The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness
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105 pages

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“Two appealing short stories and an exquisite novella” about the relationship between humans and the natural world around them (Kirkus Reviews).

This is a “wondrous” (GQ) collection of short fiction exploring the subtle interplay between predator and prey, from “a literary titan” (The New York Times Book Review).
In the title story, a woman has returned to live on the west Texas ranch that has been in her family since Texas was a republic. Her mother, who died when she was a child, is buried there; the three men who raised her—her father, grandfather, and Old Chubb, a Mexican ranch hand—are gone; and her brother, like herself, is childless. Soon, all that will be left of the family is the land: “I suppose the land is all we will leave behind,” she reflects. “In that way it is both our parents and our children.”
Land is central to the other tales here as well. In The Myths of Bears, a man tracks his wife through a winter wilderness as she both lures and eludes him. And in Where the Sea Used to Be, an ancient ocean buried in the foothills of the Appalachians becomes a battleground for a young wildcat oilman and his aging mentor.
“Rick Bass is a force of nature. [This book] is a force of language. As a reader, a third thing comes to mind: gratitude for a good story that allows us to ponder what is above and what is below.” —Terry Tempest Williams
“What’s exhilarating about Rick Bass’s stories is that they show every hallmark of ‘the natural’—that lucid, free-flowing, particularly American talent whose voice we can hear in Twain, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway.” —Chicago Tribune



Publié par
Date de parution 30 septembre 1998
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780547346816
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Title Page
The Myths of Bears
Where the Sea Used to Be
The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness
Read More from Rick Bass
About the Author
Connect with HMH
First Mariner Books edition 1998 Copyright © 1997 by Rick Bass All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Bass, Rick, date. The sky, the stars, the wilderness / Rick Bass, p. cm. ISBN 0-395-71758-2 ISBN 0-395-92475-8 (pbk.) I. Tide. PS 3552. A 8213 S 5 1997 813'.54—dc21 97-24379 CIP

e ISBN 978-0-547-34681-6 v3.1216

“The Myths of Bears” was previouslypublished in the Southern Review. “Where the Sea Used to Be” waspreviously published in the Paris Review.
For Elizabeth, Mary Katherine, Lowry
I am grateful to my editors, Camille Hykes, Harry Foster, and Dorothy Henderson, to my typist, Angi Young, to Melodie Wertelet, for the book’s design, and to Russell Chatham, for the lovely painting. I am grateful to the editors of the Southern Review and the Paris Review for editing and publishing, respectively, “The Myths of Bears” and “Where the Sea Used to Be.” I am also grateful to the late J. Frank Dobie, Dick Holland, Neal Durando, and the Southwest Texas Writers Collection for help with “The Myths of Bears” and to Jerry Scoville for help with “The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness.” The characters and stories in this collection came from the imagination and do not represent any persons or incidents known to me.
The Myths of Bears
“In all that hardness and cruelty there is a knowledge to be gained, a necessary knowledge, acquired in the only way it can be, from close familiarity with the creatures hunted. A knowledge of blood, of sinew and gut; of the structure of joint and muscle, the shape of the skull, the angularity, the sharpness or roundness of nose and ears and lips and teeth. There is passion in the hand that pulls the pelt and strokes the fur, confident that it knows as second nature all the hinges and recesses of the animal body. But however close that familiarity, something is always withheld; the life of the animal remains other and beyond, never completely yielding all that it is.”
—John Haines, The Stars, the Snow, the Fire

