Treasure Island

Tsunami HiroshiSu

(September 15,1996 / Fort Collins, Colorado)

The Tale of Gilligan and Fletcher


Gilligan was grown on concrete and AstroTurf
Behind a chain link fence
Surrounded by brightly colored plastic toys
And fluorescent lights
He was allowed out only thirty minutes a day
His mother called him in
He turned away from the fence
His hand still lingering
Fingers through the links
His mother called again
He sighed and went inside
Casting his eyes back out over the too-sterile yard
He didn’t know what he was missing
He didn’t know that there was soil
Down there deep under ground
He only knew the green of the plastic grass
And the tiny squares of black rubber
That stuck to his knees when he sat down
His mother scolded him
Thought he would catch cold
It isn’t safe outside.
People get sick out there.
People who don’t have a warm house to go home to.
Gilligan was a musical prodigy
The piano was the adventure he couldn’t have outside
He didn’t need to think
He didn’t have to know how to play
It made no difference to him C major from A flat
He could close his eyes and stroke the keys
And a delicate tune would float up around him
Encasing him in joy and ecstasy
And never leaving the yard didn’t seem to matter any more
The ivory keys were all he needed
The AstroTurf was not
After all
Such a terrible replacement for grass

She lived and she died
In a mud spattered haze
Under dappled green light
And the songs of the frogs
She never went far
She just stayed by her trees
Those branches that sheltered her
Those trunks that warmed her
She never got cold
She had the earth and the trees
And even as she walked through crystalline snow
On silent feet
The chill never found her
She never got tired
The world slept for her
She drank up the light
She listened to the sounds the wood made around her
Her friends were the bears
The foxes
And the rabbits
The falcons
And owls
The deer
The wolves most of all
And she was happy

But one day she left the wood
She left its quiet solitude
She left her familiar sanctuary
She didn’t know why she did it
The wolves howled for her to come back
But she saw a light in the dark
A strange light that didn’t flicker
Didn’t smell like fire
And the concrete was colder to her feet than any snow
The world was stranger
The stars obscured
She wrapped her furs around her
Took a pine branch with her
To smell in this strange unpleasant world
To remind her of home
The animals were noisy and shiny
Everything was far too clean
And she didn’t know where she was

She came upon a chain link fence
The sun was just rising
A boy played in the unnatural-looking grass
She walked to him
The fence rising between them
He looked at her
Aren’t you cold?
He asked her
In a language long forgotten
Aren’t you lonely?
She wanted to ask him
Why do you hide in there when the woods are so near?
Are you a prisoner?
But he could not answer her in the voices of the wolves
My name is Gilligan.
He told her
She cocked an ear
Gilligan.
He pointed to himself
She smiled
Fletcher.
She touched her collar bone
He smiled too
Then Fletcher reached her hand through the fence
She offered him the pine bough
Gilligan took it
He smelled it
Eyes closed
A window to a world he had never known
Then a scream
And Gilligan whipped around
A woman stood in the doorway
Gesturing wildly
He looked back at Fletcher
Then hurried inside
His mother slammed the door
And Fletcher walked home
Through the newly awakened concrete city
Then her feet found the soil they so loved
Warm and alive
She whispered to the wolves about the boy whose name was
Gilligan

Gilligan played his piano
But today it did not have the same allure as before
There were people out there
People who were not shut up behind fences
People who had real trees
His mother had taken the pine bough and thrown it away
Living things carry diseases
But Gilligan’s mind was full of possibilities
Full of the promise of tomorrow
He had to find that scent again
Was this how the outdoors smelled?
He had to know
Had to find out

Fletcher hefted a slingshot
She would rescue him
The poor little boy
Whose eyes had closed at the scent of pine
The boy who never got to go outside
The boy trapped behind the fence
Gilligan
She pulled her hood over her face
She touched the trees for luck
Wiggled her toes against the ground
Ran light-footed back to the city

Night came like all nights come
Night found Gilligan sitting
Staring out his window
A tiny thing that didn’t open
Wondering if he would ever see the girl
Fletcher
Again
Then a pebble hit his window
Gilligan looked down
There she was
Fletcher
Clothed in the hides of what he could only assume were wild animals
She gestured for him to come out
He showed her the window could not open
She pointed to the door
Gilligan gulped but knew it was the only way
Through the silent house he stole
To the imposing, oak door
Where he threw the bolt and unlatched the door
His parents never thought that he would ever try to leave
Outside it was cold
Fletcher threw a fur around him
Helped him scale the fence
She dropped effortlessly to the other side beside him
Then they ran
Like Gilligan had never run before
A lung searing exertion his mother would not have approved of
Two children
Leaving the city
The wolves howling for their return to the woods
Everything was new
His feet were bare and the ground was rough
But warm
It was alive
The trees were huge scary as the old oak door
But kinder some how
Fletcher touched the trunks of each one as the pair scuttled past
The wolves were wild
Hairy and noisy
But they were afraid of him just as he was afraid of them
At the heart of the woods they stopped

