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Up In Michigan


Jim Gilmore came to Hortons Bay from Canada. He bought the blacksmith shop
from old man Horton. Jim was short and dark with big mustaches and big hands.
He was a good horseshoer and did not look much like a blacksmith even with his
leather apron on. He lived upstairs above the blacksmith shop and took his
meals at D. J. Smith’s.
Liz Coates worked for Smith’s. Mrs. Smith, who was a very large clean woman,
said Liz Coates was the neatest girl she’d ever seen. Liz had good legs and
always wore clean gingham aprons and Jim noticed that her hair was always neat
behind. He liked her face because it was so jolly but he never thought about
her.
Liz liked Jim very much. She liked it the way he walked over from the shop
and often went to the kitchen door to watch for him to start down the road. She
liked it about his mustache. She liked it about how white his teeth were when
he smiled. She liked it very much that he didn’t look like a blacksmith. She
liked it how much D. J. Smith and Mrs. Smith liked Jim. One day she found that
she liked it the way the hair was black on his arms and how white they were
above the tanned line when he washed up in the washbasin outside the house.
Liking that made her feel funny.
Hortons Bay, the town, was only five houses on the main road between Boyne
City and Charlevoix. There was the general store and post office with a high
false front and maybe a wagon hitched out in front, Smith’s house, Stroud’s
house, Dillworth’s house,
Horton’s house and Van Hoosen’s house. The houses were in a big grove of elm
trees and the road was very sandy. There was farming country and timber each
way up the road. Up the road a ways was the Methodist church and down the road
the other direction was the township school. The blacksmith shop was painted
red and faced the school.
A steep sandy road ran down the hill to the bay through the timber. From
Smith’s back door you could look out across the woods that ran down to the lake
and across the bay. It was very beautiful in the spring and summer, the bay
blue and bright and usually whitecaps on the lake out beyond the point from the
breeze blowing from Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. From Smith’s back door Liz
could see ore barges way out in the lake going toward Boyne City. When she
looked at them they didn’t seem to be moving at all but if she went in and
dried some more dishes and then came out again they would be out of sight
beyond the point.
All the time now Liz was thinking about Jim Gilmore. He didn’t seem to notice
her much. He talked about the shop to D. J. Smith and about the Republican
Party and about James G. Blaine. In the evenings he read The Toledo Blade and
the Grand Rapids paper by the lamp in the front room or went out spearing fish
in the bay with a jacklight with D. J. Smith. In the fall he and Smith and
Charley Wyman took a wagon and tent, grub, axes, their rifles and two dogs and
went on a trip to the pine plains beyond Vanderbilt deer hunting. Liz and Mrs.
Smith were cooking for four days for them before they started. Liz wanted to
make something special for Jim to take but she didn’t finally because she was
afraid to ask Mrs. Smith for the eggs and flour and afraid if she bought them
Mrs. Smith would catch her cooking. It would have been all right with Mrs.
Smith but Liz was afraid.
All the time Jim was gone on the deer hunting trip Liz thought about him. It
was awful while he was gone. She couldn’t sleep well from thinking about him
but she discovered it was fittin to think about him too. if she let herself go
it was better. The night before they were to come back she didn’t sleep at all,
that is she didn’t think she slept because it was all mixed up in a dream about
not sleeping and really not sleeping. When she saw the wagon coming down the
road she felt weak and sick sort of inside. She couldn’t wait till she saw Jim
and it seemed as though everything would be all right when he came. The wagon
stopped outside under the big elm and Mrs. Smith and Liz went out. All the men
had beards and there were three deer in the back of the wagon, their thin legs
sticking stiff over the edge of the wagon box. Mrs. Smith kissed D. J. and he
hugged her. Jim said “Hello, Liz,” and grinned. Liz hadn’t known just what
would happen when Jim got back but she was sure it would be something. Nothing
had happened. The men were just home, that was all. Jim pulled the burlap sacks
off the deer and Liz looked at them. One was a big buck. it was stiff and hard
to lift out of the wagon.
“Did you shoot it, Jim?” Liz asked.
“Yeah. Ain’t it a beauty?” Jim got it onto his back to carry to the
smokehouse.
That night Charley Wyman stayed to supper at Smith's. It was too late to get
back to Charlevoix. The men washed up and waited in the front room for supper.
