Jodi found her steps on the broken shore between rocks and the November sky. She could smell wood smoke and knew soon the lake would be covered with ice. Snow was in the clouds. Jodi pulled her sweater tight around her shoulders. Her boots slipped on the stones. A breeze picked up off the lake and sent a chill through her. The lake would have ice before the end of the month.
Her son was running ahead oblivious to the change of weather. They would hold down the lake, walking a route. Going home before dark with bare cupboards. A few leaves remained on the trees and she heard them rattle in the twisted poplars. Her son took a tumble. Hands up rocking on his chest like a fish beached after swimming up on shore. His father was off. Going south, he said, before leaving.
He’d sing, to her, pure and sweet before jumping into his old Ford, Jodi, light of my life. Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife. Changing Amanda to Jodi.
He promised to send back money. To be back soon. That was four months ago at the end of June when the water was high and their son played in the lake.
An old fellow down the road brought a load of firewood. It was pine, he said. He asked her if she wanted it split. No trouble, he said. Jodi knew it was charity and answered no, but thanked him. After he left, she realized all she had was a small hatchet that wouldn’t split hair nor timber.
A week later he returned with elk meat wrapped in brown butcher paper. Jodi asked if she could borrow an axe. Jodi thought he started to smile but instead just said sure. He fetched one from the tool box behind the cab. She said thank you, my name is Jodi. The man said, my name is Bishop.
Nice to meet you Mr. Bishop.
It’s just Bishop, he said, those steaks will be good and tender cooked on top of the stove.
When Bishop drove away, he thought she looked like she’d never swung an axe. He also thought she looked like a quick learner.