The year 1868
Bracket stood at the base of the long stone lined stairway leaning on one crutch and counting the steps ahead of him, thinking about nothing in particular except how tired he felt and then remembering why – it was the long walk from Wells River and the train station back to the family farm. Listening to the water running from the springs he wondered why he had walked once more for so damned long a time , all the way up to these healing springs. Looking down at his knee high leather boots and thinking about how at one time they were shiny black , now worn and wrinkled, he thought of all the miles they had traveled. What were those names, Gettysburg ? Antietam, the Wilderness, the Plank road, as if he would ever forget those names. As if he would ever forget those sights. And he thought of all wars and all of the stories of war his father had told him as a kid there in the fields, of the glory and the camaraderie of his fathers own experiences .
“I wish you’d of’ told me about this too dad” was all he could think.
Today though, he just felt tired and as he stomped his foot on the bottom step he wondered if the pain would ever go away again in his legs. It seemed that the only thing that helped was that he’d stomp his foot once in a while and what good did it do anyways, other than to jarring, the nerves in his hips loosening once in a while to stop that damned ache? The doctors at the army hospital said that the pain might never go away again and he wondered how in the hell he would ever work the farm fields with his father again? He raised his eyes to the pine bows high above him as the wind began to blow, swaying the big tree limbs and making the needles moan softly in the wind currents. As his vision clouded over he saw other images, too. Images of men exploding from the cannon fire ahead of him in the front lines. He saw the bodies and the legs, arms and other body parts lying around the fields after each of the battles. As he looked at his boots his eyes wandered up to where the top one of the brass buttons was missing from his blue wool army coat. He reached and loosened the scarf around his neck and thought it was growing warmer.
He had read about the curse of the seven old Brunswick mineral springs and their reputation of healing powers. And he knew well the story and that the Abenaki Indians ghosts were still here too, he could feel them, after all, this was sacred ground wasn’t it? Bracket looked down at shiny dangling strings of beads hanging on different limbs by the stream. Across the way and up into the pines he thought he could see shadows moving in places that they shouldn’t be in. Although he had been seeing shadows like that for months on end. Rumor had it that once a revolutionary soldier had shown up here at the Brunswick springs, carried by some Indians who had found him dying on the trail somewhere in Victory Hill and they had brought him here to heal. Although he had survived the story had it that it had ruined the powers of the natural healing springs. After the soldier had long gone away, they had found a young native mother and her baby dead here at the stream and knew that the powers of the Brunswick springs had been poisoned.
Bracket was concentrating so hard on the shadows and on the sounds of the still draining mineral waters from the ground and into the stream that he began to see the magical array of colors in the water and streaming across the stones and tree roots. He realized something was pulling at his coat sleeve. He couldn’t have heard the approach because of the water noises. Turning, he saw that a young Indian woman with a child on her back had taken hold his coat sleeve. He turned to her and she looked up at him their eyes meeting. She nodded once at him and he turned to the stream once more and began to climb. He began to feel a sensation in his legs and wondered what it was and yet as he approached the top of the path he realized the pain in his hips that had been there since the bullet wound had taken him out of the war once and for all was gone for the first time. He turned again to the tree trunk beside him and leaned his cane on the tree. Turning to her again he realized she was gone!
He remembered other things, too. Like since the soldiers had begun showing up at the Brunswick springs a couple of years into the civil war and that they were all coming a way from the springs healed and he knew now why. No one else had told him outside of the army hospital of the curse to the springs and of the sacrifice of the Abenaki Indians. Bracket turned at the top of the springs, stepped into the stream and felt the cool waters as they soaked right through his warn Calvary boots. He looked away to his right and once again into the distant pine trees, the old growth brown, beautiful tree trunks melting one into another and he realized something else. For once not only did he not feel the pain in his body, but that the dark shadows he had seen in all of the forests, were gone.