Eyes Out of the Woodlands (A Short Story out of Northern Minnesota)

by Dennis Siluk

Dinosaur Eye

1

[1959] He hid in the woods, watching his father and sister, what they were doing. So we heard that, that is. Most of us felt, and all of us gossiped, he was up to no good. Here he lived an estranged life, hidden in the thick of the deep, like a recluse.

At times it was said, you could smell his cooking of venison, or spot him driving his 1952-pickup to town, dilapidated. His one room shack remained on the 1400-acers his father owned, and there he lived quietly, out of sight and out of the minds of the people in town, except for the intermit conversations, and gossip.

His sister, Victoria, remained with her father year after year, her father selling lumber to the highest bidder. He had some tourist cabins also, down by the lake for the fish folks that came up from the big city year-round.

Why Ambrose was the opposite of his sister no one knew. He wanted to sell his one third of the 1400-acers, or perhaps it was one half of his fathers land, and god knows what he wanted to do with the money. But the old man said ‘No!’ harshly, said ‘No!’ after he had left, once and for all. Nine years he was gone, deserted his wife and kid, and went on back to that shack to wait for his father to die, and leave him the land. His sister still there, but the old man never forgave his son, who took a wife, had two grandkids, and left them someplace; he’d never get to see them. But the old man just left well enough alone. Virginia remained single.

We all said, Vera would marry after the old man died, then Ambrose would come out of the woods from his self imposed hibernation, and claim what he felt was his.

2

Nobody really knows what the other person is thinking, yet we guessed at it a lot, and maybe a few of us in town did know; as they say, ‘pride comes before destruction,’ and we all could see it coming.

Vera was gentle, soft spoken, always thinking, or so it seemed, perchance five foot two inches, short, and cute. She was forty years old now, so the cuteness was leaving her, the old man was sixty-seven, and like Ambrose, the older of the two, by two years, was moody and high spirited like his father—stubborn.

“Why don’t you get married?” the old man said one day to Virginia. What ruffled his feathers I don’t know, but Vera became dumfounded. (This of course is speculation and what we put together).

“If you’re waiting for my wooded lands, you’ve got a long wait,” we all heard him mumble that as he walked out of the grocery store in town one Saturday afternoon with his daughter, and put the groceries in his new truck, 1959 (Ford I think), and headed out of town to his huge log cabin, more like a lodge (yes, a lodge you could call it), in the woods, with six-bedrooms, and five bathrooms. She did say something sitting in that front seat, I heard her, before they took off:

“I have no time for a husband, taking care of you, the bookkeeping, cleaning the house; I’ve earned my share when you pass on.” The old man didn’t say a word, he perhaps knew she’d leave; the shape of things would drastically change then, then what [?] That was conceivably the last he ever said on the matter to her for a spell, and she remained living her old life, her old self at the house, a mild cool mannered life, sedate, and watchful as if with long-sided cat eyes.

3

I suppose if there was any respect between Ambrose and Mr. Beck, it was in that Ambrose left the old man alone; respect, or regard for the other, can and did come in that direction.

The old man must have been thinking (so we thought), Ambrose was brave enough to confront his greedy-design, whereas, Vera was willing to subdue hers, and just wait it out. Yes indeed, it was that way, and whatever was on Vera’s mind, she was not spending any of her money her mother had left her and Ambrose, whom gambled his mother’s inheritance away long ago, had none to worry about.

Then I thought, as many did, the old man would kick her out some day—not that he wanted to, but his temper, his nature, would put her in harms way, and he’d have no choice. And that is exactly what happened, what took place was this: the old baldheaded, bulldog of a man, Mr. Beck short and stocky, like a prize fighter one day opened the door and shoved her down the few steps there were on the porch, saying:

”Spend my money if you can when I’m dead!” And she left his house, just like that. She kept her regular reserved composure, and mild manner, which, strange to say, but true, she was crying, we didn’t think less of her for those tears, but it didn’t quite fit.

4

She had never cried before, in fact I always saw her as a pillar of strength. Much in control of herself, her emotions: therefore, if she was anything, she was a much deeper fish than her brother, and perhaps equal in shrewdness to her father: I don't know, but I’d say, a dangerous combination.

During the following years, a few years that is, two years to be exact, rarely did anybody stop to see the old man, he paid his taxes as usual; hired some help with the land, and boats he rented to visitors, and cabins he rented to the same folks: Vera now lived with her Aunt and uncle about five miles down the road. And Ambrose, well, he still lived in the woods, checking on what his father was doing, going back to his shack, drinking a pint of whisky now and then, making some home made stuff to boot.

Now and then the old man walked into the woods near the shack, but not too near, a glance towards it, and perhaps he saw Ambrose, perhaps not: he’d then go kill a few animals to eat, and paid it no more attention that that.

Then as Ambrose went one day to see what his father was up to, he saw him lying stone-still, dead on the ground, he knew he was dead; he was near the steps of the porch, as if he could have fallen. There was Aunt Betty’s 1960-ford, it took off quickly by the fence, which was by the side of the road, some woman was driving it, and it wasn’t Aunt Betty, unless she got her haircut short recently, and she hadn’t.

The county health officer showed up, and reported to the officials it was death by accident. He had tripped on a loose step attached to his porch; he even fixed it while waiting for the sheriff. The sheriff talked to Ambrose, and then they buried old man Beck by the shack, it was where Ambrose wished it to be. Vera showed up at the funeral, Ambrose did not. Victoria moved into the house and left the door unlocked for her brother Ambrose, but he never again walked through those doors—Victoria often stood under the arch of the doorway looking into the woods as if Ambrose would show up, she stood in that doorway until she died of old age—waiting, looking.

About the Author:  See Dennis' web site: http://dennissiluk.tripod.com