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long road home Signposts and Junctions      



A Nor'easter comes to the White Mountains


Stuart departed Gorham late Saturday afternoon in the thick of the storm and headed south towards Jackson in his old Jeep Wrangler. Although a nor’easter was pounding the White Mountains with snow, he was looking forward to spending the night with Katie at Ethan’s spacious home above Jackson.

Because of the storm, Ethan had stayed in Boston and phoned Stuart to check in on his place. Ethan, a computer consultant, spent a great deal of time on the road and often asked Stuart to look after the dwelling in his absence. As part of that deal, Stuart could enjoy the large fireplace and well stocked bar and pantry. To top it off, Katie was coming up after work to spend the night. Thoughts of Katie in the dim light of the fireplace flitted through his mind.

Katie was the head bartender at one of North Conway’s hottest spots, McFarland’s Grill. Stuart disliked the owner, Malcolm McFarland, because he felt Malcolm harbored designs on Katie; he also disdained the attention that Malcolm's friends lavished on Katie and the other women that worked at the bar. Yet Katie, pretty and gregarious, made a great deal of money in tips at the grill and Stuart didn’t press the issue too hard.

He found Ethan’s house and let himself in. A quick tour told him everything was secure. He started a blaze in the large fieldstone fireplace and filled the wood box with new logs retrieved from the substantial pile out behind the cabin. He secured the keys to Ethan’s 4X4 plow and went out to the garage. Even though the snow still came hard, he plowed the driveway and cleared the area around the garage in anticipation of Katie’s arrival.

Back inside, Stuart made a drink as he prepared salads and appetizers for later. A flash of desire shot through him as he recalled the ardor they shared on their previous night together. Stuart turned on the stereo and lay down for a rest on the couch.

The phone startled him from his sleep; it was later than he thought. He answered and heard Katie’s voice on the other end.

“Hey, honey,” she said. “How are you?”

“Great,” he answered. “Are you on your way over?”

“No,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry. The roads are terrible and it’s still snowing; Malcolm wants all his bartenders and waitresses to stay at his house tonight so nobody has to drive home late in the storm.”

“That bastard,” thought Stuart. Malcolm lived in a large house in town close to the bar. As he talked with Katie, Stuart could hear male and female voices laughing in the background, along with music and the clinking of glasses.

“Oh, baby, I’m crushed,” said Stuart. “I’ve been waiting all week to see you.”

“Stu, don’t be mad, I’ll make it up to you I promise. You'll see. I need to go now, sweetie; they’re getting some food ready; I’ll talk with you tomorrow.” Then she was gone.

Stuart tensed as he thought of Katie and the others staying at Malcolm’s for the night, and a flash of jealousy shot through him. He remembered watching her from bed in the morning, how beautiful she looked getting out of the shower, long and sleek. She would slowly towel the moisture off her skin and slide into a robe, then come and sit beside him on the bed with the robe open and her long dark hair hanging wet about his face.

He was sick with want and loss.

Corporate greed, Stuart realized, knows no bounds.