and calling to her. She held a spade in her hand.

—Elsbeth, he said. Come now, there’s little time.

Elsbeth shook her head. The sun was rising. Had she been asleep? The sun was rising, setting the dark aside in the eastern reaches of the sky. She thought she saw movement in the trees. Was it a man? First behind one tree, then out from behind a farther tree. She was sure of it.

Fifteen miles. Fifteen miles she’d walked and now the sun was rising. She was out beyond where anyone had business going, out beyond where anyone had gone. The road rose. She looked over her shoulder, but could see no more motion in the woods. Just the rattling of birds, the stirring of insects.

The road rose and fell away down down down a long slope. The trees seemed to overtake the road on both sides, and the wood grew thicker and thicker as her eye passed farther into the distance. Yet there the road was again, and again, winking at turns.

And there, away on the right, a hill, and on the hill, a house.

—Pieter Emily, she said. And she set off again.

  *       *       *

The house was simply built but strong, thick wooden beams all around, and a thatched roof of the old sort. There were many narrow windows all around, and a door set in the ground that must lead to a cellar.

On the step at the front, a man was sitting.

—Elsbeth, he said. You’ve come.

How he could have passed so many years without changing, she couldn’t say, but it was true. She knew him immediately and completely. His eyes were narrow and gray. His face was thin and young. His hair fell wild from his head. He wore a simple coat, simple trousers and boots. He was not tall, he’d never been tall. He looked young at first, but there was something old, too, something old and far that rose in him when he came to his feet.

—Pieter, she said. They are going to come for you.

He shrugged and looked away west.

—Will you come in?

Then up the steps and through the open door.

Shall I describe the fineness of Pieter’s little house? The walls were thick, with beds and cupboards, shelves and chairs, even a table all inset. The narrow windows drove the light like lace here and there patterned on each opposite wall, so that the house was strung through with a mist of sun.

Pieter lit the stove at the room’s center, and set water to boil.

—Sit now, he said. For it is no short way you’ve come.

—There’s been a meeting. They will come here, I don’t know when. They know you’re here now.

Her voice was full of concern.

—It is kind, he said, for you to worry, but let us speak of it no more.

And he set before her a basket of flat cornbread.

—We are old friends, he said, come together again. Let us speak of gladder things.

Elsbeth rose and crossed the room. Here and there were hung tools and devices. A long axe, a lantern, a drawknife, a pair of gloves that would cover the arm up to the shoulder.

And set upon a shelf, the green book.

She took it up. The cover was thick, the book was like a flat tablet, for it enclosed only three leafs within.

Pieter poured the water into a tea-pot, and brought out two thin porcelain cups.

—Where did you get all these things? You did not return to the town.

—Where did I get all these things? asked Pieter, lifting a saucer. It has been a very long time I have lived here alone, with no use for porcelain.

His eyes looked out as if through the wall.

—I will tell you a story, he said. A dog passes along the street. It sees a child. The child turns and looks in through a window, seeing a woman. The woman cuts herself with the sharp arm of a scissor, and cursing the scissor, sees her husband on a ladder at the far window, sees him and watches as a wind rises suddenly, inexplicably, and casts him off the ladder down into the street where the first person to reach him finds him dead.

Elsbeth narrowed her eyes.

—What do you mean?

—I will tell you a story, he said. A bird circles in the air, and sees with its length of sight a child crossing a stream, hopping from stone to stone. Someone is calling to the child, calling it back, but it reaches the far side, a field of tall grass. In a moment the grass is turned and grows into the shapes of some procession, a vast procession of dancing shapes that overtake the child and carries it away deeper and deeper into the field, until the procession vanishes and the grass is as it was, grass, standing grass, and the child is gone.

—I have been so long here, he said. With no one to speak to.

Elsbeth poured the tea, and tasted the cornbread. She finished the first and took another. Pieter smiled.

—What is that? Elsbeth asked.

For set in one wall there was a tiny bed, three feet long and two feet wide. It was made up with a quilt and a pillow, and even a small doll of rope and feathers lay on one side.

—There was a little boy, said Pieter, and he was born in the town. I came one day, keeping to the sides of things so no one could see me. I felt that if I brought the boy away with me, I could raise him as well as anyone. This was ten years ago.

—Cameron’s child? exclaimed Elsbeth. Mora Cameron’s child.

—I took him, I crept in the house and took him and carried him away. He was just born then, and I raised him myself. I took him everywhere with me through the wood, and carried him on my back. I taught him the songs of the morning, the long tales of night. I raised him as well as anyone could, as well as anyone. And he slept here, in the wall opposite my bed, where I could look in the night and see that all was well.

—But where is he? asked Elsbeth.

