This Gray Rock, Standing Tall

By James Van Pelt

Robinson Jeffers Hawk Tower, Tor House, Carmel, CA 2008 Photo by Celeste Davison (Public Domain).

Robinson Jeffers Hawk Tower, Tor House, Carmel, CA 2008 Photo by Celeste Davison (Public Domain).

“My dad and I used to drive this road, Pearce.”

The boy looked out the window at the forest rolling by without replying. He was almost fourteen. A music player sat in his lap, but he hadn’t put the ear buds in, so I thought he might be willing to talk.

“We’d drive from our house down to Aberdeen to pick up a load of stone for the project he was building in the woods. My mom called it ‘your father’s folly,’ or sometimes ‘the king’s folly.'”

He was facing away from me. If it weren’t for his fiddling with the ear bud plug, I might have thought he was asleep.

“You can’t see anything here, Robert,” he said. Pearce had never called me Dad or Father. It was always “Robert.”

When we drove in New Mexico, where he’d grown up, desert stretched for miles and miles. Here, in North-west Washington, the woods lined the road, turning it into a leafy corridor. I bit back a comment about the forest for the trees, and instead rolled down my window, flooding the car with Douglas fir odors and western red cedar and damp moss. Our suitcases sat on the back seat. Dad’s journals were among them, along with the poet Robinson Jeffers’ writings and a map. I’d bought a two-man tent, a pair of hiking shoes, a couple days’ supply of food, and rainwear. The sky was mostly clear, though, and the weather channel didn’t predict anything more than showers for the week.

We’d left Aberdeen an hour earlier. “Another ten minutes, and we’ll be there,” I said above the wind noise.

“How far away is the ocean?”

“Twenty miles west. Maybe we can go see it after we camp.”

“If you want.” I didn’t think he could sound less interested. “Why did Grandma call it ‘the king’s folly?’ Was Grandpa an Elvis freak?”

“No, it was a pet name, I guess. Did your mother tell you anything about him?” I’d probably talked way too much about my father to Pearce’s mother when we were married. Dad was often on my mind.

Pearce shook his head.

“She didn’t talk about him. She didn’t talk about you either.”

I flinched. Father died when I was twelve. He’d been sick for a while. Mom drove me to the hospital that last time and left me in the waiting room. The doctor had called, but Mom didn’t tell me why. When she came back to the waiting room, her face was calm, and the room smelled of bleached tile and fear. Her hands, though, were knotted together. “The king is dead,” she announced. “Your father was a king.”

I wasn’t surprised that my ex-wife hadn’t told him about his grandfather. That would involve acknowledging me, just as Pearce was barely acknowledging me now. Trees whipped past on both sides as we drove through the leafy hallway.

Dad wouldn’t talk as we bounced over the rutted dirt road that served as a quarter-mile driveway to our house. Then he would unload the truck, one fifty-pound, rough-cut block at a time. When I was older, I’d help hoist them onto the little trailer he’d hitched to our ATV. He grunted his approval the first time I put one on the trailer myself. Then he’d fire up the Honda’s engine and vanish up the narrow trail he’d hacked from the forest. He’d spend Saturday afternoon going back and forth, ferrying the stone from the house to his “project,” as he called it, in the woods, always alone. “You can’t go,” he’d said. Sometimes I’d sit on the porch and listen for him coming back. Early Sunday morning, he’d leave before Mom or I was awake, and not return until after sunset. Weekdays, after he’d come home from work, when it wasn’t raining too hard to negotiate his trail, he’d hop on the ATV and disappear for hours.

Pearce stared out the window at the wall of trees moving by. “Do people live here?”

“It’s mostly protected land. There’s resorts and private cabins.”

“I mean, did people use to live here? They’d have to be hunters. I don’t see farmland.”

“Lumberjacks. The logging industry used to be huge.” After that, I wasn’t sure what to say. Maybe Dad didn’t know what to say to me either.

Other than the drive to bring the rock home, and silent dinners where Dad would revise his drawings, making notes between bites, I don’t remember much about him. What I remember best was Mom’s fear. She didn’t like it when he left. She didn’t like it when it grew dark and he hadn’t returned. When I played in the back yard, where the giant trees marked the forest’s beginning a few feet away, she’d sit on the porch chair to watch. “You never know what’s out there,” she said. “There’s eyes on you all the time.” I wondered if she meant her or me.

