Isadore had drank too much wine. They had all drank too much wine. The cabin was spilling out light and laughter into the dark woods.
“Swim time!” Carly announced. And with that, she ran down to the sandy shore by the lake and started peeling her clothes off.
“We’re getting our suits.” Erica said. Mary and Larissa agreed. They changed and joined Carly for a boozy frolic. They all chimed in for Isadore to join them. She declined the invite to swim, feeling a bit lightheaded.
“Come on, Izzy, it’ll do you good.” Erica said.
“It’s what you need.” Larissa urged.
“It’s why we brought you, Izzy.” Mary said.
“I could swim if you hadn’t kept refilling my wine glass every two seconds.” Isadore said. The women looked at each other with guilt. Erica patted Isadore, and they solemnly left her at the cabin. Not far from the cabin they giggled and picked up their partying where they left off.
Isadore stepped onto the porch for some night air. She lit the citronella candle in its large clay pot to ward off the squeeters. She sat herself on the top of the porch steps. She looked about the rocky point in the moonlight. Her eyes followed the steps of sunken railroad ties in the ground down to the dock by the sandy shore. Isadore could see the outlines in the distance of the other women.
From the lake she heard the murmurs of the women. They seemed quietly talking amongst themselves with the odd laugh, or name, or word breaking through loudly. The other cabins on this side were dark and empty. They had this one all to themselves to enjoy. Despite being overplied with booze, it was the best night she had known since her divorce.
Isadore felt like she was glowing. She laughed to herself that that might just be the wine.
A truck drove down slowly on the dirt driveway. A guy got out of it. He was a bear in an untucked ragged shirt and jeans. He was jingling his keys and looking at their vehicles, then the cabin. He turned his head surprised by a shout from the lake. Isadore giggled and he looked at her.
“How’s it going?” He said, without approaching. He leaned back against his truck.
This is a photo opportunity Isadore thought to herself looking at him. She covered her mouth before she could laugh out loud at her own joke. “Good. How are you doing?”
“A little confused, I guess.” The guy pointed at all their vehicles.
“You know someone here?”
“No. No, I don’t think I do.” He admitted. “What’s going on?”
“Just a girl’s thing. You in the wrong place?”
He smiled. “Maybe. Yeah, maybe I am.” He put a hand on his truck door as if he might leave.
“Want a beer?”
He tapped his keys in the palm of his hand thinking. “Yeah, okay.”
Isadore went in the cabin and came back with a beer from their coolers. She held it out on the porch and the guy had to approach to get it. There was a nail sticking out the side of the porch step and the guy used it to pry off his beer cap. Isadore sat down, tucking her short spring dress under her legs, and the guy took a drink.
“Are they all dressed?” The guy asked pointing down to the lake.
“One of them might not be.” She teased. She wished it was brighter than moonlight so she then could see if he was blushing.
“Where you all from?”
“Six hours south of here. I’m Izzy.” She held out a soft hand that had only known keyboarding and he shook it with one of his dry, calloused, skin cracked paws.
“Horace?” She repeated, as if he might have made up the name.
“Izzy?” He said, with equal doubt.
“I like that.”
She looked away so he wouldn’t see whether she cared about his liking her name or not. She looked back to him. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m a Forrest Ranger.”
“Someone complaining?” She said, then immediately wondered if she slurred the words, just a little. Maybe.
“No, no. I’m off duty. One of the logging guys said he saw some lights. It’s rare but sometimes there’s a break in with cabins this isolated. Most of them you don’t even have to break in, people leave a key under the mat, or in a plant pot, or they’re not even locked. People around here are pretty trusting.”
“This is Carly’s. We’re with her.” Isadore stood up and pointed down to the lake. It was quieter now.
“She’s your friend?”
“Erica is my friend. She knows Carly. Do you need everyone’s names?”
“No.” Horace did blush. “No, I’m off duty. Just making sure nothing bad was happening.” He pointed with the beer bottle to the ladies swimming down at the lake. “I don’t think any of that’s my business.
