Issue 35, Final Fringe

Hunters

by Kate Russell Issue 21 12.07.2009

A Maine Guide called tonight, asking about the lake house. He lives ten miles away, in a town even smaller than this one, and he likes his hunters to be close to him. The place he had been putting them up at didn’t have electricity or a water pump. The wives didn’t like the outhouse.

“Are you on the grid?” he asks, and it takes a few moments for me to understand.

“There’s a full bathroom,” I say. “A television with some DVDs. A coffeemaker on the kitchen counter.”

“The wives will like that,” he says, and I imagine these women who tag along on their husbands’ hunting trips, staying in all day while the men are out stalking animals and waiting for them to come home with coolers full of raw meat.

The lake house came with my house. I once used it as a studio, but that was back when I was painting and back when we could afford it. Now I rent it to tourists in the summer and to whoever I can in the winter. I clean it between guests, change the sheets, vacuum the floors. The tourists leave half-empty bottles of wine and socks under the beds and sometimes a note for me on the kitchen counter to let me know they had a wonderful time.

There’s a stretch of woods between the lake house and my house, but voices travel easy, especially over the water. Some summer nights I sit on my deck, hidden by trees, and listen to them—happy, laughing families.

In the winter, of course, it’s different. It is cold and isolated and no one takes vacations up here except people who are unhappy and want to be alone. My old friends ask me why I don’t move and I say that it’s peaceful and beautiful here, and that I like living somewhere that hardly anyone else can stand to live. That it makes me feel like I’m doing something incredible all the time.

The Maine Guide comes by, dressed entirely in hunter’s camouflage even though it’s Sunday. The hunters from New Jersey are all moved in and he pays me rent. They’re going moose hunting starting tomorrow. The hunters from New Jersey waited all year for this; they entered and won a lottery for the chance to hunt an animal that moves at the pace of a cow. In December they’ll come back to hunt bobcats. They do that with dogs: baying beagles that tear through the snow and scare the cat up a tree until the hunters come and shoot it down.

Later that afternoon I go for a walk wearing bright orange and without my dogs, who are all different shades of fawny brown and, with bursts of gangly speed, would run too far ahead of me on the road.

The Maine Guide doesn’t hunt anymore, not like he used to. He tells me this after he’s been out with the people from New Jersey all day. They didn’t get their moose yet, but it was only the first day. They couldn’t stay quiet, he says. There’s three men and two boys. The boys were both soft. That’s the word he uses: soft. They couldn’t handle the hours and the cold.

We’re standing in my driveway, he next to his truck and me on the front steps. The dogs are outside, running back and forth between us. They love him the way they love anyone who will give them attention, but when I clap my hands they listen because I am the one who gives them food.

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Kate Russell

Kate Russell

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Kate Russell is a graduate of Indiana University and University of Maine at Farmington. She lives in Clifton, Maine and is currently at work on a novel set on Mount Desert Island.