The years after he retired were the worst. He started spending several days at the project at a time, only coming home to get supplies or to shower.

Mother, too, grew quiet. If they argued, or talked at all, it was after I’d fallen asleep, but I loved living in the house in the woods. I’d read somewhere that our valley received ten to twelve feet of rain a year. It rained often, and on those times where it rained day after day, Dad would labor in his workshop, grinding stones into shapes for arched windows and entrances. He kept the workshop locked. Just once, he let me sit on a tall three-legged stool, my elbows on his plans, studying the tower and parapet, hoping that he would take me to see it one day. He had designed walls, bridges and battlements, but mostly he focused on the tower. He circled the piece he was working on in red pencil on his diagram, then cut away excess material with a stone saw before finishing it with a grinder. “They’re diamond tipped blades, son,” he said, “and diamond dust is in the grinding discs.” He made me wear protective goggles before he turned on the machines. Sparks and sand flew in the roar.

The last words I remember my dad saying to me before he grew too sick to disappear into the woods happened on a Sunday morning when the skies opened up and the rain fell with a steady drum on our roof. We stood on the porch, watching the water pour in rivulets toward the stream. He put his rock-hardened hand on my shoulder and squeezed for a moment just warm and reassuring. “Let’s go in,” he said.

I turned the rental car off the highway and onto the graded dirt road. “This is it.” When I’d lived here, the road had been rougher. The truck bounded in and out of the ruts if it was dry or splashed mud when it was wet.

A rusted for-sale sign stood in my old house’s front yard. No drapes covered the windows, and when I cupped my hand over my eyes and pressed against the glass to peer inside, the rooms were empty.

The storage shed behind the house was empty too, but I could see Dad’s trail into the woods, a greener twin track among the ferns and rotting leaves. After walking just a few minutes up the overgrown path, my legs were soaked. Pushing back to the house through the waist-high plants, I wished that I’d packed long pants instead of just shorts. Sunlight caught water drops clinging to leaves everywhere I looked. Moist moldering log smells, and greenness growing and clinging filled the air.

“Why don’t you get the gear out,” I yelled back to Pearce. He was still in the car.

Although the house looked like it hadn’t been occupied for some time, the yard had been mowed recently. The realtor must have hired a service. I cleared leaves off the porch’s top step and sat. I’d loved this house. I’d lie in my room with the window open, even in winter when the temperature might hover near freezing. Other kids my age listened to their music or played video games, but I liked the forest sounds. Trees creaked. Leaves whispered. And almost always water dripped, dropping from branch to branch, vanishing into the ferns and moss that covered the ground. I wondered if Mom was right: were there eyes watching? Were they animal eyes or something else? What if there were mythological beings in the woods, I used to think. Our house could be on the edge of their country, but I never met them despite hiking for hours and hours, if you could call pushing through rain-soaked ferns and climbing over and through tangled deadfall “hiking.” Once, though, when I was eight, I followed a deer trail for hundreds of yards deeper into the woods than I had been before, and I thought I saw a face peering at me through a bush, a small, old face with leaves in its hair, but I blinked and it was gone. After searching for an hour, I walked back down the trail, twirling every few feet, convinced that it was behind me. I never found that trail again.

Pearce put the two backpacks next to the car. I resisted an urge to say something to him. Every move he made seemed against his will, as if he was both bored and irritated. I tried to remember being a teenager, but things were different for me. We’d moved after Dad died. It seemed like I was in grief all the time: grief for the dad I didn’t know and grief for the house I loved. I’d try to sleep in my unfamiliar bedroom in New Mexico with my eyes shut tight, thinking about my home in Washington.

Mornings opened to fog in the forest. Evenings closed to rain, and always there were water sounds: the tap, tap, tap against the windows; the gurgle in the gutters; the muttering creek babbled beside the house, like voices. When the sun fought through the clouds, the forest strained upward, glorious, green. From my window, vegetation rolled to the hilltop before folding into other hills. I imagined lost kingdoms beyond sight. Maybe just on the other side of the tree trunks and bushes, a woodsman looked out at me, like the one I thought I’d seen, or maybe a nymph or ogre, dressed in brown and green. Maybe those were the forest’s eyes, but they never frightened me like they did Mom.

“Are there bears?” said Pearce. He put his backpack on and adjusted the straps.

“Good chance.”

He looked nervously into the forest’s canopy. “Will we have to walk far?”

“A bit.” I wasn’t sure.

