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High atop a gray limestone cliff a copper-skinned boy watches the sun rise. Though the long June days have darkened his tawny skin to a burnished copper, they have not and will never warm the deep water. The sun reaches the boy. But the lake is still dark, shaded by the rock.
The cliff is nearly bare, adorned only by two ancient trees and a number of red pictographs. One is larger than the others. It is a hand, palm out, that sends its warning down the length of the lake. The cliff is older even than the lake. It shoots hundreds of feet straight out of the cold dark water.
The boy often finds arrowheads and spear points near the cliff. Most from his people, but some from the others who have passed this way. Some in friendship, some in anger. He looks out over the water and feels the telltale ripples. A pair of canoes move towards him, towards the cliff. Tourists. Cottagers. Their sounds carry across the dark still water. Though the words are indistinct, their tone carries feelings. The feeling of morning tiredness mixed with hope and anxiety for the coming day, for the adventure on the cliff at the end of the lake.
The boy repeats a silent prayer, words he has said to himself and to his Manitou a thousand times in this place, on this rock. Words passed on to him from his copper-skinned grandmother, whose people were keepers of this place before the cottagers, before the loggers, before the prospectors, even before the missionaries. Simply before.
He touches his necklace, a leather strap that carries a silver medallion that houses a large purple arrowhead. He tucks it under his shirt then slowly, precisely, gracefully, as though this vertical world was his natural habitat, he climbs down the cliff to await the canoes.
The girl dips her paddle again and again, with a delicate yet practiced and powerful rhythm. The last of the early morning mist hangs in clumps and patches just above the black water. She looks ahead at her father's narrow back. An open toothy smile spreads across her face and she tips her head back slightly in a quiet prayer. She thanks her God for all this, for the day, for her father. As she opens her eyes they track again to the cliff looming at the end of the lake. A flash of silver glints from the ridge line.
"Did you see that?" she asks.
"See what?" her father answers.
"Nothing," she says.
She dips her paddle slightly deeper, pulls slightly harder, glues her eyes to the ridge.