T RAPPER IS SO OLD AND TIRED THAT EVERY AUGUST he just sits in the sun in front of his cabin with his head bowed, trying to gather up the last of it. A week of heat left, and then each day after will be cooler. He sits with his arms spread and tries to gather it all in, absorbing the vitamin D. Everything is draining from him. He used to love winter the most; now he tries only to stagger from August to August, crossing the months like steppingstones across a dangerous river.
Maybe the breadth of time he’s spent in the woods turned Trapper’s mind: his need to be versatile, to change with the seasons. Or maybe it’s the absence of cities, towns, or villages. It wasn’t something, though, that human contact could stave off in him, or else his wife would have kept it at bay. He wants her back worse than he ever wanted a pelt. Judith has been gone now almost a year.
She broke through the cabin’s small window on a January night during the wolf moon when Trapper was having one of his fits. At such times something wild enters him. Trapper is as pale as a snow lion. Judith came from Tucson, and was still brown ten years after she left. It was as though in Arizona she’d stored a lifetime of sun.
Judith has curved feet, like flippers. She’s six feet tall (Trapper is five-nine), and her shoe size is thirteen. Judith gets around in the snow well; the inward curve of her feet makes it so she doesn’t need snowshoes.
In Trapper’s nighttime fits, he imagines that he is a wolf, and that the other wolves in his pack have suddenly turned against him and set upon him with their teeth; he’s roused in bed to snarl and snap at everything in sight.
And then there are the daytime fits, when he imagines he has become someone else, in the manner of a snowshoe hare or ptarmigan, whose coat changes color with the seasons, and the deer and caribou, whose habits change; or the bear, who goes to sleep, falling down into that deep, silent place, beneath a dozen feet of snow, by January, where his brave heart beats once a minute—where everything’s very, very slow...
When Trapper would get that way— changed —he would turn to Judith and begin speaking in the third person, as if neither he nor she were there.
His eyes wouldn’t blink as he turned slowly to her to say, “Trapper says there is a storm coming,” or, “Trapper says there are too many wolves in the woods,” or, increasingly, “Trapper says he doesn’t feel good.”
Judith hated to leave him like that. When Trapper held his hands out in front of him they shook like leaves, and he was only thirty-five years old. Maybe his body would live forever, but his mind was going, and Judith was too smart to ride it to the end.
He had also begun to shake as he set his traps, fumbling with and bumping the hair triggers. Increasingly, he’d arrive home with crushed fingers.
“Trapper says he doesn’t know what’s happening,” he’d say, and Judith’s heart would flood away from her like loose water. She’d feel wicked about it, but she was changing, too—she could hear the distance calling her some nights, could see the northern lights whooshing and crackling so close as to seem just over the next ridge. She’d want to leave right then, right there. The northern lights, or something, were calling her name. Judith stayed as watch ful in bed as a cat, never sleeping now as the lights sprayed green and red beams across the dark sky: she was waiting, waiting for one more wolf fit. When it finally came, she would be up and through that small glass window.

Judith cut herself breaking through it—Trapper had barred the door to keep trouble out, she knew, though as Trapper grew sicker Judith had begun to imagine it was to keep her in—and he’d been able to track her a ways, following her blood. Howling as he went, he sounded like a wolf in his sadness. But Trapper had had to stop to pull on his snowshoes at their place by the door and in this span of time Judith drew still farther away from him. She had the advantage of speed, and she knew where she was going—up and over that northern ridge—while Trapper had to pause, going from track to track, blood spot to blood spot. A heavy snow was beginning to fall through the trees as if trying to wash away the moon, and Judith ran for the ridge with her fifty-yard head start, and then it was a hundred yards; Judith was crying, and tears were freezing on her cheek, but she knew she was now about two hundred and fifty yards away from him. She could barely hear his howls.
She crossed a creek, soaking her boots up over the ankle; she gasped, and clambered to the other side, and started up the ridge. He was the only one who had ever really loved her— her —with her big crooked feet. Faintly she could still hear him.
Her feet were numb from the creek but she moved on, the quick falling snow covering her tracks.
When Judith got up to the ridge, his howls were gone. She considered howling once, to let him know she was—what? all right? not angry? sad?—but instead she turned and went down the ridge, catching herself on the trunks of the trees when she tripped.
Judith ran all night to stay warm, floundering, heading for the north. She knew he’d figure she was headed to a town.
It was true she’d be safe in a town, because Trapper would never enter one to look for her, but he might go so far as to hang around on the outskirts, like an old lobo skulking around a campfire.
Judith didn’t miss the desert. Sometimes she did—in the spring usually—but right now she was thrilled to be half running, half swimming through rich deep snow. The sadness of her leaving him being transformed into the joy of freedom, and the joy of flight, too.
She imagined the sleeping bears beneath her. Her Uncle Harm had raised her in the desert outside Tucson and then she had taken up with Trapper when both she and Trapper were eighteen. Uncle Harm had been an old trapper and hunter and had tried to teach Trapper some things, but had not been entirely successful.
Another year and Judith and Trapper would’ve spent half their lives together.
It was delicious to swim through the snow.
The blizzard was a sign that she was meant to escape. A fool could have followed the swath of her tracks under normal conditions, but these weren’t normal conditions. This was the first night of her life.
It wasn’t about babies, or towns, or quilting bees. Domesticity. It wasn’t about flowers, or about the desert in spring. It might not have even been about his snarling fits, or his lonely, flat-eyed, “Trapper says” fits.
It was about those red and green rods streaking through the sky.
He was gone, Judith knew. It would be a luxury to feel sad about it. He’d been gone for years. If he’d been a deer or moose, elk or caribou—if he’d been prey instead of p

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