The glade was dewy and green. She pulled a fern out of her way and stared at the hippies, dancing like a bunch of idiots.
The fern snapped back into place and Ruth watched them for a long moment from behind it.
Look at that nudity, she thought. Disgusting. And the men — you should put something over that.
A rooster crowed in the distance and Ruth headed back to the farm that adjoined the Hippie Retreat. The faint scent of patchouli wafted after her as she strode through the tall grass.
It was the tom tom drums that had alerted her that the dancing was set to begin. Mostly they just smoked grass and made pottery and had sex all day, far as Ruth knew. Now with the dancing. She looked over the fields at the cloud of dust billowing behind the tractor. Least her son Carl was not into this sort of thing. Least he wasn’t into that. She waved. Carl didn’t seem to see her.
From the porch, Lloyd took a long draw off of his cigarette and waved at Ruth from his lawn chair. She waved back and headed toward the rhubarb patch. Today was Lloyd’s special day and damned if Ruth wasn’t going to make him a rhubarb pie to celebrate.
Ruth was headed back to the house with a fistful of muddy rhubarb when she noticed Lloyd was stood up, beet red and staring at something, mouth agape.
Ruth’s gaze drifted to what Lloyd was gawking at.
A goddamn hippy, naked as the day she was born, was panting and pointing to something, some kind of squeal coming out her mouth. Ruth couldn’t make out what she was saying, but Lloyd seemed to understand her bare bossoms perfectly.
Lloyd! Lloyd! Snap out of it, she’s speaking!
Lloyd’s eyes did not leave the babbling woman’s emphatically swaying bossoms but suddenly what she was babbling became clear to Ruth.
Runs-With-Wolves! He had too much of something! Maybe shrooms! You gotta phone?! The hippie girl looked frantically between Ruth and the slack-jawed Lloyd. You gotta phone?!
Well, well. Ruth brushed the dirty off the rhubarb absently. The girl took a few steps toward Ruth and gestured wildly with muddy arms back toward the meadow.
He won’t stop barfing and crying! Help us okay? Would you help? Can I use your phone?
Uh sure! Said Lloyd and gestured toward the door. C’mon in.
Sandpiper Flys-like-a-Crow took the phone from Lloyd’s hand gratefully, dialed a number and waited. Ruth leaned against the sink and stared at her balefully.
Took the mushrooms, didja? Not smart. Not smart at all.
Um — yeah…. Sandpiper’s attention was on the voice on the other end of the phone. Frantically, she said a bunch of things in a tumble of poorly enunciated words, Ruth noticed, as she wondered whether syrup of ipecac would be useful in this situation. For the girl.
Help of some kind, apparently, was on the way. Couldn’t come soon enough if you asked Ruth. The girl — Sandpiper-Flys-like-something looked at Ruth blankly. Cool. You got somethin’ to eat? Sandwich or something? I been stuck over at Camp Crazy for like five days now. I gotta get out of there.
What about your friend? Runs-with-dogs?
Runs-with-dogs or something. He’s sick? Ate something funny?
Sandpiper Flys-with-Crows threw back her head and laughed. Him? Naw. I made that up. I just wanted to use your phone.
Ruth heard the screen door open tentatively as Lloyd returned from his banishment on the porch. She looked at the naked laughing dirty hippie in her sky blue kitchen. She had been played. She had been played by a damn naked laughing dirty hippie from Camp Don’t-Pay-the-Rent.
Well who’d you call then?! Ruth said, incredulously. Sandpiper headed toward the front room, her buttocks jiggling. One of them had a dimple.
Namaste, ciao peace! Sandpiper said in her sing song voice, over her bare shoulder as the screen door slammed behind her.
The tractor chugged up front in a rumble of dust. Sandpiper trotted out toward it and climbed up on back.
The tractor slowly turned and began to rumble away.
Ruth and Lloyd stood framed by the screen door and in stunned silence watched Carl, the tractor and Sandpiper Flys-like-a-Crow rumble back across the cornfield. A squeal that seemingly came from Sandpiper rose up over the dust and the noise.
Slowly, cautiously, Lloyd turned and looked at his wife.
How about that rhubarb?
Shut up, Lloyd, Ruth said.