Dad’s map showed the trail heading in a north-easterly direction, but he hadn’t marked distances. He had taken about an hour between loads on Saturdays, so, figuring in the unloading time, the tower site probably was within a mile or two. If the trail was clear, we could do the walk in a half hour. Pearce stayed behind me. But soon the house vanished and vegetation pushed against my legs at every step. The map showed a squiggly line that wiggled around a long curve, like a question mark tilting sideways. Dad had identified whimsical landmarks along the way: “Contemplation of the Sword Point,” “Rock and Hawk Turn,” “Fire on the Hills Pitch,” and “The Bloody Sire Creek.” I recognized the titles from Jeffers’ poems in Dad’s place names.

I looked back. Pearce peered anxiously through the brush, as if he expected a bear to burst through any second. When I was young, sometimes, elk walked across the road. They appeared from the woods and disappeared into the woods. We used bear-proof trashcans, although I’d never seen a bear. But there were always birds. The birds today chirped and chattered and sang their familiar tunes.

“I don’t see a trail,” said Pearce. “There’s nothing out here.”

“Pearce, I had an animal coloring book a long time ago.” A branch, drooping with moss hung across our path, making me bend almost to the ground to get under it. “The book had a jungle scene in the middle. I colored all the other pages before I did that one because it didn’t interest me. Everything would be green, I thought, until I started coloring it and saw that among the branches and spread palm leaves animals peered out. Tigers, elephants, zebras, monkeys, macaws, snakes, a dozen faces. I think about the page whenever I believe I’ve seen everything there is to see.”

“There are no tigers or elephants in Washington,” he said.

“You mean no one has seen one. The absence of evidence is not evidence.”

He didn’t have a reply for that. The faint track led up the slope for a while, and I was too concerned about not slipping to talk.

In the last months, Dad had grown thin and frail. His face lost color, and red rimmed his eyes. He died in the hospital in Aberdeen when Mom and I weren’t there. I don’t know his final words. Certainly he didn’t pass a message on to me. Mom sold the house, and we moved to Sante Fe, where we lived until I graduated high school, enrolled in college. She met a stock broker, married him, and moved to Virginia.

The University of New Mexico gave me a teaching degree; I taught high school English in the school I’d graduated from for two years before marrying the school’s librarian, taught for five more years, then divorced. My wife and I decided on the divorce on Pearce’s first birthday.

The day she left, Pearce strapped into the baby seat among household goods and boxes of clothes, I sat on the single porch chair she’d left me, looking at the cactus and pale sand that was my front yard. Sante Fe seldom saw rain. Suddenly, I missed it.

Pearce stayed with me for three weeks each summer and with his mom all but every other weekend when I taught school. At first I’d asked him to call me dad, but he always called me “Robert,” as if our relationship didn’t exist for him. I was the adult he stayed with when he was away from his mother.

It wasn’t until this year, though, after I moved from my house that was way too big for just me, and too big even when Pearce was there, that I thought again about Dad’s project. Among the boxes I went through, trying to trim my belongings into a manageable bundle, I found one marked “Joel,” my father’s name. It was small box — originally it held four wine bottles — that had just enough room for a half dozen poetry books, all by Robinson Jeffers, a poet I didn’t know well (I taught Frost, Dickenson and Donne, at the high school), some journals written in my Dad’s illegible handwriting, papers rolled in a tube: his old plans for the folly he’d built in the woods — they unrolled stiffly, smelling like him — and a map.

I read the Jeffers books several times over the months since, thinking about Father reading the same works so many years ago, and I studied the map. Stonework fascinated the poet too. He hand built Hawk Tower with rock like a bit of a medieval castle by his home in California. I’d read that he made it as a gift for his wife, but I wondered what she thought of the obsession with stone.

The trail led upward between two tree trunks. The tree on the right had split down the middle so that one half leaned on the other, forming a giant, v-like gate. Branches creaked above as I walked through. Here, the twin tracks seemed clear for a few yards. Water burbled noisily ahead, and suddenly I was over a rivulet no more than a foot wide that rushed down the slope. My feet didn’t sink into the ground, and I realized I was crossing a small gray stone bridge wide enough for the ATV. I scrambled down the slope, almost sliding into the bubbling water. Here was the first sign of Dad’s handiwork. Bricks arched from one bank to the other, two feet above the stream at the highest point. Moss and lichen decorated the stone. The air smelled like greenness and moving water. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have missed the bridge. The structure appeared almost natural. It was hard to imagine my father building it, but I knew I was on the right path.

