Drive Home from the City

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story in the form of a top-ten list.... view prompt


Christmas Contemporary Inspirational

I was in the work kitchen Wednesday when Ashley asked me what I was doing for the holidays. I looked around to make sure she was talking to me. I told her I was going home to Wilton. We had been in the kitchen and meetings before, never had she said a word, to me. For three days she has been seeking me out and talking. Asking about me. She was from Boston. I might as well have told her I was going to the North Pole for Christmas.  

What was I thinking? What are the chances a smart, smoking hot, nerd girl like Ashley would talk to me in 2 weeks when I got back? Matthew and Jacob were constantly talking with her. I had as much a chance with her as Trump did staying President. Why am I going home for Christmas? All my life all I wanted to do was get out of Wilton, Maine. I hated that backwater town. I couldn’t wait to leave and be involved in the Portland Tech Industry. I should be staying here with her. Yet here I was, driving out of the city, away from her.

I was driving my Kia SUV coming up to Back Cove.  It wasn’t too late to turn around, was it? I hit the steering wheel. I promised my mother I come home. I looked out at the water as I wondered how my mother was still able to manipulate me. The water reminded me of the Lakes around home. Swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing or just watching the waves and its reflections on a hot summer day. Maine waters had been paying bills for families for the past 300 years and it paid mine one summer.  As a kid, I didn’t have any bills other than getting an iPhone, which my parents would not buy for me.  

My uncle gave me my first summer job was as a fishing guide on Wilson Pond.  He worked at a resort and guided on the side. I hated fishing but my uncle said I only had to paddle the people around and tell them stories of the area. It would not matter if they caught any fish. We always went to the brook at the tip of Wilson Pond first. Everyone went here. Then I would go east and catch the big fish behind Camp Island. I could drop my line with ten other people and they would all reel in a trout, suckers or salmon except me. That didn’t matter when you guided. You set the customer up and they brought in the fish. I liked paddling the canoe and telling stories of the area better than fishing anyway. The more fish they caught the better my tip. I had my iPhone by mid-July. It was a great summer job for a student. Make money by telling stories in the morning and golfing in the afternoon. It didn’t get any better.

As Back Cove slid by, I sighed, hit the steering wheel with less force this time and resigned myself to the drive home. It was a two-hour drive. Ashley would have to wait, I hoped. My mom would be so disappointed if I didn’t go. Family! I hope Ashley would still talk to me when I got back. I had two hours to think about her and why I was leaving her behind. I knew I had to go home. I looked out the window, it was cold. Below freezing now and my headlights shone on the ice on the edge of small lake.

I found myself reminiscing as I saw a pond similar to ours. I received my first skates as a Christmas present when I was 5. The first time we went skating I followed my friend Tyler and one of my skates went through the soft ice. My foot was wet but I wouldn’t tell my parents. During the winter my older brother and I would get home from school and race down to the pond with the skates, laces tied together slung over a shoulder to go skating. We were the only ones there. Bare ice, with blown snow around the edges and a tree which had fallen into the water the previous spring to allow us to sit and tie our skates.

My skates were two sizes too big. I would grow into them. In rural Maine you grew into a lot of things especially with an older brother. I would skate on my ankles until my feet were sore and cheeks red. The sun would be setting and my brother would tell me it’s time to go. We would put our boots on, our sore feet thanking us, and head back up the hill to the house for supper.  Someone flashed me their high beams. I clicked mine off. What was I doing? Driving away from Ashely.

Ashely had a way of dressing to stir my imagination. Even so it was her face which always came to mind and her luscious lips. As red and full as Emilie’s. Emily was the golf cart girl when I was a pin head at the Wilson Lake Golf Course the year after I guided for my uncle. I stopped each morning at the eleventh hole and she would meet me and we would talk and drink a coffee. This was early before most golfers got to the back nine. I was mesmerized by her stories and presence. She had a boyfriend. Yet every morning she would talk to me about her worldly problems, never about her boyfriend. I never saw her outside work. I wanted to.  She lived in Jay and I was in Wilton. Those early morning meetings were magical. When I told her, it was my last day, she shed a tear. She leaned in and gave me the most memorable kiss. Its eight years later and I can still taste her lip gloss. She drove off in her beverage cart. I never did see her again. I heard she married her boyfriend. I never forgot our talks. I shook my head and stopped for a soda. I needed to wake up.

