My long time friend, we will call her “Kelly” (to safeguard her identity from family and friends), a former student of mine and a great murder mystery writer (to make her identity obvious to family and friends), called me last week so that we could harangue each other about the slow progress on our respective novel manuscripts. After alternately berating and encouraging one another, we shared some casual catching-up conversation about life, family, work, and late-summer day-to-day tasks.
“So, what are you doing today?” I asked.”
“Rearranging stuff in my chest freezer,” said Kelly
“You put up a lot of produce from your garden this summer?”
“About the same as last year. But I have to make room for a deer in the next couple weeks.”
Now I know for a fact that my friend does not hunt deer. Nor does her husband. Curious.
“You have to make room for a deer?” I asked.
“Yeah. My brother’s ex-wife, her younger brother is getting ready to start the bow season. He gives me a deer every year.”
I needed clarification. “Who gives you a deer?”
“My brother’s ex-wife’s younger brother.”
“His ex-wife? As in divorced wife?”
“How long has your brother been divorced?”
“About 20 years.”
“And her younger brother still gives you a deer every year?”
It was at this point in the conversation that I felt I had become trapped in an Abbot and Costello “Whos’ on First” comedy routine. Cautiously, I played my role as straight man.
“Okay, now let me try get this straight. You brother divorced this woman 20 years ago.”
“But they are still on good terms?”
“Oh god, no! She thinks he’s the scum of the earth.”
“But you get along with her okay?”
“No, she’s a total bitch.”
The logic of this conversation began to spin out of control. I paused to take a breath and organize my out-of-focus picture.
“Let’s take a step back so that I can understand this arrangement,” I said.
“What’s to understand?”
“Unravel this for me. This is what I hear you saying: your brother hates his ex-wife, she hates him, you think she’s a total bitch, but her younger brother gives you a deer every year.”
“You got it. What’s the confusion?” asked Kelly.
“It just seems odd that your families are at war, but he continues to give you a deer.”
“No mystery. He and I get along fine.”
“How can that be?”
“Probably because he thinks his sister is a pain in the ass, and I think my brother is a jerk. Plus, he bow hunts on our family’s farm.”
“Finally, this is beginning to make sense to me,” I said.
“You always were a little slow on the uptake, especially about family matters,” said Kelly.
“But I eventually get it,” I said, “I’ve got it figured out. Why he gives you a deer every year.”
“This year there’s going to be a major problem, though,” said Kelly.
“New dynamic in the family feud?” I ventured.
“Boned,” she said. “The meat processor is working six days a week, and he says that any deer I bring in will have to be boned. I’ve never boned a deer.”
“Your brother’s ex-wife’s younger brother won’t bone it for you?”
“That would be pushing it,” said Kelly as if it should be self-evident. “Really pushing it.”
I did not seek any further explanation.
More essays and stories about life in the North Country are published in my six collections of essays and three novels, available through Amazon.com at Jerry Johnson Author Page