The shower, as good as it was, had taken all the starch out of me. It was almost as if the dirt that seemed to fill every single one of my pores had been holding me up and, now that it was washed away, I was no longer capable of standing on my own. To hell with it, I thought, I’m going to make something real for dinner tonight and go to bed early. My notes are nearly done, and the rest of the paperwork I can do tomorrow. I’m doing laundry and calling a half holiday for myself. After what I’d seen today…I quashed the thought again. Never mind, Em, it’s over now. Get on with life, because that rocky little patch of land called Penitence Point, Maine, is going to make your career, and you can’t afford any distractions now, of all times.
I finished my beer and started to dry off. The towel felt harsh against my skin thanks to the growing collection of aches, bruises, scratches, and mosquito bites on top of the sunburn and the windburn. Lucky for me the site had no poison ivy, else I would have been a real mess. Pulling on my clothes was a chore—I was really stiffening up now—but there’s no way to describe that luxury of having that last pair of clean panties if you haven’t spent all day sweating and soaking up bug spray. Fieldwork makes you appreciate the little things in life like you wouldn’t believe.
Feeling much more human for the shower and my decision to take the night off, I started gathering up my laundry from around the room. I picked up my dirty work trousers and started to empty out the pockets. I found the usual miscellany: a piece of chalk, a tangle of string and bright orange flagging tape, three ballpoints and four markers, an eraser, two pennies, a small plastic bag, a dirty tissue, a pair of root clippers. And how did I end up with three tape measures? I must have absentmindedly picked up the two that weren’t mine, trying to keep the site tidy. My husband has tried unsuccessfully to break me of the habit of stuffing my pockets like a chipmunk’s cheeks, but then he has to admit that I always have an item when I need it. I picked up my Marshalltown trowel and affectionately placed it on top of my boots, where I’d find it tomorrow when I got dressed.
Laundry sorted into piles, I turned my thoughts kitchen-ward and to another cold beer. The students, with whom I was sharing this dorm as well as the work on the site, were unusually quiet. They’d already finished their dinners, I thought grumpily, but their subdued behavior was extraordinary and no one was in the common kitchen area. What generally went on was the sharing of six-packs and trading of improbable stories about fieldwork: who worked on the most unusual, most difficult, most boring, most exotic sites, with the most irascible, most inept, drunkest, or luckiest director. I knew that it wouldn’t be long before this summer’s stories became a part of that circulating canon of anecdotes. I mean, excavating the earliest English settlement on the American mainland should be enough for anyone, but I’d be interested to see what they’d make of this day’s events in particular.