Barb and her friend Diane were sitting at their usual place on the bench in the park. It was their spot where as long as the weather was decent they'd meet three times a week for lunch for the past two years. This particular Thursday was a beautiful, warm day with the tall buildings of the city silhouetted against the deep blue summer sky. The pigeons flapped and winged their way about the two women as they took turns throwing crumbs to them.
It was their escape from their dull jobs, dull husbands and dull lives. They each needed it, and both thought they'd probably go insane if they had to live their lives without their little escapes. They'd both tried the bar scene, but found it impossible to relax while warding off all the men with their stupid come on lines and the smell of stale perfume and cologne permeating the air.
That day, Diane had brought a light salad and yogurt for lunch, and Barb smiled at her knowing her friend was back on a diet again. It seemed Diane was always on a diet. She'd been trying to lose that "ten pounds" for as long as Barb had known her. Not that she was fat or unattractive. She just had that extra weight around her waist, thighs and butt that a lot of middle aged housewives had.
They both could still look pretty good if they tried and they both knew it. Their looks were one of the many subjects they'd discussed during their lunches together. On that day, they'd decided that with a new hair style and the right clothes, they could still turn a few heads, but it was decided that it wasn't worth the bother nor the expense for neither of their husbands would have noticed.
"Oh Bill would notice me all right," Diane had said. "But only if I stood in front of the TV during a football game. Of course if I did that, then he'd be too upset to see what was really in front of him."
Barb had laughed, but inside she knew her own husband was no better. Not that their husbands were any real prize, but they both worked hard, and life with them was too comfortable to risk by doing anything sordid like having an affair. So there they were, each with their comfortable but boring lives on the park bench that sunny day.
"Sometimes I get so fed up with everything I could scream," said Barb, before taking a bite of her veggie sandwich (She was trying to lose a little weight herself).
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I got cut off by this jerk making a turn onto 38th Street this morning. All I can say is, "It's a good thing I didn't have a gun. I would have shot that smug look he gave me clean off his face! The jerk even had the nerve to flip me off when I blew my horn at him!"
Barb could see the anger in her friend's eyes as she related the incident to her.
"How come there's never a cop around when those things happen," she replied, with her voice full of sympathy. "Or Chuck," she'd added that just to prick her friend's curiosity enough to ask about him so she could get her own story off her chest Seeing the expected wondering look come into Diane's face, she took a deep breath and began her own tale of woe.
"Well yesterday, you know my twelve year old son Tommy? He said he was sick and couldn't go to school, so I called Chuck from work and asked him if he could go home and check on him during lunch.
"Remember he only works a few blocks from home, and he could have walked there if he had to, but of course, he didn't, and when I got home, not only had Tommy made a mess of the house, but he had some of his friends over too! I was so mad all I could do was yell at all of his friends telling them to get out of the house, and then I called Chuck, and all the while Tommy just kept screaming about how I had embarrassed him."
It was easy for Diane to show the proper sympathy as she remembered a similar incident at her house with her own husband.
"And would you believe the jerk stopped off at a bar with a couple of his friends and didn't come home until almost ten! By then Tommy had gone to, and come home, from playing soccer even though he was supposedly sick, and Chuck didn't even say anything to him when he did get home. I'm telling you, I was so upset all I could do was cry."
Diane clucked her tongue and shook her head feigning disbelief. "If only things could be like they were back in the pioneering days."
Barb gave her friend one of those sideways quizzical looks, wrinkling the skin between her eyebrows and Diane took that as a sign to go ahead with the new topic of their conversation.
"Well, way back then a woman's husband was right there with her as they fought to make a good living and raise their family. They grew their own food and made their own way without all of the bullshit that we have to put up with. I've been reading about it in my new book Love on the Frontier."
Barb looked at her friend holding up a paper back with a picture of a handsome young man carrying a woman dressed in a nightgown through the woods.
Diane was always reading those kinds of books and once tried to get Barb to read one, but she just couldn't get into it.
"They're all the same anyway," she'd told her. "It's the same story in every book. Someone only changes the names and sometimes the scenery in them as well that's all."
"Well they're a little more than that," Diane had replied, indignantly. This time she gave a deep sigh, and holding up the book said, "Just listen to this," Barb rolled her eyes as Diane read a few quick passages to her friend.
"Can you imagine what it would be like?" she concluded. "Just close your eyes for a minute and think of it. It would be just you and your hot looking husband scratching a living out of the wilderness together. There'd be adventures, and at night you could feel all of those strong muscles squeezing you! Don't you just wish that you could go back to those days?"
"Come on Diane, at least keep it real. How do you know your husband would be handsome with a lot of muscles?"
"He'd have to be with all the hard work he'd be doing. You know, like chopping wood and stuff. Anyway, there'd be no car payments or rent to worry about. No bosses or even taxes. It would be such a perfect life. Don't you sometimes wish you could just go back in time and live the simple life?"
Barb rolled her eyes again and didn't even try to hide the disdain in her voice when she gave her friend her answer.
"Like any fairy tale, it sounds good, but right now I have to get back to the office so I can keep my job and pay the bills I have in the real life."
Diane couldn't understand why her friend was being so sarcastic about it and thought that perhaps if she'd just take the time to read a few romances maybe she would be a little happier and less of a bitch when her friends try to give her a little advice.
