Bigfoot: Three Small Stories
Every few nights, Bigfoot picks up after the men who hunt him. Now that
winter has receded and still-silver buds line the branches of the
trees, they've come again. Even in the moonlight, he finds
the signs of their presence: cigarette butts and energy bar wrappers,
duck calls and shotgun shells pressed deep into the mud. He gathers
these into a black Hefty trash bag, which he will later deposit in the
dumpster at the campsite to the east.
And then, at least for a little while, the forest will look like his
Sometimes Bigfoot watches them as they watch for him. He smells them:
beef jerky, tobacco, sweat, and coffee. He hears the clack of their
camera shutters, their clumsy march through the undergrowth, their
quick breaths, and even quicker hearts. He follows them as they study
their maps, their books, the blips on the their GPS screens, so intent
that he's seen them walk into trees. He watches them get
lost, and then found again. Eventually, they all find their way.
Tonight, he finds one of their maps, wadded and whistling in a thistle
bush. The paper has been rained on and dried again in the sun. It is
brittle and crinkles like an autumn leaf in his fingers as he unfolds
it. In the moonlight, he studies the green and blue blobs, the rainbow-
colored trails numbered and named, but no forest.
No wonder they get lost, he thinks. No wonder they've never
Each week during the summer, Bigfoot raids the dumpsters outside the
Girl Scout camp near the lake in his woods. He brings any reading
material he can scavenge back to his cave for the long winter nights,
still months away. He towers the horse books and girl detective novels
to the sides, and stacks the magazines, Seventeen and Teen Vogue, along
the back. From these, he learns how to attract mates, apply eyeliner,
and get over heartbreak. Of course, all the articles work on the basic
premise that one has others to talk to, to love.
Within pages of the magazines, he finds pictures of attractive young
people running, hiding from the gaze of those camera lenses. They turn
their heads. They cover their faces with hat bills, hoods, sunglasses,
and hair. Sometimes, they too wish to remain unseen.
Bigfoot tears their faces from the binding and sticks them to his cave
walls with sap, and at night the moonlight bounces off the glossy pages
like they are water. In his mind, they commiserate about the
restlessness of those hunters, the people who want to take their
photograph. They talk about the native peoples who once lived in his
woods, who thought cameras didn't only capture images, but
stole pieces of your soul. In that cave, they know that the price of a
picture is freedom.
One day, as Bigfoot searches through the Girl Scout camp dumpster near
the lake in his woods, he discovers some precocious little girl has
thrown out three issues of National Geographic. The yellow covers are a
treasure, a welcome break from his normal finds, and he rushes back to
his cave to read them, forgetting all about collecting fungi and moss
for his dinner. In his den, he picks up the first issue hungrily, which
is, to his delight, about the ocean. Bigfoot, of course, cannot swim,
and so he might as well be looking at pictures of Jupiter. He ogles the
bright coral reefs and the herds of shining fish that dart through
Reverently, he flips through the glossy pages, reading about the
ocean's unknown secrets—only 5% has been
explored—and the strange undiscovered species that might
exist along its floor, until he reaches the second feature story about
a whale. This whale doesn't have a herd. It swims alone along
the tip of Africa, singing in a pitch no other whales can hear, in a
register that gets lost in the deep, dark parts of the ocean. Still,
the whale cries out as it swims. It doesn't know that its
voice can't be heard by its kind, that it will never be
Bigfoot has never used his voice. In fact, he doubts that he has one.
If he called, he wonders, who would find him? He doubts other bigfoot
would come. Only they would come with their cameras and maps.
They'd turn him into another expose, another pitiful oddity
like the whale, another forest to be mapped and dissected. He tears the
blue whale's picture from the yellow binding and hangs him
next to the celebrities on his wall as an example.
This is what they want from us, he reminds the faces, and they agree
with glossy eyes.
But later, in the safety of the dark night, as he stares at the waves
of rock above his head, Bigfoot decides that if he had a voice, if
bigfoot could swim, he would find that whale in the ocean and tell him
he's been heard. As sleep comes and his eyes grow too heavy
to open, Bigfoot imagines the two of them. Together they would swim
deeper, past the pollution and trash, past the sunlight and warmth
where their cameras can still find you, deep into the dark and
undiscovered parts of the ocean, ninety-five percent of it unknown.
Ninety-five percent of it theirs.
Rebecca King lives in the American Midwest. The founder of Origami Zoo Press, she has stories
in SmokeLong Quarterly, Corium, Decomp and others.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Philip Kirk.
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