Excerpt from Whitefish Review #14, Hunger issue
By KATE EHRENBERGhe field sat nestled in the womb of jagged mountains, with just a rugged dirt road linking it to civilization. Trees had burned down years ago, but only someone who had been there at the time would know: wildflowers everywhere colored it in shades of dusk. A home went down with the trees. If one knew where to look, they could find smashed bits of china and a toppled chimney. The sky remained the pale grey of dawn, which reflected across the lake as the freshest of silvers. It was August 23rd.
A woman toddled into the scene, fresh from haring down the mountainside. Upon glimpsing the field she smiled a little, seeing not the wildflowers but the ghosts of trees. Her eyes contained the weight of gold. They were the only feature that she had kept since childhood. Her name was Elsie Frye. She understood the valley better than she understood any person. It was her home, and her grave.
Elsie slumped to the ground and sprawled on the grass, just as she had for years. The melancholy had yet to set in, and was, for now, eclipsed by beauty. She waited.
He would not come. Elsie knew he would not come. He was gone. How foolish of him to forget the solemn oaths of childhood. One could fly miles, scale mountains, and even traverse over the ramparts of Death in order to keep an engagement. They were to meet, on August 23rd, even when they were old, and especially when they were in danger of forgetting. The vow was notarized by the stars.
A pebble hit the window. Another followed, still insistently playful. “Elsie!” A whisper shot through the dark.
“I’m coming.” She pulled a sweater off the floor, and shoved it over her head. She jammed her feet into slippers, messily fixed her hair, and rushed outside, careful to shut the door quietly. Will grinned when he saw her.
“Are you escaping in that?”
“What else do I need?”
“A knapsack. Haven’t you ever run away before?”
He shook his head at her innocence. “I’ll come with you and show you how it’s done.”
They entered the kitchen, and started packing the essentials: two cans of beans, matches, toothpaste, crackers, and a spoon. Elsie insisted on a hairbrush and ribbons. He showed her how to tie her things nicely in her favorite handkerchief, and then affix it to a stick that he had found outside. Elsie locked the door from the outside, careful to make sure that no one would be able to ruin her escape. She pocketed the key and was ready.
The two traipsed along, giggling in the moonlight. They felt older than ever before. Their furtiveness made them like all the characters in books, who did rebellious things and lived grand lives. The moon watched them pensively, pitying their youth.
“Aren’t you glad to see the world?” Will asked.
“Is it true that shops have candy in every color on the other side of the mountain?”
“Buckets of it! They even have silk imported all the way from Paris—do you know where Paris is?”
“Of course,” she lied. She had heard of Paris constantly, and assumed that it was the loveliest place in the world. “How big is the world?” she asked.
“Not nearly big enough for the two of us, that’s for sure. We’ll tour the whole thing in a day.”
“Then where will we go?”
“The stars, Elsie!”
She smiled. “We’ll have to come home every now and then so that my mother can do our mending. I can’t sew well enough for the two of us.”
Will scowled momentarily. “Why would you want to come back here?”
“It’s my home!” Elsie said, scandalized. “I need to be here for August. It’s when the air is sweetest.”
“I’ll give you twenty-three days in August. You can come home on the first day, and on the twenty-third I’ll come back for you. I don’t want to hear that you’ve lost interest in the stars, either. On the twenty-third day, you have to be able to say goodbye.”
Read the rest of the story in Whitefish Review, Volume 7, issue 2.
Kate Ehrenberg is a sophomore at Whitefish High School, and has loved writing since fifth grade. When not writing, she also enjoys singing, playing the piano, acting on stage, running and skiing. She was born in Whitefish and lives with her mom, her dog, Rocky, and two cats, named Barney and Buster.
Founded in 2007 by Brian Schott, Whitefish Review is a nationally acclaimed, nonprofit journal publishing the distinctive literature, art, and photography of mountain culture. The journal has featured famous authors like Tom Brokaw, John Irving, Terry Tempest Williams, William Kittredge, and Tim Cahill, while also discovering and launching promising young writers. Every issue features a younger writer chosen by the editors, as part of their mission to discover new writers in their formative years.
“One ordinary school day, while sitting in math class, I learned that a short story I had written was going to be published,” says Ehrenberg. “I refused to stop smiling for days. This is but a small example of how important Whitefish Review is in our community. Not only do they create an oasis of art and creativity, but they have also possibly changed my life. I am now a published author.”
“Kate reminded me of myself before my first public reading,” said author Tim Cahill, who was the featured author at the launch event for issue #14. “The only difference is that I was 29. I wish that I had had the opportunity to read before a largely adult audience at her age. Then again, I don’t believe I ever wrote anything as good as Kate’s story when I was 17. Perhaps I might have tried if the same opportunity was open to me then.”
Purchase Whitefish Review in local bookstores or order online at www.whitefishreview.org. Issue # 15, “The Fire Issue,” will be launched on June 6.