I glanced up. Junius stood there, hatless, his salted hair blowing into his
face, one hand shielding his eyes.
"Look, Junius," I said breathlessly. "Look at what I've found. The bank broke
away there was a heron and I found this. It's a basket, but I've never
seen its like. I think"
He jumped down, sliding on the
mud, splashing. His rawboned hands ran along the coils. "Damn right it's
a basket. Biggest one I've ever seen." He shouted, "Tom! Lord Tom, come
Lord Tom hurried over, peering over the bank. "What?"
Junius grabbed the shovel from my hand. Tom grabbed the pick and joined Junius,
and there was nothing for me to do but watch impatiently as they dug it
out. The two of them had the basket mostly clear in the time it had taken
me to dig an inch.
Junius threw the shovel aside and rocked it as I had tried to do, and Lord Tom
grabbed the other side and shoved, and between the two of them, they had
it lifted from its clay bed and shouldered onto the bank. It was half as
tall as Lord Tom, coming to Junius's hips. Clay still clung to it in
clumps. Junius brushed it away, revealing a beautiful, intricate pattern
of geometric lines and figures, a combination I'd never seen, black
against what had once no doubt been a creamy pale, but which was now
discolored where the clay had leached into it.
Junius glanced at me. "Well, what do you think's inside?"
I pushed him gently aside. I took hold of the looped handle and rocked the
lid a little. I had to force myself to go slowly. Finally the mud
crumbled; the lid loosened. I lifted it away just as the sun came from
behind a passing cloud, illuminating the contents.
"Oh dear God," I breathed.
It was a body, crouched in a fetal position, brown hair that looked almost reddish in the light.
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