Strangers Now

Jennifer drove the old Range Rover down a dirt road. She was a powerfully built woman, confident in her power and bodily contours. Her body swayed in rhythm with the motion of the car. Brad, her husband, sat in silence beside her, watching her watching the road. Attached to the roof rack was everything they had left. "We're almost there," she said without taking her eyes off the rutted road.

He wanted to say something but the words seemed caught in the dust of the dirt road beneath them. Instead, he looked towards the roof and thought she was right after all. Perhaps he would have said what he wanted to say but the car turned off the county road onto the property and stopped, stopping his thoughts. The land stretched before them, one hundred sixty acres of pasture land divided by a line of maple, long forgotten by animals and hunters.

Jennifer stepped from the car into the harsh bright summer heat of northern Maine's potato growing region. The hot brightness of the day mirrored the hardness of the back country. Surrounding her were the small farms of small farmers who still eked out a survival, tilling the unforgiving soil. Each farm now appeared to be a miniature desert awaiting the potato sprouts to break through its sun baked topsoil.

Each farm except this farm. This farm, her father's farm, now her farm, was different. Unlike the rest of the small community, Susan's father had been a dairy farmer with a herd of seventy Holstein. One day near the end of summer a decade before, forty-five head had died from a poison put into the stream which ran through the property. It was never discovered how the poison came to be there. Having neither funds nor desire to continue and struggle through another harsh winter, he moved his family to a warmer climate.

Jennifer always loved Maine.

Brad glided from the passenger seat and stood on the other side of the car. His thin muscular frame leaned on the hood of the car as Susan's eyes came to rest in the depths of his brown eyes. She raised an arm and pointed to a knoll about two hundred yards distant. "We'll build the cabin over there," she said.

Brad looked in the direction of the knoll. This is a different world, he thought. There was not the air of relaxation and sensuality as there was in the coolness and pleasure of Maine's lake region. But there the marriage had also languished as though the idyllic setting had been a curse, the easy existence anathema to Maine's reality. Now, Jennifer was going to change all that. She surrendered to doing it Maine's way. Brad surrendered to doing it Jennifer's way.

The cabin would be built on the very spot where Jennifer's father's house had once stood. Through the years that house had been dismantled by neighbors in need of lumber, copper, glass, anything usable or salable. Now, the knoll stood barren except for the growth of tall grass. It was as though the house had never existed at all.

Jennifer and Brad pitched their tent beneath a protective covering of apple trees. He made the multi-colored domed tent as comfortable as possible, even building some shelves from tree limbs and planks tied together with rope. He shot a look to Jennifer that said he was proud of his ingenuity. Jennifer busied herself with the task of unpacking and placing their belongings on the shelves Brad built. He snatched glances at her during the busy day.