As witnessed by Jenna Pitman
SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE. Here in Haven. And that something got to Kathy. Strong, impervious, above-it-all, Kathy. She's stronger than me and I admire that strength and cool detachment from the everyday life. It's a bastion of hope amid the tattered dreams of reality. We don't talk much but we worked together every day and we didn't really have to. A sharp nod here, a glance and shrug. We knew what the other was thinking.
Yesterday things changed, our pattern shifted. Rather than waiting in the third ring for me, a pack of dogs close at hand, Kathy was already hard at work when I made my way to the pit. Her body was quaking with a rage that was struggling to remain leashed. Each jab she made with the blade of the shovel spoke volumes for hampered violence begging for an outlet.
For a moment I considered asking what was wrong but I opted to say nothing, sensing a strong desire for privacy. We worked in silence. Not our usually, companionable silence, but a silence stretched uncomfortably by confusion and hostility.
Six hours later in the baking heat of the noon sun she finally spoke. She took a swig from our stale canteen, lack-luster sandwich held untouched in one hand. She was sitting across from me on a small mound, one leg cocked at the knee, the other stretched out before her, but she couldn't bring herself to look my in the eye. Instead she stared ahead at something only she could see.
"Harton cornered me after dinner," she began, "Wanted to know why I haven't been attending the bonfires these past few months."
"What did you say?"
She shrugged, "Not the truth, not all of it. That couldn't end well. I just told him that I wasn't aware that the bonfires had become mandatory. Told him I was tired, that I work hard every day and all I want to do at night is fall into bed."
A pause, I found myself really disliking where this conversation was going. "How did he take it?"
She grimaced and screwed up her face, pitching her voice insipidly high in a cruel imitation of the man, "'Some people might be getting the wrong idea, Kathrine. You don't talk to any of us all day, just that other pitter. Then at night you spurn us. Some could see that as a mite suspicious, some might even be offended. Bad things happen when one has no friends and no family. No one to stand up for them...'"
She lowered her head and shook it, no longer pretending to speak for him, just reiterating the message she had been given the night before, "He said that he's been hearing some rumors lately. Bad rumors, disturbing. Vicious things, rumors, he said. They have a way of getting out of hand and taking on a life of their own. What they leave in their wake can be unpleasant. They grow strongest in the absence of their subject and when there's no one around to vouch for the accused... then he just smiled... that horrible little smile of his, the one that makes you feel grimy for just looking at him and told me that he thought I understood. Said he wouldn't want anyone getting the wrong impression of me, not under the circumstances in which we are living. Then he told me he would help me put a stop to them if I would do him just one teensy favor..."
I didn't say anything, didn't ask what it was he wanted. I had an idea, and if she didn't do it he would come to me with a similar proposal. But what would happen in the meantime would be... I didn't want to think about it.
"I don't understand," she kept going, shaking now with fury, with fear, with indignation, "I'm not a part of that. I don't want to be anywhere near it. Why single me out?"
We both knew exactly why he'd chosen her. We both knew how dangerous this was. Neither of us felt like admitting it though. Not out loud.
"It doesn't seem fair," she began again, a strange glint sliding into her eye, "We fought so hard to survive and to hold on. We worked ourselves to the bones for Haven, to make it what it is, to give ourselves some place safe where we can live and grow. Then people like that can just take it all away. And for what? Some silly delusion of all encompassing power? We're all that's left, for Chrissakes! We don't even know what's going on out there! We're no better than Them. At least They can't be anything but selfish, it's what They are, They don't get a choice. We do and look at what we've done with it."
She bowed her head, "I'm sorry," and then was back to work. That was all until dusk. Then she looked at me, smiled sadly and said simply, "Good bye."
I wish it hadn't sounded so ominous.
photo: Donald Holman
photo: Donald Holman