Came out of the brush somewhere on Route 103 East, couple miles from where it hooks up to 89. Sun about 5 degrees up from straight dawn, chilly as shit. Wearing nothing but some generic hunter green work overalls, sturdy enough but the name tag torn off and the legs all ripped to hell like I’d been wrestling a particularly vengeful badger. Maybe a fisher cat, I don’t really know. Things are hazy. I know there’s a night at a remote fishing lodge in the mix, little old thing, rustic, one story, up on pylons near the local pond. Bare bones, just for the hardcore angler/naturist type. I know there’s a heavily tattooed Inuit guy named “Crystal” involved, a duffel bag full of truly low grade homegrown, a couple machetes and a box of M-80’s that just kept singing out my name all night long.
I know the cabin’s a smoldering ruin right now and the smart folks have decided to scatter but that’s really about it.
Goddamnit but my ribs are sore and these fucking workboots are a size too small.
Check my pockets. About a dollar and 39 cents. Card from a real estate agent in Wyoming. A comb. Small canvas sack full of nickels. Half a pepperoni sandwich that’s not all bad considering the number of pine needles stuck in the bread. Breast pocket has a hand written note. “Come you bounty hunter. Come you county killer”. Big, crazy letters. Not my handwriting, I don’t think.
I whip the nickels at a passing Saab with two snowboards attached to the roof, shatter the passenger side rear window with a sound like spider monkeys being tortured with a cattle prod. Couple young, well dressed “winter sport enthusiasts” hop out to give me the eye but think better of it when I show them my teeth. Fuck you, roll on. These are my god-cursed woods.
Flag down a passing school bus (apparently it’s Tuesday, who knew?) and luckily the driver is a girl who enjoys a whiff of danger in her life and we spend a a quality quarter of an hour teaching the kids a particularly vulgar sea shanty. Got a good melody and after the driver passes me the flask she’s got hidden in the dash I start feeling weepy. Pop the doors and ditch out near Hopkinton, tuck and roll into the long grass. Some old snow breaks most of the fall but I’m not sure I’ll ever throw a frisbee again with quite the same accuracy as I used to.
Which is sure as shit a good reason to spend 90 minutes by the side of a New Hampshire dirt road screaming incoherently up at the drab morning sky. Voice all raspy and hoarse by the time I get to the barking part of the performance and now I’m just tired. Nap a bit beside and old rock wall where some kid threw a skateboard with three wheels and a torn up dog collar. I hug the thing while I sleep. Gives me a measure of comfort which you wouldn’t expect but that’s me, I guess.
By the time sun sets I’m home. A well meaning member of the local constabulary has brought me here. Whole ride in silence but with the haunted feeling we’d done it before only I have no idea of his name. Seems like a nice kid and so I just keep my mouth shut. Grateful he never mentions the smell. Drives off without a word never thinking to see if I have a key to the place. Which I don’t.
No matter. The wood shed is unlocked and there’s a bottle or two squirreled in the eaves. Short while I’ve got a proper back woods bonfire roaring. Sparks rise up to the neverending stretch of stars and dark, slowly turning above me. Vast. Uncaring. Without judgement or expectation.
A man with a bottle. Rocking and swaying.
Staring into the fire.