Portfolio, R.

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Portfolio of Written Publications Rebekah White Current as of September 2012

Portfolio, R. White 2 Magical Kenya Published in Swara, July 2012 Rebekah White

A day of wandering through the small city of Karen, just outside of Nairobi, reveals a culture largely exploited by tourism. “Traditional” wares such as blankets and jewelry are sold at less than a thousand Kenyan shillings each (equating to less than ten US dollars). When I was visiting Kenya for a study abroad program through St. Lawrence University, a fellow student purchased an “authentic” and handmade Maasai sword. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the sword was, indeed, handmade, but it was created with a piece of molded sheet metal—metal that could have easily been part of a car’s bumper. It was not made of the obsidian that would have been used by traditional hunters. This false authenticity is everywhere because it is what tourists expect. It is easier to avoid the problems of the country and view it as a paradise when we’re delivered information that suggests just that. A flight on a Kenya Airways jet includes a streaming video of Maasai, dressed in traditional attire, smiling and dancing before the camera. These individuals were not just caught in the moment of intense jubilee. Rather, they have been paid to stand around in their traditional garb all day to promote “magical Kenya.” Magical Kenya is found not in what is bought in Kenya, but what is seen. My most prized possessions from my stay in Naivasha will not be the souvenirs or photographs I carry home. I value most the bus rides in and out of town, watching the cities and villages pass at a bumpy twenty miles an hour. It is only looking out a grimy bus window that I see the true people of Kenya. They aren’t trying to sell me things or to demonstrate their culture. They are walking to work, playing in the dust, tending their cattle. They are sometimes dirty and they are not always aesthetically beautiful. What is important is not always beautiful. Vultures, for example, are not generally as appreciated in Kenya as are birds such as the African fish eagle. Vultures are homely creatures. Yet they are crucial to ecosystems as recyclers of nutrients. They have a purpose, and they are part of what is natural. By only noting what is beautiful, it is easy to miss out on what is important, and what is real. I like to see Kenya as I imagine a bird flying overhead would see it: as a full image of both dark and light, not as fragmented bits and pieces of beautiful pictures. That is nature at its finest. The course I am enrolled in, “Conservation and the Media,” addresses the issues facing Kenya’s environment and how the media can broadcast these issues to the general public. These problems are not uncovered by looking at the lighter side of Kenya, or by strolling in the national parks. That is because nature is not solely found in the outdoors. It is in the innate behavior of others when they think we aren’t looking. A child throwing a stick at his brother in front of an acacia is just as natural as the hippopotami on Lake Naivasha. In this reality is magical Kenya. On the second day of our visit to Kenya, we visited Simon Thomsett, a lifelong resident of Kenya, who works to rehabilitate raptors in Naivasha. He appreciates the interest tourists have in his country, but told us, “I try to knock the awe out of visitors.” Kenya is not a place of perfection or a paradise. You can’t appreciate a country if you only see its beauty. You need the ugly for authenticity.

