Perfect Vacation

Charles will lay out my hiking clothes on the bed. The 24-hour trip from home to the mountain lodge will be made comfortable by flying first class, with limousine service at either end.

I will hike along prepared paths in the conifer forest, with an occasional foray up a dry creek bed or deer path. My daypack has all the emergency, food and water supplies one could need for an eight-hour, solo walk.

My digital camera is light-weight, its carrying case fitting handily on the left shoulder strap of my pack. I expect to see deer, bobcat, fox, several bird species, various rodents, newts, snakes and, perhaps, some invertebrates.

I will puff and sweat righteously on the steeper trails; my hickory walking stick will ease the pressure on my knees during the downhill return.

Afterward, I will bathe leisurely while sipping 20-year-old Scotch whisky, then join Madame in the restaurant for dinner. Perhaps I will have the roast wild boar and accompaniments with a not-too-heavy red wine.

Yes, that will probably do.

Oh yes, a fine Havana cigar with coffee after dinner. Madame will forego this part of the evening, as usual. We will, however, reunite later for a nightcap before retiring together.


The Secret

[The Stockholm Writers Group held a writing workshop at the home of a member. The workshop’s organizer gave us writing prompts. We had forty-five minutes to compose each sketch. This is one of mine, edited after the fact.]

This is what I said to myself, at first:

God damn it. Why did she tell me her secret? I know why. She wanted to share the burden. Well, I never asked for the burden—and I’m not a ‘sharing’ kind of guy.

I can’t tell anyone, of course, and who would I tell, anyway? None of the guys I hang out with would give a shit, except a few with big mouths might use it as an excuse to further ruin her rep, just for the fun of it.

And I never tell women anything private. I’ve learned the hard way.

But what if her mother or father, or especially her big brother ask me, directly, that is? How can I lie without them seeing it? Shit! I light up like a Christmas tree just in getting a compliment. If I had to lie to her relatives, I’d probably look like a neon sign that spells out “LIAR!” Jeez.

She’s gotta tell them, that’s what. It’s not fair to load me down with this, and it’ll get found out someday, anyway. And then, when she tells someone and it spreads all over town, and they learn that I knew all along, I’ll look like a shithead, a patsy, a girly-man—keeping girls’ secrets, for crissake.

But I know if I throw it back at her, tell her to tell her parents, she’ll go nuts and start her screaming, then she’ll make up all kinds of stories of how I dissed her, called her names and all that stuff she’s famous for. Why me?

I’m too nice, that’s why. I’ll finish last, like they say. If I was a sonofabitch, I’d just tell her to shove her secret, walk away, and forget about it. But no—she knows I’ll carry it, won’t tell, and will feel bad forever.

Maybe that’s it. It isn’t the ‘sharing’ she needed—she wants me to feel bad. But what did I do to her? I’m the only one who treats her nice, or at least I don’t make fun of her. God! I can’t figure these things out. Who do I get to share with? Shit!

And how the hell important is it anyway? Her life is wrecked. Nobody expects anything of her. Her parents might not even care, for crissake. Her big brother might care, only because it looks bad on him being connected to her, which he doesn’t like to be reminded of.

It’s not right for her to lay this on me. It isn’t right for me to tell anyone. It’s like I’m the guilty party, and I’m the one getting punished for what she did.

I’ve gotta convince her to tell her parents. They’ll find out eventually. I’ll wait for the right moment to show her the logic of this. It’s better if she tells them first, before they find out from some official people.

But when has she ever been logical? All she understands is crazy emotion. She seems to need it more than food. So, do I get emotional with her? How the hell do I do that? But I’ve gotta give it a try.

This is what she said afterward:

Do you believe everything anyone tells you?”