He’d been coming up to camp for many years now. The view never failed to impress.
The silvered curve of the river cutting across the front of the property was a sight that always relaxed his mind. Work and family strife were all put away.
Up here it was fishing, hunting, ice fishing. Different seasons, different game. But some things remained the same.
No phone signal.
No noise but the trilling ripples of the river curling around the rocks. A raucous jay called from the stand of oak trees. Off in the distance, a flock of ravens flapped towards the setting sun.
The sky was painted in hues of vermillion and gold, silvered slices of clouds fortelling a beautiful day tomorrow.
He fired up the small camp stove, put on a pot of water. Simple meals up here, some rice, some beans, a few hotdogs would serve for supper.
He took the battered pan out onto the front porch. Porch was a glorified city word for the tiny, rough-floored jut off the one-room cabin, but it boasted a portable camp chair, a rough-hewn table made from a deadfall a few winters back, and a kerosene lantern.
The chair had shaped itself to his butt, and the pan was comfortably warm in his lap as he spooned beans and rice. He sure did love this time of day.
Things were quiet as this side of earth stilled for the night. Already the dark velvet night was pulling itself up from the horizon. He reached for the beer on the table, took a long pull.
With a long burp, he smiled.
Good place to be a man, he thought. He could burp or fart or both without his wife nagging at him to excuse himself.
As if he shouldn’t let it go.
Bodies came with butt holes and chimneys, and sometimes you had to let off a bit of steam, he’d told her.
“Yeah? Go steam up the bathroom then.”
Sometimes she was a right bitch about manners. But up here, it was just the stars, the trees and the river, and none of them cared a bit if he let ‘er rip.
He leaned back, putting the pan on the table. The spoon slipped inside with a metallic rasp, and the table, and more importantly, his beer, wobbled ominously.
He’d been threatening to fix that damned table for three years now. He caught the beer, took another glug, then set it on the floor next to his chair.
“Ahh, what the hell,” he said to himself. Pushing himself up out of the chair, he scratched his belly beneath his belt, belched happily, and went to the back of his truck for his toolbox.
It was close to full-on dark now, and the unexpected cut of lights against the darkness made him squint. He couldn’t see the make, color, or model of the car, but it was a tiny thing. It stopped just behind his truck, and he heard the emergency brake screek as it was engaged.
Fuckin’ foreign cars, he thought, ton o’ money and they couldn’t get the emergency brake to pull as smoothly as his old battered 4X4.
She stepped out of the car and into the beams from her headlights.
“Forgot to turn your lights off,” he spoke to her.
“oh..uh…well, I’m going right back in,” she stammered. “I am lost.”
“No, you’re not lost. You’re right here!” and he laughed at his own joke.
Truth to tell, he couldn’t see much but she wasn’t all that tall, which was fine by him. All that height was wasted on a guy who was just a dash over 5’8″ anyway.
She stepped through the beams and closer to him.
“No, really, I’m lost. I was supposed to go to the Laramie camp. Do you know them?”
“Nope. There’s not a lot of camps up this end of the river,” he added. “Seein’ as I myself own 25 acres, you’ll not find any for quite some way.” He pointed downriver, upriver.
It was dark, no lights sparkling on the horizon.
“Gods,” she moaned. “I don’t know what to do. The road here…”
“Ah, it’s a shit-fer-road,” he said with a smile.
“I never knew New Hampshire was this….empty,” she began.
He tried to hold it back. His wife’s work on ‘mannering’ him began to evaporate, and he guffawed, holding onto the fold-down on his truck.
“Ohmygod” he laughed, coughing. “Little lady, you sure are lost…you’re in Maine…!” and he doubled over, laughing again.
She tried not to fume, or fuss. But really, now, how rude! Okay, so she fucked up big time at some one of those little dinky roads.
It was confusing as hell!
Route 2. 26. 13. Rumford. Gorham. Berlin. 302. Newry. Bethel.
How the hell she had managed to cross over state lines without noticing was …well, likely not that surprising, given her track record.
And maybe he’d sent her on a wild goose chase anyway.
They’d only met online, never in person.
She’d resisted the long drive, knowing her predilection for getting lost. Likely he was sitting in some ski cottage sipping Chablis and thinking she stood him up.
Or he wasn’t there to begin with.
And her fucking phone didn’t work up here.
“I can’t get a phone signal” she said, trying to stop the man from laughing at her.
“Oh, little girl, if you think you’re gonna get anything up here other than moose calls, you’re dang out of luck.”
There went her chance at getting outside help.
“Fine, I’ll sleep in my car.”
“oh yeah, that looks comfortable.” Taking pity on her, he offered her a beer.
“Got some beans and rice leftover if you’re hungry.”
“I’m sorry, but I am starving!” She apologized as she wolfed down the rest of the food in the tin pan. She sucked down the beer, and scraped the bottom of the pan like a true camper.
“So, what brings you to Maine?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Bad directions,” she quipped.
They laughed together.