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Conservation in the Adirondacks—with the Help of a Smelly Frog Due for Publication in Adirondack Life, May 2013 Rebekah White I’m standing outside in a light drizzle, staring into what looks like a kiddie-sized swimming pool filled with detritus and algae. I can’t see through the murk to the bottom. An energetic scientist in hiking boots bounces from pool to pool, searching for frogs. Dr. David Patrick is a professor at Paul Smiths College and director of the Center for Adirondack Biodiversity. His most recent project utilizes these nine cleverly downplayed thousand gallon “cattle tanks”, each of which are inhabited by twenty mink frogs. While removing excess leaves from the pools, Patrick admits, “They like to hide on me.” This game of hide and go seek is nothing to new to Patrick and his team of five undergraduate students. With a research grant provided by the Northeastern States Research Consortium, and under the heading of the Center for Adirondack Biodiversity, the group spent the summer of 2011 searching Adirondack waters for these elusive amphibians. The frogs, Rana septentrionalis, are rarely seen, but often confused with their close relatives, green frogs. Sporting blotchy jackets of green and brown, both species are small, at around three inches long. The key to identification rests in differentiating spot patterns on the legs, and, of course, the smell. Mink frogs, in accordance with their namesake, give off a musky, “mink”-like odor when handled. Because little is known about mink frogs, much of the summer was spent in an attempt at figuring out the basics. “Our key questions were, where are they, and why? After that, we wanted to figure out if we could link water temperature to their growth and survival, anticipate where they were expected to be vulnerable, and how we could focus our conservation efforts.” This study fell perfectly within the mission of the Center for Adirondack Biodiversity. The Center, launched in 2009 by Paul Smiths College, collaborates with other organizations to research and record the plant and animal life within the Adirondack Park. The Center is currently working on projects involving issues such as habitat destruction, pollution, and overharvesting. The goal of this particular project was to gather information about mink frogs in order to provide recommendations for proactive management and resource allocation. This would allow conservation agencies to, as he explains, figure out what to “do in the short-term to get in gear.” Although mink frogs are abundant in New York, especially within the Adirondacks, they are listed as threatened in Vermont and New Hampshire, states which may benefit from the results of this study. He notes that the semiisolated ecosystem of the Adirondacks is advantageous. “The conservation issues in the Adirondacks are quite different, and beautiful, because the environment gives you the opportunity to look for long-term solutions.” The Adirondack population is mostly isolated, due to anthropogenic causes such as agriculture, as well as natural land formation. There is a good chance that this population may be unique from those in more northern climes. Climate change, which has severely impacted amphibian species elsewhere, would

Portfolio, R. White 4 be easily noticed within such a restricted population. The Adirondacks are an optimal research site for these issues. Dr. Patrick coauthored the project’s grant with Dr. Elizabeth Harper, also of Paul Smiths College, and piggybacked off previous research by Viorel Popescu of UC Berkeley, who as a graduate student examined forty wetland habitats in the Adirondacks. He tentatively concluded that wetland connectivity is important to mink frogs, although they usually stay in one location. The frogs must be quick enough in long-term movement, Patrick notes, to beat climate change. At the same time, the Adirondacks are a protected enough area that the frogs have good chances of surviving even if climatic factors intercede. “If they can’t make it here,” he questions, “where can they make it?” It is still unclear how drastically mink frogs are affected by climate change. The Adirondacks are at the southern extent of their range, so any significant change here would help indicate to which factors the frogs are sensitive. Additionally, the climate of the Adirondacks is a threshold for the species. Any change could force them into higher latitudes or elevations, or, in this isolated region, kill them off entirely. So far, that change has not been detected. Yet the study was conducted with an interest in predicting how the frogs will fare in the future. Patrick wanted to determine what is likely to threaten the frogs, with the knowledge that they are sensitive, as amphibians, to changes in both temperature and moisture. The team surveyed a range of cold, vegetation-dense wetland sites, sites where mink frogs both were and were not likely to occur. The students also recorded temperature and dissolved oxygen content at each site. Surveys were conducted at night, when frogs were most likely to be calling. In the eighty ponds surveyed, mink frogs were found in half, and although much of the data has yet to be processed, Patrick does not think that the survival of the frogs is directly linked to dissolved oxygen content or temperature. Mink frogs underwhelm predators by breeding in spread out summer episodes. Their eggs hatch within three days, which is an exceptionally short time compared to species such as green frogs, the eggs of which can take up to fourteen days to hatch. Because there is not enough time for them to be affected before hatching, Patrick does not think that dissolved oxygen content is singularly important in the maintenance of the frogs’ populations. To make sure, and to rule out other interfering variables, Patrick set up a microcosm of the habitats in “shoeboxes” at his Paul Smiths College laboratory. Not literally shoeboxes, but roughly the same dimensions, these waters were controlled for temperature and dissolved oxygen content, unlike the larger, outdoor tanks for adult frogs. Based on these results, Patrick and his students have determined that although there is the potential for factors such as temperature to have indirect pathways, these are not the only denominators in the frogs’ populations. Undeterred, the Center for Adirondack Biodiversity is next interested in studying the larger role of food availability, namely the competitive relationship between green and mink frogs. Mink frogs, Patrick emphasizes, are not necessarily important to us, as human co-residents of the Adirondacks. They likely play no radical role besides being a predator to invertebrates and prey to vertebrates. They also may provide some indication of the effects of climate change and habitat degradation. However, if we removed them all tomorrow, he tells me as he replaces a wire cover on a cattle tank, “there would be no earth-shattering change.”

