The Firetower by Jeremy D. Taylor
“And there — my gaze following around a slight leftward curve in the road, then up several degrees — is the tower. Etched against a sky cold and gray as sheet metal. It’s watching me approach. Like a portrait in a gallery whose eyes seem to be staring straight at you wherever you’re standing. I pass right below it, the mill further below to my left. Trucks and cars are humming in and out of the driveway, so I keep going, past where Joseph once had his track-and-pulley to haul him up on top. I’m going to have to climb it. I pull over a quarter-mile down the road, by one of the gullies that nicks the ridge.
There was a frost last night and the leaves crunch under my feet. I head into the woods where branches reach out and grab at me. The way quickly steepens as I leave the trees behind. I scramble up a section of loose rock, bare walls on either side, stopping now and then to pick my route. But I soon pop out on top of the ridge. The view’s better up here than I remember, it feels higher than it looks from down below. An ocean of green stretches out in front of me. Way off to the right, I see a plume of smoke drifting diagonally – must be Nicholson’s mill, out past Archambault Lake. And there ahead, a few hundred yards up the ridge, floats the firetower. I pick my way towards it. A breeze dances through the pines, carrying messages coded for other ears. I see now how decrepit the structure has become, not that it was factory-new to begin with. Stairs sag, some fallen off completely. The railing through which the old man tumbled hasn’t been repaired. And some of the braces there to keep the frame rigid have come loose. I bet it must sway in a storm. As I draw close, it creaks and moans at me. Away, away with you, it says. Secrets are what secrets are. I step from the shadow of the lonely maple that welcomed Joseph and the tower is almost close enough to touch.” For more
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