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M Stevens-David

Porcupine Rules
By Martha Stevens-David
Jan 26, 2014 - 12:23:04 AM

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"A man really doesn't know when he's well off." Bub thought to himself for the hundredth time that week. He could still hear his wife's shrill words ringing in his ears. "I must be speakin a foreign language," she'd say because Bub hadn't understood what she'd said and they didn't understand each other a lot!

When things got too tense at home, Bub would call his dog Bailey and they'd take to the woods behind his house. This land had once belonged to his great, great grandfather and it had been passed down to him from one generation to another. It gave him immense pride to think that now all three hundred acres of prime Aroostook County land finally belonged to him.

Bub followed Bailey as the old dog made his way along a trail that had been used by the Micmac Indians and then his ancestors hundreds of years before. The ancient trail led through the woods of his property until it reached the edge of the Aroostook River and old Bailey had run along this trail all the years they'd been together.

Bub whistled softly and Bailey ran back up the overgrown trail to where he was waitin. Seein the dog, Bub called him over to him and he knelt down and rubbed the old dog behind the ears. Bailey, feeling immense pleasure, sat back on his haunches, leaned against Bub and sighed softly. "It feels kind of good to be out here on our own, doesn't it boy?" Bub said to him. "Nobody yappin at us to do this or that every five seconds." Hearing Bub's voice, the old dog responded by thumpin his tail on the hard ground in response.

Bub stood and once again, Bailey took off ahead of him. The dog's tail disappeared from view as he went around a sharp bend in the trail. As Bub slowly followed the dog, he made mental notes about which trees he should mark for cuttin in the fall. He liked to think that he managed his woodlots very well and he planned to have somethin left to pass on to his son too, if he ever had one.

When the first glimpse of the Aroostook River came into view, Bub always stopped in the same spot each time he came down the trail to take it all in. At this point, the river measured about five hundred feet across to the Garfield side, and the water was so cold and clear that he could easily see the small schools of fish as they swam to and fro in the slowly movin current.

Bub pushed aside the tall alders that had grown up where he always landed his boat and slid down the slight incline to the water's edge. He was surprised that he hadn't noticed their growth last year. "Have to make time to git up here and cut them down." He said to himself.

Bub turned and whistled and the old dog came tumblin through the overgrown brush down the bank to where Bub stood waitin for him. He nudged Bub aside and stopped to lap the slowly moving water. Bub knelt and cupped his hands in the water, brought it up to his mouth and sipped the cool liquid. Then he splashed the water over his sweatin face and wiped himself on the sleeve of his shirt. He watched as a couple of large trout broke the surface out towards the middle of the river to eat some of the water bugs that were skating on the top. He wished that he'd thought to bring his fishin pole along with him. It had been a long time since he'd been fishin. It seemed that all he had time to do now that he'd hooked himself to a women, was work and more work.

Once Bailey had lapped his fill, he moved slowly off to lay down in the shade of the overhangin bushes. Bub walked over to where he lay and sat down beside him on the cool sandbar. The tired dog lapped his hand as Bub gently patted his head.

Bub had gotten Bailey when his other dog had died and Bailey was gittin up there in age too. He'd wanted a good huntin dog but Bailey wasn't much good as a hunter because he was too excitable and he'd chase anything that moved, be it a bumblebee, a leaf blown across a field by the wind or a fallin branch. Bailey jist couldn't keep his mind on the job at hand. "I guess he's a lot like me," Bub thought to himself with a smile as his mind slid back to the argument he'd jist had with his wife.

After his parent's had died a few years back, Bailey and Bub had lived together in the family home and that had suited them jist fine. A girl would come along from time to time but they never seemed to stick and the reason why never really bothered Bub. Bub was forty-five before he finally met someone who made him think about givin up his single life. Thinkin back, Bub still wasn't sure who'd done the takin, him or her.

"Things have certainly changed since I married Sharon," he thought to himself. But it didn't seem possible that things had changed so drastically in jist a few short years. Bub reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew a crumpled Camel cigarette. He flicked his father's old Ronson lighter open with a quick snap of his wrist and lit the cigarette. He inhaled deeply and leaned against the now sleepin dog. "Yup, Bailey, we musta been crazy to think that we ever needed a woman in our lives. We was doin jist fine without one, we was jist too stupid to know it, that's all." Bub reached up and took one last drag on his cigarette and then he flipped the still burnin butt out into the slowly movin water. The stub hissed as it hit the water and then it was gone as it was caught up in the current and pulled beneath the water.

Bub always knew that he'd git married some day but somehow, he thought that when he did, he'd have a lovely marriage like his parents. Theirs had been a give and take kind of marriage that had lasted fifty-odd years. Bub could count the number of fights they'd had on one hand and if they had quarreled about somethin, they always made up and never went to bed angry with each other.

