Issue 35, Final Fringe


by Russell Hehn Issue 28 10.24.2011


To his credit, Alvarez Réspito distinguished himself amongst his fellow captives by learning basket weaving from a native woman whose name has been lost forever to the oversight of history.  That being said, his motives for taking up that craft may be called into question by some, for Réspito had not, until then, been known as a noble man, nor was he at all open-minded, nor especially crafty.  It was assumed by his captors that Réspito was building a bridge between himself and the native woman, that when she was in his confidence, she would provide him his liberty.  But the two never spoke.  Silently she passed pine needles and dried strips of reed through the thick wooden bars, and Réspito watched and mimicked her every wrap and twine.  There was no conspiracy in this.

Outside of the small garret were other natives:  men, women and children daily living, taking from the earth, drawing water from the deep, churning river.  Their homes, like the garret, were made of timber and deer hide, and the use of stone and steel to them was little known, except in fairy tales they told their children late at night about their fathers’ fathers who traveled far and arrived home safely, speaking of giant stone monsters that gobbled up villagers after sunset and birthed them anew in the morning, fresh and dry.  These became Réspito’s lullabies, arriving at his ears muffled and distant, as organ music heard from outside a church.

By the end of the first year he had grown accustomed to their dialect—the glottal stops indicative of questions; the reversed and sometimes redoubled syntax; the singsong nature of it all—so that he could have spoken with them unhindered, except that he’d vowed to not speak until his release, the terms of his captivity having not been explained to him and, had they been, Réspito would have found the terms unjust.

And so Réspito resigned himself to muteness and, later, even the pleasure of listening. He soon forgot all language, finding a new tongue in weaving.  In this he discovered the conveyance of pure thought, uncorrupted by the cumbersome contrivance called speech.

Although his captors did not take notice of his woven philosophies; nor of his mathematics writ out in twine and webbing, of numbers conceived and understood by Réspito alone; nor of his Treatise Upon Peace wherein the Greater Brethern appeared as upended bolts of lightning and the Lesser Few as dissembled pebbles, the native woman realized full well that something deep and brave was brewing in him, and her love for Réspito grew.

She learned his language of weaving, not through him, but through her own diligent study, and when she felt she had the grasp of it she wove him a vessel with the encrypted message, “We will go together,” which he received with some consternation, and some ambivalence.

When the woman unlocked Réspito’s cell and gave him his freedom, he spoke for the first time in nearly a decade, and with a shaky “Thank you,” he ceased to be the man he’d become, and again became the man he’d been before, a man of customs and words the woman could not love.  She fled and he followed, realizing too late the love she’d inspired in him.


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Russell Hehn

Russell Hehn

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Russell Hehn is a teacher and landscaper in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Some of his other work can be seen in Barcelona Review, Interrobang?! and Pindeldyboz.