The Oath


Annitta Roberts

The cold wooden floor creaks under two battered rocking chairs sitting in front of an unlit wood stove. A tattered old Yupik Eskimo woman leans forward in the darkened cabin as she pulls a threadbare shawl around her. Her withered brown face smiles as she glances at her husband.

Outside of the isolated cabin a winter storm is brewing. Clouds hover in the vale blocking the Northern Lights as they race across the night. Silence. Not even the sigh of a god can be heard in the stillness.

The old woman stops rocking.

"Remember several years ago, before seal hunting was outlawed, how many we caught on the Bearing Sea?" she asks with a sigh.

The old Eskimo man stares quietly at the cold stove.

Fifty years ago you would have been honored as a wise woman. You wouldn't be staring at an empty stove thinking of food. The young hunters would have brought driftwood and dried fish.

"I remember when you were umiak captain the summer our twins were born. You and your uncles got more Belugas than anyone. Aiii, all that mukluk and I had much milk to feed those babies."

Yes, I remember. It was measles that took the twins that winter and all of my uncles. I remember the disease made you have no more babies.

The old woman peers in the dark to see if her husband's fragile legs are wrapped in the thin blanket. She has the shawl. He has the blanket. They share so that one would not have less than the other. It was their oath.

The arctic night deepens and the old woman can barely control her shivering.

"It was the year after Sophie got married that we visited them in Tennessee. She was a beauty with almond eyes and long shiny blue-black hair. Were you sorry you married me instead of her?"

Yes, I remember. Half children who never knew the excitement of a Beluga chase or watch the ancestors ride across a winter sky on shafts of colored lights. But you were the beautiful one. You captured my heart.

The thin old woman sighs as she lays a freezing hand on her husband's knee.

"Have you forgotten our oath?" She asks between trembling lips.

My love I have not forgotten.

A light appears beside the stove. She stretches her hand, touches it and they become as one. They look back and see two old people covered in hoarfrost sitting in rockers in front of an unlit wood stove.

On a small farm in the country somewhere in the Matanuska Valley, a small child watches as Northern Lights dance across the winter night sky.


Author Bio

BA in Journalism from University of Anchorage, Alaska in 1990 - but, was considered to old to become a journalist at the only two local papers in Anchorage.

Projected BA in English Literature (one class only left to take) Fall of 2000. Have a short story collection at the Homer Library titled "Welcome To My World" and was one selected by the Friend's of the Library to be sent to Houston to be profesionally bound. It was part of what is called "the Top Drawer Collection" where local writers submit fiction, non-fiction, slice of life, manuscripts, and even self-published books to be in public view.

Am an active member in "The Invisible Ink". A writer's group that has been around for over 15 years, though I am new to the group. We gave readings of our work to the public at the Pier One Theatre in Homer during the tourist season and was asked to return by popular demand. We are going to make the reading a yearly event. You wouldn't believe how long it took for the writer's group to get me involved or to even read any of my material.

I am 52 years old and the grandmother of ten. I have been writing, forming stories I should say, since I was a small child growing up a farm. I was too busy working to feed five children, but now, have the opportunity to actually devote a few hours each day to it.

I am basically shy when it comes to my work. I never feel that what I write is any good and thus do not let others read it. My writer's group has been very good for me in making me bring forth my work.




Copyright © 1998 Annitta Roberts. All rights reserved. "The Oath" is being dual published in Romantic Realms. Published by permission of the author.
This page last updated 1-22-99.

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