Dispatches

Take Me With You

By MARCIA DESANCTIS

Morocco

Morocco

An hour from Marrakesh, a car delivers my friend and me to Imlil for a day-hike in the High Atlas Mountains. Judging by the heavy-gauge North Face jacket and ice-climbing boots worn by our guide Abderrahim, it’s clear I’ve miscalculated trekking in Morocco in February. I scan the snowy peaks and wonder how I will fare in my paltry jacket and no hat. And there he is. He sits patiently, about five feet from me, looking timid and cold. His head tilts downward, and although there is no eye contact, I sense he knows I’m there. I’m overtaken by a swell of tenderness and yearning, and I say to my friend, “I think this guy just AirDropped me his heart.” 

DoostiTake Me With You
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Scratching Beneath Divinity

By HONOR MCELROY

tree in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It’s a conundrum—where to put the baby in the grime—how to remove him from his blanket and place him on anything in this room. This room is what my husband and I get for $99 a night on Trip Advisor at .2 miles from the Philadelphia airport. The hotel sits in a strangled urban desert—a place bereft of tree, water, flow—a sprawl of light and concrete. This is a hopeless place for trapped people, meant to curb the anxiety about the most unnatural of journeys.

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Trespasser’s Minutiae

By ANGELA CANNON-CROTHERS

finger lakes region

Finger Lakes Region, New York

I am a trespasser. It’s difficult not to be one when so much of the hills surrounding the Finger Lakes of New York are owned by so many, “somebody else’s.” Even the abandoned Tenny’s Farm, with its heaviness of barren barns and feral fields, is stitched with Posted signs. Nearly daily I hike, or ride my pony, along the top of Grimes Gully with its whispering waterfalls below, to the end of the the Old West Hollow Road: an echo of a carriage road overgrown and barely remembered. It’s not really the end though, it’s a path dismembered by a twelve-foot-high fence that surrounds hundreds of acres of private deer reserve. I press my face to the cold wire, longing for the wide trails that continue inside there. Just being here, though, I’ve passed numerous signs. I am trespassing.

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Riding with Wolfman

By LEATH TONINO

Sawatch Range of Colorado

 

I’d been backpacking solo for twenty days in the mountains of Colorado, only a biography of Mozart for company, when my feet finally got the message up to my thumb that they were tired—so blistered, and achy, and sun-deprived and tired. My thumb, being a crafty little digit, waited until the trail crossed a road, then sprang into action with all the springiness a thumb can muster. One minute I was a resolved nature pilgrim, the next a common drifter hitching a ride to junk food.

What pulled up beside me almost instantaneously was not so much a Suburban as a rumbling patchwork of rust and mismatched panels. The tailpipe, or the little left of it, screamed a warning of danger, but its cries fell on my feet’s deaf ears. I stepped to the lowered window, thinking of ice cream and nothing besides ice cream.

A grizzled man between the age of, say, twenty-five and sixty, with a voice probably twice as old, spoke through a cloud of smoke: “Don’t mind if I smoke, do you?” I took a moment to consult with Mozart, responded that it was fine by us, and got in. My chauffeur was shirtless and exceedingly wiry, tanned to a hue and texture reminiscent of the beef jerky I’d eaten for lunch. A wolf tattooed in blue ink snarled at me from his right bicep.

“I really appreciate the ride,” I said, searching for a safety belt that did not exist. The Wolfman started to speak but his response got lost in a lengthy hacking session. It soon became apparent that the fuming pipe in his hand—the hand that he also shifted, steered, and adjusted the radio with—was not filled with tobacco but something green that smelled of Mephitis mephitis, the striped skunk. “I’m heading into town to get some more,” he said, broken glass and barbed wire in his throat. “I’m a miner”—I could’ve sworn he said sinner—“and I spend a week or two at a time working my claim on the mountain.” He paused to spit a brown gob out the window. “You wouldn’t believe it by looking at me, but I got a Benz in the shop.”

I said that he was right, I did not believe, which made him laugh, which made him cough. “For real,” he said. “I’m a millionaire.” I could hear Mozart snickering from inside my pack. “A millionaire,” he repeated, tossing in a few curse words for emphasis.

The Wolfman and I cruised aimlessly for an hour, poking up random driveways in search of nice views, the Suburban breaking down for a short while in front of a McMansion. The story went that a year ago he’d been prying at a seam in an alpine crag with a huge steel bar when out popped North America’s largest aquamarine specimen. Actually, the popping took three days and nights of hard work, to which the muscle beneath the wolf tattoo attested. The way he talked about the gem made me think he hadn’t been around women in a while—maybe he was in fact a mountain-dwelling mine-hermit, lusty for precious stones? As for his tax bracket, that was none of my business.

When we parted ways at a gas station an hour before sunset, I thanked him, to which he hacked and spat. It might have been a lonely three weeks on the trail talking, but the Wolfman struck me as one of the kindest fellows I’d met in years of travelling. In his knowledge of the high mountains and his commitment to vigorous physical labor, not to mention his generosity and good humor, he was in fact a kind of personal hero. Of course, my tired feet and crafty thumb couldn’t say enough good things about him and his vehicle. As he prepared to pull away I thanked him again—for the ride, the story, and the smoke, which, of course, I did not inhale and only accepted out of courtesy.

