Chapter Six: Getting Gone

When Carlone cashed out her pay at the clerk's office she was astonished by the vast amount that she had accumulated. The clerk, an elderly man, explained to her that the majority of the workers took their earnings at the end of the week, however when she did not, he rolled her's into the next week and so on for years. Carlone who was now in her late teens didn't know what to do with this sizable surplus. Fiddling with his paperwork at his desk, the clerk asked if she would be back in the summer to which she replied that she did not know. This caught her off-guard because she hadn't realized how many details of her intentions had been skipped over in her consideration up to that point. Almost as if to think out loud for herself, she explained that since Viktor was hurt she would stay with him until he either wanted to come back to the quarry or go to the inn that his family-owned. The clerk noted, practically under his breath, that it sounded like she had a long trip ahead of her. Carlone shrugged at this before she reiterated her plan to travel inland to her own family's farm. As Carlone spoke she realized she was not ready to make the journey with Viktor in his condition. She paused midway through her sentence to ask if there was a place that she could buy a cart and horse. The clerk told her where she could go that would give her an honest deal. Carlone then dashed off as if she were in a race to buy something no one else was looking for.


In the town at the establishment where the clerk had recommended, Carlone found a nearly deserted stable with a highly eager attendant working. This woman all but jumped for joy upon seeing Carlone, who was preoccupied with keeping her thick roll of money secret in her bag. There Carlone purchased all she would need and a little extra just in case. She might have come in with just her two feet, but when she was finished the horse had a cart filled with blankets, medical bandages for Viktor, plus food for herself, him, and the horse. It was her uncle who had been the one to hitch the horse to the cart when she was young, but it was quick work once the rancher showed her how to do the task. That alone took a portion of her nest egg, yet it was something she was not bothered by as it was nice to have something of her own and not belonging to the quarry or its camp-site.


Back at the quarry, Carlone found Viktor just where she had left him, in the medical tent. The news she received was grim, his toes were turning black and would have to come off soon. Viktor though was having none of it. He outright refused to let the doctor order an amputation, causing the doctor to wince. "If you do not do this now, I do not think I can save the foot later." Viktor yelled back, "Get away from me you quack! I'll beat this without you!" Then Viktor limped away on his crutches as Carlone stood to the side dumbfounded. The doctor shook his head, "maybe he will listen to you, his flesh is rotted, the boy will only do further harm to himself if he puts this off." Carlone frowned, "Can anyone make him do it?" She asked the doctor not sure what to do with herself in that situation. The doctor crestfallen replied, "No if we force him it may shatter his mental health forever," he admitted as he walked back into the treatment area to call his next patient. Carlone hoped Viktor was right about himself as she went to find Buloke to see if he could talk some sense into his own brother. However, before she could she found Viktor had already seated himself in the cart she had purchased with his things in a sack that he had thrown into the back. "Well? Let's not waste time. I want to be a few miles up the road before dark." Carlone distracted jumped in the cart beside Viktor, assuming he had already said his goodbyes to everyone.


The trip back toward the farm she had come from, seemed to go by much faster with a companion. It was all the same and yet so different too as Carlone came to realize. In order to go inland, they would first have to go from the quarry to the coast, just missing the inn where Viktor was from. Carlone pleaded with Viktor to make a detour, unfortunately, he would not budge. "Things aren't like how they were when you were there last." Viktor sighed as their horse trotted the dirt path. "When Buloke married Peaches, I became the sad one everyone felt sorry for. It was like overnight I was this person that made the room silent whenever I entered. They expected me to be broken as if I were. I had to leave and stayed on at the quarry the last two winters because of it." This softened Carlone who up until that moment was planning to ambush Viktor with the help of his family to have a surgeon do their work on Viktor's injured limb. She now understood him. She also knew that they had drifted apart so much in the time they worked at the quarry. She had been a bad friend to him when he had needed her most without meaning to. To Carlone, Peaches was a sloppy tavern worker that Buloke married out of a lack of other options, but Viktor saw their union as a failure to keep up with the milestones of adulthood that Buloke was surpassing him in. Carlone conceded to Viktor, "You've got the reins, you decide." Viktor hearing her resignation on the matter, likely knew it was not about visiting the family, but about giving his body a chance to heal on its own pulled ahead toward the inland roadway. They both knew there was no turning back, not with the way that change had already altered things.


