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A Simple Handshake


Alice C. Bateman  &  Clive S. Michie

Chapter One

Dan stretched and opened his eyes slowly, a smile spreading across his face as he took in the roof of his two-man tent, the blue of the canvas lightening more and more in the dawn of a new day. The first day of a long-awaited fishing trip to his favourite section of Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

He’d chosen a secluded location to set up his campsite, wanting to spend time away from other people. The past year had been hell. His marriage of ten years had ended very badly, when he’d come home early from work one day and heard his wife moaning as if in orgasm, the phone glued to her ear. Disgusted when he found out that she’d been meeting men on the Internet and indulging in cyber and phone sex, he’d packed his bags and left. Luckily, there were no children to be hurt by the separation, only himself. And he was very hurt indeed. Dan had thought that his wife’s sudden renewal of passion in their bed was for him, not because she was excited by other men.

Enough of thinking of that! It was the past, and the past was over. All that counted was today. And today, he was here in the great outdoors, something he could never have done with Jane. She was a city girl born and bred, and the sight of an insect scared her to death. High heels just didn’t work well in the wilderness. Enough about Jane, he told himself again. Forget her! Enjoy this vacation you’ve earned!

Right after the separation, Dan had bought himself a small hobby farm on the outskirts of Ottawa, close enough to his work on Parliament Hill to be convenient, but out of the clamour of the city. He could finally see the stars at night, breathe the air that he’d craved the whole time he’d been forced by Jane’s preference to live in a penthouse in the city.

A country boy, he’d been raised on a farm outside of Brockville, and met Jane at the University of Ottawa where he’d gone to study political science. Honest and caring, he’d decided to work somewhere in politics to try and change what he saw as injustices in the system.

But this morning, all he wanted to be was a man on vacation, his only priorities were getting his fishing gear out of his Jeep Cherokee, and unlashing the wooden canoe he’d bought second-hand a week ago. He knew that a rowboat would likely be better for fishing, but he’d loved canoeing since he was a child, so a canoe it was.

Stretching luxuriously, Dan unzipped the down sleeping bag from Canadian Tire, pulled on the jeans he’d taken off the night before, and unzipped the tent flap. Drawing deep breaths of the clear and slightly cool morning air, Dan was happy to be alive. Since the split with Jane, he’d thrown himself into his work, ignoring people, and certainly women, as much as possible. This was fairly easy, being a very junior member of the Conservative Party’s political machine. His ideal of being able to make changes in the way the country was run was disillusioned pretty quickly, but he still hoped that some day he’d have the power to change things.

Power… the word evoked a fleeting image from a dream. Shaking his head, he couldn’t even pinpoint what the image was, and busied himself getting the canoe into the water. He was a little awkward handling the canoe still, but lifting it off a vehicle and propelling it through the water were two very different things. He knew that once he was prepared to kneel in the back of the canoe with his butt propped on the rear seat, he’d be in the heaven of clear blue water and complete isolation. Alone with God and the fish.

Breakfast would wait until he caught it. Fresh fish cooked in butter over an open fire. He could already taste it!

The small lake he’d chosen to camp beside was calm in the early morning, rippling slightly in a soft breeze. Just as he pushed out the canoe loaded with his gear, a fish jumped out of the water to catch one of the small bugs hovering close to the surface. Dan grinned. A good sign of things to come if he ever saw one! Grabbing his bait bucket and the larger one to put his catch in and placing them in the middle of the canoe, he rolled up the legs of his jeans to wade out a couple of feet and get in the canoe himself.

Soon, the familiar motion of paddling took over. Even though it had been at least twelve years, his arms remembered, and as he glided over the water, Dan felt that he didn’t have a care in the world. A simple man enjoying a beautiful morning. He had no idea how drastically his world was about to change.

Jane, still ensconced in her penthouse in the city, hates Dan with a passion. He’d embarrassed and humiliated her by walking out on her. Not only that, he had printed out her chat records from the computer before he left, used them as evidence in the divorce trial, and was given the divorce decree with no alimony granted to her, no settlement for her at all. She basically has to scrimp and save in order to keep the place, and depend on the generosity of the many men in her life to keep up her lifestyle.