He wished he could say the same for his and Sharon's marriage but in the one year that they'd been married, they'd had more disagreements than he could count and he'd given up countin a long time ago.

In the early months of their marriage, Bub, still eager to please, would give in to all Sharon's demands jist to keep the peace but as the months went by, he began to turn a deaf ear to her petulance and tantrums. Her tears no longer bothered him either. It seemed that no matter what he did, she was never satisfied.

When they'd first met, he'd been livin in the old family home with Bailey. The house had been little more than a shack by most people's standards but it was still his home. The one hundred and fifty year-old house had had few improvements over the years but it was cozy and snug during the long cold winters in the county where the snow crept up over the kitchen window sill each winter.

Bub jist couldn't understand wimmin, no matter how hard he tried and he had tried, no matter what Sharon had said. Bub liked the "simple" life and he didn't want anything that was the least bit complicated. But since Sharon had moved in, his life was jist one complicated day after another.

Sharon was a good woman in most ways but she had one bad habit that jist about drove him crazy. If she had an idea about somethin that she thought needed doin, she wouldn't let go of the idea until it was done. She didn't care how long it took, it was going to git done, come hell or high water. This jist about drove him insane and lately, it seemed that every time he turned around, Sharon had a new idea about how she wanted to fix this or change that.

At first, Bub had humored her and given in to her whims and schemes but after about a year of this and seein that the loovin had worn off every time he didn't do as she'd asked, Bub had backed off too. If he happened to be eatin his breakfast and she came into the room, Bub would hurriedly swig down the remainder of his coffee, push his chair back and head for the door before she could git a word out. Sharon, upon seeing his back leavin the room, grew even more and more demandin. Over the last month she'd begun harpin that she wanted him to prop the old house up, put in a new foundation and a friggin new bathroom too!

Bub couldn't see the need for any of this and he'd told her so in no uncertain terms. He'd walked her all around the house and shown her how rugged the sills were and they'd been there for at least a hundred years. "A bath!" He'd yelled. "Why in good God's hell do we need a bathroom? We've got the outhouse and if it was good enough for my mother, it should be good enough for you!"

Sharon knew exactly where he stood on the renovatin matter but she still hadn't given up. She'd been down this road before and she was goin to win. So, like all wimmin everywhere, she began plannin how to accomplish this feat in the shortest amount of time. Little did she know it but Mother Nature was on her side.

Bub had a habit that she really couldn't abide but try as she might; she couldn't git him to stop. Ever since he'd been old enough to follow his father around outside, he'd copied all the same rituals that his father had done. And there was no changin him either.

Out behind the house there was a small stand of trees that had been left untouched because the trees shielded the house from what went on back there. Years ago, Bub's grandfather had felled a tree and cut it in half. Then he cut the branches off real close and laid the log on two rocks. He skun the bark off and carved out a couple of small scoops of wood so that when sat upon, the wood fit a person's bottom quite well. Then, he'd dug a neat trench under the log and they'd had a nice toilet where the men could go sit and have a smoke, a crap and a yarn or two. This was strictly the men's territory and neither his mother nor any other woman had ever ventured near it in all the years the toilet had been there.

When Sharon had first moved in, she used to wonder where Bub would disappear to several times a day and when she'd asked, he'd stared at her for a long moment and replied, "Oh, Bailey and I jist go for a little walk and sit a spell," And that had been that.

Anytime, that she'd felt the "call of nature," she'd gone to the outhouse that was located next to the old barn. She'd often wait as long as she dared and then make a mad dash to the toilet because she thought the place totally disgustin. Not only was it smelly, it was fly, ant and wasp infested and to her mind, you took your life in your hands if you dared to venture there.

Once she'd broached the subject of jackin up the house and puttin in a real foundation and a real bathroom and Bub had turned her down, she would lie awake at night, long after Bub and Bailey were snorin, tryin to think of a way to get what she wanted. She'd even tried shamin him in front of his friends when they'd dropped by from time to time, but upon hearin her latest idea about changing Bub or his home, they'd laughed their asses off and knew that Bub wasn't goin to be moved no matter what. She would be the one who would have to give was what they'd privately thought to themselves.

But one early fall day, when the leaves had turned all the colors of the rainbow, and the wind was out of the north, nature took it upon herself to take care of the matter for her.

