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Fiction by Jane (Cohen) Stinson
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city where he had to go to sell his art. He did sell his art. His last canvas had sold for almost $200,000. He was doing well. They were doing well. Their house, the one he had dreamed, before he commissioned an architect had been in the most prestigious architecture and home magazines. “A triumph of design and function,” one writer called it when first designed. Tourists had come in such numbers to see it and hopefully meet the great man that Joe finally put up No Trespassing signs to keep them away and a gate to ensure they didn't ignore the signs. Becky didn't like the gate or the signs. She liked company because it distracted her from her painting. Visitors kept her from recognizing that her work was not going well. Joe took her things with him to the Twin Cities and tried to get his agent interested but he wasn't. Sometimes in the summer when tourists streamed through the area Becky would sell her paintings to tourists who were looking for souvenirs of their trip. She got $100 for one portrait of an old woman doing bead work. So far that was the monetary zenith of her work. From the top of the cliff Joe could see the lake. It was calm and still. From here there was no hint of the ugliness of Duluth and Two Harbors or Silver Bay where the ores wrenched out of the earth up on the Mesabi were loaded into the boats that would sail the Great Lakes, through the Soo Canals down into Erie and the great steel mills of Pittsburgh. Here, on the height of Tettegouche the lake was what it was, a tear drop from the Great Spirit. One might even try walking across it today, a glistening sapphire and then just slip away into its great icy depths to be at one with it. But it was too cold to pursue any thought more than briefly. Joe slid part of the way down the hill and picked up the lower path back to the parking area and his car. He was thoroughly frozen. He turned on the car heater full blast, and then poured a cup of coffee from his thermos to warm his throat and thaw his body. He had learned over the years of driving up from Minneapolis and his agent and the openings and cocktail parties to carry hot coffee in a quart thermos. The house was another hour ahead. Perhaps she would be there, waiting for him, glowing with success at the easel. Perhaps her eyes would be shining again, the way they used to, the way they had when he first met her ten years ago. From the first moment he saw her in his painting class at the college, dressed in jeans and a long white linen shirt he had adored her. She wasn't the first white student who had attracted him nor the first with whom he had an affair. But Becky was the first white woman he had loved. He found himself lecturing directly to her, quite unable to take his eyes from hers in the classroom. She had been a delight to the eye. Her figure was perfectly proportioned. Her mouth was exactly the right width, her eyes widely-spaced, her cheek bones almost as high as his own. But he wasn't attracted to her because of that physical perfection or because her skin was the color of the palest pink rose, her hair so long and so soft he wanted to own it. Her long thighs and perfectly rounded breasts were cheap commodities in his life as an artist. What had caught his breath was how her whole body moved in rhythm with earth rhythms. Her consciousness was so elevated that she spoke to him without speaking. Their love was perfectly fulfilled, physically and emotionally despite an age difference. He was thirty-five and she a bare nineteen. The difference only enhanced his sense of needing to protect her and her feeling of security in him. His passion for her had once ignited joy and delight. Now it filled him with thoughts of death.

The Witch Tree - page 2