Blonde and statuesque, the men Jane sleeps with don’t care what a cold and calculating bitch she is, just that she’s willing to do what they want – as long as they give her whatever thing or money she demands in return. This suits the married and well-to-do men she chooses to play with. Her public relations job pays fairly well, but for Jane, nothing is ever enough. She blames Dan for her perceived hardships, and for the tiny wrinkles she’s begun to notice on her thirty-five year old face.

Unknown to Dan, she’s been spying on him. She knows exactly where he is right now. And so do some of her more unsavoury friends – friends who’ll take Jane’s body in payment for services about to be rendered.

After a while, Dan drew in his paddle and drifted, breathing deeply of the fresh air. He closed his eyes to savour the moment, and again a flash of dream crossed his mind. Nothing really, merely a moment’s impulse. Dismissing it again, Dan picked up his brand new fishing rod, opened the tackle box and selected a flashy aluminium fly with a rubber bug attached. The silvery blue color of the lure would almost disappear in the water.

Opening the small bait bucket, he impaled a live cricket on the hook. In his mind, he apologized to the small creature, and thanked it for giving its life for his breakfast. Dan is so thankful that he has been given this opportunity to get back in touch with himself and with nature. He casts his line, and is thrilled by the simple pleasure of the sound of the line leaving the reel. Almost immediately, he feels a tug, and is almost disappointed that it was so easy to make his first catch. Reeling in what must be a five-pound rainbow trout, he grins in satisfaction as he removes the hook and drops it in his bucket.

Hungry, Dan stowed his rod, picked up his paddle and turned the canoe in a large lazy circle to head back to his campsite. On the way, he said a small prayer of thanks to God, as he always does for any small or large blessing. He is not religious by any stretch of the imagination, but does acknowledge and appreciate the Being who created the Earth and the myriad of creatures upon it.

Back at shore, Dan pulled the canoe far up onto the grassy bank, and removed the fish bucket. He set this by the campfire pit and scouted the area for some twigs and a deadfall branch to cut up with his hatchet to cook his breakfast. Soon, the smell of the campfire and the frying fish set up an audible growling in his stomach.

The sound of a snapping twig off to his right among the trees made Dan look around from his cooking, but he saw nothing, and presumed it was some animal. Shrugging, he flipped the fish over and got out his newly acquired camping plate and utensils. He didn’t bother making coffee this morning, just drank a couple of the tetra packs of juice he’d brought along. In the city, there’s no way he’d ever consider going without morning coffee, but this is a whole new universe, one he’d missed dreadfully in the ten long years of his marriage.

After his hunger was sated, Dan lay back on the grass and watched the wisps of clouds overhead, letting his mind drift. Breathing deeply, he emptied his mind of the thoughts of politics, job and Jane that tried to intrude. In a few moments, he felt that he was connected to the life force of the planet, the throbbing and pulsing life of Her {as he thinks of the Earth} matching his own rhythms. It had been so very long since he’d allowed himself to relax and feel this connection, but it had always been there, just below the surface.

At times throughout his life, Dan felt that he was somehow different from his peers – nothing he could explain or identify, just a niggling feeling at the back of his mind. But so far, nothing extraordinary had ever happened.

Sinking more and more into being one with the planet, he began to feel that he could begin to see things from the perspective of the Earth itself, feel the pain she was experiencing, hear her crying out for help. Reaching deep down within himself and the planet, he began to feel an energy transfer from the depths of the Earth to himself. Warmth spread through him as he slowly came back to an awareness of his surroundings.

He sat up after a few moments, shook his head and his right hand, which seemed to be imbued with a low-grade tingling feeling. He thought perhaps it had fallen asleep or something, but the feeling persisted as he took his frying pan, plate and utensils to the lake to wash with some sand from the bottom. After the items were stowed inside the door of the tent, Dan threw the fish bones on the fire before dowsing it. A small blue flash appeared momentarily as the bones met the flames, surprising him. Since his short span of lying on his back, his consciousness seemed to be expanded in some way, nothing he could really identify, and he just attributed it to his state of total relaxation.

Chapter Two

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