When I wrote these pages, I had been sheltered in place for more than a year of months, living alone. I went to the woods because I had to. The townsmen of Concord, having not wished to include me in their stuffy elite pandemic pods, nor offer me a socially-distanced lodging at the parsonage, had thus forced me to retreat to the shoreline of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s mosquito-ridden Walden Pond, where I was well-known.
Living as a hermit is my goal. Because I have vowed not to work a minute, an hour, or a day more than is necessary, I have been happy to exist in nature, all the time banking my bi-weekly unemployment check plus the useful covid supplement. It is enough, thank you.
Still, Walden Pond’s mind-destroying isolation has given me time to consider my lifelong ineptitude with the opposite gender. My lack of relationship skill was evident when Ellen Sewall first accepted my marriage proposal, then dumped me for her personal trainer. After that, she ghosted me, ignoring my repeated texts. How I had yearned for a satisfying conclusion to this bonding.
Wednesday is day the Emersons invite me to dinners they are hosting to hook me up with single women. Lidi Emerson has an endless supply of unwed friends, and it would help if they weren’t wearing their face-napkins. These coverlets hide a plague of gnarled, bad teeth. The other day, I feasted at their house while in the company of a stout young woman from Concord named Abigail Feathercomb. She is the daughter of a mercantile shop owner and a devout personage. During dinner, Lidi kept mentioning my single-minded enterprise in building my own house by the Pond, laughingly referring to it as my love shack, and thus, after several glasses of ale, Abigail agreed to accompany me back to my cabin by the Pond. As I was leaving the Emersons, R.W. winked and handed me three foil-wrapped protections, for which I was grateful, although I am not sure how to mount them. Reaching the Pond, all was proceeding smoothly until Abigail stepped inside, and was repulsed by the stench of mold. To calm her, I set up a blaze in the river rock fireplace and began to outline for her the intricate details of my account book for the structure’s construction. Her eyes glazed over until, after a few more tankards of ale, we began to slip off our face-napkins. Then, disaster. By the third time I explained the intricacies of the unique pilings I had driven into the bog-like ground, so that I may live with nature, and how these posts manifested a spiritual transcendentalism, she ran off screaming into the night.
The days at Walden Pond grind on. Each boring day in nature follows the last one. Fall is coming and will lead once again to the deep snows of winter. For companionship, I have repeatedly texted Abigail Feathercomb, but she doesn’t respond. I have her sweater that she left behind in my humble shack. Maybe I’ll leave it at the Emersons this Wednesday. Lidi has promised to invite another possible hookup for me—this time a woman transcendentalist from Salem. I only hope she is more forgiving about my loquaciousness about minute details of building my house. Until then, I pray that my time here does not extend to more than two years and two months. I can’t wait to rejoin Concord’s lively bar scene.
John Hewitt is a native Californian and former Army cook. His last absurdist novel was Freezer Burn, about a dead ferret with a musical afterlife.