Fiction Series – Believing Is In Our Bones

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Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from mikol_ice via Flikr

Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from mikol_ice via Flikr

It’s true that he wanted the bone to be of human origin. He carried it with a delicate sensibility, knowing that if it indeed was he would not be guilty of egregious disrespect for the deceased. As he returned home along the State Route 56 bike path, dozens of cyclists sped past him without seeming to notice his recent discovery. Or maybe it was they just didn’t care; they were living and so why bother worrying about an old bone?

The dead had always been a preoccupation of his; he simply found them more interesting than the living. Many of his generation, including himself, spent what seemed like an excessive amount of their time in front of lit screens. This increasingly two-dimensional virtual existence sometimes felt like a pestilent, digital plague and he did best to seek refuge in the safety of the dead; their possessions, ideals, stories, and now their bones.

His father would be able to rule out the possibility that the bone was of animal origin as he was a respected large animal veterinarian. When he was eight years young, he remembered seeing his father conduct an autopsy in their oil stained garage. The splayed wolf carcass helped diminish the otherwise romanticized allure of the animal he had encountered in the stories of Jack London.

He had examined hominid bones in an introductory anthropology course in college. He figured it was large enough to be a human leg bone, perhaps a bit too large. If this bone was from bipedal man, it would have had to of been one large man indeed.

Why had he wanted it to be human so badly? Was it out of boredom? Did he simply want the public notoriety of having been the sole finder? Had one too many viewings of Indiana Jones films gone to his head? A genuine, deep seated interest in local history perhaps? In truth, all of these were contributing factors to his compulsory need.

“Dad… I got something for you to take a look at. I need your expertise,” he announced upon walking through the door. He grabbed a brown paper bag from the closet and rested the bone gently on top.

“So what do we got here?” his father asked, putting on his glasses.

“You tell me boss.”

“Well it’s darn well too big, you see here at the joint, to be human because I know that’s what you were hoping for,” he offered quickly as he picked it up and studied it from different angles.

“And how do you know that’s what I was hoping for?”

“Call it logical deduction. Well it looks like what you got here is the tibia bone of probably a horse. It could be from a small cow but I’m leaning towards a horse, which doesn’t surprise me as this area was pretty open territory not all that long ago.”

This is true. Rancho Peñasquitos is a relatively young community in San Diego. While several adobes dating back to the 19th century can still be found in the nearby Los Peñasquitos Preserve (the inhabitants of which grazed cattle in the once vast openness), the majority of the area has since become a sprawling suburban plateau. Even he could remember when PQ (its popular referent) was significantly less developed. A substantial portion of the local habitat had been left untouched. Much of the surrounding canyon was where he and his friends spent most their free time as youths. A lot had changed in the subsequent years. The majority of the canyon, that frontier of dependable adventure and exploration, of sound peace of mind, of real experience with the truly natural world, had been depleted in just over a decade of development.

And yet naturally he knew that’s how things worked. Indeed, the house he still lived in (he being a member of the boomerang generation) was the result of even earlier development in the region. The comfortable home provided its own kind of habitat and he was really more a product of that environment. His real want was found in the discrepancy of these two closely cornered, conflicting environments.

Had the bone been human it would have helped appease this want in an explicitly tangible way. The three-dimensionality of the bone could have provided him with more solid a substance than that which he otherwise found in the increasingly two-dimensional life he lived. To grip the mortality which inevitably awaited him, to feel its weight, that was his ultimate need.

His initial dejection soon subdued as he grabbed a cold soda from the refrigerator and threw himself on the leather couch. He wanted to challenge his father’s verdict but decided against it. He figured he could still believe the bone was human and in that intangible belief find some kind of value. Some beliefs are based on the merit of concrete evidence while others are based in the absence of such concreteness. He decided that wasn’t necessarily problematic and so he turned on the television, believing the Padres could come back from a 6-O deficit. It turned out they could. The 18-inning game ended, however, as a noble loss.

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