“Too many bugs,” said Pearce. He slung his backpack off, sat on the bridge’s edge with his feet dangling, and unzipped an outside pocket to find the mosquito repellant.

Sitting on the bank, resting on my backpack, I looked up through the trees at the sky. Through the tall branches’ frame, clouds slid by gracefully. Somewhere a woodpecker clattered against a tree. The water tumbling over roots and rocks covered other sounds. I understood why Dad spent so much time in the forest. I’d been walking a few minutes, but I might as well have been a thousand miles from civilization.

“It’s amazing,” I said.

Pearce looked around while smearing repellant on his neck. “What?”

“There’s this poet my dad used to like named Robinson Jeffers. He has a poem that talks about ‘divinely superfluous beauty.’ I think I know what he meant. It’s likely the last person to see this bit of forest was my dad, twenty years ago.” If I moved ten yards in any direction, the moss tendrils and soaring trees and roots stretching into the ground would be uniquely different, and the forest went for miles just like that, unseen, unappreciated, “superfluous.”

Pearce craned his neck, staring up in the forest’s canopy. “You can’t see the sky.”

When I turned from him to try to pick the path ahead, I felt isolated, but also in the world’s middle. All trees radiated from me. It was a weird feeling, like looking up from a funnel where the leaves and stems and long wood trunks leaned in my direction. My classroom and broken marriage seemed to belong to someone else, a former life. It took shaking my head and a good, long laugh to dispel the feeling.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, Pearce. A thought I had.”

Ten minutes later, we stood on the edge of a mini-ravine, where another creek chimed away unseen at the bottom, but there was no bridge here. A few broken bricks showed there had been a bridge at one point, and I could see where the bridge would have ended on the other side thirty feet away.

On my first step down, my foot slid off a hidden branch. I grasped at a bush, but came away with a leafy handful, flailing all the way to the bottom, sure that I would break a bone. I jarred to earth on my backside, one hand on a rotted log and the other up to my elbow in the startlingly cold stream. From my awkward position, I saw Dad’s map half way up the slope. Pearce forced aside some tangled leaves and branches. His face poked through like a pale balloon.

“Are you okay?”

“Maybe.” My back twinged as I retrieved the map. I knew that if I rested now, it would stiffen up.

The ravine’s steepness stymied me, so I pushed through the thick brush downstream until I came to a less difficult ascent, although it was all scrambling and crawling to the top. Pearce slid down the bottom, then dashed up the same route I’d taken in half the time. He grinned when he stood next to me. My hands were green with squashed ferns and crushed leaves as were my elbows and knees. The forest floor was clearer at the top, and I found Dad’s trail easily. On the map was a spot marked “Delusion of Saints Long Leap.” If the broken bridge was the long leap, then I’d covered about a quarter of the distance to his project, if he drew the map to scale that is.

One backpack strap had torn free from the pack when I’d fallen. Tying it to the aluminum frame meant that I could still wear the pack, but it rode unevenly on my hips. I kept my left hand behind me, giving the frame support. Several times we clambered over fallen trees that blocked the trail. It seemed as if there were as many trees lying down as there were upright. I pictured the forest’s life as the old trees grew brittle, rotten, and then collapsed, to be replaced by the new growth. I slid from a fallen tree to the forest floor, but the trail vanished on this side. Unmarked vegetation surrounded me. When I made it back to the trunk top, the trail to it was clear, the twin tracks my father had worn into the forest floor, but I could see nothing of the path on the other side.

“There should be elves,” said Pearce. “This looks like a fantasy place.”

I grunted, surprised he’d noticed. He was right, of course. The moss. The winding trail. The wood’s rustling isolation loosened the imagination. There could be elves or Big Foot or dinosaurs. Everything seemed possible now as it had seemed when I watched my father riding his ATV into the forest, pulling his stone. His ghost might even be waiting in the fog that rose each morning. How would I know? After all, he traveled this trail. Years and years ago, my father might have occupied this very spot.

I sat on the fallen trunk next to Pearce and smoothed the map on my leg. Pearce dug into his backpack and came out with a bag of peanuts mixed with raisins and M&Ms. He offered me a handful. I shook my head. The squiggly line Dad had drawn wasn’t six inches long, but it felt like we’d been struggling for hours. My watch battery must have died, because the face was blank. Although the shadows had lengthened, there were still hours until dusk. All the time in the world wouldn’t help if I was lost, though.

