Excerpt of Village of the Ghost Bears by Stan Jones
(Page 2 of 7)
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Active and Grace ferried gear ashore until finally the
plane was empty. Cowboy untied the Super Cub, waded
into the shallows, walked the plane back until it floated
free, then swung the nose around to point across the lake.
Okay, you two, Ill see you in a week. Enjoy yourselves,
huh? His eyes twinkled behind his steel-frame glasses,
and the grin reappeared.
It was not reciprocated.
Cowboy shrugged. If you run into any trouble, just set
off your EPIRB, and somebodyll be along to check on
you. They nodded, and he climbed into the plane.
He cranked up and taxied to the foot of the cliff, then
turned and put on full power, filling the bowl with the roar
of his engine as he accelerated down the lake. They watched
as the pilot got onto step, lifted one float clear of the water,
then the other, and cleared the trees at the outlet.
As the red-and-white plane shrank to a dot in the sky,
Active put his arm around Graces shoulders, breathing in
the scent of lavender. What do you think?
She shrugged stiffly. I dont know yet.
He gave her a squeeze. Dont sweat it. Good fishin,
good huntin, good berry-pickin, good weather, good
companywho needs the other?
She looked at him with a quicksilver flash from the
corner of her eye. Every couple does. Otherwise theyre
just. . . .
Dont say that. I hate that word.
Its all right if were roommates for a while, he said.
Itll happen when it happens.
Feel free to shop elsewhere.
Thanks, but no thanks.
She turned into his arms and pulled him down for a kiss.
Thank you, she said after a long time.
When they separated, he cleared his throat. I guess we
should do something about getting a camp together.
She nodded. Ill organize some dinner if you want to set
up the tent.
She busied herself putting up a Visqueen awning for the
camp kitchen while he stamped about the mossy floor of
the spruce grove, looking for the flattest spot big enough
for the Arctic Oven. He found one a few yards off,
requiring only that he dig out a few rocks and pitch them
aside. Then he tugged the tent out of its pouch and spread
it on the moss as the sun drifted below the ridge and the
basin sank into blue shadow.
Later, in the tent, came the conundrum of the Woods singledouble.
Each half could be zipped into a bag for one person,
or the two halves could be zipped together for a couple.
One bag or two, madam? he asked without much
He studied her face in the buttery light of the propane
lantern as she turned it over in her mind. The hunger for
normalcy showing as always in her eyes, the desire to please
him, and the dread that, if she let him take her, he would be
transformed somewhere deep in her wounded psyche into her
father, who had been the first man to do so.
One, I think, kind sir, but no guarantees. Like him,
she was playing it light, keeping the escape route open.
He unrolled the bag and zipped it together, stripped
down to his shorts and T-shirt, and crawled in. Then he
watched her next internal debate: undress with the light
on, or off? Put on the long johns, or go for broke in panties
and one of his T-shirts?
She looked at him, stuck out her tongue like a twelveyear-
old, and closed the valve on the lantern. He listened in
a kind of fever-dream as clothes whispered off in the darkness
and something was pulled on. Long johns, or a T-shirt?
She slid into the bag, and he felt a smooth, hot thigh
against his own. She turned toward him for a kiss. Her lips
soft and wet, a flicker of her tongue. But when he slid his
hand under her T-shirt, she stiffened, quivering. As usual.
He eased his hand off her breast, stroked her hair, and
felt her relax. He kissed her cheek and tasted salt.
Excerpted from Village of the Ghost Bears
by Stan Jones. Copyright © 2009 by Stan Jones.
Excerpted by permission of Soho Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.