Dr. Henry Stone closed the garage door and rattled the handle a few times to check the locked. He turned the corner of the house and squinted at the hot July sun peeking over the blue spruces that lined his property, telling him, this day will be a scorcher. He opened the front door and hollered out “Let’s go everybody, were ready to leave.”
The Doctor’s two teenage children, Bob 17, and Betty, 15 came running to the front door carrying the last of their luggage.
“Okay, Dad, were ready. Don’t forget we have to pick up Jenny.”
Betty’s girlfriend Jenny whom they invited along as a companion for Betty
“Don’t worry, Betty, you have been reminding me all week,” the doctor said.
Dr. Stone’s mother a seventy-five year old widow lives with her son since her husband Arthur’s death, was in the kitchen talking to her daughter-in-law Mary.
Henry stuck his in the kitchen and interrupted the two women with, “Hey, let’s go, girls. Were all loaded, canoe’s tied on top, everything A-okay for takeoff. The sun’s starting to climb, looks like we’re going to have a hot Fourth of July weekend, let’s go, chop chop.”
The old women smiled at her son” Now Henry, you’re just like your father, always in a hurry and I told you I’d rather stay home and mind the house. Besides, it is air-conditioned, and don’t tell me the mountain air will do me good. An old hen like me will just be in the way.”
Henry winked over at his wife Mary. Wrapping both his arms around his mother he said.
“Just listen to her Mary. I think the only reason she wants to stay home is so she can entertain her secret lover.”
Both women laughed and walked toward the front door.
Henry gave a quick look around. He set the burglar alarm and followed them out to the car.
The station wagon pulled away from the curb and Henry could feel the extra weight and the rattling of the canoe on the roof.
Turning into Madison Avenue, Henry thought to himself, “I hope we brought enough supplies, living in the Seneca Mountains for one week in a cabin without the comforts of home and two hundred miles from the nearest telephone certainly will test one’s self reliance.” He now turned off Madison Avenue onto Elm Road and stopped at number 12.
“Boy, I’m glad she didn’t bring a lot of luggage,” Henry thought to himself.
Jenny had one suitcase and an overnight bag. He helped her load it into the station wagon
After some small talk, the Millers wished everybody well and a good time. The station wagon pulled away and made its way toward Highway 9 and them to Interstate Thruway number 78.
The sign read North, Seneca Mountains Moosehead Lake State Wilderness Area.”
The rattling of the canoe reminded Henry of the many trips he made with his Mother and Father as a kid. He looked forward to the four hundred and fifty miles of pristine mountain country. And then the fifty mile drive on the old deserted logging road and the bumpy ride on the wagon road along the lake that ended at the cabin.
Bob shouted “Hey Dad I can see the cabin from here”
His grandmother sighed as she opened her eyes, “Thank heavens, it’s been a long ride and everybody looks exhausted.”
Everyone got out of the station wagon, stretching, yawning and making comments as to the beautiful scenery.
Jenny sighed. ”Ah look at that sunset, isn’t it beautiful, reflecting off the lake like that?”
Henry untied the canoe and called to his weary travelers.”Hey, let’s go, gang, don’t get to comfortable, we have to unload this stuff. Mary” he called to his wife. “Where’s my bag?
It’s right where you left it, between the two front seats of the station wagon.”
The elder Mrs. Stone slowly walked to the edge of the lake and sat down on a log bench and looked out over the lake.
Carrying the medical bag, Mary sat along side the old women and gently put her arms around her” Tell me Mom, I’ll bet you thinking about Arthur?”
“It only seems like yesterday, the old lady sighed that Arthur and I first came up here and discovered this beautiful site. Oh Mary, all the good times we had. And did you know, that right where we are sitting, Henry’s father proposed to me. You know that was over fifty years ago. Yes, Arthur really loved this place. It was his escape from the hum drum world. I used to call this place Arthur’s Waldon. He found peace and quiet here, if there is such a thing.”
They walked back to the cabin and the sun disappeared behind the tops of the ponderosa pines that dotted the mountain tops, a mountain that presented itself as a fortress, shutting out society’s evils and allowing the Stone family to experience nature inside its own sleepy hollow.
Henry Stone got the fire going in the old wood burning stove and turned to his wife ”Mary, what’s for supper?”
‘I have some hamburgers and potatoes out on the barbeque and as soon as the water boils we will have coffee.”
Mary made the old lady a cup of tea and a light snack.
“Henry.” she said. “I think your mother is very tired and I told her to go to bed right after her snack,” she’s all in.”
The elder Mrs. Stone finished her snack and retired for the night.