Pieter stood and a shadow passed over his face.

—He grew sick, he grew sick one day, and there was nothing could be done. He was dead by nightfall. I buried him out on the hill, with a stone for a pillow, and a name scriven on the stone and set beneath the ground.

—There was grief too in the town, when the child disappeared, said Elsbeth.

Pieter looked up and an unpleasant smile grew on his face.

—I think less of grief in the town, he said. Shall I tell you another story? A man goes walking in the woods and he meets another man, who he vaguely knows. He is guarded in his manner, perhaps even frightened. He has a weapon of some kind in his coat. He longs to have it in his hand, but there is no time for that, the strange man would see him reaching in his coat, would wonder why. And so they stand there talking and talking. I must get back to the farm, says the man. There is much work to be done. But the strange man lifts his hand. No, he says. No. No work now to be done, but you shall come walking with me. And so the men go walking further and further into the wood, and the wood changes. It changes from being of this year to being of another year, of no year. Do not leave me here, says the one. For I do not know the way back. But already the other is gone.

Elsbeth drank from her cup and the tea was hot and filled her with the far scent of oaks and trees in the deep wood.

She felt at once glad and safe, and also as if standing on a thin rope high above a flat country.

What am I doing here? she asked herself.

—I am sorry, she said, that I was no help to you when you fled the town. No one knew where you went, or even if you lived.

—Too long, he said. Too long ago to speak of.

—But they are speaking of it now in the town, said Elsbeth. They will come and take you. Don’t you understand? It’s not safe.

Pieter reached out his hand and touched her face.

—You can’t worry, not here.

And the worry fell away.

  *       *       *

THEN MANY THINGS BETWEEN THEM WERE SAID.

  *       *       *

Yes, in the day then there was the sitting in the house, the drinking of tea. There was the telling of stories, Elsbeth telling of her life, Pieter telling of his. There was the rising up, the out-of-doors, a walking in the woods.

—I was weaving, said Elsbeth, one day, a bolt of cloth, and there was no red in the thread, none at all, yet again and again, a red shape grew on the loom, small, here and there.

—I dreamt once, said Elsbeth, of a sea at the bottom of which our country lies. Those who live above take boats upon the sea and wonder at its depth, a depth so inconceivable that they dare not attempt it. They have myths and stories about the sea floor, but they know nothing of it. And here we think ourselves upon the highest plane, yet we stand only between things. There are seas here beyond the plains, and lands in the depths of those seas, just as we may look up through the slanting light and see the passing of ships in the heights of the sky.

—Have you, asked Pieter, seen this passing of ships?

—I have not, said Elsbeth.

  *       *       *

—I have killed men, you know. Other than the two for which I fled. I have made the woods my own, and when others come there, I have come upon them and taken them, as I choose. I take animals in the woods, and I use their flesh for my table, their skins for clothing. I use their teeth for tools, their bones to build fences. When I have killed, I make a pile of stones, a cairn, and I set in my memory who it was, what it was that died there and how. My mind is shaped like a map of these cairns. My geography is the laying out of a great flatness peopled with cairns. One a bird, one a farmer, one a girl, one a deer. There are hundred, hundreds in the woods, for I have gone far and with great weight in my hands.

—There have been, said Elsbeth, some lost from the village, and no one knowing why.

But she did not feel any fear.

—Are you not afraid of me? asked Pieter.

—I am not afraid, said Elsbeth, not of you.

  *       *       *

—Whether there is a name put to a place or not, still a place has a name, said Elsbeth. What do you call this place, or if you call it nothing, what does it call itself?

—I began, said Pieter, by walking around it twice. I began by discovering a place for a hidden field, a kind situation for animals. I began with winter here, and then spring, then summer, then fall, then winter again. But I did not think to name it until my house had stood full ten years with no visitor.

Elsbeth smiled.

—That is a fine name, she said, House-Without-Visitors. But now there is a visitor.

—You are not a visitor, said Pieter. Nothing that’s mine is made without acquaintance of you.

  *       *       *

Then they stood by the stream at the foot of the hill, where the roots of Lochen trees ran like a bridge here and there over it, and Pieter had made a bed for fish catching with the hands.

There was silver moss there.

Beneath a tree some distance into the forest, she could see a pile of stones.

—Who was it, she asked, died there?

A hare, said Pieter, the father of hares, the son of hares, an old hare, far gone through life. I caught him with a string trap and killed him with a knife.