The water from my bottle was warm. I thought about my dad in this wilderness, if you could call it a wilderness when it was less than a mile away from a house with central air conditioning and a refrigerator that made ice cubes. Still, the woods felt primeval. This wasn’t an area that the timber industry had harvested like so much forest along the highway. There were signs next to the road that said, “This area was clear cut and replanted in 1980,” and all the trees were uniform in height. Stumps and broken splinters covered the recently clear cut land. Muddy pools stood in the tracks the heavy machinery left behind.

But this wood had never been clear cut. How had Dad made his way? The trail we’d already followed would have taken weeks and weeks to clear, and that wasn’t counting the stone bridges. When he’d been working on his project, the tree Pearce and I were sitting on must have been standing. It fell right across the trail, ending it, it seemed. I rested my chin in my palm, staring glumly into the pristine vegetation, thinking about turning back. I would have to climb down into the ravine again and hope that I could find an easy way to climb the other side. Aberdeen had several hotels. If we started back now, I could be showering the leafy stains off my hands and the pine smell from my hair in three hours. Explaining to Pearce that we were giving up bothered me, though. This trip was supposed to be a way for us to connect, a way to make up for the every other weekend schedule that had been our lives together for all these years. I was his father, and we were following my father’s trail. The line of descent would be clear, I thought, if he could see my father in his work. It would be clear to me.

My gaze had been resting on a fallen tree fifty feet away for several minutes before I realized that the middle had been cut from it, leaving a gap just big enough for an ATV. When we reached it, the trail was visible again, traversing the hillside, matching the left hand curve on the map. A few minutes later, and a hundred feet higher up the slope, a low wall reinforced the trail’s side, rising from the ground to three feet at the highest before sinking into the loam thirty feet later.

“This looks old,” said Pearce, “Like, you know, centuries.”

Lichen covered the stones, and they did look old.

More of Dad’s effort. Why here? Maybe the slope was unstable and he’d grown tired of remaking his road. Unlike the broken bridge, the stonework held strong. A Jeffers’ poem talked about making things from stone. He said, “Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you fore defeated challengers of oblivion.” Was Dad building a monument to himself in the forest? Was he challenging his own oblivion? Mom had said to me once, “Your Dad listens to a different clock than we do. He lives in another time.”

I ran my fingers across the lichen-covered rock, looking at the track that continued through the woods, a land of moss-draped verticals. Sunlight didn’t penetrate fully here, but the ground was rockier, less flora-clogged. We made good time, hiking for thirty minutes straight with obstacles no more challenging than an occasional tree trunk crossing the path. I kept my eyes down, focusing on Dad’s trail, the map jammed into my back pocket. Moss hung from every limb and grew from every surface. It was if I were a microbe crossing a green sponge with all its pits and crevices and water squeezing from every pore, until I followed the trail around a huge tree whose roots stood from the ground, leaving gaps between them big enough to hide in. For a moment, without warning, it rained. Water dripped from my hat’s brim, and then just as quickly the air cleared, letting the sun through.

I pushed a branch that crossed the trail aside and stood on an overlook. A small valley opened beneath me. Across the tree tops, my father’s project embraced the forest on the opposite slope, a glistening gray stone rampart, sixty yards across, encircling a somber tower that thrust skyward three stories tall. A wall clung to the tower’s left side. Ivy and moss traced patterns on the rampart, wall and tower, and it all seemed insufferably ancient, not just twenty years old, but as if the tower had been standing in the woods for a thousand years. From the tower’s top, a raven contemplated my son and me for a moment, then squawked as it took flight.

Pearce had fallen behind. He took a sharp breath when he joined me on the overlook. “No way,” he said.

So, this was my father’s obsession in the woods. I couldn’t take my eyes from it as I followed the trail down into the valley. Each step changed my perspective a bit, and the stoneworks grew larger and larger, until the scope became hard to grasp.

The gate opening in the outer wall arched ten-feet over my head. The wall itself was five or six feet thick, the cold, old stone rearing from the ferns and bushes. Inside the gate, in the courtyard, there was no breeze. The rampart cast a shadow that reached to the tower’s base. Oddly, the path to the door that matched the outer wall’s arch was clear. Father had laid a stone sidewalk. Lichen filled the cracks between the pavers, but no vines clung to the interior walls. No grasses pushed up between the stones.

