Carla heard the car coming before it topped the little rise in the road that around here they called a hill. Its her, she thought. Mrs. JamiesonSylviahome from her holiday in Greece. From the barn doorbut far enough inside that she could not readily be seenshe watched the road Mrs. Jamieson would have to drive by on, her place being half a mile farther along the road than Clark and Carlas.
If it was somebody getting ready to turn in at their gate it would be slowing down by now. But still Carla hoped. Let it not be her.
It was. Mrs. Jamieson turned her head once, quicklyshe had all she could do maneuvering her car through the ruts and puddles the rain had made in the gravelbut she didnt lift a hand off the wheel to wave, she didnt spot Carla. Carla got a glimpse of a tanned arm bare to the shoulder, hair bleached a lighter color than it had been before, more white now than silver-blond, and an expression that was determined and exasperated and amused at her own exasperationjust the way Mrs. Jamieson would look negotiating such a road. When she turned her head there was something like a bright flashof inquiry, of hopefulnessthat made Carla shrink back.
Maybe Clark didnt know yet. If he was sitting at the computer he would have his back to the window and the road.
But Mrs. Jamieson might have to make another trip. Driv ing home from the airport, she might not have stopped for groceriesnot until shed been home and figured out what she needed. Clark might see her then. And after dark, the lights of her house would show. But this was July, and it didnt get dark till late. She might be so tired that she wouldnt bother with the lights, she might go to bed early.
On the other hand, she might telephone. Any time now.
This was the summer of rain and more rain. You heard it first thing in the morning, loud on the roof of the mobile home. The trails were deep in mud, the long grass soaking, leaves overhead sending down random showers even in those moments when there was no actual downpour from the sky and the clouds looked like clearing. Carla wore a high, wide-brimmed old Australian felt hat every time she went outside, and tucked her long thick braid down her shirt.
Nobody showed up for trail rides, even though Clark and Carla had gone around posting signs in all the camping sites, in the cafes, and on the tourist office billboard and anywhere else they could think of. Only a few pupils were coming for lessons and those were regulars, not the batches of schoolchildren on vacation, the busloads from summer camps, that had kept them going through last summer. And even the regulars that they counted on were taking time off for holiday trips, or simply cancelling their lessons because of the weather being so discouraging. If they called too late, Clark charged them for the time anyway. A couple of them had complained, and quit for good.
There was still some income from the three horses that were boarded. Those three, and the four of their own, were out in the field now, poking around in the grass under the trees. They looked as if they couldnt be bothered to notice that the rain was holding off for the moment, the way it often did for a while in the afternoon. Just enough to get your hopes upthe clouds whitening and thinning and letting through a diffuse brightness that never got around to being real sunshine, and was usually gone before supper.
Carla had finished mucking out in the barn. She had taken her timeshe liked the rhythm of her regular chores, the high space under the barn roof, the smells. Now she went over to the exercise ring to see how dry the ground was, in case the five oclock pupil did show up.
Most of the steady showers had not been particularly heavy, or borne on any wind, but last week there had come a sudden stirring and then a blast through the treetops and a nearly horizontal blinding rain. In a quarter of an hour the storm had passed over. But branches lay across the road, hydro lines were down, and a large chunk of the plastic roofing over the ring had been torn loose. There was a puddle like a lake at that end of the track, and Clark had worked until after dark, digging a channel to drain it away.
Excerpted from Runaway by Alice Munro Copyright © 2004 by Alice Munro. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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