  *       *       *

—If I were to go first into a house of stone, and then into a house of wood, and then into a house of straw, and then into a bare roof set upon poles, and then to lie upon the empty ground beneath the sky with a blanket, and then even to cast the blanket aside and lie in the cold on the open ground, would you not think that I was making a grave for myself? For I can tell you that I have descended into what I am by throwing away the false edges of what I have been told. As I passed from house to house, the stone walls stayed with me, the wood supports, the pounded clay ground, the blankets, yet I threw them away. Everything you dismiss that is of use stays in the language of your hands. But I have seen your weaving, and I know you know the language of hands.

Elsbeth smiled and opened her hands looking down over them. They were thin hands with long fingers.

She thought of the darting shuttle that was so fine to hold, and of her shop as it stood now, empty in the town. There would have been no one to unlock it in the morning. Her workers would have come and gone. Someone would have called at her house, and found her absent. Catha would be wondering, where might she have gone. And there would be no answer. In the town there was no other place to have gone, nowhere verging into infinity, no place where one could not be found. Would eyes turn westward, to the wood, to the low road? They would not. No one thought of going on the low road. Only Catha might think she had done it, and she would tell no one.

  *       *       *

—How is it that you live? asked Elsbeth. By hunting?

—I keep animals, and a field. I hunt in the long days, and sometimes at night. What you must understand is that when a person lives alone and sees no one, time is not like it is for others. There is so much time, so much time in the day I can’t tell you. I have lived whole seasons in a single afternoon. What can be done in a day can be years and years of work, and in thinking, the end can truly never come. I have sat staring in a pool of water for weeks, and risen, half dead, but thinking only longer on the thought I found in the depths. I have dreamt at night of lives unlived in which I lived, in which I was born and lived full fifty years, sixty years, seventy years before dying and waking back into this life. What wisdom comes from such experience? What light trails back through these thrown-open windows? I become more and more as the objects of my alone-ness grow into extensions of my living.

—And west? Have you gone west? asked Elsbeth.

—I have, said Pieter, and he would say no more.

  *       *       *

—Stay here awhile, said Pieter, for I must fetch our supper.

—But I am not staying, said Elsbeth. I must return to town.

—You can stay for supper, said Pieter. You must.

And Elsbeth nodded in spite of herself.

When he was gone, she looked furiously around herself. Why had she agreed? She would leave a note, saying she had gone, saying she had had to go.

But there was no paper to be found save in books. And Elsbeth would not write in a book.

She walked about the house. There was another room, she noticed, at the house’s back. She tried the door, but it was locked. She pushed against it, but it wouldn’t give.

I wonder, she thought, what could be in this room? For the house as it was was stocked with all that Pieter might need, and his bed was in the one room, his table, his tools. What could be in the spare room?

But the lock would not turn.

  *       *       *

She saw that a bird was at the window. She went to the window, and opened it, and the bird did not fly away, but stood quietly, peering at her.

—What is it you want? asked Elsbeth.

She fetched a crumb of cornbread from the table and gave it to the bird. It took the crumb up in its beak and flew away.

What then could that mean? asked Elsbeth, and she sat out on the front steps in the posture she had seen Pieter assume as he waited for her.

An hour passed, and she felt her worry returning. She must get back to the town. This was no place for her. The man was mad. He must be mad. She would not be here when the town sent men for Pieter.

Up she got, and into the house. From her dress she tore a piece, and she wrote on it,

_______________________

Gone back to town. I will warn you before they come.


E.

_______________________

She owed him that much at least.

And then she was out the door and across the field and on the road where night came to join her.

  *       *       *

Back then by foot to wooden Firsk.

Pieter Emily continues here.

ball80.jpgJesse Ball (1978-) is a poet and and novelist. Novels: The Way Through Doors (Vintage), Samedi the Deafness (Vintage). Poetry/Prose: The Village on Horseback (Milkweed 2010), Vera & Linus (Nyhil), March Book (Grove). Drawings: Og svo kom nottin (Nyhil). Won the Plimpton Prize in 2008 for The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp & Carr. Assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

G

Editor’s Recommendation:

An Interview with Jesse Ball

Writer’s Recommendations:

The Book of the Courtier: Castiglione, Baldesar. 1528. Conversations about behavior. For those of you who don’t know how to behave…

Samurai Rebellion: Kobayashi, Masaki. 1967. With Toshiro Mifune. More about behavior, but this time with samurai swords.

Tous les matins du monde [Bande Originale du Film]: Savall, Jordi. 1991. If you spent a decade doing nothing but trying to find the saddest music, you would end up playing this on a record player in a broken down apartment.

Pieter Emily copyright 2009 by Jesse Ball

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One comment for Pieter Emily (Part 1 of 3)

  1. Comment by Jesse Terry Ellison on May 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Hogwarts is a technical school, if you think about it. Wizards are the HVAC repairmen of supreme beings.

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