Roman, on the Damp Earth

Roman, on the Damp Earth

Roman kneels beside the razor wire, first photographing, then removing into a bag the bunch of coarse, dark hairs caught on the prick of it and yanked from the skin of a bear. He feels the dankness of early spring under his shirt. It is not cold, but he shivers a little. He jots his notes and wonders where the sun is and lifts his head high to sniff all around him and then he moves on, with the care of a scientist, with the attention of a bear.

The entire mountain is strung with a single strand of razor wire, circling its base. The strand parallels the ground about three feet high. Its purpose is to mark the passage of bears, to count and tally and chart and graph and figure, figure the movements and habits of bears. All this because the mountain has sprouted fifteen giant wind turbines. Roman hears them above him, incessant great scythes whock whock whocking heavy and sick sounding through the wet air. They never stop.

He walks. Tiny patches of snow still hide beneath upturned tree roots and under the lee side of rocks, cowering. Everything else is wet: The leaves covering the still dead earth, the tree bark, the rocks, the stumps where he might think about sitting if they weren’t so wet, everything. He finds another patch and performs his ritual. Then he straightens, sniffs and walks on.

He wears a green down vest over a dark-green wool coat. The forestry ball cap he should be wearing in stuck in the back of his pants, bill first in case he needs to slap it on, but on his head is a black wool watch cap, pulled down over his ears. He wears round glasses over a smallish, pointy nose. His beard is thick and black, as are his eyes, as is his hair.

Three miles in and exactly halfway around, the farthest point from roads and people and cell towers, he bends over the wire to examine a caught tuft of something. There are seven long blond hairs caught in the wire. On the tip of a point is a tiny dab of blood. He photographs it and puts it into a baggy and jots it down on his notepad. Then he sniffs the air.

This time, instead of the wet spring and animal; smells come to him: the distinct smell of All-Temperature Cheer, laundry detergent, like his mother used when he was growing up. It is too much. He drops to the ground and examines the tracks.

He follows them, the tracks of a booted woman going uphill. Her stride is short and quick, he knows this and he knows she is hurrying. The leaves are upturned, as if her feet slipped out. He finds another blood spot on a branch and figures out that she must have cut a finger on the wire.

She comes alive in Roman’s imagination, small and terrified, perhaps escaping an abusive husband, no boyfriend, a dangerous man but not to other men like Roman who, if necessary, could easily stand up to him. She is wearing good boots, but unused to them, a stranger to the wilderness, scared of bears. She is out of breath, maybe huffing up the mountain toward those terrible white monsters, the blades of civilization, where she hopes, maybe, to get cell phone reception so she can call for help.

Realizing she might need help. Roman hurries. Believing his own fantasy, even while he knows it is a fantasy, he looks over his shoulder for the angry boyfriend who now might be armed.

She stumbled. He can tell by the fresh earth, overturned by slipping hurrying feet. He hurries after in case she is growing weary. The sounds of the wind turbines grow now with each step, whocking through the air, cutting it in an unnatural way. Roman always thinks that propeller driven airplanes might sound like this without the engine noise masking the sound and then he is grateful for the engine noise.

He is getting a little winded himself! She must be very scared, he thinks. There is no other explanation for her moving so quickly. In a way, he loves her already, so desperate and helpless, so scared and alone on this lonely mountain.

As he approaches the first turbine tower, he sees her at the base of it, stretching her arm high and moving weirdly. He slows to a sneak and creeps closer.

Her long blond hair is sideways in the wind. She too is wearing a down vest. She is spray painting on the base of the tower. Roman moves ten yards to the north so he can read it.


Roman thinks about radioing in another vandalism from P.E.T.A. But then he remembers he loved her, if only briefly and without her knowledge. And in this dampness, on this earth, with bears and great scythes of power whock, whocking civilization into the future, with science and wind and nature herself standing watch; It’s enough. He turns back.

Roman, on the Damp Earth


Joined January 2008

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