Henry opened his bedroom window and peered out into the night air. He could hear the rhythmic shrill of the whippoorwill broken by the splashing sound of a large mouth breaking water.
“Henry” he wife said. “You better come to bed and get some sleep. Remember you promised us a trout dinner tomorrow.”
Henry extinguished the oil lamp and climbed into bed and sank his weary body into the soft feathered mattress. The last sounds he heard were the cries of the timber wolves echoing through out the mountains, warning all creatures that strangers had invaded their domain.
Henry woke up with the smell of fresh coffee and bacon. He looked out the window and saw Bob flying casting along the edge of the lake encircled by the rising mist coming off the water. He inhaled the cool fresh breeze that blew through the cabin window.
“Mary” he said I’m starving what’s cooking good looking.”
Mary came out of the elder Mrs. Stone’s room and sat down next to her husband, “Henry, I tried to wake your mother. I think something wrong.”
Henry went to his mother’s side and observed her being very still and showing no signs of breathing.
“Henry, I tried to wake her but got no response., do you think she’s--.”
“Quick, get my bag Mary.”
Dr Stone gently lifted his mother’s wrist, trying to locate a pulse response which proved negative.
Mary laid the doctor’s bag down along side of him. He removed the stethoscope and applied the receiver to his mother’s chest trying to pick up the beat of a heart that had finally worn itself out.
Mary’s voice broke, “Henry is she?”
Henry removed his stethoscope, and lifted his mother’s eyelid, waiting for a muscle response.
“I’m afraid so Mary, she must have passed away during the night.
Mary laid her head against her husband shoulder and quietly wept.
Dr. Stone covered his mother with the bed sheet and walked out of the room closing the door. He gathered the children together in the den and informed them what had happened.
Mary spoke first, “Henry what could have happened?
Henry had his arms around both girls to comfort their grief and tears. Bob just sat quiet in the chair.
“Mary.” “I don’t know. I think she just wore herself out and died a peaceful death. After all, she would have been eight six next month. The years after dad’s death, she became lost in herself.”
Henry began to think,” The nearest phone is seventy miles away. Just to ride there and back would be one hundred and d fifty miles. Then the hearse would have to drive over five hundred miles and try to find a place that doesn’t exist on the road map.”
Then the idea came to him which seemed like the only solution.
He addressed the family.
“We will leave now and go home and take grandma with us.”
The others couldn’t believe what he said, as they stared at one another.
He quickly responded, “No no, let me explain. I have it all figured out.
“What we are about to us is a must. Please listen.”
We will wrap her in the sleeping bag and then tie her inside the canoe which will be securely tied to the top of the station wagon. Then head straight home make one stop for gas, and when we arrive at home, then I’ll make the necessary phone calls. Everybody understand what’s to be done?”
Mary said “Oh Henry.
I mean really.
What if… something happens?”
The doctor raised his hand. “Believe me, nothing is going to happened, trust me, this is the only way, there’s no other way, now let us get started.
With the station wagon loaded and Granny tied inside the canoe, they were back on the road. The station wagon made it’s way down the bumpy wagon road onto the logging road heading for the Interstate which would bring them home with all fingers crossed.
The station wagon hummed along the super highway, everyone in silence and holding their breath with thoughts on the canoe and granny.
Heavy traffic began to mount along with the tension due to the heavy hoilday travelers that slow the station wagon down to a craw and then bumper to bumper.
The sun high in the sky caused cars to pull over, lifting their hoods to cool down the radiators..
The sweat rolled down Henry’s back and frustration started to build in the Stone’s station wagon.
Then it hit Henry, “Oh my God he thought, With her wrapped in a thermal sleeping bag and this mounting heat, she should soon be in state of discomposure.
“Henry.” His wife said. There’s a Howard Johnson’s just up ahead and they sell gas. I suggest we stop there. Nobody’s had breakfast and think we should have a little something to eat.
“That’s it” said Henry, “I’m sure they have dry ice, enough anyway until we get home. I’ll load the sleeping bag with dry ice; that should keep her till we get home.”
“Good idea Mary. I think we can all do with a bite.”
Although vacationers filled the lot, Henry found a spot at the extreme end under the Howard Johnson sign.
The Stones entered the restaurant and Henry confirmed with the manager about the dry ice.
The family now in a more relaxed state seated themselves in the booth and savored a light lunch. They were all anxious to get home.
Henry paid the bill and told his family “I’ll meet everyone in the front of the restaurant after I pick up the dry ice. We’ll get the gas on the way out.
Henry in quick step crossed the parking lot and made his way to the Howard Johnson sign, only to find that the station wagon was not there. Someone had stolen it along with granny and the canoe.