“Water, sand, and trees brought us to this valley over two-hundred years ago. Now it’s dry,” Mom. Our forebears came from Flanders, glass-makers. “For generations. Telling stories in glass.”
When the small glassblowers could no longer compete, the family split, one half down to the city to Tiffany’s while the other bought land, growing corn, cherries, apples, and sheep.
“Dry” she repeats. We look down on the valley, once blue, then green, now brown. “Look,” she points to the same photo every time. She’s not born yet. It’s the old farmhouse where I was born. Outside, on a wagon, a collection of Puntys spanning generations. “Your great-grandfather. And your great-grandmother. On the day they left the old place. Expelled from their home of generations. Before it was submerged. She ran off with an Italian.” She pronounces it in the local way, the I its own island of sound. “Day-worker come to build the dam. Ran away to the city. He never forgave her. There’s a whole ‘nother family down there. Or…” Mom leaves the words unspoken.
The farmhouse was dismantled and carried out of the valley, reconstructed on higher ground.
She grabs my hand. “Go down there. Look for the old place.”
I’m not supposed to enter, but the City gave up policing after the Brooklyn Water Riots. It’s a lunar landscape. I find a track defined by low drystone walls in better shape than those above. The reservoir has preserved them. Behind there’s a rectangle, maybe a foot high, cemented rocks, foundation to a barn or house. I’ve no idea where the Punty place is. Wedged between two rocks on the wall is an object and I pull it free. Lead pathways with flat patterns between. I scratch one, removing a century of grime to expose bright red. I pocket the find.
Year pass. Mom is no longer. The firehouse has an End of Summer Blowout Sale and I go through old shirts and pants. That’s when I stumble on the fragment from the wall. Warm water, soap and sponge reveal colorful, almost cinematic, glass panels set within lead channels: a mustachioed man, a stereotypical representation of a southern European, beside him a shovel. And a naked woman. In the background, an angry man with horns. Behind him pastures with sheep. And in his hand, a long-blade knife.
Nigel Pugh has had short theater works performed and been published in several journals. He has always loved stories: hearing, reading, telling. He’s working on a larger piece of fiction growing out of the cultural tensions of his adopted neighborhood – the Catskills.