22nd Aug 2016, 12:00 AM
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LilyRose 22nd Aug 2016, 12:00 AM edit delete
Chapter Nine


The woods beyond the back yard are a mystery to Laura; always have been, ever since they bought the summer house five years ago. The truth is, she’s happy enough with a few vacations in places that have something of real interest to offer, and to otherwise spend the summer right home in the city. Let’s be honest, is what Laura says; for us, summer in the city is an air conditioned life. There’s no sense in pretending we have to put up with the horror of summer hell down on the city streets. And since the parking garage is in the basement, we don’t even have to leave the AC to get into the Volvo.

It’s Brian who needs to cultivate this self-image of someone still “connected to the Earth”. Behind his back, Laura and Friends laugh about it; he’s the classic Mid-Life Crisis Yuppie complaining about how our modern life-style has cut us off from everything that’s really important. Glued to the electronic tit of society, tethered to the fiber-optic umbilical cord that regulates every waking - and sleeping, for that matter, - moment of our over-connected, overstimulated, data-rich lives.

So the solution? Get Back to the Earth, in the form of joining the great Yuppie post 9-11 herd yanking their money from their Blind Trusts and Hedge Funds and investing in Real Estate - Real, get it? As in the Real World, and not your MTV Real World, either, but the Real World of dirt and weeds and unpaved roads with potholes big enough to sink an SUV. Get your old Hippy Clothes out of the attic trunk, get on the Peace Train and groove on upstate to Woodstock, stake your claim and buy your homestead while the market’s hot.

Only this isn’t Woodstock; by the time Brian had dragged Laura onto the last Peace Train out of Manhattan, all the Woodstock addresses had been bought and sold and bought again, and were by then back on the hot, hot market for two and three times what they’d sold for just a couple of years before. So while their - Brian’s, really - friends were entertaining on the redwood decks of their rustic, celebrity-architect designed Woodstock summer homes, Laura and Brian are driven farther and farther out into the boonies to find a place they can actually afford, until they wind up here in this shithole of a redneck hamlet so backwater that it doesn’t even have cable service for anyone more than a block away from Main Street. The second most common sight in yards around here after junk cars on blocks is a satellite dish.

Which means that even when they are up here on the same weekends as those friends, nobody’s going to schlep out here for a deck party when there are all those wonderfully funky, Woodstock-y homes to visit. No - rustic is okay but you can’t be more than a ten minute drive from the Specialty Wines and Spirits store and Sunflower Natural Foods. Which means Brian and Laura are always the ones who have to get into the car and drive down to Woodstock in order to socialize. Thank God some of the gloss has worn off for Brian so that they only visit this dump a few weekends a year any more. Too bad the market’s collapsed so that they’re now stuck with an investment that’s worth less than what they paid for it before they put money into fixing it up.

And now it’s Saturday morning and she’s alone here and she’s bored as hell. The air conditioner in the bedroom finally wheezed its last the night before, and Brian took on the quest of driving to Kingston to find them a new one at the Home Depot or Lowe’s down there. She should have gone with him, but she was being pissy about being dragged up here at all. And it’s not like Kingston is some swank burg that just has to be visited. The strip where they keep putting up new big box stores and chain restaurants and hotels reminds her of the less savory parts of Route 17 in New Jersey. Like she needs to come upstate so she can go to strip malls?

The rest of Kingston is a run-down slum. Brian talked her into a road tour of it one day, and they tooled all over town, from the bleak street that was the main drag once upon a time, to the ratty waterfront undergoing desperate gentrification, to the “Wall Street District” where the original old stone and brick homes of the Colonial Period still stand. A dull, tarnished, nothing of a town, one that barely earns it’s official designation as the county’s only city.

So here she is instead, stuck in this house alone without even a car to go somewhere. What had she been thinking? The only really air conditioned room now is the kitchen slash dining area slash living room, And without cable she can’t even watch television. Forget using her laptop to get online. You can’t even get a cell phone to work up here, it’s ridiculous.

She goes to the glass sliders leading out to the back deck, and sweeps aside the long, vertical plastic strips that serve as a curtain or shade or whatever it’s supposed to be. One of the doors has this permanent white fog over it that won’t come off with any amount of ammonia and scrubbing. Brian says it’s something about the seal of the Thermopane leaking, whatever the hell that means. It means money, actually; because he says it can’t be fixed, it can only be replaced, so that’s one more expense they have to shell out before they can at least get their money back when they finally do decide to sell.

Looking out through this glass is like being afflicted with advanced cataracts, so Laura slides the door open and steps out onto the deck, sliding it closed behind her to trap in that precious air conditioning. It’s ten o’clock in the morning and it’s already hot. There’s a bluish haze hanging over the cleared, grassy area of the back yard, right down to the line of trees at the back of the property.

Well, actually, those trees are a part of the property; this house sits on five acres, and the survey map that came with it shows that most of that was both behind the house and covered with woods. There’s even a little stream running through it, somewhere out in the woods there; it slices through the parcel and flows out the back of it to points unknown. That stream was supposed to be something that increased the value of the property; it had been prominently advertised on the Realtor’s listing. But it turns out to be a sluggish, shallow, meandering thing that just about dries up completely by the middle of the summer.

It’s actually shaded way back there by the tree line; the sun isn’t high enough yet to penetrate the far corners. Looks more comfortable there than up here in the sun. There’s something about this scene; the look of the trees, the fall of the shadows... at first she can’t quite grasp it and then she knows; it was a dream she’d had last night. Now that’s she’s thinking about it, she remembers that she’d woken up with the whole thing fresh and clear in her mind, but it had faded so quickly that she’d hadn’t time to give it any analysis. By the time she was up and brushing her teeth she’d forgotten that she’d even had it.

But now it’s come back to her, or at least parts of it. Something about the woods, anyway. The woods, and trees in the woods; what was it? Something about being able to see the trees, or not seeing them, or something. Somebody was talking to her, she can’t remember who. Remembering nothing but fragments like this is worse than not remembering it at all. Now she can’t let go of it. If she could just remember the damn thing, then she could forget about it again.

The grass feels like a lush carpet under her sandals as she walks across the yard. What was that Erma Bombeck title? The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank, that was it. That’s what this is, what she’s walking across right now; a brand new above-ground engineered septic system. That was another one of the big selling points on the listing. Something about septic systems inside the watershed - whatever watershed that is - being very difficult to get board approval for without spending big bucks to design and build one.

It’s not until she’s all the way at the back of the yard that Laura realizes that she means to walk into the woods. That totally throws her; she hadn’t even been thinking about actually stepping out of her cleared and somewhat civilized back yard into an untrimmed and untrammeled forest. But now she stands in the shade of these tall, stately trees, and what she can see looking through into the woods looks pretty pleasant actually. It’s all shady in there, with very little undergrowth; it looks like you could walk around without having to push constant branches and brambles out of your way to do so.

And it looks kind of cool in there; cooler than where she’s standing, anyway. So why not step into the woods? They are her and Brian’s, after all. Not like she’s trespassing, although now that the thought comes to her she realizes that’s a little what it feels like. As though by stepping out of her yard and into the woods she’s leaving her own property and entering someone else’s lands without first asking their leave. That sort of intimidation is the kind of thing she really hates in herself and so that clinches it and she wades through a bit of long grasses and into the trees.
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