Dorothy and the Oz of New Hampshire

[This is a continuation of the last bit of past history.]

Before I moved into Dorothy’s Germantown garret, Dorothy and Tom had bought a chunk of land near Keane, New Hampshire. They were planning to build a house and move there. As they prepared to travel up during my first Germantown summer, they left an open invitation for me to visit.

Thank god! I was falling apart and needed to get away, fast. I didn’t have a car now – the VW was at Julie’s (its rejuvenation following my drunken accident deserves its own sad story) – but I could take a bus.

The bigger trouble was that I was too rattled mentally to plan ahead. On the date I had muddily fixed for departure, I had made no arrangements with Dorothy, and she had no phone. As I waited for Julie to pick up Morgan and Erin, I was a shimmer of jitters and shakes, barely able to hold a conversation. God, what a thing to do to my children.

The bus would drop me off in Brattleboro, VT, about which I knew zilch. How was I to get to Dorothy’s, across whatever river and down whichever highway in NH? I had some vague idea of hitchhiking and walking. I’d hitched only a couple times in my life and was (am) not comfortable dealing with strangers to whom I owe even incidental favors.

Dorothy had hinted at harboring some minor psychic ability – probably more a well-functioning intuition. Without any advance notice from me, when the bus pulled up in Brattleboro, there she was, with her son, Rusty. She just had an idea that I was going to be on that bus, that day. If she hadn’t, I’d probably still be wandering the backwoods of New England, escaping from Stephen King.

Rusty, in his late 20s or early 30s, was a cowfucker, a noble and necessary profession. He carried phials of bull semen, set in a canister of liquid nitrogen, from farm to farm to inseminate cows. Cowfucker was the informal term in the trade. People tended to be leery around him when he rode public transportation. A woman would sit next to him, read “bull semen” on his container and shift to another seat.

Dorothy and Tom’s land held no permanent structure beyond the beginnings of a cinderblock foundation. They (and I) lived in tents. The bathroom facilities consisted of a wooden box with a round cutout, set on a hillside, seated over a pit. It had no roof. On rainy days you crapped wile holding an umbrella.

Tom (Dorothy’s second husband, not the father of Becky or Rusty) was an odd duck. Outwardly jovial, he held a deep-seated cynicism about the human race, both in its wider manifestations and as individuals. That first year, we got along famously, and my stay in NH was the highpoint of that dreary, bedraggled year. 

A few months after our return to Germantown, something changed. Earlier, Tom had turned against a former friend; now he seemed to be doing the same with me. Jealousy at my friendship with Dorothy? I had no idea, but I could sense the seeping coldness. 

One day I went out and neglected to lock the back door of the house, which led to its large, brick-wall-enclosed yard. Both Tom and Dorothy were more upset than I could quite understand. When I accidentally repeated my transgression – because I was certain they were in the house when I left – they stood on the stairs and lectured me like a schoolboy.

As the second summer approached, Dorothy told me they wanted to “see what it would be like to live alone.” In less euphemistic terms, I was being kicked out. 

Dorothy and I held a final, tearful evening upstairs, almost as riotously drunk as the night following our infamous duck dinner. At one point, she recounted a strange story: A woman who had been her close friend told her, without preamble, “I can’t be your friend anymore.”

Dorothy said she never understood, never uncovered the rationale. But I think, consciously or not, she was telling me something about herself and me. A friendship that I had come to accept in a simplistic way just … wasn’t anymore. Like her, I never understood, never identified the “why.”

A few years ago, Erin sent me an email address for Dorothy, still in NH but with a different last name. We corresponded a couple times, very cordial. She was having an eye problem – the usual old-fart stuff.

A year later I tried the address and it was gone. I don’t know what’s become of someone who, for awhile, was the beacon in my life.

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