Portfolio, R. White 5 Conservation, however, is not about the frogs’ “usefulness.” “It doesn’t make sense,” he says, shaking his head. “Economically, it makes more sense to degrade the environment [in the short term]. The economy always comes into play when you’re talking about the environment. Why are we so ashamed to make noneconomic decisions with regards to the environment when daily we make illogical decisions regarding everything else?” The loss of mink frogs, he emphasizes, could be indicative of devastating changes, which would certainly have direct economic worth. He looks back at his tanks. Under the water’s murky surface, frogs are surely swimming, surviving, thriving. They are there, whether they are noticed or not.

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Are you a permanent or seasonal resident of the Adirondacks?

Are you interested in having your voice heard, and in discussing solutions to local issues?
If so, then you are invited to attend an

AdkAction.org
Come learn about a rapidly growing organization that seeks to improve the
P.O. Box 655 Saranac Lake, NY 12983 Email: info@AdkAction.org

quality of life and environmental integrity of the Adirondacks. When: Thursday, July 12, 2012 from 5-7:30 pm Where: Old Forge Library,

Your voice in the future of the Adirondacks

220 Crosby Boulevard,

Portfolio, R. White 7 Abiding Company Published on Natalia Singer’s blog, Winter With Zoe Rebekah White I am sitting in the sand because I know that it will not be long before winter intrudes with its cold, icy hands and, brusquely, authoritatively, forces me back inside. I run my fingers through the white dirt, tossing it between my palms, all too aware that the passing of time will soon transform this dirt into snow. The sky is overcast, as it has been for much of this weekend. I am on vacation from school, and enjoying the surplus time that is allowing me to laze in such ways in the dirt. I zip up my jacket and recline back against my favorite tree, the white pine that has been in our front yard for as long as I can remember. I yawn and survey our yard which, to be honest, is not that expansive. My parents own quite a bit of acreage, but most of it is in swamp or woodland. We are not the type of family that finds it necessary to devote a large portion of our property to swimming pools or decorations. As a child, I never had a trampoline or a tree house. My father prefers to keep things looking natural, so that’s why, spare a dilapidated swing set, a pair of Adirondack chairs and a gone-by vegetable garden, we don’t have anything on our lawn. I realize in that list, of course, that I forgot the old dog house. It is behind our house, so I often forget that it’s there. It is conveniently located next to the doggie door that leads in to the back, placed so strategically for the convenience of quick warmth in the winter. My father likes to recount the argument he had with my mother one winter over whether they should put a small space heater inside the doghouse for “his boys.” My father won, and the dogs were cozy. The dogs joined our family around thirteen years ago. My younger sister, at the time obsessed with Toy Story, christened the dogs likewise. Buzz and Woody. The brothers. Our dogs were born of the same litter, both mixed black lab; Buzz had some terrier in him, Woody was definitely part beagle. The two were inseparable until Buzz passed away five years ago. I smile as I think about Buzz, and run another handful of sand through my hands. Buzz was aggressive, always defensive, always on the move. He fiercely protected our family and went after any suspected intruders. Squirrels were the usual target, but occasionally he got into a fight he couldn’t win. Once, he ate three bottles of my mother’s perfume, glass, liquid, and all. To this day, we’re not sure what inspired that gastronomical feat. On another day, he and Woody decided to chase after my aunt’s ugly Jack Russell terrier. None of us particularly liked the dog, so it was with reluctance that we tried to call the boys back. They did not listen to us but instead rapidly overcame the smaller, yipping creature. We were surprised when they got to her, however, because they simply licked her face and playfully nibbled her stubby tail. Yet not all of the battles ended so peacefully. Buzz and Woody were fond of chasing after porcupines, and usually they escaped with only one or two quills. On one instance, however, when Buzz must have tried to eat the creature, he ended up with an entire faceful of the spines. My father took him to Sue, our