“Ain’t there something left in that crock, Jimmy?” D. J. Smith asked, and Jim
went out to the wagon in the bam and fetched in the jug of whiskey the men had
taken hunting with them. It was a four-gallon jug and there was quite a little
slopped back and forth in the bottom. Jim took a long pull on his way back to
the house. It was hard to lift such a big jug up to drink out of it. Some of
the whiskey ran down on his shirt front. The two men smiled when Jim came in
with the jug. D. J. Smith sent for glasses and Liz brought them. D. J. poured
out three big shots.
“Well, here’s looking at you, D. J.,” said Charley Wyman.
“That damn big buck, Jinny,” said D. J.
“Here’s all the ones we missed, D. J.,” said Jim, and downed his liquor.
“Tastes good to a man.”
“Nothing like it this time of year for what ails you.” “How about another,
boys?”
“Here’s how, D. J.”
“Down the creek, boys.”
“Here’s to next year.”
Jim began to feel great. He loved the taste and the feel of whiskey. He was
glad to be back to a comfortable bed and warm food and the shop. He had another
drink. The men came in to supper feeling hilarious but acting very respectable.
Liz sat at the table after she put on the food and ate with the family. it was
a good dinner. The men ate seriously. After supper they went into the front
room again and Liz cleaned off with Mrs. Smith. Then Mrs. Smith went upstairs
and pretty soon Smith came out and went upstairs too. Jim and Charley were
still in the front room. Liz was sitting in the kitchen next to the stove
pretending to read a book and thinking about Jim. She didn’t want to go to bed
yet because she knew Jim would be coming out and she wanted to see him as he
went out so she could take the way he looked up to bed with her.
She was thinking about him hard and then Jim came out. His eyes were shining
and his hair was a little rumpled. Liz looked down at her book. Jim came over
back of her chair and stood there and she could feel him breathing and then he
put his arms around her. Her breasts felt plump and firm and the nipples were
erect under his hands. Liz was terribly frightened, no one had ever touched
her, but she thought, “He’s come to me finally. He’s really come.”
She held herself stiff because she was so frightened and did not know
anything else to do and then Jim held her tight against the chair and kissed
her. it was such a sharp, aching, hurting feeling that she thought she couldn’t
stand it. She felt Jim right through the back of the chair and she couldn’t
stand it and then something clicked inside of her and the feeling was warmer
and softer. Jim held her tight hard against the chair and she wanted it now and
Jim whispered, “Come on for a walk.”
Liz took her coat off the peg on the kitchen wall and they went out the door.
Jim had his arm around her and every little way they stopped and pressed
against each other and Jim kissed her. There was no moon and they walked
ankle-deep in the sandy road through the trees down to the dock and the
warehouse on the bay. The water was lapping in the piles and the point was dark
across the bay. it was cold but Liz was hot all over from being with Jim. They
sat down in the shelter of the warehouse and Jim pulled Liz close to him. She
was frightened. One of Jim’s hands went inside her dress and stroked over her
breast and the other hand was in her lap. She was very frightened and didn’t
know how he was going to go about things but she snuggled close to him. Then
the hand that felt so big in her lap went away and was on her leg and started
to move up it.
“Don’t, Jim,” Liz said. Jim slid the hand further up.
“You mustn’t, Jim. You mustn’t.” Neither Jim nor Jim’s big hand paid any
attention to her.
The boards were hard. Jim had her dress up and was trying to do something to
her. She was frightened but she wanted it. She had to have it but it frightened
her.
“You mustn’t do it, Jim. You mustn’t.”
“I got to. I’m going to. You know we got to.”
“No we haven’t, Jim. We ain’t got to. Oh, it isn’t right. Oh, it’s so big and
it hurts so. You can’t. Oh, Jim. Jim. Oh.”
The henlock planks of the dock were hard and splintery and cold and Jim was
heavy on her and he had hurt her. Liz pushed him, she was so uncomfortable and
cramped. Jim was asleep. He wouldn’t move. She worked out from under him and
sat up and straightened her skirt and coat and tried to do something with her
hair. Jim was sleeping with his mouth a little open. Liz leaned over and kissed
him on the cheek. He was still asleep. She lifted his head a little and shook
it. He rolled his head over and swallowed. Liz started to cry. She walked over
to the edge of the dock and looked down to the water. There was a mist coming
up from the bay. She was cold and miserable and everything felt gone. She
walked back to where Jim was lying and shook him once more to make sure. She
was crying.
“Jim,” she said, “Jim. Please, Jim.”
Jim stirred and curled a little tighter. Liz took off her coat and leaned
over and covered him with it. She tucked it around him neatly and carefully.
Then she walked across the dock and up the steep sandy road to go to bed. A
cold mist was coming up through the woods from the bay.


End of Story