Indigo Sweetwater- S. B. Borgersen

Bio: Internationally published, S.B. Borgersen writes, knits socks, and walks her smashing dogs on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. Her favoured genres are short and micro fiction, and poetry. She has fourteen draft novellas gathering dust.  Sue’s collection of 150 micro fictions is to be published by Unsolicited Press in 2021.

The storm was forecast to rage for days. There was plenty of warning by officials but Indigo Sweetwater knew, long before the scientists and the hurricane centre, that this would be a big one. She knew when it would peak too. She was ready, but, not being one to panic, took her time, and after a week, gave in to the rising river. She left her trailer in the forest, followed the narrow path alongside the river until she reached the town and joined the rest of the community in the high school gym: the storm shelter.

There was a party atmosphere. It reminded her of the pow-wows of her youth when people sang about their lives, when there was laughter and the sharing of food and drink. And when stories were told. She remembered all of them in detail and often wondered about writing them down.

‘One day,’ she told herself, ‘one day.’ In the storm shelter, makeshift beds were put up in rows by the military. Indigo wondered if this was how Residential School was. She knew about the children being taken from their tribes and being placed in the boarding schools by government officials, where they were taught to forget their native cultures. She heard how badly they were treated and was glad those days were over; that time now was spent in healing the old wounds.

The winds reached 120 kms per hour on the final night. By dawn, the rain stopped and people walked out of the high school gym to get a feel for the conditions. Indigo breathed deeply and nodded. “It’s okay now, it’s over,” she told the people around her.

The official announcement came half an hour later: “You can go home, or at least, go see if you still have a home. Buses are laid on for you if you need them.”

Most of the town’s residents gathered their few possessions and pets and climbed into the old yellow school buses or hitched rides with neighbours. Not Indigo, she looked for her regular trail; the narrow path alongside the river.

She had her few belongings. She still wore the jeans and black t-shirt she’d had on when she’d left her home. She’d slept in them every night and couldn’t wait to change into fresh clothes. In hand-beaded moccasins, she picked her way between fallen trees, searching for her well-worn path. The path of her ancestors.

The land was changed; like entering a new world. Indigo recognised very little. Only the large granite rocks remained; trees lay fallen like pick-up sticks, their monstrous roots now vertical, heavy with earth and moss, tentacles reaching high into the grey sky like monsters from a movie.

‘This is worse than I thought,’ she muttered, climbing over the trees, cursing the thorns. Birds heralded her progress. Crows cawed like tuneless trombones, blue jays laughed like wicked crones, but the chickadees and chipmunks chirruped Indigo along her way, giving her assurance.

It took three hours of stumbling and picking through forest debris before Indigo reached the clearing where her trailer once stood. She’d had very little to start with. Now she could see she had nothing. Her walls lay flat on the ground. Fragments of furniture littered the area. Her treasured hand-beaded wall hanging — one her grandmother had given her — draped from a huckleberry bush. For the first time, Indigo’s eyes welled with tears.

In her hands, she scooped fresh clear water from the rapid river, splashed her face, then drank greedily. Compared to the bottled water that she’d been given in the shelter which had tasted like poison, this water was as sweet as ever. The pure taste told her not everything was lost.

She sat on a fallen tree trunk, looked around at the devastation and tried to gather her thoughts. She knew what her mother and her grandmother would have done in these circumstances. Indigo stood and looked with a new set of eyes. She wandered, looking at the giant tree roots, feeling them, marvelling at their enormity, at their intricacies, and how much of nature was normally unseen. She stepped through the forest, getting to know the new landscape, plucking the ripe blackberries that had survived the storm, gathering the chanterelle mushrooms that flourished beneath the young pines that were still standing. ‘I’ll need to set a rabbit snare, must have something to compliment the mushrooms,’ she told herself. Indigo rubbed the wild thyme through her fingers. She knew, at that moment, that she would survive.

She arrived at the biggest of the fallen trees, its roots spiralling high above some of the other treetops. ‘Grandfather’s tree. I am so sorry,’ she cried, this was the maple he had planted when a young boy, the tree he always sat beneath to sort out problems in his mind, and to talk with Indigo in the few years he’d had with her before his death. She gently stroked the fallen tree and picked at the moss and roots as a way to help her through the devastation. She cleaned the roots in respect for the giant living thing that was now dying, wondering if there was something from the tree she could plant, someway it could live on. She collected the winged seed and looked for small shoots to plant, gently picking through.

Then Indigo stopped. She felt something unnatural. It was a tin box. Buried under the giant maple, and now uprooted. She continued to pull at the earth and roots until the box was freed. It was not large, about the size of the salmon that leapt in the river. Indigo carried it back to her fallen tree trunk. It was not difficult to open, although locked, the hinges were rusted and the lid came away without effort.

The contents of the box were wrapped in cloth and parchment. There were papers, deeds, and it became quite clear: the land as far as the ridge was hers. That included the river and the mine. The gold in the box with the deed showed the quality of the mine. Indigo thought back to her grandmother’s saying, ‘Nature will always hold the answer.’

Indigo asked herself, was this purely coincidence, or was the storm supposed to be? Whatever it was, she knew her problems were solved.

Head held high, she walked back to the river she now knew carried her name, Sweetwater, and acknowledged the riches it held.

1 comment :

  1. Beautiful story, Sue. And told with your usual aplomb. Love the name, Indigo Sweetwater. This tale would translate very well into a film!


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