Portfolio, R. White 8 veterinarian, who thought she had managed to pull most of them out. Buzz was expected to make a full recovery. Several weeks later, though, his odd behavior had us worried. He had become increasingly aggressive, growling several times at my mother, and frequently attacking Woody. This latter development was especially troubling. As male dogs, it was to be expected that the two would tussle occasionally, and they did, but it was almost always over food. Now, Buzz would go after his brother when he least expected it, and with Buzz being considerably larger, it never ended well. It wasn’t long before I stepped off the bus one day to the news that he had passed away. Sue confirmed that one of the tips of the quills had probably passed into his brain. We were saddened by the news but even more saddened that he may have suffered in the few weeks between the incident and his death. Woody was solemn for months. I don’t tend to anthropomorphize, but I also don’t deny the fact that animals can feel sadness. He moped around the house, refusing to eat and sleeping only in restful fits. It broke our hearts to watch him in such despair. Buzz was part of our family, but he was also Woody’s best friend. However, Woody’s cycle of grief was similar to that of humans, and, like most of us, was able to move on. It wasn’t long before he was back chasing turkeys and rabbits across the lawn, and barking ecstatically when my father arrived home. He became increasingly clingy, following us everywhere we went. If I was in my bedroom and happened to go into the kitchen to get a glass of water, he would trot along behind me. I tried to slip him a piece of food whenever I could. I still felt bad for him. It was as if he were making sure that none of the rest of us got out of his sight and slipped away like Buzz. When I was seventeen, I took up the hobby of running on the old log roads that ran between my house and the swamp. Woody wore a collar that kept him within the invisible boundaries around our lawn, and he would whine when I stepped over the underground fence. Many times, he simply stepped over the line and bore the electrical shock so that he could join me on my run. In all the years Woody accompanied me on various runs or walks, he never wore a leash. He stayed by my side. He never left our property, either, unless he was looking for us. Once, on our way home, we found him wandering on the side of the road two miles from our house. After that, we started to keep him inside whenever we had to leave. I lean back against the rough, cool bark. It is slightly soggy to the touch. I’m sitting where my mother’s flower bed used to be, where Woody used to try to scare out snakes from under the plants. I peer beyond the former flower bed, into the garage, and smile. It is on the shelves of my dad’s wood shop where we keep Woody’s old toys. He only ever liked to chew things when he was a puppy, not like some dogs who like to gnaw bones and rubber playthings their entire lives. I remember spending one summer afternoon trying to teach him, as a seven year old dog, how to fetch. At that time, I had never heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I was persistent in my efforts, yet every time I threw that stick, he just stared contemplatively at me and laid down on the grass. He was grateful for my company, I’m sure, but he probably thought I was a nut for a throwing a stick and then running after it myself.

