To err is human; to forgive, divine

A Fictional Short Story

Chapter One – Hyperion Grove

June 8, 2015 dawned clear and fresh on the California North Coast.  I was standing in Tom McDonald Creek in Redwood National Park, about 1,000 feet upstream of Redwood Creek.  The hike had gone pretty well so far.  Sure, Redwood Creek was flowing swiftly and the helpful seasonal foot bridge was not in yet, but through the use of a nice old redwood branch for balance I was able to cross Redwood Creek from the Tall Trees Grove without too much difficulty.

Moving up Tom McDonald creek had been slow, as the creek bottom consisted of large cobblestones almost as large as bricks.  Each step needed to be taken carefully, and progress involved letting the stones give a little with each step taken.

For some reason, at this same moment in time and space, a black bear was also using the creek.  Maybe it was digging out grubs from the fallen logs.  The bear and I met, he bellowed, I yelled, and he left, huffing.  To meet a bear in this creek was appropriate, very appropriate.  After all I was looking for something left by The Bear.

I needed to find a certain redwood tree.  No, not Hyperion, but one of a pair a just a little west of the world’s tallest tree.  Shoved under the roots of this tree would be something The Bear had left the night before.  This was an important package, and it was not easy for The Bear to leave it.  A very risky speed boat ride from an offshore ship, then a hike/jog up and over Orick Hill to the Tom McDonald basin using the old logging roads.  Then down to the drop off GPS.   Then the return. 

I continued upstream, another five hundred or so feet, moving through one log pile, then up and over another log pile, then a stop to admire Hyperion, then a final move upstream another 100 feet to the target tree area.  I found a decent place to exit the creek, noting it looked like researchers had used this as an exit point in the past to hide Hyperion’s location.  Then up through the sword ferns and steep slope to the target tree.  I went to the southwest side of the trunk and dug through the loamy soil with my hands.  The package was there.

I had the third package.

Chapter Two -Paris Beginnings

It was warm June evening in Paris.  It would be light well past 9 PM, and many locals and tourists were walking about the Paris la Defense area.    I had enjoyed the evening sitting on the steps beneath the Grande Arche de la Defense, but now I needed to move on, to my meeting, at a nearby Chipotle of all places. 

I purchased my burrito bowl, filled my soda cup,  and then sat down on one of the restaurant stools arranged along a window.  Soon someone sat down beside me and ate without saying a word.  After about ten minutes that person looked at me and said “The eagle has landed”.  I uttered the required response “The eagle will fly”.  Then the person said “I am leaving the package on the floor by your foot.  Take care”. Then the person got up and left.  After a minute I reached down and put the package on my lap, then after finishing up my soda I got up and slid the small package into my back pack. And left. 

The next morning I flew to London, then took another flight to Aberdeen, Scotland.  The following day I took the ScotRail train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh.  It was warm in Edinburgh, almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit that afternoon.   I walked downhill on the Royal Mile to the Royal Gardens.  All very interesting and royal. In a small concession area near the garden entrance I purchased a soda and sat down, waiting.  Soon a person, different than the person in Paris, sat down at an adjacent but close table, sipping a lemonade.  After a few minutes the person turned to me and said “The lion has roared”.  I said the required reply “and he will roar again”.  Then the person said “the package is under the napkin.  Take care”, And then the person got up and left, leaving a small package on their table under a napkin. Shortly after I reached over and picked up the napkin and small package at the same time.  I then finished my soda, put the package in my day pack, and got up and walked through the gardens, then back up the Royal Mile to the Edinburgh Castle.  I would return to Aberdeen that afternoon, then to America in a few days.

Now I had two packages.

I had done what was asked of me, early one morning a few months before. This ask happened as I was arriving back in the United States from an overseas trip.  My travel patterns had been questioned before by US Customs and Border Protection.  I speculate my overseas travel patterns as a U.S. citizen who first went nowhere abroad for fifty years then went everywhere abroad for five years had their attention.  But it was all for business, related to my private employment.   Anyhow, I always got an “X” when using the kiosk when reentering the U.S., but then was always cleared after talking with an officer or officers. But on this particular morning I was escorted to the “third tier” of border entry, an artificially lit and starkly furnished room with many cameras and a couple officers viewing and typing into computer monitors. It was in this room I was asked to do something for my country.  I was asked to collect some packages.  I said yes.

Chapter Three – The Damnation Creek Trail

Del Norte Redwoods State Park was at its best this late June morning.  High up on the ridge it had been sunny, but now a little lower down the trail, toward the Pacific Ocean, fog was mixing in and the sound of pounding surf was evident.  The rhododendron were in bloom underneath the towering redwoods. In my backpack I carried a bottle of water, a GPS device, a snack bar, a sharpie pen, and the two packages I had collected in Paris and Edinburgh.   The third package, the one I collected a couple days before in Redwood National Park’s Tom McDonald creek, was back in my possession.  This third package had spent the previous night “unattended” beneath a tree along nearby Lost Man Creek, and I had reacquired it from the same spot at the crack of dawn.  I could tell someone else was there overnight and had opened and then wrapped the package, as was expected.  This person, known to me as The Eagle, had also left a short note.

I generally understood my activities as supporting a channel of international communications that was somewhere between statecraft and spycraft.  Transmitting information particularly sensitive in nature was still done by manually typed or hand written notes, and delivered by courier.  In this way electronic eavesdropping was rendered useless.  If the courier was someone outside the circle, and that someone was not permitted to open the packages, all the better.

Soon I arrived to the point where the old coastal highway, now converted to a hiking trail, intersects with the Damnation Creek trail.  I proceeded south on the coastal trail, to an old grove marker.  From there I went off trail a short way toward the center of the canyon and arrived at a big and tall redwood I like to call “Tide King”.  Adjacent to Tide King were some logs, and underneath the end of one log was a note left by The Bear, who was waiting somewhere close by.  The Bear had arrived by speed boat from offshore.

I read the Bear’s note.  It said “To err is human.”   Looking at the information I collected in Lost Man earlier that morning, this was one of the expected phrases., the better of two expected.  I took out my sharpie pen and wrote this required reply on the Bear’s note:  “To forgive, divine”.  I then returned the note to its place at the end of the log, and also left the three packages, bottle of water, and snack bar.

As I headed back up the steep hill to the coastal trail I could hear The Bear’s footsteps moving through the forest heading toward the area I had just occupied.  I quickened my pace uphill and away and did not turn back to look.

Some disturbance, some perturbation, to the order of things among nations had occurred and needed to be resolved.  Whether it was a big deal or just some dust up, I don’t know.  But whatever happened had been resolved, for now.

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

The End

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