Good morning, my lambs. It's Monday. I'm sure that means I'm supposed to be doing something productive.
The Stone Woman, pt.6
By Lab Rockstar
The next morning, Gail got up late again. The Scofields were out of the house already, and Gail missed breakfast for the third day. They hadn’t forgotten her, though; there was a mug of cold, black coffee and a bowl containing a grapefruit half on the table. But Gail wasn’t interested.
Instead, she put on her coat and hat in the mudroom and stepped heavily through the front door. Outside, the day was gray and smelled like winter and wood smoke. A good a day as any, she had written on her legal pad earlier that morning.
She shoved her hands into the pockets of her jack and set off across the meadow towards the edge of the woods. Autumn frost heaves collapsed under her feet as she walked toward a trailhead marked in orange paint on a wide pine trunk. She kept her eyes on the ground except for a few glances upward to watch where she was going.
In the woods, the wind was still cold, but slowed by all the trees. The stone was heavy for Gail to carry, but she was starting to get used to it. The trail went up a small hill and down the other side. Halfway up the side of the next hill, Gail passed Mr. Scofield’s yurt perched on yellow two-by-fours like chicken legs. Gail only stopped there for a moment to look and catch her breath, but the structure did nothing to resolve her dilemma, so she trod onward, up the next hill. The day grew colder and the scent of winter grew stronger. Before she knew it, several hours had gone by.
At last, the trail seemed to end at the half-frozen lake. Gail felt vaguely frustrated that she hadn’t found a place she liked that much; even the lake looked like a hundred others she had seen. There was a short beach that met black water, which silently slurped the few flakes of snow that fell from the sky overhead. Smoke slid from the chimneys of scattered houses on the far shore.
But just as Gail decided to turn back, she noticed that a very faint trail actually continued into the brush to her right. She moved toward the path to get a closer look. It was narrow and not as well maintained; Gail even wondered if it was in fact made by deer coming down from the foothills to drink. She would follow it, she decided. She stepped onto the narrow footpath and trudged into the woods.
Gail followed the trail behind a rise and into a little ravine. At times, she wondered if it really was a trail at all or just a slice of ground where no trees grew, but then she noticed a few old stumps pushing out of the brown detritus. Their flat, gray faces spoke to Gail of being cut with a chainsaw. The significance of this came slowly to her hardening brain: the secret of the path was kept not by forest creatures, but by Mr. Scofield.
She continued following the path across an icy stream and up a steep incline that sliced diagonally along a hillside. Here, a glacier had precariously deposited several granite boulders. Gail regarded them respectfully but did not stop. Even if she could have heard their voices, she thought, her own would be as meaningless and forgettable to her wild cousins as any particular breeze across her own face. But she admired them for their strange monumentality, and their delicate cultivation of papery lichens and green mosses.
Gail looked ahead to the top of the hill, where the trees and brush grew sparser. She walked on from the standing stones as the snow started to fall more steadily. As she reached the brow of the hill, the stone joints of her knees began to ache with cold. But she pushed forward to the clearing where the trail spilled her out.