Portfolio, R. White 9 When I was home over the summer, I ran every morning before work. Woody, at thirteen, was too old to accompany me, especially since I was running on the road and not in the woods. He was completely blind in one eye and losing vision in the other. He could not hear well, and he had hip dysplasia. His legs frequently gave out. He was becoming a member of the elderly canine society, and as much as he pretended this wasn’t true, I knew it wasn’t wise to take him, unleashed, with me on a four mile run. As I left the driveway, I heard him whining before the invisible fence. It was beeping a warning to him. He looked sadly at me. “Stay here,” I commanded. I was mildly irritated. I would be right back. When I got to the end of our two-tenths of a mile driveway, I felt something soft brush my leg, and there he was. He looked up at me, and I noticed the milky blending of color in his eyes. With immense guilt, I commanded him once more to stay and gently nudged him back towards the house. He trotted back, but kept peering reluctantly over his shoulder. When I returned from my run, I expected him to be back inside the house, as an hour had passed and it had begun to drizzle. Instead, he was still sitting next to the mailbox, his fur matted with rain. I stand up from beneath the tree and brush my dirty hands on my pants. This experience is depressing me because I don’t want to think about where my mind has gone. This was supposed to be a simple nature writing activity, one in which I would write about how the fall colors are so pretty, and the birds are so sweet, and I miss the flowers of summer, and blah blah blah. Instead, I’m thinking about my dog, and how much I miss him, and how much I regret that I was never able to say good bye to him. He passed away while I was at school, less than a week before I was supposed to come home again. As I meander over to his dog house, I shove my hands in my pockets and sigh. I half expect him to come barreling out of there, panting happily and running in circles as I search for a spare hot dog or biscuit to give him. It is silent. I peer inside the dog house, and somehow manage to smile when I notice that the space heater and his bed are still inside. I’m not going to remind my dad to take them out. As I continue my journey around the lawn, I console myself with the memories Woody and I have on this ground. He was the horse when my sister and I would play cowboys and princesses. He was the pillow when we grew fatigued and needed a nap. He was a great friend and an even better guardian. I always felt secure with him sleeping by my bed at night. My dad drives up then, and I wave to him before walking over. I think about how Woody would have reacted. He would have barked fanatically, his yips making him sound more like a seal than a dog. He would have rushed over to my father, jumping up and slapping him with his paws. My dad would have snapped at him, “Down, boy!” but would then take him inside and pet him and feed him his dinner. As my father and I walk inside, I take one look back at the lawn and can imagine Woody lying in his favorite spot, underneath the pine. In my mind’s eye, I can still see him there. He’s there with Buzz, waiting patiently for us to come home.

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On the Surface Published in The Laurentian Magazine, November 2010 Rebekah White The water around her was murky. She couldn’t see anything, not even particles of dirt or tendrils of seaweed. She’d never been swimming when it wasn’t sunny, when the light didn’t illuminate the world under the water. She was freezing, maybe because there was no sun. She resurfaced, bobbing up in the water like a dead fish in her life jacket, and her husband was there. She was surprised to see him. He should have left her to die. He probably didn’t care, anyway. He was having an affair, after all. Jack’s sturdy carpenter hands lifted her out of the water. She pictured herself as the fish he’d been extracting from Black Lake for the last several hours, gills flapping, her eyes wide with anticipation and confusion. Jack quickly unzipped his fleece and wrapped her in it, cradling her. “Are you ok? Are you ok?” He kept asking her, but she couldn’t form an answer. Her brain felt cold, but she knew that was impossible. If her brain really were that cold, she’d be one of those fish lying in the bottom of the boat around Jack’s feet. She’d be dead already because he would have stamped her out like he stamped the rest of them out with his foot, crushing their little fishy skulls or whatever fish had, and he swore that didn’t hurt them but how would he know anyway? “Are you ok? Helena!” Helena blinked water out of her eyes. “I’m fine. Just keep fishing.” He stared at her as he juiced the motor on their rickety twelve-footer. “Are you insane? We’re going back to camp and getting you out of those clothes.” How long before would that have sounded like an invitation? Since they’d been married, sex had been stale. She hadn’t planned on that happening. That happened to old couples, not them. Not the adventurous lovers who spent their honeymoon hiking across the Andes, not the couple who used to cook Campbell’s soup on a Bunton backpacking stove in their tiny Lake Placid apartment because they couldn’t afford electricity. Not them. The fishing trip was supposed to be a present to themselves for five years of marital bliss, but Jack seemed to be the only one enjoying it. It was just the two of them, for the most part, not counting the old owner and his even older German shepherd. Jack and Helena were supposed to be there for another week. Helena was going insane.