It was now fully dark and there was no one on route 202. A flashlight beam on the hill caught my eye as I left the parking lot. I was immediately transported to a dark bumpy hill ion a toboggan. This flashlight on the hill swung around and wicked out. When I was very young, we would toboggan all afternoon and into the night by the light of our flashlights. 

When there was a big snow, the entire town would gather on Sunday afternoon and go tobogganing. At least all the kids from my school. This was on old man Craigs land. He did not mind and he even made hot chocolate for us, one time. It was cold and he built a bon fire at the top of the hill and had a big pot over the fire. As we came to get warm, he would dip a ladle into the pot and pour us a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate into a very white Styrofoam cup. The fire would warm us on the outside and the hot chocolate on the inside. We would finish the hot chocolate, with a good hit of sugar and toss our empty cups on the fire to watch the Styrofoam shrivel and laugh when they finally caught fire. We would repeat this until we heard our moms calling from the road below. Time to go home.

The maple trees had no more leaves and stood like sentinels on the hillside against the clear moonlight sky. It was during the Olympic years we would build ourselves a luge track around the maple trees so it was safe.  We did this every year but during the Olympics it was a luge track. The tracks high sides allowed for us to get down the hill without hitting a tree in the dark.  If the weather was right, we would take a couple days to build the track and then it would freeze solid. We always went out after supper in the dark. It was the only time we had free time during the week.

It was fun and fast.  Adrenaline pumping as we turned away from the dark trunks at the last second on a luge bend. There was some light from the houses and some from the road. The flashlight did not help in the trees with all the turns and our speed. It seemed like daylight when you were standing in the middle of the trees. But when you looked from our doorstep you only saw darkness beyond the first few tree trunks. How we didn’t kill ourselves I will never know.  Our snow banks didn’t always serve the purpose and we would slide over their edge and hit the tree and fall into the snow laughing our heads off. Teddy broke his arm one winter but we said he fell on the road walking home. The thrill of those days sent adrenaline through my body, even today as I drove.

It was interesting how the toboggan took me away from Ashley. Not the images of the last two days when she talked to me wearing her bulky Christmas sweaters and black plants.  When I thought of Ashley, I mostly saw her in the red, not quite mini dress as she bit her lip looking at a file by the elevator and then only the image of her pretty face. I froze as I walked around the corner not 10 yards away. She didn’t see me. It was mid-September. She waited and eventually entered the elevator to go to her meeting. I am not sure how long I stood there before I continued down the hallway. It was the Ashley with the reindeer sweaters who had been talking to me this week. For the first time talking about non work stuff. I saw the black road turn brown, with a prism then I realized it was a deer which had leapt onto the highway. I slammed on my brakes. I came to a stop and watched three more hop out of the ditch. They looked into my headlights before sauntering across the highway, disappearing into a field.

As frightening as the deer had been, they brought a smile to my face. I hadn’t seen deer since the last time I drove this road. It was a nice drive. Christmas lights were on every rural house, unlike the city. Each house brought a new smile. After 45min I had almost put Ashley out of my mind and was now meditating about all the wild things we did as kids. Like climbing White Gorge when we were 13. On hot summer days, either on kayaks or floaties, we drifted down the river by the most imposing bluff on the river.  We would joke about how easy it would be to climb. Fun to climb.  Until the day we began the ascent.

In the end only two of us tried. We had to climb fifty yards straight up grabbing rocks and small trees trying to avoid the wet mossy areas. I was 2/3 of the way up and froze. I didn’t know where to get the next handhold. I tried going back down but my first foothold slipped sending panic through my body and a small rock by Matthews head. I couldn’t see anything below me. I grabbed a small spruce tree above and got a foothold again. How those small trees held our weight on bare granite I will never know.  I spent 10 minutes deciding what to do next. I could only go up. Matthew was behind me. He didn’t say anything. We finally got to the top, turned looked down. It was something I knew I would never do again.  It was something we would never forget as we looked down the gorge to the turn in the Androscoggin River. We could see the spot where we lost the raft earlier that summer.

