Agnes had loosened up with a couple of glasses of wine and became more direct with her questions, as though searching for something.
“So you said at one point, what? after the farm? you lived in the woods, in a bus, cutting trees? Did I get that right?
“Yes, after the farm. I ended up living with an ex-navy seal, an underwater demolition expert. He let me park my bus on the acreage he rented and since there were no neighbors to complain and the landlord never came around I just stayed. He was lonely. His wife had left him.”
“So did he have a girl?
Why that question? She was probing for something but what? The wine was beginning to have its effect and the conversation was getting more random but I sensed some method to Agnes questions nonetheless.
“He took up with an ex-hooker named Trish who wanted to change her life. She was from New York, and now about as far away as she could get from that life. We used to trade stories about New York. She hung around about half the time. She was a piece of work, really.
“Did you have a girl?”
Her face tried to betray nothing, yet there was something behind the question.
“Sometimes,” I dodged the question and avoided explaining several short term relationships — some of them one-night-stands. “When I got a job as a long-haul trucker, I wasn’t around for weeks at a time. If Trish was on the outs with Q she’d stay in the bus while I was away. It was awkward one time when my girl showed up while I was away and kicked Trish out. She told Trish I was due back the next day. I wasn’t. She just wanted some time in the woods. It was completely outfitted; stove, fridge, heat, the works. Trish was good with fabrics, sewed he own clothes and I had asked her to mend the heavy sweater I was wearing when I wrecked my motorcycle. Some of it was sticking out below my leather jacket and the pavement wore through it as I slid. I gave it to her but she just kept it and wore it all winter. I never got it back.
“You wrecked your motorcycle? The not funkey Honda? You’d had it all this time?”
“Yes, that’s the one I filled with gas from the oil drums during the embargo.”
“So you weren’t killed. I got that right,” she said with a chuckle.
“No but I was badly injured. I hit a deer on opening day of hunting season and killed it. October 10th. I was about to move the bus, like the next day but I ended up in the hospital. I called my friends to come get me. They grumbled that it broke up their poker game but they came. I knew I couldn’t stay overnight in the hospital. How would I pay for it? ”
“Oooh! How did you get to the hospital with the wreck out in the country?”
“It was a dark road. No moon. Some passers by saw the dim headlight on the side of the road and stopped. The battery was almost dead, I was able to stagger into their car and they took me to the hospital about 20 miles away. I never knew who they were.”