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North Woods

North Woods

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Published by David Oppegaard
A cranky homesteader refuses to be bought out and drops the lawyer in the middle of some dark, dangerous woods.
A cranky homesteader refuses to be bought out and drops the lawyer in the middle of some dark, dangerous woods.

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Published by: David Oppegaard on Jun 18, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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02/03/2013

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North Woods
By David OppegaardThe old man was sitting on his front porch, whittling a gnome out of basswood,when he heard the car approaching his cabin. It was spring in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the long gravel road that led to the old man’s cabin was bogged down withmud; whoever visiting him probably wanted something pretty bad. The old man hoped itwasn’t any religious nuts. They came on occasion, even here, and tried to get him tocome over to their side. He wasn’t having any of that, though. He had survived WorldWar II by spitting in Death’s face and he no longer cared what anyone thought about him,not even God.The car was getting closer. Its headlights were on even though it was only mid-afternoon and there was a good three hours of daylight left. The car’s engine soundedsmall, definitely a four cylinder, and when the car itself popped into sight the old manchuckled. It was red and small, like a box, and the only time he had never seen anything
 
 North Woods
like it was at the circus years and years ago. That car had been crammed with clowns, adozen at least, and its horn had honked the entire Star Spangled Banner.The tiny car pulled up to the old man’s front porch, stopped, and turned off itsengine and lights. A tall man in a navy blue suit got out of the car and stretched his arms behind his back, as if he had been cooped up for a long tine. As he made eye contact withthe old man the businessman smiled. His brown hair was slicked back with something,maybe pomade, and his sleek face reminded the old man of a weasel. The old man didn’trise from his chair as the visitor shouted hello, grinning as if he would gladly eat every piece of shit in the world.“Hello,” the businessman said, stopping at the foot of the front porch stairs. “Myname is Lloyd Burks, sir. You must be Randolph Anderson.”Anderson nodded, still shaving off bits from the chunk of basswood in his hand.He pushed away the extra curls of wood with his thumbnail, which was as tough andyellowed as the rest of him. The wood wasn’t close to becoming anything resembling agnome yet, but this didn’t worry the old man. He knew the gnome was there already,carefully biding its time as the layers of wood fell around it in dusty piles.Lloyd Burks cleared his throat. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”Anderson squinted, looking past the businessman at the budding yellow and greentrees. “The birds have been squawking since it was dark,” the old man said. “ThreeA.M., if you can believe that. It’s mating season and they’re not wasting anytime gettingthe job done.”Burks laughed and followed the old man’s gaze into the thick grove of trees.“You must get a lot of wildlife out here.”2
 
 North Woods
“Sure do,” Anderson said. “Saw a deer this morning. A young buck, in fact,nibbling on the same leaves you’re looking at now. I had half a mind to get the shotgun, but then I decided I wasn’t up for the effort of butchering today.”Burks looked back at the old man and squinted, as if trying to decide if Andersonwas joking or not. The old man continued to whittle.“I don’t have any time for skinning and curing and all that, even though I do havea hankering for some venison. You see, I’ve got all this wood carving to do, and then Iwas going to chop a little wood for the heater.”“Don’t you have electricity?” Burks said, looking around the front yard. “I seesome lines running to your cabin.”Anderson nodded.“Sure, but I don’t use it for heating. I prefer a woodstove. Won’t go out on you ina storm, for one thing.”Burks laughed again. Anderson decided he didn’t like the man’s laugh. It wastoo shrill, too high. He laughed like a woman who nervous about something.“Well, Mr. Anderson, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I have alittle business to discuss with you—”“Business?” the old man said, setting his carving knife down. “If you want to talk  business, you better come inside. I’ll put some coffee on and we can have a proper discussion.”The businessman smiled and tromped up the porch stairs. Anderson brushed thewood shavings off his pants and stood up, getting out of his chair with the help of a cane.3

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