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October 13, 2020 Fiction


Eric LaFountain

Vermont photo

Vermont in the summer is a place I love. No other spot makes me feel so at ease and natural and boyish. I get giddy driving north, windows down, watching people and traffic give way to wide open road, to green hills and cows and red barns and woods. It always smells so good here in the summer, like the dewy meadows have been sugared: you could sit down and eat that grass. I love pulling into a country store and buying a chocolate chip cookie the size of a frisbee and enjoying the whole thing because it’s chewy and still oven warm. I love mountain biking here with my men, my brothers, the feeling of clipping in and pedaling into the forest as a pack, my thrill and comfort of being on a bike with people I love and trust and who make me laugh. The simplicity of it, every cell in my body sighing with relief, singing out, “Yes, this right here, this is correct.” I love the rhythm of those day-long rides, the chatter gradually muting to full pack quiet, lungs opening, legs warming, breathing and pedaling, focused on the trail, a moving meditation, inhaling clean pine air until all the clouds and neuroses of my system have been blown out, leaving me in such a state of sunny happy Huck Finn contentment. I love sucking down full Camelbacks of fluids and plunging into a frigid river afterwards, the melted snow water taming my muscle ache and swelling, cooling me into a numbed bliss. I love drying off on a slab of sun-warmed river rock and that first delicious sip of New England-style IPA, a hoppy cloudy ale that nourishes and heals better than medicine. And then the animal pleasure of being truly hungry and satisfying the calorie cravings around a roaring outdoor fire: give me steak and brownies and fistfuls of trail-mix and bars of chocolate. And pass that bowl of flower bud, that sweet smell which for me will always be the smell of being sixteen. My body is tired and still and I keep laughing, but as night darkens, the real talk begins, the surface language of everyday life replaced with something more genuine and special, my brothers and me opening up about the true meat—our lives, our women, our kids, our jobs, our wild minds. The bright flash of adult life paused in the dark as the fire continues cracking, we can stop stumbling around and rushing and vocalize everything, for once, in this northern night space. And oh, the luxury of sleeping outside! Even summer evenings here are cool, the perfect slumber weather, you’re simply lulled into a deep hibernation cocooned in your sleeping bag, the fire now just a pulsing of red coals, and how swiftly the up and down, up and down of real sleep takes over. And when you wake, you wake slowly, sipping strong coffee and the joy of an outdoor breakfast, and still, slowly, slowly, you suit up again, swing your leg over the bike, regroup as a pack, a gentle morning spin away from the fire and quiet sleep time, back to the vast winding trails. Back into the woods.


image: Aaron Burch