Sharon had gotten up early and cooked all of Bub's favorite foods and jist as she was pourin herself another cup of tea; she brought up the subject of the house renovation again. Bub, hearin the beginning of her unceasing tirade, swallowed his final mouthful of eggs and bacon, pushed back his chair and grabbed his faded Ford hat. He snapped his fingers at Bailey, slapped his hat on his head and opened the door. By the time Sharon realized what had happened, both Bub and the dog were roundin the corner of the barn, headin for their outdoor retreat.

Bitter at being ignored the way she was, Sharon watched them through the kitchen window as they disappeared behind the screen of bushes and then she was really pissed off, with the both of them. She stayed where she was thinkin about how she was going to remedy the situation when she saw a slight movement off to the right of the yard. Squinting to get a better view, she saw a large porcupine slowly makin its way across the yard. Every so often, the animal would stop, sniff the air carefully for a couple of minutes and then move on.

Sharon, still watchin the animal, brought her cooling cup of tea up to her lips and thought about the conversation that she and Bub had about a month before. Bub had complained that he needed to take care of the porcupines because he had noticed that there were quite a few hangin around the farm lately and he didn't want Bailey to mess with them.

As Sharon took a sip of tea, it suddenly hit her. "Oh, my God!" she said to herself. "I had better let Bub know that the porcupine is headed right where he is." But, before she could run for the door, she saw Bailey come barrelin around the trees and the porcupine saw him at the same instant that Bailey saw it. The porcupine, ready for trouble, raised it quills and its tail and then it took off in a lumberin run into the underbrush with Bailey right behind it.

Before she could even utter a word, she heard disaster strike and it was all over in a matter of seconds. She heard Bailey bark and Bub scream and the damage was done! She shoved the kitchen door open and ran across the porch and down the stairs.

As she came around the corner of the trees, she saw a sight that would be etched in her mind all the rest of her days. Bub had been sittin in his favorite place on the log with his pants and underwear down around his knees and a cigarette in his right hand. He had jist taken a long drag when disaster had struck. The porcupine and the dog exploded out of the bushes at nearly the same instant and all hell broke loose. The frightened creature, took the path of least resistance to get away from the dog and that was to run down the trench behind the log that Bub was sittin on.

By the time Bub realized what was going to happen, it had already happened! The porcupine, with all its quills in prime position, ran under Bub's over hangin butt and the rest is history. Bub, shocked by the knowledge that his butt had been pierced with about two hundred porcupine quills in a matter of seconds, didn't know what to do next. He sat where he was as his butt began to sing.

It was then that Sharon came into view and she was out of breath from runnin across the grass. Bub tried to hide the evidence by slowly pullin his pants up but he only dared to pull them up so far because his cheeks were now singin a different tune. And he was well-aware that it wasn't going to be too long and the tune was goin to change too and not for the better either.

Sharon, when she'd finally caught her breath, saw that the "accident waitin to happen" had now happened and she slid herself down on the opposite end of the log and sat there. Then, as happens in stressful incidents, fear is overtaken by hysteria and hysteria gave way to giggles and little snuffles and snorts finally gave way to full-fledged gut-bustin laughter. Sharon laughed until tears fell down her cheeks onto her lap. Bub, unused to being the "butt" pardon the pun, of anyone's joke, drew himself up off the log with as much dignity as he could muster and tried to ass-cess the damage. As he turned and twisted, tryin to get a better view of the problem, Sharon, seein how the situation really was, only laughed harder.

Finally, Bub couldn't stand it any longer. He held his pants up with one hand and with the other; he pulled his shirt tails out away from the quills. He turned to her and said, "Do you think you could drive me over to Presque Isle to the hospital? I don't think that I can drive myself." Sharon wiped the tears from her eyes and realized that her optimum moment had struck and she began to bargain.

"Well," she began. "Let me see, what was it that I wanted you to do for me? It was something very important. Hmmm, oh, yes, now I remember," But before she could go further, Bub jumped in, so to speak. "Honey, if you'll jist drive me to the hospital, I'll do anything that you want, I promise! Oh, and honey, could you please be sure to drive real slow. These quills are killin me."

At about the same moment, Bailey came thrashing thru the underbrush up to where Bub was standing. He didn't seem to have encountered the same situation that Bub had and he soon began a keen sniffin around Bub's butt. Bub, afraid that Bailey would bump him with his snout, danced round and round, tryin to keep his backside away from Bailey's inquisitive nose. This only set Sharon to laughin all over again.

Long story short, the McKillen house now has a brand new foundation and it also boasts a state of the art bathroom. The piece of land that once shielded the log-sitters from view has been drastically altered with a bulldozer. The long-standin trees are long gone and you can now see nearly down to the river. And it is rumored around town that whatever, Sharon wants, Sharon gets.

Martha Stevens-David
Email:
lmdmsd@megalink.net

Martha Stevens-David Column Magic City

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