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One Night in the Woods


This week's Sunday Scribblings writing prompt is "woods".  I offer you "One Night in the Woods... A Story from the Road."

Long ago when life was simpler and love was free - or so they said,  a young woman stood by the side of the road, dressed in the standard uniform of the day, a pair of patched and faded blue jeans and a jacket edged with fringe.  Arm extended, thumb upwards, long hair flying in the wind, she waited for a ride that would move her further toward her destination, a place in Minnesota she was calling home, though it wasn't really her home, just a place she was crashing for the time being until life led her elsewhere.

It was a warm summer afternoon in Minnesota as the sunlight danced off her copper-colored hair.  Her last ride had dropped her off a short way back when the road he was taking headed in another direction.  She didn't have to wait long before a bright yellow VW Beetle pulled over to offer her a lift.  Music from the radio blasted from the open windows,  the smile on the face of the handsome young man with a mop of curly hair was friendly and welcoming.  She tossed her backpack into the rear seat of his car and hopped in without giving it a second thought.  Hitchhiking had become second nature to her, an adventure, a chance for a fun encounter.  It was a common mode of transportation for young people of that time.

Conversation flowed between driver and passenger.  She learned that his name was Shmuel - the Hebrew equivalent of Samuel, and that he was a college student enroute from California to New York, and then on to Israel for a year.  They talked of school and music, of family and friends, and where life had taken them thus far.

A few hours later the sun began to set, and Shmuel tentatively suggested that she join him for a night of camping in in the wooded area of a nearby state park.  He had been camping his way across the country, a tent and all necessities compactly stowed in the storage compartment of the little Bug.

Being in no particular hurry to arrive at her destination, and fascinated by the young man who was now her travelling companion, she accepted the invitation and soon they had set up camp in a lovely secluded spot among the trees.  A nearby stream provided water for washing and cooking, and in no time at all Shmuel had prepared a campfire feast, while teaching his new friend the basic fundamentals of keeping kosher, a concept new to a girl raised in the rural Midwest. 

Snuggled next to each other near the campfire as the evening grew dark and the air chilled, they talked late into the night of Judaism and Christianity, of faith and followers, of what is inherited and what is chosen.  The moon was high overhead casting long shadows thru the trees when their eyes finally grew heavy and conversation tapered off. They settled into sleeping bags zipped together, safely inside the confines of the small tent, and before long both were fast asleep.

The girl awoke to the bright light of morning and the smell of  breakfast cooking on the open fire. Shmuel had risen quietly before her to prepare a meal for them to share before returning to their journey.  She thought that nothing else could taste as good as food cooked over a fire, sharing laughter and conversation and the pure pleasure of being in such beautiful surroundings.

She washed their dishes in water drawn from the stream while he packed up the tent and camping gear, and they took photographs of each other on his camera while standing beneath the towering trees. Then it was time to go, and as quietly as they had arrived they slipped away from that magic moment and returned to the highway, and before too much further, to their own separate roadways and lives. 

The girl thought of him now and then thru the years, wondering what life had brought to the handsome Jewish boy she had encountered on the road, and she hoped that it had treated him well.  She smiled in remembrance of that night spent together in the woods of Minnesota, thankful for the brief encounter and the friendship they had shared.

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