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She had to admit that Jack was a great husband. He took care of her. He did the dishes even when he had also cooked dinner, gave her backrubs for no reason. He seemed perfect, but somewhere in there Helena knew there had to be a flaw. He could not be perfect. Nobody was perfect. She had never known anyone to come close. That was the plain, brutal reality. Helena was determined to expose his flaws. She tried to prove that he was only in it for the sex, refusing him the first three nights they were at camp. She didn’t really want it to begin with. The cabin was clean, but it smelled like feet, and who wanted to expose their naked pores to that? Jack didn’t seem to mind. He kept his hand entangled in her hair, kissed her cheek and murmured “Good night” before falling asleep. Helena didn’t get it. He still seemed interested in her even when she wouldn’t make love to him, or when she didn’t shower, which had been the trend for the last few days. Her latest swim should have taken care of the B.O. She shivered in the forty-degree air that chilled further as Jack sped up and they rocketed across the lake, creating capped waves behind them. “You’re being kind of counter-productive, I think,” Helena shivered, her lips becoming numb. “It’s okay, we’re almost there,” he reassured her. Helena looked up. The dock was within sight. They clambered out of the boat and Jack ushered Helena into the truck before hastily gathering their equipment. Dead trophy fish got shoved into the oversized cooler, greasing Pepsi cans with their death slime. Helena turned the heat on in Jack’s Dakota while he threw completely assembled pack poles beneath the tonneau cover and slid the cooler next to her feet. Jack clambered into the driver’s seat, slamming his door and turning up the heat. He toyed with the vents. Helena realized that they were both still wearing their life jackets. He noticed, too. “Take that off,” he commanded, reaching for the snaps to help her. “No,” Helena drew away. “It’s insulation. Protection. It saved me from drowning.” “You know how to swim.” “Well, it’ll save me from drowning in here.” Jack’s eyes blinked, and stayed shut for a minute. “Helena,” he spoke slowly. “Are you going to tell me what the hell happened out there?”

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She didn’t want to talk about it. Her search for his imperfections was really none of his business. “We were fishing.” “No,” Jack snapped, yanking the truck into reverse. They blazed away from the lake. “I was fishing. You were trying to empathize with the fish.” Helena shrugged. Whatever. Her fingers began to thaw as they bounced along the narrow, rutted dirt road. Every bump accentuated the throbbing of her muscles. She felt as if the water had entered her body, taking up residence in her veins and had frozen there on the ride in to shore. The unspeaking tension between them was, to Helena, kind of comforting. She could not articulate her rage, anyway, she’d never been able to. Her family, her perfect Catholic family with the nice home and the multiple doctorates, a model of articulation. Full-volumed, emotional articulation. They did not hit. Helena had never been hit with anything but volume. She’d been screamed at. Jack did not yell. He did not hit. And now here he was, but his body language was not telling her anything. Something uncomfortable was nestled between them, something altogether hot and bristling and growing and unpleasant. “Why did you jump out of the boat?” “Because I wanted to get away from you.” “To get away from me….why?” “You’re smothering me, okay? I’m sick of pretending that I don’t know.” “Don’t know what?” “That you’re cheating on me!” “Cheating on you? With who?” “You tell me. I just know you are.” “I’ll tell you something, Helena, and that’s that I am not, in any way, shape, or form, cheating on you. Goddamn it. Why would you think that?” Helena looked at him, really looked at him, for the first time in a while. He hadn’t shaved in days, and his stubble was patchy around his jawline. He could never grow a full beard. His eyes looked tired, and his forehead strained as he drove, trying not to lose his composure. He had the expression of a defeated man, of a man still trying to win the battle he knew he’d lost.

