The Bog: part six (short story)
They heard him shuffle, halt, cough.
“It’s Dana!” he called back. “Dana Jenkins.”
“Not that creepy guy,” Rachel said, low, not out of earshot. But then, she meant Duffet.
“Dana, are you alone?”
“Yes, ma’am. I wonder if you remember me?”
She hadn’t seen Dana since high school, many years past, and couldn’t recall his picture turning up on the Boggies’ website, or the local paper’s. He was probably fat and grey; he had probably seen her picture, since Duffet had included hers in the fanned array of team photos on the home page. She hadn’t liked Dana, and didn’t like in general when people who’d treated you as a punchline, came up decades later with no acknowledgement…as though an old, shared experience made everyone pals.
But then again…
“Why are you ‘ma’am-ing’ me, Dana?”
He grunted into the light of the lantern. “You’re like my wife.” He gave a nervous laugh.
He wasn’t getting it.
He wasn’t making Laurel out old…or if he was, she couldn’t be bothered. He was making her out forbidding. Of course, the same might be true of his wife.
“Why are you here?” Rachel said.
“Keeping an eye on things.”
“What things? This isn’t your land. Aren’t you breaking the law?”
“You know what it’s like out here when the moon’s full, and you’re camped up on the ridge…” They heard his coat sleeve swish, saw his arm rise against the sky, pointing. “Everything’s lit up like a stadium. Unbelievable. You can watch deer go across. We used to see owls, one time maybe a coyote. Maybe not.”
He eased down onto the seat of his pants, putting out a palm to balance. “They let you have a little campfire out here?”
“I didn’t ask. I guess it would tell on the permit…” Her permit was in her pack. And there was no reason for Laurel to raise the point.
“Well, I don’t wanna make trouble. It’s kind of cheerful, having a fire. We used to do hotdogs and marshmallows.”
“Yeah. A cookout’s nice.” Rachel, speaking softly to a crazy man, and gripping her phone, was backing; she was behind Dana, standing and above his head, dipping hers like someone who searched for a big stick, or a rock.
Laurel didn’t want anyone present making trouble.
“How’s your family, Dana? How’s the business?”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Good for the bank.”
She hadn’t heard this news. On review, Laurel thought she’d stopped getting flyers from Jenkins. These had gone straight from mailbox to recycling bin.
“But you’re logging,” Rachel said.
“No. We got held up on that.”
“Well…Jeff, my husband, thinks if the land belongs to you, it’s not right. Those people…that Duffet…”
“You think so too,” Laurel said.
“I really don’t care. I just know what makes sense.”
“It doesn’t though. It’s like any kind of thing between neighbors. It’s like…you don’t want someone putting in a bar next door to you, staying open ’til two a.m., having customers park all over your street. But your street is zoned, so no one could do that.”
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)