Barbara spent the remainder of her work day answering the phone, typing the same boring reports into the computer and distributing the same boring papers to the same boring people. Her coworkers went to and fro saying only the required perfunctory remarks in order to not be viewed as antisocial and at the end of the day, she drove home on the same streets in her everyday, mundane looking car.
The kids were fighting over the TV when she got home, and though Chuck made it home in time for dinner he complained he'd had a hard day and was too tired to help her clean up afterwards.
That night he gave her the same peck of a kiss he'd given her every other night just before rolling over onto his side. There wasn't even time for a thought of romance since he was already asleep before she'd turned out the light. A moment later, he was snoring, and she wondered if there was any life worse than the trap she'd fallen into.
"At least tomorrow's Friday," she mumbled, as she punched her pillow to make it comfortable, while releasing a little pent up frustration.
She had a hard time falling asleep that night, and when she did, it seemed like she'd just gotten to sleep when she woke up again. The sun was already streaming through her bedroom window, and that made her realize that the alarm hadn't gone off, and she was already late for work. Her next thought was that her bedroom window not only faced west, but even the afternoon sun was blocked by the apartment building next door. Her next shock came when she started to get up and found her bed to be not only unusually uncomfortable, but she also found herself to be very weak.
Nothing made any sense to her and she looked both in shock and wonderment at the big hanging sleeves of a homespun cotton night gown hanging off her arms. As she frantically looked around the room, she realized that the bedding was also homespun and the bed itself was nothing more than a rough wooden frame with some rope netting underneath. The mattress wasn't much more than a thick quilt and the room itself was completely changed. There was a rough wooden chair and a chest against the far wall and a clean basin of water next to an empty one by the bed. The walls and floor were of unpainted boards and looking at the window, she could see that she was actually in a log house. The glass in the window was wavy with several blemishes and there were trees outside instead of concrete buildings!
Barbara had to laugh at herself when she realized she was dreaming and decided to relax a little and enjoy it. She couldn't wait to see Diane again and tell her about the dream she'd caused with all her talk of the pioneering days.
"Oh good, yer finally woke!" exclaimed a dark haired bearded man who appeared to be in his early thirties. "We were powerful worried 'bout ya. Ma, get in here. She's fin'ly come to!"
Barbara couldn't help feeling just a little frightened as the man approached her and involuntarily jerked away from him.
"Ya don't know me do ya."
It was more of a statement than a question but she nodded her head no anyway.
"Ma! She still don't know nothin'."
At that time, a more elderly woman who looked to be in her late fifties came into the bedroom shaking her head.
"It's ta be 'spected Jeb. It was a hard hit she done took on her noggin ya know. Ya just got ta give her some time and Lord willin', things'll come back ta her in due time."
Barbara was taking all this in with total wonderment. If this was a dream, then she wouldn't be able to think it was a dream would she? Yet her situation was so impossible it left her totally confused.
The woman came near the bed, and after shooing the man out of the bedroom, she smiled warmly down at Barbara and said, "Now never ya mind him. He'll not harm ya. His name's Jeb an' he's yer husband an' loves ya very dearly. I'm his maw and my name's Becky but ya always called me ma too."
Seeing the unbelieving look on Barbara's face, she asked, "Do ya know where ya are girl?"
Barb was too bewildered to say anything but managed to get her head to shake no.
Becky gave her an understanding smile and said, "Well ya live here with me an' yer husband Jeb an' yer two kids, Abe an' Joshua. They be ten an' eight an' this be Tennessee. Ya be married fer ten years now an two days ago ya fell off the wagon an hit yer head on a tree stump.
"Doc Johnson already been by an' said ya'll be all right if ya wakes up an' if ya don't remember nothin' then just give it some time an' yer memory will pro'bly be comin' back ta ya afta' a while in bits an' pieces. But sometimes it kin come back to ya all at once."
All though she was still unbelievably confused Barb finally managed to find her voice and the first thing she asked was, "How could this happen and Where's Chuck?"
"Honey I just told ya, ya fell off the wagon an' I don't know nobody named Chuck. Who's he?"
"My husband, Chuck! And how'd I get here? I live in Manhattan in New York!"
"Child ya hit yer head awful hard an' ya must have been dreamin' durin' the time ya was out, but yer all right now so don't fret so. Ma's here an' I aim ta take good care of ya."
Just then a tall, lanky boy with light brown hair and freckles came into the bedroom carrying two dead squirrels in one hand and a long rifle in the other. "Hey look what I got. I shot me two squirrels down by the crick!" he exclaimed, holding up his prize for them to see.
"Abe, now you jus' take them squirrels out o' here an' go out back. If ya skin em and clean em proper like your pa taught ya, then I'll cook em fer ya in tonight's stew. Now get out o' here boy an' leave yer ma be fer now. She needs her rest." Then turning back to Barb, she said, "Now ya just rest here fer a bit an' if ya be needin' anythin' then just holler out an' someone will come to ya."
One thing that Becky had said was true. Barbara had a wicked head ache and when she touched the top back of her head, she felt an intense sharp pain from a large lump that was there.
"Damn, don't these people have any ice?" she mumbled.