Date: September 12, 2017 09:44AM
"It was not the theft of the boat [the sheriff] came about, though that had been reported, nor my truancy, since I was almost old enough to leave school if I chose to. It was not that Sylvie had kept me out on the lake all night, because no one knew just where we had been. It was that we returned to Fingerbone in a freight car. Sylvie was an unredeemed transient, and she was making a transient of me.
Fingerbone was moved to solemn pity. There was not a should there but knew how shallow-rooted the whole town was. It flooded yearly, and had burned down once. Often enough the lumber mill shut down, or burned down. There were reports that things were otherwise elsewhere, and anyone, on a melancholy evening, might feel that Fingerbone was a meager and a difficult place.
So a diaspora threatened always. And there is no living creature, though the whims of eons had put its eyes on boggling stocks and clamped it in a carapace, diminished it to a pinpoint and given it a taste for mud and stuck it down a well or hid it under a stone, but that creature will live on if it can. So certainly Fingerbone, which despite all its difficulties sometimes seemed pleasant and ordinary, would value itself, too, and live on if and as it could. So every wanderer whose presence suggested it might be as well to lift, or it could not matter much, was met with something that seemed at first sight a moral reaction, since morality is a check upon the strongest temptations. And these strangers were fed on the stoop, and sometimes warmed at the store, in a spirit that seemed at first sight pity or charity, since pity and charity may be at root an attempt to propitiate the dark powers that have not touched us yet. When one of these lives ended within the town jurisdiction, the preacher could be relied up to say "this unfortunate," as if an anonymous grave were shoehsw deeper than a grave with a name above it. So the transients wandered through Fingerbone like ghosts, terrifying as ghosts are because they were not very different from us. And so it was important to the town to believe that I should be rescued, and that rescue was possible. If the sheriff felt he should not come knocking at a door behind which no murder had been done, he had seen more than any man should see and was to be pardoned. It was because of his tolerance of transients that they haunted the town as they did, sleeping in abandoned houses and in the ruins of fallen houses, and building their shanties and lean-tos under the bridge and along the shore. They seldom spoke in our hearing or looked at us directly, but we stole glimpses of their faces. They were like the people in old photographs–we did not see them though a veil of knowledge and habit, but simply and plains, as they were lined or scarred, as they were startled or blank. Like the dead, we could consider their histories complete, and we wondered only what had brought them to transiency, to drifting, since their lives as drifters were like pacing and brooding and skirmishing among ghosts who cannot pay their way across the Styx. However long a postscript to however short a life, it was still no part of the story. We imagined that if they spoke to us they would astonish us with tales of disaster and disgrace and bitter sorrow, that would fly into the hills and stay there in the dark earth and in the cries of birds. For in the case of such pure sorrow, who can distinguish mine from thine? The sorrow is that every should is put out of house. Finger bone lived always among the dispossessed. In bad times the town was flooded with them, and when they walked by in the roads at night, the children of Fingerbone pulled their quilts over their heads and muttered the old supplication that if they should die sleeping, God would see to their souls, at least."
-Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson