Silence of the Fawns: A Screenplay Kirsten Graham-May

A note from the author: Before we get on with the WomanCamping shenanigans of this misadventure, in all seriousness my intent is not meant to make light of real concerns that all soloists — particularly women — may potentially face in the backcountry. Lessons were certainly learned from this experience and my hope is that sharing this story — with a humorous slant — may help others make better choices than I did.

CHARACTERS Clarice*: A petite 40-something experienced backcountry canoeist on her longest solo trip yet. She likes to think she’s badass but she’s really not.

Me / Also Me: Clarice’s inside voices. Potty-mouthed drama queens lacking a filter — and sometimes common sense.

Bill†: A small, wiry 80 year old man. He owns a canoe-access island cabin in a wilderness park that shall remain unnamed for reasons that will come to light shortly.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent† — and the naïve*.

SCRIPT

It’s Day 6 of Clarice’s 7-day solo canoe trip. The trip was originally planned with her friend Leah who had to cancel at the last minute but is still with Clarice on the trip in spirit(s). Clarice has just battled five straight days of brutal winds, overcast skies, and below-seasonal temperatures; she’s feeling like a total badass. Finally today, as she paddles down the lake to her campsite — one of only two on the lake — the sun is out and the winds are manageable. An island hugs the shore of the lake creating a narrow channel where the only vacant campsite on the lake resides on the mainland, partway down the channel and directly across from the island. On the tip of the island is a tiny cabin that Clarice has paddled by many times over the years, once even stopping for a visit. As she paddles towards the channel, looking forward to an afternoon to finally relax in her hammock with a book and a beverage, she notices a man sitting in front of the cabin waving her over.

Man: Nice canoe!

Clarice: Thanks! I can’t help but ask if you are the same property owner I met about 25 years ago — I believe it was you and your wife?

Man: Sure was! I don’t remember you — I meet a lot of paddlers every summer — but I’ve owned this place for 40 years now so it must have been me and my wife. She passed away many years ago but I still come up here every summer. It feels like she’s always here with me…

Clarice: Oh I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s wonderful that you still own the place — such a beautiful spot to spend your summers! I remember you offering us a cold beer on your dock which was greatly appreciated after being in the backcountry for a number of days!

Man: Well, I’ve had a couple of girlfriends since and would bring them up with me too but they’re not around any longer… Say, tell me more about that canoe of yours! It’s a beaut!

Clarice can’t resist blabbing on and on (and on) about her new solo canoe as she’s pretty proud of it. This is its first major trip after all and she’s happy to tell the man about how well it’s handled the winds and conditions.

Man: Listen, Happy Hour’s at five o’clock. Are you staying at the campsite around the corner? Come back at five and we’ll have ourselves a drink!

Me: Ummmm I’m not sure this is such a good idea… There’s nobody else within earshot and, although this guy is an older gentleman, he’s clearly quite fit if he can manage this place all summer long on his own. Quick; make up an excuse!

Clarice: Gosh, thanks for the invite. I’ve had a long trip and still need to set up camp and such. I’m pretty tired but I’ll see how I feel later.

Man: Well, I’ll be here either way with a drink in hand so feel free to come by!

Clarice waves goodbye and paddles on to her campsite, only about 2 minutes beyond the cabin. She sets up camp and debates the Happy Hour invite in her head. Nix that; it was aloud — that’s what happens when your only company is yourself for a week.

Me: You are a lone female out in the backcountry with no one within earshot. Yes, you’re strong and have your wits about you but you’d be stupid to go over there. Don’t ruin your trip!

Also Me: Meh. He’s just a lonely old fellow who likely invites everyone he meets to Happy Hour. I’ll bet nobody ever takes him up on it, poor guy. It’ll be fine if you’re smart about it. You’ll make his day!

Me: But my buddy Allison assured me that psychopathic serial killers are around every corner in the backcountry… (see previous ManCamping blog for backstory: https://www.mancamping.ca/ive-never-had-a-bear-on-my-campsite/)

Also Me: Bah! Just take your (tiny, 2 ½” pocket) knife with you. Remember you also have bear spray and there’s nowhere in the instructions indicating that it’s only meant for bears. You got this, Badass!

Me: I suppose it would be nice to have some company after six days in the backcountry… WWLD (What would Leah do)? She’s a grab-the-bull-by-the-horns kinda gal — plus she’d never decline a drink — so let’s do this!

Clarice prepares herself a whisky sour — because she’s at least not dumb enough to accept alcohol from a stranger — ensures she has her (tiny, 2 ½” pocket) knife with her, and hops into her canoe with her PFD and open vessel of alcohol (Safety first!) to make the short paddle back to the man’s cabin. As she comes around the corner she sees the man leap up from his chair in a flash of white, run into the cabin, and come back out less than a minute later.

Me: On second thought, maybe this was a bad idea… I’m pretty sure that man was not wearing any pants a minute ago. Also, holy crap, he can move fast!

Also Me: Too late now; you’re committed! Just play it cool. It’s all good; pants are underrated.

Clarice (playing dumb about the pants incident): Hi there! Does the invitation for Happy Hour still stand? I hope you don’t mind that I came over. I brought my own drink and I can’t stay long as I need to get back to make supper.

Me: Nicely played, Clarice! Set expectations up front. Attagirl!

Man: Of course, you’re welcome here; I’m so blessed that you came over! Let me get my canoe out of the way so you can bring your boat in.

The man deftly flips his canoe out of the water and onto his shoulders as if it weighed nothing at all.

Me: Shit. He’s strong and agile. This was a really bad idea…

Ignoring all common sense, Clarice ties up her canoe, hops out onto the dock drink in hand, and casually tosses her PFD into the boat.

Me (as the PFD lands squarely in the canoe while Clarice takes a stride towards the cabin with false bravado): Your (tiny, 2 ½” pocket) knife is in the pocket of that PFD, Numbnut.

Also Me: D’oh!

Me: Psychopathic Serial Killer 1, Clarice 0.

Clarice: By the way, my name is Kirsten Clarice. It’s nice to meet you!

Man: Pleasure’s all mine! What a blessing that you came! I’m William but everyone calls me Bill. Say, I’ve been working outdoors all day and have a bit of a chill; I have the wood stove going inside the cabin if you’d like to come in?

Me: Now look what you’ve gotten yourself into! Think fast!

Also Me: Ummmmm…

Clarice opens her mouth hoping something diplomatic might come out but the man misinterprets the look of apprehension on her face and speaks before she can come up with a response.

Man (chuckling): Oh, don’t worry; I know about all this COVID business. We can sit at my big table which will keep us six feet apart and all that stuff. Besides, I haven’t seen anyone in ages — it’ll be fine!

Me (invisible facepalm): Right. COVID. Damn, can’t believe I didn’t think of that!

Also Me: You’ve seen the inside of the cabin before when you were here years ago. It’s super-cool inside, remember? It’ll be neat to see it again, right? Right???

Clarice: Um… OK… But I really can’t stay long.

They settle in the small one-room cabin and Clarice realizes that she’s been seated furthest from the door with Bill in between her and her escape route. Bill then pulls out a very large chef’s knife…

Me (with stomach dropping): Wife dead… “feels like she’s always here with me”… girlfriends “no longer around”… strong agile pantless man… F.M.L…

…followed by a large block of extra-old cheddar cheese.

Also Me: CHEESE!!!

Me: Oooh that knife is within reach! That could be handy…

Also Me: Who cares?!? CHEESE!!!

The cabin’s walls are decorated with photos — and a giant painting of Jesus dying on the cross. Bill proceeds to regale Clarice with stories of his family and his backcountry adventures while they enjoy their respective beverages, in Bill’s case an Old Milwaukee extra-tall boy consumed out of a stainless steel wine goblet — “because the park has a ban on glassware”. Realizing that Bill is harmless, though somewhat eccentric, and genuinely friendly, Clarice begins to relax (with the help of the whisky) and lets her guard down.

Bill: I’m 80 years old now and I think I’m going to have to sell the place; I might put it on the market this fall.

Clarice: Oh wow! I’ve often dreamt about owning a place in this park but figured the established properties that were grandfathered in would always be kept within the family.

As Clarice perks up at the mention of the property going on the market, Bill starts to fill her in on all the merits and details of the place. Clarice starts Big Sky dreaming…

Bill: Before you go, I need to give you a tour! A number of years ago I built a second cabin back a little ways into the woods so there’d be more room when my family came to visit. I have to show it to you!

Clarice (hesitating): Oh that’s OK, I really should get going…

Bill: It’ll only take a minute. Let me just see if I can find my flashlight…

Me: Flashlight?!? Why do we need a flashlight???

Bill proceeds to dig around in the cabin eventually procuring a flashlight. He decides the light is not bright enough and begins to search anew for fresh batteries. Time seems to move at a snail’s pace allowing Clarice’s imagination to wander.

Me: WHY THE HELL DO WE NEED A FLASHLIGHT???

Also Me: OK calm down. As soon as you take a quick peek at the cabin you can get outta here. Just tell him you need to get back to your campsite and delicately extract yourself from the situation.

Me: It’ll be fine, she said. You got this, she said. WWLD, she asked? Damn you, Leah…

Bill finally gets the new batteries installed and Clarice reluctantly follows him out of the cabin. They walk back into the dense and rapidly darkening woods, past an old cast-iron bathtub sitting in the middle of the forest.

Bill: Oh, check out the bathtub! That’s how we got ourselves cleaned up while we were out here all summer.

Me: I think I just threw up in my mouth a little…

Also Me: FFS Get. A. Grip.

They proceed further into the woods — further away from the canoe that contains the PFD that contains the (tiny, 2 ½” pocket) knife — to a second small cabin. Bill opens the door and Clarice follows him in. The cabin is similar in size to the main cabin but with only a stark single bed frame and old mattress as furniture. Clarice is now in full panic mode but Bill doesn’t notice. He’s kneeling on the floor opening up a concealed wooden trap door.

Clarice takes a step backwards towards the cabin door.

Me: At least you were smart enough to keep yourself near the exit. How fast can you run?

But Clarice can’t turn away. Instead her eyeballs pop further out of their sockets as Bill lifts out a thick block of foam insulation below the trap door to reveal an aluminum ladder descending down into a black void of nothingness. A cold draft wafts up from below. Bill shines his light down into the cavernous space, all the while chitchatting about the cabin, oblivious to his audience.

Bill: And this is the root cellar I dug with my own two hands!

Bill looks up, sees the look on Clarice’s face and begins to outright belly-laugh.

Bill (between gasps of air and laughter): Oh, don’t worry; I won’t make you go down there. Now, that would be creepy!

Clarice (tripping over her words to change the topic): …So… see many buffalo — I mean, bucks —around here?

Me: We need to get outta here, STAT.

Also Me: Buffalo, Clarice? Seriously?!? (facepalm) You’ve been watching too many psychological thrillers…

Clarice (overly chirpy voice): Well, gotta go! Thanks for having me!

Bill: I thank Jesus that you came to visit. God bless you!

Clarice: … Amen?

Just kidding. She didn’t say that out loud. Instead Clarice nods and smiles, then waves goodbye.

That night Clarice sleeps with her (tiny, 2 ½” pocket) knife, bear spray, air horn, and bear banger/flare kit by her side. To this day, she monitors the real estate sites for mention of Bill’s property on the market — as well as the headlines for news of dead bodies found in root cellars in the backcountry.

Another note from the author: This story was not meant to cast my new friend “Bill” in a negative light but the series of fortuitous events sure did make for a great, albeit long-winded, tale. Clarice’s intuition was quite accurate: Bill is indeed a lovely, respectful, “captivating” man (sorry, couldn’t resist) and I was glad to become acquainted with him. I hope he does not sell his property just yet so that I can introduce him to Leah on our next adventure together post-pandemic — including a full tour of the root cellar. Safety in numbers!

One Response to “Silence of the Fawns: A Screenplay Kirsten Graham-May

  • As always – delightfully (and creepily in this case) entertaining!

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