I wrote the original version of this story (which, by the by, was based on a dream) around 1990, but like “Spring Forward” it was lost due to computer and filing problems during my “year of disaster”. I’ve been thinking about rewriting it for some time now, but I was finally inspired to do so by a certain column published early last month; after you read the tale, you’ll probably be able to guess which one.
All right, Doreen, you win; I’ll tell you the truth about how it all happened. But don’t forget, I already said you wouldn’t believe it, and I still don’t think you really will because I only half believe it myself. And if you start arguing with me and telling me I must be wrong, or it couldn’t have happened that way, or maybe I need a long vacation, I’m going to hang up on you and forever deny I said any of it. Deal?
It all started last September when I went on that camping trip with one of my clients, remember? He owns a big sporting goods store, and he’d been practically begging me to go on a camping date with him for years; at first I held him off by saying that wasn’t really my style, but that excuse wouldn’t hold water any more after he got to know me. Anyway, he bribed me with a week-long booking and a whole new wardrobe of cute hiking wear, and eventually I caved in under the condition that if I really hated it we’d come out of the backwoods and rent a cabin for the rest of the week.
Well, at first it actually turned out to be kind of nice. A sleeping bag isn’t exactly the ideal place to work, but I’ve done it in worse places and it was only for half an hour a night; the rest of the time we were hiking and fishing and all that sort of thing. The time went quickly and pleasantly, and in fact it was on track for being one of my nicest professional dates ever until the sasquatch showed up. Yes, Doreen, I said “sasquatch”, as in Bigfoot. What? I don’t care what your damned husband says, that thing was no goddamned hoax! Hey, are you going to shut up and listen or am I going to hang up? All right then.
As I was saying before I was so freaking rudely interrupted, I know damned well it was no dude in a suit because he picked me up with one arm and slung me over his shoulder, so I got to see him plenty close enough. And the smell made me want to vomit. Yes, I’m serious; what a stupid question! If I was going to make something up it would be a helluva lot more believable than this. Anyway, it’s a good thing my date wasn’t too far away because he leaped to my rescue, shouting to get the sasquatch’s attention and then shooting him with bear spray. He dropped me like a kid throwing down his book bag and headed off in a rush, making this awful howling noise. I was pretty badly bruised and shaken up from being dropped seven feet onto hard ground, but other than that I was OK; it was all over before I even had time to get scared.
Obviously, that was the end of the trip; I said I was all right and maybe we could just relocate our campsite to someplace less remote, but he wouldn’t hear of it and brought me back to town immediately. Nothing was broken and in a week or so I wasn’t even sore any more, and if it wasn’t for the fact that someone else had seen it all I might’ve put it down to bad drugs or whatever; it was just so surreal that by the time a couple of months had gone by it seemed more like something I had seen in a movie than something which had really happened to me.
And then I started getting the presents.
At first it was only once or twice a week, then later every day. They were always left sometime during the night at my back door: nuts, wild honey, game, all sorts of things. Some of the offerings were things that could’ve been found in the woods, while others clearly originated in town. Or more specifically, on the edge of town; both the nursery and the farmer’s market from which several of the gifts seemed to have come were, like my house, within sight of the edge of the forest. What’s that? Yeah, it was definitely creepy, but I learned long ago never to call the cops unless you’re dying, and probably not even then. And I didn’t really get scared until the first time it snowed…and I saw a trail of eighteen-inch-long bare footprints leading up to my door and returning to the woods.
Though this had been going on for months now, seeing that was just too much; that was when I called you and made up that dumb story about getting my house fumigated so I could stay at your place a couple of nights. Oh yeah? Well, you didn’t seem to find it suspicious at the time. Anyhow, when I went back there was nothing at the door but a piece of scrap cardboard with four letters crudely printed on it: S – O – R – Y.
I suddenly felt weak, and would probably have passed out right there had I not quickly sat down on the stoop. The only conclusion I could come to was that a sasquatch had fallen in love with me at first sight and attempted to carry me off, but after being foiled at that decided to woo me with presents instead. Go ahead and laugh, I know how ridiculous that sounds; the place I had first met him was over a hundred miles from here, so how in the world could he have followed me, and how could he have figured out where I lived? How had he avoided being seen for months in a far more populous area than the one where he normally lived? Why had the gifts gradually shifted from apparently-random offerings to things I genuinely like? And how the hell had an ape-like monster learned to write?
There were no more presents after that for a long time, and eventually my curiosity about the creature overpowered my fear; I began to wish he’d come back, reasoning that if he could write even a little we could learn to communicate, and I could solve the mystery. But all through the winter I saw nothing of him, and by April I figured he had gone back wherever he came from…and then one morning there was a metal strongbox on my stoop. The lock had been smashed open, and inside I found over forty thousand dollars…yet it had been left outside as casually as those first offerings of acorns and dead fish had been. Well, of course I kept it, wouldn’t you have? The bills weren’t marked, the strongbox looked pretty shabby and there was nothing in the news about a stolen box full of cash; maybe he ran into drug dealers or something. The important thing was that he was still in the area, and had clearly learned that money is something I value.
And then it hit me: if he kept bringing me money, trouble would surely follow. A merchant might ignore a missing sack of potatoes, but people don’t leave cash lying around…somebody was bound to get hurt, and sooner rather than later. I had long since decided he must be able to read my mind; how else could he have tracked me, fine-tuned his gifts and learned about human culture? Oh, get real, Doreen! You’re telling me that a lovesick Bigfoot with ESP is really that much more absurd than a lovesick Bigfoot without? All right then.
So anyway, I knew I had to nip this in the bud before he turned into a full-fledged criminal; that night I set up a picnic table in the backyard, put a bunch of different foods on it, made myself a pot of coffee and sat down in a lawn chair to wait for him. How do you get that? You didn’t see him; none of my doors could’ve stopped him if he had really wanted to get inside, and he hadn’t ever tried, so obviously being alone outside was no more dangerous than being alone inside, which I had been the majority of nights since this started.
I didn’t have to wait long; about 1 AM he came out of the woods, stopped just inside the range of the floodlights and sat down on my lawn. The smell which had been so pronounced at our first meeting was gone, and his long, shaggy hair was both clean and – don’t laugh – brushed. I asked him if he could understand me, and he nodded, so I explained that while I appreciated his gifts, it wasn’t right for him to take things that didn’t belong to him. I guess the concept of private property was a new one to him, but he’s really very bright so he grasped it that very first night. Well, of course I did; after he went through all that trouble to meet me it was the least I could do.
Hang on a second, Doreen, a car just pulled into my driveway…it’s you? Wow, I really wasn’t expecting you to come over today. Ummm…no, I guess it’s OK, I was just training my new driver, Hank, so you might as well come in and meet him. I’d better warn you, though, he’s really huge and kind of scary, but he’s really just a big teddy bear. And he’s a lot smarter than he looks.