The Return Voyage

by Emily Clausen

Maman always said Grandpapa was a pirate. She usually spat the words, but this time there was a wry twist ghosting around her mouth. I guess the memories tasted sweeter than the life. He would barely glance up whenever she complained. It was his right to take the vine clippings. Years in the sun and cellar, toiling for the father, but the land fractured to the sons. Inheritance laws in Burgundy were still under the Napoleonic Code. Denied his share, he took payment in new, green growth. How could that be stealing?
He hardly noticed when they forced him to the new world. He was a visionary, thrown in with crooks and fools. Lesser men scavenged for gold but he just watched the land—waiting, listening—letting the soil and sky tell him what to do, how to grow. He never heard his children though. They starved that year for his fruits, ruby and garnet. He wept when he poured the first glass of wine, mindless of the salt spilling into the barrel. It wasn’t good enough. It didn’t taste like home.
That’s when Maman left, desperate for a new life, if only for a moment. She told me I should be grateful I take after Dad. My face and skin don’t betray Grandpapa’s crimes. I’m untethered, a real American—with only the faintest hint of the Burgundy nose—whose roots reach into sandy valleys. If the land fractured before it got to him, surely by now his legacy had dissolved, so much sediment to be filtered out. But I still feel it. The vines unfurl in my veins, reaching up to the sun, blossoming with each foot the plane climbs into the sky. Maman never said it, but I’m a pirate too.