It was the first hunting year we ever went up together. She had her boyfriends, her smoking, her attitude; I had my girlfriends, my music, and my art. We very seldom saw eye to eye, being a few years apart, but for some reason, this year Shelly wanted to come to Maine with Dad and me for the week. I trekked up north every fall with my father; he hunted deer and I sketched landscapes. We’d done it every year since I was in junior high. What made my sister Shelly want to come this year was anybody’s guess.
The 5-hour trip to the cottage was pretty dull, my Dad wasn’t a great conversationalist and Shelly and I didn’t really get along very well. We settled in pretty quick; Shelly complained about pretty much everything: the cottage was too small, no tv, no phone, the bed was lumpy. Almost every word out of her mouth made me wonder why the hell she wanted to come anyway. Well, here we were, Dad said, we ought to make the best of it. We weren’t leaving for a week.
Early in the morning on day 2 Dad disappeared into the woods with his hunting gear. I knew from years past I wouldn’t see him for days. Shelly immediately started bugging me about the ‘lack of anything to do’. I told her that I had plenty to do; I was here to sketch the Maine landscape and wildlife. I had a spot that I had picked out years before that was about an hour’s hike north. She had seen my work from past years and was actually very complimentary; she joked in years past that I was the only one of us that ever came back with anything worth displaying in the living room. But for Shelly, it was only day two and she had nothing planned; she was already bored to tears.
‘Youre welcome to come with me, but I have to tell you: it’s rough going around here. But it’s a great hike. Come on and keep me company! What else are you gonna do around here alone?’ I asked. Our relationship was not great over the pastfew years, she seemed to live to goof on her little brother. I guess it’s just natural sibling rivalry and all that, but god, she could be a bitch. I had hoped that on this trip, we might reach some sort of compromise.
‘I can do it! I’m no wimp…Let’s go!’ she demanded.
So we got our stuff together and off we went. I led the way; me in kahkis a backpack and hiking boots and her in cut-offs, a t-shirt and sneakers. She was under-prepared, but I figured with me as her guide she’d be OK. We didn’t talk much; the hike was challenging and the pace I set was gruelling. Most of the conversation between us consisted of Shelly yelling for me to slow down or asking if we could take a break. About a mile in, I heard Shelly scream.
‘Owwwwww! Shit! Steven! Ohhhhhh…..my ankle….I broke my ankle….’ She was sitting on a deadfall about 20 yards behind me holding her foot. I ran back to check on her. ‘It’s broken!’
‘It isn’t broken. Can you move it?’
She moved her foot from side to side. ‘Yeah…but it hurts!!’
She took her sneaker and sock off. ‘Let me see…’ I held her foot in my hands and felt for swelling. ‘Well, you twisted it, but I don’t think you sprained it. Let’s sit for a bit and take 5.’ I rubbed her foot for a bit. ‘Feel OK?’
She looked at me greatfully. ‘Yeah’. She had calmed down quickly.
After the break, we resumed hiking. I no time, we were at my spot; a clearing on the side of the small mountain we had been slowly hiking up. There was the large, flat outcropping of rock where I liked to sit and gaze out into the sky, sometimes for hours; I had done watercolors, pencil and charcoal sketches, even photographs of sunsets, the clearing, and the surrounding landscape. I felt sort of like I owned this acre. It was mine.