“Corn Hill,” Barry said and pointed to a prominent mound rising along the Bay side of Cape Cod. Summer homes clung to slopes. “That’s where the Pilgrims first stole from the Indians.”
“No shit?” asked JJ.
“I thought you might like that. Can you guess what they stole?”
JJ looked at his sister’s husband for signs of humor or trickery but Barry was looking intently at Corn Hill. “Corn?”
“Yes, exactly,” Barry said. “They felt they had no choice. Miles Standish led a group to this spot and found corn buried in the sand.”
“Was there butter and salt too,” JJ asked.
Barry looked at him and nodded slightly as if confirming a mild suspicion. “It was a dire situation. Look over yonder,” Barry said and they turned toward the Bay. It was low tide under a gray November sky. JJ saw mud flats extend from the shore and ease into the choppy water of Cape Cod Bay. Some of the waves had white caps but the air was still where they stood. He could see the whole curve of the Cape from left to right and the phallic Pilgrim monument jutting from the center of Provincetown at the very tip.
“Those mudflats were a problem for the Pilgrims,” Barry said. “They longed to get to shore but had to slog through a quarter mile of low tide in November to reach it.”
“So they could steal from the Indians,” JJ said.
“The natives weren’t saints,” Barry said. He looked at JJ and cocked his head. “Are we going to start rehashing the sins of the White Man?”
JJ looked out at the Bay and the breeze picked up, cold and heavy, promising rain. He thought of the coming meal. He thought of this family that had taken pity on him for Thanksgiving. His sister had foisted him on Barry and Barry’s parents. JJ had heard her whisper to Barry, like a lawyer and client with heads together at the defendant’s table, “just take a ride. Go bond. Look at the sights.”
“Listen Barry,” JJ said. “I know you don’t want me here. And I don’t really want to be here. We’re putting on a little charade for my sister. And the fuckin Pilgrims went over to Plymouth and found villages decimated by disease brought by other Euros. They took this as a sign that they were meant to be there. And the Indians started playing them off against their rivals. Massasoit had his own problems. And all things considered they did pretty well for a bunch of intolerant utopians in hostile wilderness. Shit, they managed to survive!”
Barry turned away and looked at the water. “So how do we make it through the next two days?”
JJ turned and started walking back to the car. “Let’s go eat some fuckin bird.”