You'll all be thrilled to know that I managed to re-resubmit the Manuscript that Wouldn't Die last night. Maybe they'll reject it in less than 6 months this time. Maybe the editor will have pity on my poor, pathetic manuscript, with the sad, hopeless cover letter explaining that the data was gathered by myself and a group of inexperienced undergraduates. We'll see.
Maybe I'll work on the second chapter of my dissertation while I'm waiting.
The Stone Woman, pt. 4
By Lab Rockstar
The next day, after checking the clock again and again for several hours, Gail could no longer bear her own dreams. She sat up in bed. Staring out her window to the foothills, eventually the thought occurred to her that she hadn’t yet spoken with her old teacher or even thanked him for inviting her. Obligation forced Gail out of bed, and she got dressed. Her feet felt strangely cumbersome as she trudged across the hallway carpet into the kitchen.
The cast-iron potbellied stove radiated warmth in the cozy, dark-paneled kitchen. Folk art butter molds of enormous chickens and barrel-like pigs hung over the cabinets along with several decorative ladles. The countertops were brown like bread boards, and one place was set on the dining room table. As Gail stood examining the room, Mr. Scofield clomped into the kitchen from the mudroom with his arms full of kindling for the fire.
“Is this the time people from Boston usually get up?” he asked wryly.
“No.” After a pause, Gail added, “Thank you for letting me come stay with you.” For a second, the flicking movements of chickadees and blue jays outside the picture window drew Gail’s eyes. Several birdfeeders swayed in a scraggly apple tree.
“Well, thank you for coming,” he nodded to Gail, stacking the firewood inside the stove. “There’s eighty acres of trails if you want to take a walk. There’s not enough snow for cross-country skiing yet, but it’s a nice walk. I can show you the lake as well. And up on the hillside we have a yurt you might like to see. Also, Conway is thirty minutes north of here if you want to go shopping or ride the train up Crawford Notch.” Mr. Scofield stirred the cinder in the stove with a skinny piece of birch. Gail’s teacher, now retired, looked taller than his wife but had shrunk in height since Gail knew him in high school. What was left of his hair had turned from gray to white, Gail noted, and the skin on his jaw had become jowlier. But considering his age, she thought, Mr. Scofield still looked pretty hardy.
“Is anyone else staying here right now?” Gail asked, watching the blue jay riffraff antagonize each other in the apple tree. Strands of wood smoke leaked from the open stove door.
“No.” Mr. Scofield shut the stove and stood up, wiping his hands.
“We don’t have many guests this time of year,” Mrs. Scofield piped from the mudroom. “It’s the holidays, you know. Business picks up after the New Year usually, wouldn’t you say, dear?”
“Well we don’t get many visitors in January either.”
“Sometimes we do,” she replied, “for the skiing.”
“Year before last we did, but not usually. Too damn cold here. City folks need houses warmer than what we keep here.”
“Would you like something to eat, Gail?” Mrs. Scofield said, poking her head into the kitchen. “I wish you would eat. Coffee?”
“I’m not hungry,” Gail said, “but thank you.”
“Are you sure? How about some pancakes?”
“It’s kind of late for pancakes,” Mr. Scofield commented. “She’d probably rather have a sandwich. We have some vegetable soup in the fridge too, I think.”
“Well, she just got up so maybe she’d like breakfast—”
“No, I’m fine,” Gail insisted, her voice louder than she had intended. “I’ll have a glass of water if you tell me where the glasses are. I can get it myself.”
Mrs. Scofield immediately swooped into the room to fetch a glass from the cupboard. “We have cranberry juice, milk, and orange juice in the fridge. Would you like one of those?”
“Alright. I’ll try the cranberry juice, then.”
Mrs. Scofield set the glass of juice on the counter in front of Gail and went back to her laundry, and soon afterward Mr. Scofield went outside to stack firewood under the back porch. Despite their Yankee banter, Gail saw how the Scofields had settled into each other over half a century of marriage until they clicked together like two interlocking cogs. Mrs. Scofield cheerily picked her vegetables and made vegetable soup, while Mr. Scofield cut cross-country skiing paths and stacked the firewood.