He stood sipping his beer. Isadore felt the night breeze. She sat herself back on the top of the porch steps. After a few more moments of quiet Horace finished his beer.
“That’s my one. Can’t have more and still drive. I’d better go.” He extended that big paw of his again up to her and Isadore leaned over to shake his hand. She had to supress a giggle for the big lug being so formal.
“You got soft hands.” Horace said.
Isadore looked at him. It completely threw her for a loop.
“I don’t mean anything by it.” He said. He leaned towards her, and the hand with the empty beer bottle disappeared under the steps below her. His head had come close enough to her to almost rest on her lap. When he moved away from her the beer bottle was gone. He went back into his truck and backed out the drive in the darkness.
Isadore watched him go. She wondered why he had gotten so close. She looked at her hands and rubbed them wondering if they were so soft. Then she thought about his empty beer bottle. She got up and looked under the porch steps expecting to fund the bottle lying on the ground underneath. It was not. She found a half-filled case of empty beer bottles. She dragged it out. She pulled each empty bottle up to check its label. She found the bottle she had given him. The rest of the empties in the case didn’t match it.
You couldn’t see the empty case when it was under the steps. But Horace had known it was there.
Isadore ran down to the lake.
Carly stood up from wading in the water. Carly had still kept on her bra and panties after all. There was no skinny dipping to report.
“Is this your cabin?” Isadore asked.
“Yea. It’s ours. We all paid.”
“Yeah, but do you own it? What do you mean, ‘we paid’. I didn’t pay for anything.”
Erica came up to shore. “It’s a rental. We paid your share because we wanted you to come along. To get out of your parent’s basement and back into the world.”
“Who did you rent it from?” Isadore asked.
“The internet. There’s a web site.” Carly explained. “It’s ours for the next two weeks. I paid online.”
“Then why was it a mess when we got here? That half-eaten food in the propane fridge? The big jar of old rancid granola? The dirty towels?”
“Because the last renters were slobs. Because they just started renting it and they haven’t cleaned it up, yet. People aren’t as fussy up here. They don’t put a mint on your pillow in a place like this.”
Erica, Mary, and Larissa didn’t seem as sure as Carly anymore.
Carly pressed on. “It was the best deal. It was a best deal web site. You know, no other cabin around here was as cheap as this.”
The next day Isadore drove to town. She had to field several requests to pick up more beer and munchies and take a trash bag to the town dump. She started with the dump asking around about Horace. Then she stopped at the grocery store, the beer store, and even the marina. She finally found him talking to another guy outside a wood furniture and propane gas appliance store.
Horace’s friend smiled and wandered off.
“It’s your cabin. It’s your cabin, isn’t it?” Isadore said, catching her breath.
“Yeah.” He shrugged.
“Did you rent it to Carly?”
“It doesn’t matter, I got things I need to be working on in town.”
“Carly got scammed, didn’t she?”
“It doesn’t matter. What is it? A few days, or something?”
“Two weeks. She paid for two weeks. They all paid. They even paid for me.”
“That’s nice. You’re birthday, or something?”
“Fair enough. Two weeks? Well, that’s alright, too. Don’t tell Carly, or your friends. It’s alright. I’m sure when you go, you’ll clean up the cabin better than I do. I’ll get the place freshened up out the deal. Hey, I saw you spending some money in town at the grocery store. That help us all out.”
“Why don’t you come and visit? So, we can thank you. Come for dinner, Horace. Let us make you dinner.”
“Oh, no, I’d feel pretty outnumbered for that. I’d be meeting too many of your friends at once.”
“How about I buy you dinner. In town? Not today. I got groceries I got to get back. Carly likes her ice cream.”
“Everyone likes ice cream.”
“They do. We do. Can I buy you dinner?”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to. Will you let me buy you dinner?”
“You don’t need to thank me It’s all good.”
“I’m buying you dinner!”
“Oh, you are? So, this is you asking me out, Isadore?”
She turned red. After a long pause looking at the big guy’s easy manner she giggled and said yes.
Three days later she left the cabin saying she was going to town and would not be running any errands for anyone. She teased them all saying, “I have a date with a bear.”