by Marian Allen
I love the United States. It’s some Yanks that annoy me. As soon as they hear I’m from Canada, they say something like, “So, how do you like America, eh?” Then they ask me if I know William Shatner — assuming they even know Shatner’s from Canada. Then they ask me about ice hockey, which I don’t care about.
Maple syrup. Don’t get me started on how many times they’ve offered me maple syrup at dinner. Then they laugh and laugh.
Sometimes, it’s all I can do to keep from demonstrating that Canadians are not pathologically polite and pacifist.
Then there’s Monica.
On this particular vacation, two other guys and I rented a camper and drove down into North Dakota and stayed in a random series of national park campgrounds. It was a working vacation: We had decided to put together a volume of three novellas, each of us writing the same story from a different character’s point of view. The trouble was, we didn’t have the story.
The first place we stopped, we were next to a fairly new camper with American plates. The woman driving it seemed to be alone, so we all went over and offered to help her hook up. Hook up the camper, I mean. She was an older lady, maybe Sean’s age, but nice-looking enough that I wouldn’t have minded buying her a drink. She was old enough to be Frank’s gran, so he was just being kind.
“I can do it myself,” she says. Then, as if she had to remind herself to say it, “Thank you.”
So we brought out the folding chairs and sat under our canopy and watched her.
She was slow, but she did everything right. When she was finished, we applauded.
Now, wouldn’t you think she would have smiled and taken a bow? But, no, she gave us each a dirty look.
Sean, maybe trying his luck, lifted a beer in salute and said, “Join us for a cool one?”
“No, thank you,” she said, and went into her vehicle.
We saw her at the lodge that night, and offered her a seat at our table, but — you guessed it — she sat alone.
After dinner, we went back to the camper. Well, we sat out on the other side of our camper from Monica and had a couple of beers with our neighbors over there and then went in. We brainstormed ideas deep into the night, all of which seemed stunningly stupid when we woke up just before lunchtime.
Monica was gone. Nothing to regret about that.
But you can probably guess who was in the next park we stopped in. We were walking one of the nature trails that led in and out of the grounds and came out on the opposite side of the camp where we were parked. And there was Monica, her face all sour, undoing her connections.
“Moving on?” I said. I wasn’t very good with dialog on a first draft; always had to punch it up in the rewrites.
She didn’t answer, and I have to admit, it didn’t deserve an answer.
Frank said, “We were next to you at another park a few days ago.”
“I know,” she said, which was almost like a conversation.
It encouraged Sean to say, “Where are you off to, now?”
“Why?” she said, eyes narrowed.
We want to make sure we go someplace else, I thought, but I didn’t say it out loud.
“Just curious,” said Sean, with one of his super-charmer smiles.
Monica wasn’t charmed. “I haven’t decided,” she said. Then, probably because this was likely the deepest discussion she’d had outside of ordering dinner, she said, “I just want to be left alone.”
“By everybody,” I said, “or just by us? Because we can help you on the second item, but you’re on your own with everybody else.”
She looked like she regretted saying more than two words. “Everybody,” she said, and then she was gone.
Sean said, “Five dollars says we come across her again before we go home.”
Frank said, “Canadian or American?”
Frank and I together said, “You’re on.”
But we lost that bet. She was at the very next place we stopped. She didn’t even hook up her camper. Just drove through, probably decided there were too many people there, and took off.
Frank said, “That’s one odd duck, right there. She won’t be happy until she finds a place that’s completely deserted. Nobody but herself. And ghosts. Silent ghosts.”
Sean, who favored horror, said, “Zombies.”
In the spirit of the thing, I said, “And a serial killer in the woods.”
Frank sat up straight. “She’s a serial killer! Dead bodies turn up everywhere she goes.”
Sean said, “In the campground, on the trails, in the lodges, in the towns. Different settings, so they don’t connect them all at first.”
Frank grabbed his laptop. “I’m the detective.”
I grabbed my notebook and favorite pen. “I’m a camper who runs into her all the time and I feel like she’s stalking me.”
“Right, then,” said Sean, leaning back with his fingers laced together, hands cradling his head, elbows sticking out all over the place. “I’m Monica.”
The book, I’m happy to say, was a modest but satisfactory success. I’m even happier to say we never did an RV vacation again, so we never saw Monica, from that day to this.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Annoying guys from Canada. The writers writing the same topic. Success….