PAULINE DURANT



A HOME IN THE WOODS

         

Prologue

            In 1833 Polly’s great grandparents, Joe and Marie Parent, obtained 200 acres of pristine forest land in central Maine.  With the help of his team of horses, Joe felled many trees as he cleared land to build a cabin.  The cabin was very rough but with a fire roaring in the fireplace they were able to survive the first winter on their own land.  The cabin was passed on to their son, Eugene, in 1893, who expanded it but died of cholera in 1938 when it was handed down to Polly’s parents. Although the land has remained in the Parent family with Polly and her brother, Mike, specifically named in the will, the cabin has stood empty.  It has been decaying since 1955.

 Chapter One   April 1999

            “It’s not safe for a lone woman to live by herself isolated deep in the woods.  What if you get hurt or get sick, who will help you?”  Mike is very concerned about his sister.

             “I’ll be fine.  I’m pretty self-sufficient. Besides, I’m not moving there until there is a sturdy house, barn, and shed built.  That will take a while because the land and a drive will need to be cleared. I’m talking maybe 1 ½ to two years.”  Polly inherited her stubborn streak from her parents.  “People do it all the time.  I’ve talked to several people who live in the area, who own some acreage, and live isolated in the woods.  They get along fine.  One woman I spoke to has been living on 447 acres all by herself for almost 15 years and she’s getting along fine.  I’ve made up my mind.  The guy is starting to clear the drive on Monday.  I’ve got it and the house lot all marked out with stakes.”  Mike shakes his head in frustration, knowing she is bull headed enough to see this project completed.

 Chapter Two   September 30, 2003

            Polly has been living in her forest retreat for four months.  She has dealt with a red tailed hawk trying to build a nest on the solar panels.  Her dog, Chewie, got up close and personal with a skunk three times.  She now buys Skunk-off by the gallon. 

            In preparation for winter, she has a three month supply of canned goods stored.  Stacked in the woodshed, she has seven cord of dried wood for the wood stove.  Since the drive is 6574.5 feet or 1 mile and 431.5 yards long, it would be impossible to shovel, so she keeps the used plow truck well maintained with plenty of extra fuel available.

 Chapter Three  December 2003

            It all started out very innocently.  At first it was her glasses – thinking she put them down on the end table, she finally finds them on her dresser.  She thinks she removed the lid from a pot of simmering soup – but somehow the lid is on and the soup boils over.  One morning she gets up to find the dishes that were left in the drainer to dry overnight are neatly put away.

            On December 7th, deciding to do some Christmas shopping, Polly leaves the house around 10 a.m. She is delayed returning home because she meets a friend; they decide to have dinner.  She returns home after dark.  As she makes the final bend in the drive, Polly sees all the outside lights are on and the kitchen light shines through the window.  Thinking she has an intruder, she creeps to the windows to peek inside.  No movement in the kitchen.  Grabbing the baseball bat she keeps under the porch steps, she slowly approaches the back door.  The door is locked.  Unlocking it, she slowly enters the kitchen.  Bat at the ready, she checks the pantry, kitchen and living rooms.  With nervous perspiration trickling down her back, she checks each bedroom and closet and finds nothing amiss.  Remembering her brother has a key, she calls to chastise him for scaring her so badly.  She becomes even more frightened when he says that he had not been to her place since last week. Her children all have keys but they live a distance away and would not just show up without first talking to her.

            “Who was in my house while I was gone?”  She asks herself.  Her neighbors are friendly and supportive but none have a key to the house.  Quickly she checks the locks on the doors and windows.  None appear to have been tampered with.  Chewie, her dog, is peacefully chomping on a rawhide bone showing no signs of fear or anxiety.

            “If I call the police, what do I say to them?  They’ll just think that I left the lights on this morning.  I’ll be put on the ‘mentally unstable’ list!” 

            Realizing there is no one in her house and no forced entry, Polly goes to bed with her latest novel to read.

            “Hmmm … maybe I should stop reading murder mysteries …then my imagination wouldn’t get carried away thinking about intruders.”  With that thought spoken aloud, Polly falls into an exhausted sleep and never hears the dog barking at 4 am or at 4:20.  She never knows wood is put in the wood stove, nor does she see the fire come to live.  She is not aware of the refrigerator door opening and closing. 

            “I smell bacon cooking.” Polly thinks she is dreaming.  Then, her eyes fly wide open.  She gets up so fast the room spins.  Racing to the kitchen, she is ready to do battle with whoever is in her home.

            Once in the kitchen, she stops short.  Bacon is sizzling on the stove and no one is there.  Losing her temper, Polly yells, “Ok, I know you’re here.  Show yourself.  Who is in my house?  And, why the hell don’t you answer me?”

            That’s when she hears it – soft sobbing in the next room.  Running to the living room, too angry to be scared, she is ready to meet her intruder.  No one is there.  Polly runs into every room and sees no one.

            “Ok, maybe I really do need to be on the ‘mentally unstable’ list.”  She mumbles to herself.

            “Where the hell are you?’  Polly yells while returning to the kitchen to turn off the burner under the bacon.

            Sitting at the kitchen table, Polly thinks she sees an older woman.  The woman has no substance but a film-like quality, a disturbance in the air.

            “Holy shit, I’ve lost my mind!”

            Polly tries to pull herself together as she, too, sits at the table.  “Wh … who … who are you?”

            The apparition:  “I’m sorry.  I … I was only trying to help.  I thought no one in the family would ever love this land like we did, but that was a very long time ago.  Finally, you built a home here.  I am Marie, … your great grandmother, Marie Parent.”

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Copyright © 2013 Pauline Durant

 

After retiring from a forty-three year career in nursing, Pauline is currently pursuing her longtime dream of becoming a writer. Publishing A Home in the Woods is a debut endeavor.  Born in Lewiston, Maine, she is the proud mother of three wonderful children and grandmother to eight beautiful and intelligent boys and girls.  When not writing, Pauline enjoys yard work, sewing, and is avid and prolific reader, especially mysteries.  Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her family and her little Pomeranian, Chewie. Pauline has a Master’s Degree in Nursing Education and is a member of the International Honor Society of Nursing.  She will graduate with a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing in 2014.