Why does nobody remember her father? Ell will do anything for people to know who he was.
|"Do you remember my father?"|
After a pause: "Who was he?"
"He was Kam Taylorson. He was the tailor here for two score years and more."
Another pause. Longer, this time. "You must be confused, miss. There's no tailor here, nor has there been, for many a year."
"Don't worry then. Thank you for your time."
Ell Taylorson turned and strode out of the butcher's without waiting for a reply. As she crossed the dim threshold she shielded her eyes from the lance of the morning sun, and entered the adjacent shop. There she found the haberdasher's assistant.
"Do you remember my father?"
The assistant looked up from the needles he was sorting by size and inspected her face closely. "No, looking by your face there, I don't think I do. What's his name?"
"Kam Taylorson. He was the tailor here for two score years and more."
The assistant laughed, and called to the haberdasher in the back. "Here Ern, there's a young lady looking for this fine town's tailor!"
A gruff voice came faintly back, retorting. "Tailor? What tailor, where does the young lady think she is? There sure ain't no tailor round here."
"Oh I was just about to tell her that Ern, just about to!" Lowering his voice: "No ma'am, I'm afraid there isn't a tailor here, nor has there been, not even in the last forty years."
"Thank you. Never mind." Again, Ell strode out, not pausing, heading towards the adjacent store.
Exiting the last house in the town, Ell raised her hand against the sun out of habit, only the sun had gone down, and the whole place was drenched in dusky twilight. She stood still for a moment, deciding her next move. Everybody had given her, more or less, the same response. No tailor here, nobody of that name. Nobody knew her father.
Ell started walking, if only so that she was going somewhere. Her feet soon began to take her in a familiar direction, one she should have expected. The wooden thatched houses began to thin, and the intermittent trees began to thicken. When she arrived at her destination, the clouds were tinged pink against an ultramarine sky, and everything was a silhouette. She was far away from the town's borders, and well into the woods. Nevertheless, the glow of the lanterns had guided her to the right place. It was the burial ground.
Ell walked past each richly decorated tree. Below each tree were the remains of the person named on the trunk. Here Erine Weft was woven into a sash, now threadbare and ragged, stretched around a thick oak. There was Old Ack Mason, the letters cut into a stone plaque left at the base of an ash. All were decorated, and the lanterns hanging from them were kept well lit. Respect for the tree was respect for the dead.
Here was Kam Taylorson. His name was scratched, rune-style, directly into the trunk. The tree, a yew, was bare save for these marks and a single iron lantern hanging from the lowest branch. There was no glass in it, and the candle within was melted and unlit. She bowed her head for several long moments, breathing in and out audibly. The sound dominated the silence around. Raising her head, Ell withdrew a match from her pocket, lighting the worn-out wick, and casting a dim light over the tree. The light exposed the whiteness inside the gouges of her father's name. The gouges were fresh, as was the dirt beneath Ell's feet.
A rustle behind Ell made her spin around. It was the gravekeeper.
"What you doing here at this time?"
"I only came to relight..." Ell trailed off as the gravekeeper walked closer, almost pushing her aside as he looked at the tree, mumbling to himself.
"Strange," he said. "I ain't seen this ol' beauty here before, has I? What's it say? Kam Taylorson... Well, I must've planted this here, otherwise how'd it get here? Strange, strange... Anyway, don't look like there's any trouble here." He turned away, and started to amble off. Ell called after him.
"Did you know him?" At this, the gravekeeper stopped in his tracks.
Ell didn't have a reply to this, so after a lengthy pause she bid the old gravekeeper goodnight. She waited until she couldn't hear his footsteps rustling the fallen leaves, then sat down to sleep at the old yew's roots, back against the trunk, where her father had been buried the week before.