It was there that they made their new life together
Fletcher taught the strange boy the ways of the wild
He learned to speak the words of the forest
He forgot his own language
He tried the roots and meat she stewed for him
He forgot about home
They lived for many years
Learning the forest
Learning each other
But winter came one year and it was cold
Colder by far than any year
A cold Fletcher didn’t feel
And one night as white feathers dusted the ground
Drifting up tree trunks
Piling up on branches
Gilligan began to cough
His nose grew red
He shivered uncontrollably
Fletcher gave him all of her furs
Her roots and her medicine
But he grew tired and pained
Dizzy and restless
He’d cry out in the night in the language he never taught her
Fletcher left him in the care of the wolves
She ran to the city
She needed a cure
No one understood her
No one understood that there was a little boy back there
In the woods
And he was dying
But then there was a building
Too white
Too sterile
Like Gilligan’s old house
There were women in white dresses
Pushing people about
They were all sick
This was a place for sick people
Fletcher ran home
She snatched up Gilligan
Carried him back through the snow and the cold
In the gathering dusk
Toward the white building that glowed
Falling to the ground just at the doorstep
Tired
Ever so tired
Of carrying Gilligan through the snow
They lay together
In the light of the hospital doors
Until a nurse found them

They said the girl was strange
Like no child they’d ever seen
Grown in the wild
Her eyes full of the forest
She wouldn’t eat their food
She wouldn’t stay inside
She insisted Gilligan was the one to take care of
She didn’t speak
Except sometimes
In the dead of night
To howl
To match the voices of the wolves
Gilligan grew better
His coughing eased
His sleep quieted

As Fletcher grew ever more restless
She longed for the sky
For the trees
And the wolves
And the soil beneath her feet
She longed for the hunt
For the smell of the pines
For the flicker of the campfire
But then she began to cough
Her throat like the rough bark of a ponderosa
Her chest ached
And chills shook her bones
The nurses locked her in a room and forced medications on her

And Gilligan was healed
He was allowed to leave
He went home to their forest and picked out a pine bough
He brought it back to Fletcher
Who inhaled it and closed her eyes
Then she fell into a fit of coughing
And the nurses took the pine away

Fletcher grew weaker and weaker
Gilligan stayed ever by her side
One night she whispered in the words of the wolves
Gilligan.
It’s time to go home.
Gilligan shook his head and squeezed her hand
You can’t, Fletch.
You’re sick.
You’ve got to stay here.
They’ll—
Then his voice broke with the lie
They’ll make you better.
Fletcher shook her head like the effort cost her the world
When I die I want to be in the forest.
With the wolves.
With you.
And so they escaped like they had so many years before
From the sterile confines of the hospital
Leaving the beeping machines empty like the bed
The IVs hanging alone and useless

The snow was long gone
The world beginning to thaw
The warmth coming back to the soil
Gilligan laid her beneath a tree
Where she could talk to the wolves
Where he could lie with her
And they spoke for a while
Of the sky
And the birds
Of the world just above them
She said she was glad he had rescued her
He said he was glad she had rescued him
Fletcher leaned back
Closed her eyes
Gilligan was holding her hand when she
Died

He kissed her forehead
Wetted her face with his tears
He howled with the wolves
And cursed the God who had taken her from him

He left her there beside the tree
In time she would become part of it
Part of the forest
She so loved
One day she would be part of a tree
That would shelter two children
As they went back to nature
Forgot about AstroTurf and concrete
Knew only the soil
The trees
The wolves
The wild

Gilligan went back to his house
Where his mother cried
And cursed him
And loved him
And cried some more
Made him promise he would never run away again
He promised
But he pulled up all the AstroTurf in the yard
He planted new trees
Let new plants run wild
Just the way Fletcher would have liked it
He took down the fence
He went back to his piano
He wrote songs for her
Wild and melancholy
Slow and beautiful
Elated and free
He went to a school to study music
A school far out of the city
Where he could see the endless sky
And he walked often in the woods nearby
And sometimes he would hear the wolves howling
Sometimes he would howl back
In the language he had never forgotten

He lived a long life
Full of music and love
Freedom
He spent every moment he could outside in the air
He lived far away from the place where he used to
But there were woods
And wolves
So it was good enough for him
His wife loved him very much
She loved the faraway look
The forest in his eyes
That never left as they grew older
But she too passed away
Like a candle flame
The grips of time still caught her
And he was alone again
But he was not sad
He was old too
He knew it was time to go
Time to follow her
Time to meet Fletcher again
His children were grown
It was time to go home

He walked back to the forest
On three legs where once he’d run on two
Where he had lived with Fletcher
He found the tree where she had lain
The tree that was now her
He sat down ever so slowly
His back stooped
His knees shrieked in pain
But he settled there beside where she had been
And he talked to her
Of the sky
And the birds
Of the world just above them
He said he was glad she had rescued him
Gilligan leaned back
Closed his eyes
No one was holding his hand when Gilligan
Died
But someone was waiting for him
When he
Arrived

Submitted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Edited: Thursday, October 24, 2013

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