We spent an entire month building a raft early in the summer. It was the hottest June on record. Every day was a blue blazer. We would finish our chores in the morning, eat lunch and then we were free till supper.  We biked to a channel backwater to go swimming every day. After a week we thought it would be more fun to lay on a raft than the rounded rocks on the beach. 

Thus, began our boat building career. I don’t know whose land it was but we chopped down three old trees. They were already dead with not much bark left and dry, the best to float. We didn’t know what punky meant back then. We managed to haul 4 plywood panels two feet wide, four feet long back through the woods on our bikes to the backwater. Along with some nails and rope we built a raft. We tied it to some big trees and it floated 10 feet off shore. Mission accomplished. We then brought our diving masks and a rubber hose to explore the river bottom. It didn’t work. Lying on the raft with our feet in the water was great. After a week we were horsing around and bouncing up and down on the raft and the ancient rope we used to secure the raft to the trees broke. We jumped in and tried holding it but the current was too strong and the raft too heavy. All four of us climbed back on the raft. 

At first, we were scared, then excited, then confused. The current front right side of the raft, the side which was originally tied to the tree, dipped under the water. As we went further down the out-of-control river the front half of the raft began to dip further under the water. We all scrambled to the back of the raft and held on. We made it past the gorge and then we hit a rock coming out gorge as the land flattened away. When the punky sunken log hit the rock, it raised the back end of the raft into the air flinging us all into the water. All the nails came loose and the raft left the rock in pieces. We floated to the river bank laughing our fear away and made our way back to our bikes. 

We talked about that all summer long.  Especially when we jumped from the bridge crossing the river at Jay.  We talked as we waited for cars to cross the bridge.  We then jumped off pretending their bumpy bridge ride had forced us off the bridge into the river. We weren’t allowed to jump off the bridge but on a hot day it was fun and refreshing. No one stopped us. 

I passed the school in Jay and couldn’t wait to get home and spend Christmas with my family. It wasn’t the school but the recollection of the concerts in Wilton at the Gerald D Cushing gymnasium at Christmas. We didn’t have mall Santa’s back then. We had community concerts, always on the Sunday before Christmas. 

The people in the community would put on Christmas skits and sing Christmas carols. As a child you liked these but you were excited because you knew Santa was coming. The parents would tell us it was just a concert at the school. Santa was too busy to visit Wilton. Right on cue, as all the children were up on stage, singing “Here comes Santa Clause” he would arrive. All the children on stage could see him come through the back entryway. With a jolly Ho Ho Ho Santa would enter the hall. He would make his way through the crowd to the main stage where a chair would magically appear and each boy and girl would be called up to the stage and we would each receive a present from under the tree. The concert was coming up on Sunday. 

I guess a small town was not so bad after all. Who knows what the stars hold for us? What we do know is the stars will be there tomorrow night. I was disappointed I would not be with Ashley but she will be there when I get back. Matthew and Jacob were good programmers but they were chuckleheads. It would be a good Christmas Holiday with my family and childhood friends. It took a slow drive and echoes of my childhood activities to make me realize I had a great time growing up. I was glad to be home.

January 01, 2021 15:33

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04:53 Jan 30, 2021

I could feel the chills as I read this story! If you don't mind, would you be kind enough to take a look at my story? I'd like some constructive criticism. Could you also follow and like me)?


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Mary LaForge
03:52 Jan 07, 2021

I could feel the coldness of the season in the writing, most like,y because I grew up in the North, and the emotions you shared during flashbacks. Isn't it interesting how we adopt feelings we believe we should have in order to justify our choices... glad you enjoyed going home.


Joe Kavanagh
23:35 Jan 07, 2021

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed the story. I am new to writing so know I have a long way to go.


Mary LaForge
07:57 Jan 09, 2021

Great start, Joe!


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Iris Silverman
19:29 Jan 05, 2021

I could really get a picture of what this narrator's childhood was like in rural Maine. As a person who grew up in a rural area, I can relate to many of these memories.


Joe Kavanagh
23:36 Jan 07, 2021

Thank You. I am glad you were able to relate to the story.


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