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“Because you’re not with me anymore,” Helena whispered. “You don’t—I know you don’t love me anymore.” Jack’s grip loosened on the steering wheel and he glanced at her. “I do too still love you. What have the past few nights been? You’ve been the one to turn me away. Why would I take you here if I didn’t love you? Or if I was having an affair?” Helena shrugged and looked out the window. She couldn’t bear the sight of him any longer. Why did he have to be so logical? She couldn’t form an argument in her brain. What evidence did she have that he was cheating? The only woman she saw him with was his mother. He rarely went out without her, other than to hunt and grab a few post-hunt beers with his college buddies. She didn’t know what to think, let alone what to say. She’d lost. And she wanted to paint him as a villain but she couldn’t. Why on Earth would Jack love her? Helena sensed his hand on her arm. “I love you.” She looked at him and did not cry. “I love you, too.” Maybe. “Can we please talk about this? You are the only woman in my life.” “There has to be something wrong.” “Why does there have to be something wrong?” “I can just tell there is,” Helena gasped, exasperated with the conversation. “There’s always something wrong. Jesus, Jack.” “Oh, I see what it is,” Jack said. “You’re trying to start something because you’re not happy, and you don’t know why.” Damn him. How could he do that? It wasn’t fair. She couldn’t figure it out. She couldn’t figure out anything to say. As usual, she was the loser. She was the dead fish in the bottom of the boat. They went into the cabin, which still smelled like feet but also now smelled like bloody northern pike. Helena grabbed a change of clothes from the bedroom and bypassed Jack to change in the bathroom. She peeled off the wet, sticky garments and threw them on the floor. She stood in front of the mirror. How could Jack miss such glaring flaws? The ugly, scar-like freckles all across her nose, her abnormally large feet, her rounded stomach and her uneven breasts. How could he be attracted to that? She touched her soggy hair. It felt like seaweed. Jack knocked. “Honey? Can I come in? I feel like you’re still upset with me.”

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Why couldn’t he let her figure this out on her own? Why was he so worried about their relationship? She dressed and opened the door. “What.” Jack wrapped her in his arms. “That’s better. Nice and dry.” She shoved him away. “I’m not a child.” “I was just hugging you. Where are you going?” Helena pulled wool socks over her damp feet and stepped back into her wet boots. She sloshed to the door. “The cabin. I’m hungry.” “Dinner isn’t for another two hours,” Jack pointed out. “I don’t care. I want to be alone.” “Franc will be there.” “Fine. I want to be without you.” Helena slammed the door and left the cabin. The walk to the lodge was cold and uphill, and she her feet slid haplessly on the sodden grass. Franc opened the lodge door with confusion etched over his leathery features. “Helena?” he inquired with his heavy French-Canadian accent. “Where is Jack? You came alone?” “Jack’s back in the cabin. I needed to be away from him for a while.” Franc smiled knowingly and beckoned her inside. She shut the door and crossed her arms as she followed the old man across the room. He was buttoned snugly into a red flannel shirt, a pair of dirty khaki paints stained with God knows what encasing his wiry legs. He poured her a cup of coffee. They sat on the porch overlooking the lake. It was massive, its waters metallic. Helena sipped her bitter black coffee in silence. Franc was a quiet man by nature, his tendencies accentuated by the fact that he lived alone for eight months out of the year and knew very little English to begin with. He had told them during their first dinner at the outfitter’s that he hosted about two hundred hunts and fishing trips a year. He spoke first, not looking at Helena but rather surveying the lake as if from a new perspective. “Did you and Jack ever fish this?”

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“No. We haven’t had time yet.” “I think that both you and I know that you did not come here to fish.” “Can I tell you a secret?” “Yes.” “I don’t really like fishing,” she admitted. “It seems a little cruel. Like you’re playing God, or something.” Franc chuckled. “That’s life, though, no? The fox kills the rabbit because it needs to eat. Man kills the fish because he needs to eat. Part of the reason of living is dying.” “What’s the other part?” “Loving,” Franc answered simply. He turned to look at her. “But you know that, don’t you.” Helena wiped her face on her sleeve, her nose running freely. “I don’t think so. I don’t think…I think I know what it’s like to love somebody. I love Jack more than I’ve ever loved anything. He’s perfect. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him. But he does not love me.” Franc didn’t answer. Helena watched as he examined his coffee cup, wiping away brown stains from the rim. Helena studied the lake. The waves were beginning to grow, rolling over each other and crashing into the rocky shore. Droplets of rain began to spill from the sky, but the pair remained dry on the covered porch. “My wife and I were married for thirty years,” he quietly explained. “She divorced me four years ago. I wasn’t enough for her. I didn’t give her everything I had. My love affair has always been with these woods. “ Helena looked at him. His German shepherd, Mollie, trotted up alongside him. He extended a broad, calloused hand to her and gently massaged her ears. “Maybe it’s not Jack that’s bothering you.” Helena bit her lip. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe she knew it wasn’t. Maybe she’d known it all along and couldn’t find a way to escape it. “What do you mean?” Franc turned to look at her, unblinkingly. “Maybe…it is something that you have done that makes you have questions.” Helena tore her eyes away, examining her wrinkled fingertips. He could see her murky secrets, he was drawing them out of her, murkily. “Franc…” she murmured. “I don’t…I don’t know what to do.”

