In the Forest

It was very strange, wandering there in the woods of Cape Breton.  I had just finished 10th-grade.  My folks and I were doing our second Canada camp-a-thon.  We loved the east side. The first Canada trip had been when I had just finished 8th-grade. I was two years older, and as such, according to popular lore, two years wiser.

So, there I was, wandering around in the woods, looking for a great place to take a smoke break.  Yeah, that’s right, I was 15, but I still hid my smoking from my mommy and daddy.

As I wound my way through some pretty intense, although not quite machete-wielding-intense flora, I thought I heard running water off in the distance.

Suddenly I had the urge to see what must be a stream, to smoke a few True Blues there, dangling my feet in the water.  After ten minutes or so, I arrived at this idyllic babbling brook, and much to my surprise, sitting near one of the larger pooling places, sat this beautiful young woman.

She was sketching, charcoal on a good-sized thicker white paper stock.

These were back in the days where I was rather obtuse about things like soundlessly approaching women from behind. By the time I went to college at the University of Hawai’i, when I would walk places like McCarthy Mall late at night, and there would be a lone woman off in the distance, I would try to make as much noise as possible, without seeming insane, to try to set that woman at ease, knowing I was there, and hopefully knowing I meant no harm

But just out of 10th-grade, I was clueless about the implications of sneaking up on a woman from behind.  I’m guessing the running water contributed to masking my approach as well. I swear I was not trying to be too quiet, but I think I was probably about mouse-quiet, in hindsight.

An aspiring artist myself, although stuck at the stick-figure level of life drawing, I stood there admiring her work, looking over her shoulder.

Now as I have portrayed myself as totally naïve about sneaking up on women, I was also equally dim-witted about suddenly speaking to them when my mouth was a few inches from their ears.

“That’s beautiful,” I said, ever the articulate and originally insightful art critic.

I swear, if she’d jumped any higher from her sitting position, I’d have thought she was a frog some prince had kissed.

And I mean to tell you, she, like her drawing, was beautiful.  I mean really beautiful.

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I scare you?”  An appropriate question on my part, don’t you think?

“Oh, yes, geez.”  She was panting and grabbing at the area of her heart, which gave me a chance to admire her at that particular level.

I gave her some space to recover.  “Finally I said, my name is Lanny, what’s yours?”

Sadly, I cannot remember her name.  Let me call her Fiona.

So she said, “My name is [Fiona].”

“I’m over at the campground with my folks.  Are you camping?”

“No,” she said, “I live back there.”

I followed the direction in which she pointed over her shoulder, but all I could see was more bushes and trees.

“Oh,” I said, “that’s nice.”

I sat down beside her.

“So are you out here picking blueberries?” she asked.

“Ah, blueberries?  Ah, where are they?”

She laughed.  “They’re all around us. They grow wild here.”

I looked around, and, sure enough, naturalist that I am, I observed boatloads of blueberries all over the place that I’d not seen before.  I’d probably been mashing them into a kind of blueberry wine consistency all the way over to the side of this forest nymph.

“Well, no, I was actually looking for a place to smoke a cigarette.”

She looked at me, crinkling up her nose and frowing.  “You shouldn’t do that around here.  You might start a fire.”

“Oh, ah, okay.”

I guessed she was around my age, give or take a year.  I’d never seen anyone who looked quite like her.  Canadians, they all looked alike to me, but not this woman.

“You go to school around here?”

“No, I finished school.  Mostly these days I just draw and paint.”

“Is that your work, the job you do?”

“Yes, well, I do sell my work.”

“Wow, that’s outstanding.  I’d love to make a living doing art.  Sadly, I haven’t got any talent.  My dad wants me to go to law school eventually.”

She looked at me again.  “You don’t look like you’d be one.”

“Really, a lawyer, you mean?”

“Yes.  Give me your hand.”

Okay, this was moving in a positive direction.  Remember, I was 15 at the time.

I gladly handed over my hand.  I would have handed over a lot more of me if she’d asked me to do so, no problem. Anything to improve international relations.

She rubbed my palm, then held it, staring into it.  She ran her index finger over the lines.   It was a tingling sensation.

“I see a long life ahead for you.  You won’t make a lot of money, so maybe you won’t be a lawyer, unless maybe you’re a public defender, but you will do something that helps people.”

“Okay.”

“And this is your love line.”

She ran her index finger back and forth over it, back and forth, as if she were a scout, earning her wilderness survival badge, striking a fire by which to make S’mores.

“You’re going to be lucky in love.”

“Wow. Okay.”  I liked the sound of that.

And then she shocked the hell out of me by leaning toward me and kissing me.

I could hear the sound of the water.  I opened my eyes.  Something weird had definitely happened.  It was getting dark.

I sat up.  I was alone.

“What the –”

There was a Dixie cup of blueberries sitting beside me.

I stood up and looked around.  Then I stared over in the direction she’d pointed toward as her home.  Nothing.  No one.

Getting back to our tent was a bit more of a challenge than I’d wished it wouldn’t be.  It was dark by the time I found my parents.

The fire was going.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” my dad said.  “Where were you all this time?”

“What’s that?” my mom asked, pointing at the cup in my hands.

“I, ah, it’s blueberries, wild blueberries, they’re all over the place.”

My dad reached for the cup, turned it toward the Coleman lamp to examine the berries, then shook a few into his hand.  He rolled them around, then popped one in his mouth.

“Blah!”  He spit it out, grabbed a water bottle, gargled and spit vigorously.  “Lan, I don’t know what these are, but they’re not blueberries.  You didn’t eat any of these did you?  They could be poisonous.”

“I, I think I did.”

“Are you sick now?” my mom asked.

“No, no, I don’t think so.  I met a woman,” I said.  “She was in the woods drawing.  I can’t believe it.  She actually kissed me.  And then I woke up.  I think I was lost, or something.”

My parents looked at me like I was an in-orbit space cadet.

“Okay, well, let’s eat,” my dad said, shaking his head.  “I’m glad we didn’t have to call the park rangers to go find you.”

“Yes,” my mom said, “We’re glad you’re here and alive.  Let’s eat.  It’s getting late.”

* * * * *

Today’s trigger is

fruit

Use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece below. I would love to read it : )

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