Paradise, Farewell

Inspired by my sister’s prompt to write a story using the following words: adagio, skillet, hill, amazing, doughnut, lag, insulated, golden, uninspired, cage (any form of the words)

Sarah crouched down, looking over the many small items laid out on the cloth.  Beads, bits of pottery, stones, and other small and abundant pieces of antiquity.  One in particular caught her eye, a doughnut-shaped stone.  Her fingers traced its circle several times before one of the men, Renzo, picked it up.  He turned it over in his hands, brown with dirt and sun, before he set the stone into her palm.  It was heavier than it looked.  She held it up, smiling as the rays of the sun danced through the center.

“For you,” he said.  “A special gift before you leave us.”

A bright smile spread on her face and she gave him a hug.  Her father was still busy, hunched over his notebook, so she slipped it into her pocket and ran back into the tent. Among her collection of odds and ends she found a length of twine and looped it through the stone to form a pendant, then tied a knot in the other end and slipped it over her head and under her shirt. It felt cool against her chest.

Returning outside, she climbed the small hill to the south to get a better view of the excavation site, to cement it in her mind. The gridlines reminded her of a checker board, criss-crossing this way and that to help guide the archaeologists as they peeled back layers of history.  Each square was dug out with meticulous care, brush, trowel, and sieve in an adagio dance.

After three months here, it would be strange to go back home. School would feel like a cage; her senses locked up, dulled by the uniformity. None of her classmates would understand what it felt like to stand in the footprint of a house lived in two thousand years ago, insulated from time by a layer of ash and dust.

So many curiosities of times past had already been packaged and shipped off to the university where they would be cataloged and stored, or perhaps sent to museums to be put in uninspired displays on little white shelves as if they had not once been held and used.  But seeing the decayed remains of a wooden disk – carved like the sun and still holding to its golden overlay in places – could not compare to holding the pieces in your hand, turning them over and admiring the love that had gone into creating it.

Nothing at home could match the excitement of sleeping in a tent every night for a whole summer, swimming in blue-green waters as warm as a bath, or be more satisfying than a meal of fish caught that day and fried to perfection on the skillet.

Time had stopped here.  These months had been daily filled with new wonders and yet comforting familiarity, not the stagnancy of routine but the freshness of living without calendar or clock.  All she had to look forward to now was jet lag and the endless questions about her summer, most of which would be satisfied with the entirely unsatisfying answer of, “It was amazing.”

The real answers would have been uninteresting to most of the questioners.  The real answer was she would miss her father, and miss the others from the dig who had become her family, teaching and nurturing the ten-year-old in their midst.  There would be real pain from the invisible scar of parting this place, but the memories and knowledge she had gained would be with her forever.

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