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“It’s not the end,” he answered. “You haven’t lost him yet.” Helena wouldn’t cry if she lost her husband because she had nobody to blame but herself. Why had she behaved so selfishly? Why had she purposely driven a wedge in the relationship with the only person who had ever genuinely cared about her? For all she knew, her marriage could end after this vacation and it would all be because of one stupid night. It had been nothing but a way to reconcile the conflicting voices inside her head. She still had cold feet. She still couldn’t bring herself to be honest with her husband. She loved him. Franc took her cup and headed for the kitchen. “Dinner at six,” he called over his shoulder. Helena left the lodge and was instantly drenched from the downpour. She considered heading back to the cabin, but she knew Jack would be there waiting for her, waiting to douse her in loving sentiments and worried questions. The lake’s waters beckoned. Helena recalled her afternoon plunge and what had pushed her to do so. The crest of the waves. She wanted to be underwater, where things were quiet, where her heart wasn’t attacking her for having been so stupid. At the shore, she stepped into the water. It deepened very quickly, the icy temperature numbing her body as she slowly submerged herself. She dove. The aquatic plants tickled her face, and when she opened her eyes it was murky. She sensed movement nearby and watched as a rather large lake trout swam nervously away from her. She reached out, and in the darkness couldn’t see her own hands. Helena felt her limbs growing colder, but as they did, she could see more clearly. The lake opened up to her. She thought of her husband the night before, sliding a small pan of trout across the Bunton stove to cook for their dinner. He hadn’t been wearing a shirt, but he was wearing rain pants and wool socks. He had sat next to her and held her to his chest. She’d heard his heart thudding against his chest and asked him why he’d brought the Bunton when they had a woodstove. “I don’t know,” he had smiled into her hair. “Old times’ sake.” What was wrong with her? She’d never been divided from him but in her mind. She’d always been separated from him in her mind, pushed away from him by an invisible hand. Jack could never make her feel like she was good enough. But he had tried. Didn’t that count for something? Helena felt herself falling asleep, grateful for the cradle that the water provided. It was warmer in here than it was on the surface. She felt safe. She wondered if fish dreamed. Jack had told her that fish didn’t feel pain the way that humans did, and maybe that was true. She certainly didn’t feel any pain right now. Maybe the water, their home, made them invincible. Maybe if she stayed here, everything would be okay.

Portfolio, R. White 17

She felt a hand pull her from the water and into the cold bottom of an aluminum rowboat. Helena knew it was her husband before she opened her eyes. Jack was crying, his eyes red and his face drenched with perspiration, tears and rainwater. He pulled her to him and abandoned the oars. They floated towards the shore. “I don’t care what you did or why you did it,” Jack told her through his tears. She’d never seen him cry before, and it was then that she realized he’d known about her secret all along. “I don’t want you to tell me why you were in this lake or why you were upset with me. I just want you to promise me that you’ll never do that again, and that you’ll believe me when I tell you--” Helena put her fingers around his, pulling his hand to her face. She used his warm fingers to wipe the water from her eyes. Jack began to row them in to shore. The rain was intensifying, but Helena didn’t care. It was washing away the fish blood that had remained in the bottom of the boat from the last trip, and it was washing the grit of the lake from Helena’s body. She looked at her husband, and he looked at her. And she thawed.

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