I paused at the tower door. Although I stood in shade, sun glistened on the wet wall above me, and every dripping leaf sparkled in the slanting light. Light and dark contrasts hid the tower’s interior.

Pearce clapped a hand on my shoulder. I flinched. I’d almost forgotten he was with me. “Let’s go in,” he said, and the scene reeled before me in a powerful déjà vu, as if I were channeling my dad for a second, as if his hand were on my shoulder. For that instant, everything dropped away: the rental car we’d left behind, the empty house with its for-sale sign, the bad marriage memories and the father I didn’t know. I staggered a step until I caught myself against the stone doorway.

We stepped inside, and it was like putting my ear to a conch shell on the beach. Silence hissed against me. Windows cut in the tower let in light shafts that didn’t reach the floor. My eyes adjusted. The room was circular, maybe fifty feet across, and the floor was clean. No leaves or twigs, as if it had been swept. No dirt. Just smooth, tightly laid stone like the walk from the gate to the door. My steps echoed in the tall chamber.

“One man couldn’t have done all this,” said Pearce. “And this is way, way old.”

How could my father have constructed this much on weekends and after work? The persistence, the applied effort staggered me. Walls here were not a façade. They were thick, solid, heavy. He hauled every stone block from Aberdeen, loaded it onto the tiny trailer on the ATV, drove it into the woods, unloaded, and then placed each in its place. His hands had carried each piece. No part of the tower was not a part of his vision. It was magnificent. I trembled in disbelief.

A staircase spiraled around the inside wall, ascending the tower. My first steps felt other-worldly. I wondered if I could ever describe it, if I could make someone else feel the alien strangeness, my father’s folly, the castle in the woods.

The Olympic Rainforest reigns untouched. It swallows whatever is left in it. A wooden frame house doesn’t last a dozen years unattended. The water and the fog and fertile fury turns the forest over and over, kneading the landscape, remaking it, consuming itself and everything within it. Nothing lasts without care. My father’s long bridge had already fallen. Vines and lichens, trees and ferns should have overwhelmed his immense project, his gray stone folly. But the tower had a sense of permanence to it, as if it were a natural thing itself. Not a structure that had been built in the woods, but like an extension. An extra limb built from hand-tooled stone. As I rose higher and higher in the tower, I thought about the few memories I had of Dad: the times in the truck, the hunched concentration as he ground stone, his silence at the dinner table looking over his plans. Those would disappear when I died, but for now they were all I had. This tower, though, would stand after I was gone, after Pearce was gone, and maybe his child too.

At the stairs’ top, a doorway opened to a platform that overlooked the valley. I could see why Dad had chosen the spot. The setting sun approached the hills before me. Trees like green waves moved in the breeze that swept the air clean.

In the center rested a huge chair made from woven branches. The bark had been removed, and the wood was smooth, worked. I ran my fingers over the seat’s tight weave. Branches had been bent, shaping the arms, creating a high back. This was no remnant from my father twenty years ago. A chair like this would have to be made and remade. The wood was still green. It would have to be covered or stored to protect it from the fog and rain. Somebody had put the chair here. I wondered if the eyes in the forest had seen me coming. Did they see my fall in the ravine? Did they sweep the floors clean for my arrival? Were they coming up the stairs now?

Pearce stood at the parapet, overlooking the valley. “You can see everything here.” His voice trembled. “Father,” he said, “there are people.”

I sat in the chair, the throne, my feet brushing the ground, my arms strained too high to reach the arm rests comfortably. This gray rock, standing tall, had waited in the forest for me to find it, and whoever maintained the tower had been waiting too, waiting for me, and waiting for my son.

My dad was a king, I thought, and I had been a prince.

With no surprise, I nodded to the first creature who came through the platform door. He was small, dressed in green and brown, carrying a short bow. The little man took off his hat and stepped respectfully aside as the rest stepped onto the platform, the rainforest people, the ones who had been caring for the castle and made the throne. My dad’s people, and now, mine.

Pearce joined me by the monarch’s high seat. I reached out to touch his shoulder, this young prince, heir to the throne.

I nodded to the people. The king is dead, I thought. Long live the king.

compass rose

This Gray Rock, Standing Tall © 2014 James Van Pelt
Illustration: Robinson Jeffers Hawk Tower, Tor House, Carmel, CA
2008 Photo by Celeste Davison (Public Domain)