At night Carlone set up a tent, which Viktor declined to use. He was too prideful to admit that he was too weak to help her so he made the excuse that tents were not as comfortable as the cart. Carlone pressed him to decide otherwise, but he was far too stubborn for her to win out. They rode up the coast until the path diverged for the bay. Carlone remembered this was the place that Sara had told her had the moonstones she sought so long ago. She had not come across it when she first came down from the farm because she was on the abandoned road, which skirted it by a few miles. Carlone paced her time in order for them to arrive there by early evening. The sky was pink and orange as the sunset by then. The air was salty, as the waves patted the soft sand under the chilled wind. Viktor plopped himself on the beach. The water was much warmer because the sun heated it to be near the temperature of a bath. Carlone took off her own shoes and stood in the surf. She felt at home as the emerging moon reflected to reveal two moonstones the size of grapes beside her feet. She smiled and looked back at Viktor, who was bent over. His big toe had fallen off. He was holding it up like he was inspecting it. Carlone rushed over to him, but Viktor was calm. "See, they wanted to take my whole foot, when only this had to go." Viktor then threw his toe into the woods behind him. "I feel better already." He sighed in relief. Carlone hoped he was right. She decided that if she could beat the fever, maybe Viktor could beat his injury too.


Carlone went to make their dinner, which consisted of reheated salted pork, and skillet-fried cornbread. The memories of her trip down made her hungry for boiled acorns in wheat broth though. This yearning for forage motivated her to get up early the next day to gather some of her missed favorites before the winter took them away. Chicken of the woods mushrooms was at the top of her list. She made sure to look in the direction opposite from where Viktor threw his toe. The daybreak was the ideal lighting for her mission. Carlone was back to the cart with Viktor still in it before he was awake. Carlone took this opportunity to have a look at Viktor's foot which was hanging off the end of the wagon and poking out from under the wool blanket he had thrown over himself. In the light, Viktor's foot was still obviously broken, but in the places where the bruising had healed slightly, she wasn't sure if his foot would get better or not. Carlone went to boil water to clean it with, but other than that she knew nothing of how to care for her friend other than to be kind. The problem was that she was no longer sure if being accommodating was being kind to Viktor or if she should ignore his requests and go right away to a doctor for help. These thoughts were on her mind as Viktor got up. Before he could say much of anything Carlone blurted out, "I don't think you should wait it out with your foot. The Doc at the quarry said you could die if you leave it like it is." Viktor nearly yelling in response said, "then let me die as I chose." Which ended the discussion once and for all.


Feeling tension Carlone asked if they could take another day to stay on the beach since it would never be this open again. When the fever swept through all those years ago and sent the people to the North, many once crowded places became ghost towns. This however was not permanent and people were starting to trickle in once more. Carlone knew it to be true of the bay. Viktor, who enjoyed resting his foot in the water agreed with Carlone, for one more night anyway. Carlone used the day to add to her forage for the most part. It was the evening again before she met Viktor on the beach. He had caught a few crabs that he had baked over the fire for dinner. Carlone, never one to like seafood pushed the food around on her metal plate, not wanting to offend Viktor in his emotionally vulnerable state she chewed slowly. Viktor could tell she didn't like the dish he had prepared, "You'll eat boiled mushrooms all day, but God forbid you to have some real meat." Carlone wasn't sure if he were joking or annoyed, maybe he was both. She apologized before he interrupted her, "Of all my sister's you've always been the pickiest one." She playfully pushed his shoulder and they laughed. It was true he was like her brother so much so that there was no reason to say otherwise. "I can live with that" Carlone smiled.


Viktor packed up the camp as much as possible after dinner, while Carlone walked along the beach. The full moon glistened brightly over the water. She knew she would miss this place. There was a magic there that she felt as if it were something real that she could touch. The breeze over the water was cold, but her feet in the tide were warm. Out of the urge to jump in just once, she walked out to her knees. She stopped when she realized some of the glimmers in the water were reflecting off of the hidden moonstones. The beach being neglected by tourists over the years had allowed them to pile up. This in addition to the perfect lighting in the glass-like water and the oversized moon above, made picking up moonstones too easy not to. Carlone grabbed all that she could before she ran back to the cart to get more. She repeated this until Viktor stopped her saying, "Carlone, the horse can only pull so much." The rocks would be worth a small fortune when they were inland. Carlone already felt like she couldn't spend all the money she had in her lifetime from the quarry's backpay, now she was literally loaded to the maximum with precious gems. The journey felt blessed if only Viktor's foot were healed and she could cease her worries for once.