She waited in the woods. She had waited for a long time in the hills off Maplewood Road and beyond, not that time mattered anymore. The seasons mattered. The brilliant autumns. The glorious summers. The snow. The relentless cold. But not this year. She had never experienced a December like this one, in all of her years in Vermont.
Sometimes a woman needs to disappear. Especially from Oklahoma.
It was December and unseasonably cold, the night before Amy left for her seventh National Finals Rodeo. She was in the barn with Eclipse, one of the fastest barrel horses in the history of the sport, and Sandy, her steady backup who could still finish in the money if he had to. But he mostly kept Eclipse calm, mile after mile, on the professional rodeo circuit. The trailer was parked at the gate that night, and loaded with hay, feed, all kinds of supplies, jeans, boots, hats, and ten neon-colored shirts - everything she would need for her last National Finals.
She would retire in her prime. She'd give Eclipse and Sandy a nice long rest while she started over at age 35, training barrel horses on a ranch she had her eye on outside of Owasso. She had quietly sold all of her other horses not long after her soon-to-be-ex moved out in the spring.
The marriage had seemed like a good idea when she was just getting into some decent money running barrels at age 23 and he was a bright young businessman who didn't mind moving from Tulsa to Wyandotte. But he was never much more than a gentleman farmer. He became disenchanted with rodeo once he realized how much work it is, and the marriage began to collapse as the Oklahoma economy went sour. By the time the bottom fell out of the real estate market, the marriage was over and the divorce was going badly.
When he found out that most of Amy's rodeo winnings were in an airtight corporation that she had set up years ago - the first time a woman called the house and hung up - he was furious. When his lawyer finally admitted that nobody except Amy could ever touch that money, he started drinking again. When he realized that his only asset was their ranch, which he had triple mortgaged while Amy was on the road, he started making threats. She reported them to the sheriff who was one of his hunting buddies. The sheriff promised to sit him down for a talk. She thought that would be enough.
Amy was closing the barn door when the shot rang out. The shooter missed. But something exploded inside the barn and the fire spread fast.
She got the horses out with seconds to spare. She said a prayer for the barn cat, and whistled for Fly, her blue heeler. She rushed the horses to the trailer, and told Sandy, the saint, to 'Load up!' He did and Eclipse followed. Amy locked them safely into the trailer as Fly leapt into the front seat of the truck.
Amy hit the gas. By the time she heard the fire trucks, she was on the turnpike, flying west. She didn't stop until she got to her parents' farm outside of Oklahoma City where she found the barn cat snoozing in the dressing room of the trailer, like nothing had ever happened. It was the dead of night. She turned out the horses and hoped they would settle down. Her parents didn't ask many questions when Amy said she was just getting an early start and needed to sleep for a while. The less they knew, the better. At dawn, she wrapped her horses' legs properly for a long trip, had biscuits and gravy with her parents who promised not to worry, and then she headed for the National Finals, the Super Bowl of rodeo, in Las Vegas.
The National Finals lasts ten days so Amy had plenty of time to go online and clean out what was left in their joint bank accounts. Her soon-to-be-ex was friends with the president of the bank but she was friends with the head teller so it was no problem. She called her high school boyfriend, who ran the Chevrolet dealership, and got her soon-to-be-ex's truck repossessed. She told the insurance company that she suspected arson because she knew that would slow down the payout. She didn't bother to report the shot. She got the sponsorship photos out of the way in Vegas and signed autographs for hours. Her rodeo friends stayed close but he never showed up. That only meant he was waiting until she hit the highway alone.
Amy won. She cleared nearly $70,000 for the week. The sponsorships were almost triple that amount. She also won a 2016 dually pickup and a top-of-the-line horse trailer but going home was not an option.
She knew he'd be thinking Mexico. So she was thinking Canada.
Amy never counted on Vermont.
She waited in the trees. In the fog. El Nino, the warm air that moved too far north and lingered for too long this year, turned the snow to rain. But she knew what no one else could imagine. Someone was rolling in, riding the crest of El Nino, moving fast.
In the fog, her best mare pricked up her ears. Sniffed the air. "Soon," she whispered to the mare. "Soon."
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Author's note: I'm creating a serial story which is set in and around Corinth, Vermont. As you can see, it will be a 'stranger in a strange land' type of story, at least at first. I'll be folding in events, places, and ideas from throughout the Upper Valley which are supplied by you, the readers.
I want to write about what you want to read about.
What makes living in the Upper Valley different than living any place else? That’s what I’d like to include. Legends. Quirks. Events. History. Pet peeves. Favorite things. Ghost stories. Weird occupations. Strange situations.
Just list your ideas in the comments section below or at https://knotweed.wufoo.com/forms/ideas-for-mary-sue-price/. I’ll do my best to work them into the story. Pictures are always welcome if I have permission to use them. Let’s stay away from politics, religion, or anything personal.
I've gotten a great response so far, thank you! This is going to be fun! The whole idea is new, though, and we’re sorting it out as we go along. With that in mind, I need to clarify a couple of things:
By submitting ideas to me in emails or comments, you’re giving me non-exclusive permission to use the material in this blog and any place else. The story I create, and everything in it, belongs to me. Your emails or comments belong to you. Although you are giving me permission to use the material, you’re free to use it yourself, any way you want. That seems pretty obvious and I appreciate your willingness to share.
However, if you submit ideas to this blog, you would not become co-writers or collaborators if ‘Tales From Nowhere’ goes beyond this website. I don’t have any plans for that, at the moment, but I can’t rule it out. I hope this is clear. If not, please let me know. I hope it does not discourage anyone from sending in ideas. I just want everybody to understand who owns what. Thanks!
Also, all of the characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is a coincidence. Okay, except for the picture of the cool Oklahoma cowgirl running barrels. She is a friend from high school who has graciously allowed me to use her image to represent one of my main characters. The story has nothing to do with her, though. I'm making it all up!