It was nearing seven in the evening, and the sun was going down over the lake. A man in a dark flannel shirt rolled down his sleeves, pulling the cuffs together and buttoning them. He looked out over the lake to where the hills rose up, rising and falling like the backs of resting cattle, reflecting in the stillness of the water. He could see the rain clouds coming together, far off over the hills, near the place where the sun was fading away. He picked up the last of the heavy logs and put it on the fire, and climbed up onto the wooden floor of the lean-to shelter.
“Its going to be cold tonight,” he thought to himself, pulling over his ripped green sweater, that he kept solely for wearing in the woods. “Yes, it will be cold.” He thought of his wife, along with the words. He thought of her alone in their bed, with the cat tucked away by her feet.
“Its much easier to have a woman that understands you,” he thought, though he did not know exactly what he meant by that. He had been with many women before, and he had known he was never understood as he had wanted to be… But, even now, he was not sure he was understood.
“I suppose if she knew, she would be here. Surely other men had brought their wives here… It is not an easy walk. I know that.”
To get to the lake, the man had had to walk a long way through a swamp. When he got to the lake, his feet hurt, and his shoulders felt as though they were collapsing from the weight of the pack. Somehow, he could not imagine that his wife would endure the pain in her feet, though he knew others had. None that he knew… But he was sure others had.
“And who is married to such a woman?” He wondered, though he was unsure if it would be a curse or a blessing. Sometimes it was good to be alone, and to listen to the loons echoing their tremolo call across the water. He thought of the loons… Such solitary creatures of the wilderness. They were found only on the loneliest lakes. They would not mate elsewhere. he remembered being told that they mated for life, but wintered separately. “So much the wiser for the loon.”
He thought of his wife again, and wondered if she were truly alone in their bed, or if she had gone out. He had known many women and he remembered that they were not so good as he was at being alone. He thought about her going out, but decided he’d better put it out of his mind.
The sun was nearly down and the clouds had passed. There was just enough light to see the insects on the still water. In the reflection he saw the first stars. His eyes grew heavy and he felt sleep coming in and out, as his sore feet throbbed. He rolled out along the hard, wooden floor, and pulled the sleeping bag over him, and was asleep.