International Writers Magazine: One day on the hill...
Raymond K. Clement
in the area where we live there are two hills known as the Twin
Peaks; so named long before the advent of the popular eighties
television show. They rise, mantled in a green cloak of pine and
evergreen, about fifteen hundred feet above the valley floor.
Looking from the south the one on the right is overgrown and appears
generally inaccessible. The one on the left is a different story.
A well-worn path
switch-backs its way to the top, past a picturesque set of waterfalls
that provide a daredevil ride in the summer for the kids, and a photo
opportunity for those hardy souls who climb up in the spring and winter.
Late summer, as the leaves begin to turn and fall approaches, is the
time to go to the top. There stands one of the most prolific and succulent
patches of blueberries in creation. Sweet, large, dark purple fruit
in such bounty that the blue of the berries rivals the green leaves
of the bushes. Sitting in one spot a person can eat his fill without
moving. The entire top is blanketed with low bushes that grow no higher
than a mans thigh. I doubt if there is a freezer at any home in
our small town that doesnt have a bag or two ready to be thawed
out on a cold January night, either to find their way into a blueberry
cobbler for dessert, or more likely into a rich batter for pancakes
in the morning.
With my wife carrying a good supply of plastic containers in her backpack
along with a light lunch, I hoisted our eighteen-month-old son into
his carrying pack on my back, and we started up the trail. We knew it
well and climbed quickly and silently up to the cutoff at the waterfalls
that signaled the steepest part of the climb. Gary was at his playful
best, covering my eyes with his hands, to see if I could stay on the
trail. I played around for a little while as he clapped his approval.
As we gained altitude, the trees began to thin out, giving way to stunted
ones and bushes as we reached the summit. There the blueberry patch
stretched out before us. It was a weekday and still early in the morning,
dew glistened on the shiny green leaves of the bushes. No one was about,
as I had suspected, and we headed for an area that we almost considered
our private preserve. It was just to the left of the crown and required
bushwhacking through some bracken and clamoring over some rocks to reach.
This assured its almost virgin condition. It appeared that no one had
been in it, and I examined the underside of the bushes revealing clusters
of ripe berries in almost unbelievable profusion.
"Look at these sweetheart, no one has, touched them." My son
was almost tipping me over as he stretched out trying to reach the berries.
"Hold on a minute, tiger." I freed him from the rig and he
trundled off to his mother.
The sky was a crystalline blue, not a cloud in sight. I spied a hawk
over to the right making large circles, looking for a late morning snack.
The town looked even more peaceful from this height than it did in reality.
Off to the west a tall plume of white smoke rose from the paper mill
that was the only reason for its existence. A slight breeze rustled
the bushes but beyond that, there wasnt a sound except our own
bustling about. Idyllic was the only adjective that applied.
June set to work unloading the plastic containers, giving one to Gary,
which he would dutifully fill after he had had his fill. I warned him,
needlessly, not to eat too many and get a tummy ache. He would eat too
many and complain all the way back down. I sat him down between June
and myself so we both could keep an eye on him. She was already busy
at work. Gary was at that stage, between walking and crawling. He could
go great distances in an incredibly short span of time; he required
My wife looked over at us, brushing back a strand of her long blond
hair and wordlessly smiled. I marveled at how she could pick without
eating as I sat on my haunches chomping on a mouthful, so juicy that
I had to wipe my mouth with the back of my hand as the purple liquid
ran down my chin. Our son mimicked my actions. He already had purple
hands, and juice all over his face. He scooted away through the bushes
towards his mother.
"Here comes a purple people eater, June." She hoisted him
in the air as I called out.
"Got him," she said as she set him back down and headed him
back in my direction. I did the same when he returned; this game went
on for a few minutes until he tired of it. As he went back and forth,
the only thing you could see was the top of his head and his brownish
blond hair as he scurried through the bushes. He stopped midway between
us to eat some more berries. I started filling one of those plastic
ice cream containers, eating more berries as I went. I chuckled to myself;
June would have both her men trekking back down the mountain complaining
We started earnestly to work, sort of, I knew that my wife would do
the majority of the berry picking; Gary and I were just along for the
heavy lifting, so to speak. We each entered our private
worlds as we gathered the fruit. Our son was busy babbling to himself.
My wife, her back to me, was busy with the tasked at hand. My thoughts
wandered to a tough little case that was on the front burner at the
office. I was the towns sole attorney. The matter in question
involved some renovations at the local Moose Club, and some serious
bill padding by the local contractor, who was also a Moose. Tempers
had flared, and; something caught the corner of my eye, and I quickly
turned my head to see the hawk I had seen earlier riding an updraft
high above the mountain. I wondered if they instinctively knew about
thermal air currents or was it a learned response.
I returned to the Moose case. A little altercation had broken out at
the club the other night; the police were called. Actually, they did
not have to be called, the two-man force was there . . . Suddenly I
was overtaken by a dark shadow, a warm wind rushed against my back and
neck, and I heard the strangest sound. All I could think of was that
it reminded me of the beating of a rug; flap, flap, flap.
To this very day, I cannot explain what happened next. I think about
it occasionally, but no satisfactory explanation of my response to the
situation has ever presented itself for I found myself hurtling through
the air to land athwart my son, arms and legs outspread. I felt something
brush against my head and I looked up to see a hawk or eagle, it was
so large, disappearing over the crest of the hill. Gary was frightened
for a second but thought Daddy had invented a new game, and then began
"June, June," I shouted in the stillness. "Did you see
it? Did you see it," I repeated.
"See what?" slightly exasperated that her thoughts and berry
picking had been interrupted. "And are you two playing games instead
of working?" She asked, seeing me straddling our son. All I could
say was "Forget it," but my heart was beating like a trip-hammer
as I picked up Gary in my arms. Neither of them had seen what I had
Much later I think I somewhat figured out what had happened.
The hawk, circling the mountaintop, must have spotted the golden brown
hair of my son bobbing and moving about beneath the bushes, probably
thought it was a rabbit, and dove for the kill. As large as the bird
was, or appeared, I seriously doubt that he could have lifted the child
off the ground. But the talons, they could have done serious damage.
They are designed to dig deeply into flesh securing a struggling, twisting
prey. I shudder to think what they could have done to my sons
head. My sudden appearance on the scene scared him off at the last moment.
I have never spoken of the incident. However, a week or so ago, as Gary
and I were enjoying some beer in the back yard, I told him the tale
as we looked up at the Twin Peaks in the lengthening afternoon shadows.
He was incredulous, but believed me because he remembered and thought
it a little strange that I never wanted to go berry picking on the Twin
Peaks, despite their reputation for the blueberry patch.
I have always wondered if it was just a flight of fancy; a passing cloud,
a warm sudden zephyr, and the bird just leaving after circling that
I juxtaposed in my mind. Perhaps it was my imagination. But there is
the sound I heard: the flap, flap, flap. And there is one more thing:
an odor, a strange musty smell that accompanied the sound and the shadow.
I have never encountered its like since.
I also have never returned to the top of that mountain.
© Raymond K Clement June 2006
Raymond K. Clement is all at sea
Raymond k Clement on Monhegan Island
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