The Soupster and his companion regard a woman.
Submitted By Nan Metashvili
A bemused out-of-season tourist was wandering around town. She had made it as far as Totem Park and was enthralled with the eerie images high atop the poles. That looks like a Raven, she thought with awe, glancing from the carved image atop a pole, to the shiny black bird hopping around in the branches above her, and making sonorous clonking calls. The light rain did not seem to bother the tourist and the lack of any other people around also pleased her.
As she strolled – following her local Japanese custom of “forest bathing” – her worries eased and a feeling of contentment and rightness dawned. Yes, the giant cedars were soothing and the chattering of Ravens made perfect sense.
Then she approached an open area, with signs explaining that it was the site of a great battle. Many years ago the Tlingit people, in their fort of young saplings, had fought against the Russian occupiers of their lands. A feeling of admiration and solidarity came over her as she read about Katlian and his battle against the foreign invaders. Her own people, the Ainu in the far north of Japan, had met with similar troubles.
But then out of the corner of her eye, she saw a strange little creature. Very strange. A creepy feeling started to rise up from her very kidneys, and little tingles of fear grew, like spiny prickles of sea urchins on bare feet. The creature seemed not quite human, with whiskers long as sorrow, a furry, pointy face and teeth as sharp as ignorance. It leered at her.
Fat rain filled clouds crossed the sky; it grew dark and she became more and more uneasy.
A soft chortle of laughter then caught her attention, and she turned to see two shadowy figures climbing up from the rocky beach to the path under the trees. “Psst! Nels!” called the Soupster, “is that a Kushtaka over there? Making funny faces at that poor lady who is getting worried?”
Rain drips on spruce boughs
Berry bushes wait for sun
The surf crashes on.
With easy laughter, the two waved at her, and although the rain then came, rather heavily, it seemed the air was lighter. She glanced back at the Kushtaka, which no longer seemed frightening. It seemed more like a rather special kind of sea creature, one with rich fur and incredible swimming skills. She even smiled at it, and it seemed to smile back.
With a loud caw, the nearby raven flew off. As it took flight, an ebony feather floated to the ground. Bending over to retrieve it, the tourist noticed that it had come to land beside a tiny carved star and a miniscule wooden dreidl. “Wā” she cried.
The soft laughter from the shades on the shore faded.
She stood in the rain holding the three gifts and commented to herself
“Sitka really is very peculiar little town, but I like it.”
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