Sitting on the gas station curb that evening, Wolfgang Amadeus by my side, the two of us covered in Klondike Bar and the day’s fading light, I couldn’t know that years later, wandering one of our country’s premiere natural history museums, I’d come upon a hunk of feldspar the size of a stout man’s torso—a hunk of feldspar bristling with one hundred aquamarine crystals. Nor did I have any inkling that beside the phenomenal specimen a video would be playing in which a handsome, clean-cut gentleman in a purple polo shirt describes how, through hard labor and perseverance, he came to unearth a near-priceless buried treasure. I couldn’t know that I would stand there, staring, stupefied, caught by memory and the wild gaze of a snarling blue wolf.

 

Leath Tonino is a freelance writer. His prose and poetry appear in Orion, The Sun, Outside, New England Review, Tricycle, and Utne Reader, among others. The Animal 1,000 Miles Long, a book of his essays, will be released this coming summer.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons user Ken Lund.

Flavia MartinezRiding with Wolfman
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Me Matas, Te Mato

By AMANDA GOMEZ

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

San Luis de la Paz, Mexico

I. Ver

We stayed with your mother in a tenement made of metal and painted stucco during the high holy days of August, the little chapel of La Virgencita a vision from our bedroom window. Flanked by powerlines and pigeons, its white façade projecting shadows on pedestrians as they strolled past. Each day we woke before dawn to sip bitter coffee and watch men in stiff robes ring the chapel bells, tracking their steps as they ascended the tower. Together they tugged the ropes to rouse the townspeople—to check they were alive.

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Ireland’s Forgotten Borderlands

By ANNABEL BARRY

County Donegal, Ireland

On my final day in Derry, a city barely inside the northwest edge of Northern Ireland, I hired a taxi to drive me past the city’s boundaries and across the United Kingdom’s border. Through the window, the Republic of Ireland was all endless rows of barley like coiled rosary beads. I wanted to see the Grianan of Aileach, a stone ringfort originally built almost fifteen hundred years ago by the Celtic king who then ruled Donegal’s hills.

Emma CroweIreland’s Forgotten Borderlands
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Winterscape

By AMANDA GIBSON

Winterscape

The day is drab and cloud-soaked, the sky a quilt of gray. I take the dog to walk on a path beneath the power lines near our house. Although it’s the first of February, there’s no snow. Everywhere I see brown, tan, dull green. Overhead the lines buzz and pop, the towers that carry them straddling undulating hills.

Emma CroweWinterscape
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Charlottesville: A Nightmare Tableau

By ANDREW JOHNSON

Unitarian Congregation Protests White Nationalist Rally

You arrive at the scene to play your part. Actors fill the stage, bodies motionless.

Stage right: Metal barricades and a long row of riot shields outlined by helmets, batons, cans of pepper spray, guns. Bodies of men behind it all. One body stands atop a tank, bullhorn raised to his face.

Stage left: Costumes include robes, vestments, yarmulkes, collars, habits. Props include holy books, prayer beads. Arms are interlocked.

Emma CroweCharlottesville: A Nightmare Tableau
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Acid Raindrops

By JARED ALAN SMITH

Santiago, Chile

Soaked students trudge with their arms wrapped around one another, some toward their apartments to scrub the liquefied tear gas from their clothes, some to the nearby bars to wash away the stains they’ve gained on their souls. I am holding my weapon tight in both of my hands.

The wet warning shots have had the desired effect, dispersing a crowd that gathered in front of the Teatro Universidad de Chile to protest for the third time in as many days. A graying caribinero whistles low, and one of the stray puppers that roam the sidewalks of the Alameda runs up to nibble at some chorizo the green-clad cop produces from the pocket of his vest. I check my firing mechanism and center the old man in my crosshair. I can’t get a good shot; civilians in the way.

Emma CroweAcid Raindrops
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Wolf

By NATHANIEL VAN YPEREN

Columbus, Minnesota

 

I found myself holding the rear hooves of an upside-down, dead deer while a large, gray wolf paced a few feet away. It was a clear and cold afternoon, ten degrees above zero under a bright Minnesotan sun. We watched the wolf and the wolf watched us. Peggy turned and walked back to a truck piled high with roadkill. A dead calf, donated by a local farmer, peered out from among the tangle of wild limbs. A live rat terrier perched on top of the pile like a conquering queen. She licked at frozen blood.

I was with this wolf, and this woman, and this dog, because I was fixated on the wolf as a cultural symbol of villainy, of evil. I was writing a paper for an academic conference. Peggy reached her arm in among the bodies. “You know,” she called over her shoulder, “after all these years, we still prefer Chicago Cutlery®.” Her arm reappeared with a green-handled chef’s knife.

Madeline RuoffWolf
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