Sunday, September 6, 2009

Imagining the Bones Discovery

Here’s an excerpt from Thirteen Bones, imagining the 1940 discovery of the cranium that may have been Earhart’s, at the Seven Site.

“Maybe there’ll be ai” Baiteke gasped hopefully, slashing at a wall of mao.

Keaki grunted, and fell to considering coconut crabs, why they congregated in some places and not others, their relative scarcity and shyness near the village, how much his father liked them and how he, on the other hand, had eaten about as many as he cared to, ever. Musing, he slashed down a curtain of mao and stepped into a clearing. And stopped so abruptly that Baiteke ran into him.

“Ow! Did you decide to stop and shit?”

Keaki put out his arm to stop Baiteke from blundering into the clearing. Pointed.

The mao had ended because the kanawa grove was beginning, its canopy depriving the shrubs of sun. The relatively clear ground ahead was shady and rather gray compared to the brilliant green of the mao thicket. The land under the big trees sloped sharply upward – the inland slope of the surge ridge. At the foot of the slope, directly in front of them not ten feet ahead, lying on its side looking at them with big vacant eye sockets, was a very round, very white skull.

“Is it – a person?” Baiteke whispered.

“I think so.”


“I don’t know, stupid!” Keaki stood transfixed, afraid to move or speak above a whisper for fear the thing would see him, hear him. Rise up out of the forest floor dragging its bones behind it, grinning like Teng Beiaruru on Moamoa’s moonlit bow, with finger bones reaching, grabbing….

Without another word, the boys turned back along their trail, first creeping silently, then running, jumping over stumps and piles of cuttings.

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