Tag Archives: Upstate NY

Short Stories

The Honeymooners


The dismal, slate-grey sky of the day was made worse only by the fact that this was her honeymoon. Yesterday had been different but just as bad– eighty-five degrees, humid and no breeze. Jonathan had altered the plans to the weather, he’d said. Yesterday they went for a hike in the woods, where it would be cooler, he’d said. Today they were out on a canoe on Raquette lake. This is not what she thought she would be in for when she enthusiastically agreed to a honeymoon in the woods. Jonathan, of course, had grown up out here and knew what to expect. Charissa was a city girl. She thought that the wilderness was Central Park. This was not in fact true but this trip had still caught her completely off guard.

The exertions involved in carrying a backpack up a hill, for instance, with that stifling humidity and heat was nothing like a workout on the stair machine at her branch of the New York Sports Club. And the bugs. Why did no one make a bigger deal about the bugs when talking about the outdoors? The mosquitoes were the size of humming birds, with little exaggeration, and they liked to bite her even after spraying herself with Deet a third time.

Jonathan thought she was cute in her discomfiture but she was finding the reality of the situation unsettling. They were both conservatives, he from the woods, basically, and she from the city. Charissa thought that moving to the country and living a more self-sufficient life would agree with her and so they planned the first step in this direction with their honeymoon. There was a more conservative mindset in rural areas and Charissa was tired of being in the minority in a city like New York where even a conservative was quite liberal if compared to some in other parts of the country.

Charissa had never thought of herself as naive or unrealistic yet here she was, in a canoe on a lake in the Adirondacks reconsidering the plans she had made with the man she had made them with sitting only four feet behind her. Was she that soft, that city-born? She found this assault on her resolve disconcerting. Charissa admitted to herself that she possibly had some romantic notions about country life, driving a pick up to the dump, snowmobiling around the property they would own in the winter and things of that sort but now she was wondering what else she was missing. For instance, paddling around a lake on a canoe seemed like something one would enjoy. In fact, she did enjoy it a bit. When she commented on the way all the trees had their lowest branches stop at the same point, creating a perfect line between them and the waterline, Jonathan had informed her that it was not by chance that this happened nor was it, as she had speculated, due to a genetic predisposition of the trees. Rather, he informed her, it was caused by deer. In the winter, the deer would walk out onto the ice and raise up on their hind legs to eat every leaf and branch they could reach. Deer trimmed the tree line to a perfect, uniform height. This was something she could never have even suspected, and something she found fascinating. But right now, on this boat, she was getting wet. How could she have suspected that one would splash oneself with water while using a paddle. That was another thing no one ever complained to her about during their retelling of their journeys into the wilderness. The mosquitoes generally stayed away out here on the water but there were gnats and no-see-um’s, smaller than gnats, (and that could not be their real name) that would fly right into your eyes and get caught and then, from your blinking, get buried under your eyelid so that you would be lucky to get them out later with a wet hand kerchief.

What a mess. Jonathan was still paddling around, doing most of the work while Charissa was trying to not let her dread show. The future was daunting now and she was being gripped with a sensation that she had made an awful mistake marrying this man. He had come to the city for a job in a prestigious law firm and had always planned to move back up to the Adirondacks and open a firm in Utica. She had agreed to this future and this marriage on these terms. Right now she was trying to recall if any of Jonathan’s stories ever skipped over the harsher aspects of reality in the wild. Was he to blame? Did he dupe her into this? Could she escape this nightmare with a sense of righteousness or was she the one to blame?

She had to calm down first, think this thing through. There was always the possibility that this change in environment was only being accentuated by the fact that she had just gotten married. That could be a contributing factor, she admitted. She did love Jonathan but still, marriage was not the highest thing on her priority list when she’d met him. She was driven and directed, in a professional way, so was he. She had things she wanted out of a relationship and he was so laid back about their life together that it had seemed almost effortless from her point of view. He never fretted over her nor held her back, never judged her. His work life took up a lot of time, as did hers and they met in the moments in between. The lack of pressure about the inconveniences associated with these facts of life were what made Jonathan even more endearing to her. He was never irrational or overbearing in his need to see her.

But now she felt pressure. She suddenly, for the first time in their relationship, was staring at a problem that she was not sure could cope with. How could she talk to him about it? Give acknowledgment to a fear that had crept into their life on its second day? Could she call her mother? No, not from her honeymoon. Besides, Jonathan would have to make a trip to the store for her to do something like that because she would not get caught calling her mother from her honeymoon, not that she held out much hope for sound advice from that quarter.

She looked around the lake again, at this remoteness that she felt was now closing in around her. One hour by helicopter, that is what the camp ground host had told them. The nearest hospital was one hour by medivac, so be careful. That, too, was a chilling reminder of the difference between the city and the country. They had driven for more than half an hour without seeing a town. Old Forge was the name of that town and it seemed to have about fifty people living in it. Charissa had wanted to be more independent, more self-sufficient, but she had not thought that you could live somewhere in America where you would be an hour away from a hospital…by helicopter. When they had gone for their hike yesterday the host had told them that the trail was, at its farthest point, twenty miles through the woods to the closest road…so be careful.

What else could be waiting for her out here to mystify and frighten her, she wondered? Are there no sewer systems? Do people drink from wells? Snapping her out of her daymare, she heard what sounded roughly like an owl. Higher pitched but in the same pattern that she had heard in movies and on TV. The noise was more like a who, who, who, who, who, who, who, who….trailing off at the end there. Just as she turned to ask Jonathan if owls were ever out in the day time, his hand reached out and touched her left shoulder, “Look,” he said in a low whisper. As she turned to her left, her eyes followed his hand out onto the water. She saw what looked to her like ducks. They seemed to be sitting too low in the water though.

“Are those what made that sound?” she asked.

“Yep. Loons,” Johnathan answered.

“Loons,” she chuckled, “really?” Good Lord, what next? she thought. The only loons she’d ever heard of where extremist liberals on internet chat sites.