A Taboo Words Contest Entry
|The little store has been standing for decades. The rusty tin roof sagged, and the whole structure was patched in some way. It always had a fresh coat of paint, though, and the freezer and cooler worked. The owners were as old as the roof and looked the part, and perhaps red paint turned to white the same time as their hair. The town it abutted had 3,000 people, big for the middle of the forest, and was on a busy road. That was easily avoided by using a back trail, though. The rear door still hadn’t been oiled and squeaked loudly, and a new kid at the register looked up. Seeing his red hair and freckles, it was easy to assume he was related to the owners. I started selecting canned goods, fishing and hunting supplies, and a few fresh items. My mouth watered as I thought of the sweet juice running down my chin from the orange I held. I was holding that thought while I finished my business and headed back up the trail. There was some shouting behind me, but I didn’t stop until I heard my name. The lanky young fellow with curly hair behind me wasn’t a warden, so I stopped.
“Are you Mike McDaley?” He breathed heavily.
“Who would ask that who didn’t already know?” I stared at him. “You are?”
“Ed Stanton,” He held out his hand, “Reporter... World.”
I unslung my pack and sat on a stump, “Go on.”
“I’d like to do a story on you.”
“Well, you’re a legend, sort of.” He stammered.
“I can tell you a story, son, but if you mention my whereabouts, we’ll have issues... Clear?”
“Yes, sir.” He replied. I liked him, so I decided to talk.
It had been some years since the quarantine to stop the virus. Everyone was to stay at home and keep away from one another, and most did. It was clear, though, that some people wouldn’t follow any rules. Those were probably the same ones out hoarding essential supplies. Everyone talked like they had answers, but no one did.
I paused to think. He said, “But it’s been over for years.”
“I’m aware. But if you found paradise, would you leave it?” It was only the woods whispering for a few moments.
I took out a lighter and lit an oak pipe I’d carved into a bull’s head. “My only vice.”
“I figured you’d use a flint and steel for a light.”
“Living out here doesn’t make me stupid.” I savored the cherry smoke. “Hell, I have email.”
“Email?! You use email?”
“Sometimes, if I get a signal.” I gave him my address, “Got a Kindle, too. All solar-powered.”
“Hell, if I hadn’t downloaded books, you’d have never caught up to me.”
“Bully for Bezos!” We laughed and I continued.
The woods had always been my playground. The job I left was grueling, but the long hours paid very well. When I got time off, I’d disappear amongst the firs and pines, the babbling streams and rushing rivers, and the flora and fauna of majestic beauty. The math ended up being fairly easy. I took early retirement, set up online banking, and after that it was simple. The old rusted out 4x4 had always been packed with the gear I needed. Some supplies and the vehicle wouldn’t be going this time. I parked at an old wrecking yard, paid for three years of storage, and got everything together. I was even taking items I never thought would be used in the forest. Then, with every step I took, I felt more like a free man.
“The rumor is you poach game.” He said.
“I take what nature gives out there.”
“Slingshot for small game, but I snare, too.” I pointed. “And my old .30-.30 does the rest!”
“Sure. But different...” The sun was getting low and he had his story. We said farewell.
The camp was remote, I had a cook fire, and tarps were set. The smell of bacon still lingered, and I nearly brought down the bear bag for leftovers. It would wait until morning though, and having finished reading my new book, I was sleepy. The splash of the creek nearby was helping, too. I went over the day in my head and the most words I’d spoken in a while. It’s good to contemplate. It’s good to be in a place so easy to be introspective. It’s good.