CATHY KNOCKED on the door, cleared her throat and adjusted the camera bag slung over her shoulder.
“Mr. Bennett?” she called out.
Maybe he wasn’t here.
She looked around. No vehicle in the driveway, other than her car.
Maybe he had stood her up.
She had driven 40 minutes for this assignment; 40 minutes of rough twisty-turny cottage roads; 40 minutes straight to the capital of the middle of nowhere.
It was November and nobody was up at Kennisis Lake in November. The municipality didn’t do winter maintenance on this road and so once the snow started to fly only snowmobilers and die-hard survivalists stuck around.
“Ah, shit,” Cathy said, and turned to leave.
She almost made it to her car when the front door to the ramshackle cottage opened and a voice she assumed belonged to poet laureate Ansel Bennett said, “Ya? Whaddya want?”
Cathy turned around.
“I’m Cathy Earnshaw. From the News? I talked to you on the phone this morning. We had an appointment. I’m writing a story about your award.”
There was silence.
She couldn’t see him, just a crack of darkness in the doorway.
“Mr. Bennett,” she said, “do you want to do this interview or not?”
A white hand thrust into the afternoon light and waved her in.
“Fine,” she said, under her breath, between her teeth.
She pasted on her plastic reporter’s smile and went in.
It took her about a second to realize that the subject of her interview was stinking drunk.
“Come in,” the frog-belly pale old poet said, his words slurring. “Sit there.” He gestured to a couch, rattier than the hand-me-down Cathy had in her own apartment. It was covered in newspapers and books. She realized that paper covered every surface of the cottage, paper and empty glasses and the stench of liquor and cigarettes and old man.
“Maybe now’s not a good time for this,” Cathy said.
She certainly couldn’t interview him when he was shit-faced.
“Nonsense,” said the poet. “It’s a perfect time. Sit down, SIT DOWN. You mean to say you drove all the way out here for nothing?”
He stared at her stupidly, weaving slightly. “I’m not going to bite,” he said. “Just sit down. K? Sit down.”
She was almost convinced but her inner voice, her worry-wart voice, wasn’t.
“Mr. Bennett,” she said. “I can’t interview you when you’ve been drinking. We’ll have to reschedule.”
He looked confused.
“Drinking? I’m all out... but if you wait, there’s more coming soon... whiskey... you can have all you want.”
“No, Mr. Bennett, I don’t want a drink. I think I should go.”
“Wait,” he said.“Wait. Don’t go. I’m alone, here. Always alone. Stay. We don’t have to do the interview,” he said. “We could do ... other things.”
“Come here. I won’t hurt you. I just want to taste you.”
“No,” she said, backing up.
“Taste you. Lick you. There. It's been so long,” he said. Moving towards her. White hands reaching out, touching the hem of her skirt, yanking it.
“NO, Mr. Bennett. NO.” She backed into the wall and reached awkwardly for the door.
He was pulling at her skirt, breathing sickly boozy fumes all over her. She felt nauseous. Then terrified when she realized just how far from town she really was.
“You sick, twisted, dirty, BASTARD,” she said, and she pushed him, pushed him as hard as she could. His foul breath escaped him in a solid “wooosh” and he almost lost his balance, almost fell, but he was determined, his hands reaching for her like claws.
She batted him away, pulled open the door and ran into the yard, the prize-winning poet laureate staggering behind her.
Cathy stopped in her tracks, watching as a Village Taxi cab pulled up the driveway.
The cabbie saw her red face, her dishevelled clothing and wild hair. He saw the lecherous old drunk weaving and swaying on the lawn.
“Afternoon, Ansel,” he said. “Got the whiskey you ordered.”
The old man’s shoulders sagged.
Cathy got in her car and drove away.
As the old poet and the cabbie disappeared in her rear view mirror, she started to shake.
In cottage country, you don’t need a vehicle to get what you need.
Village Taxi delivers everything.
A bag of groceries.
A bottle of whiskey.