Lucas McNelly is the award-winning filmmaker behind such feel-good movies as BLANC DE BLANC and GRAVIDA, as well as the screening series Indies for Indies. His work has been featured all over the place. Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t. After Blanc De Blanc Lucas McNelly is planning to make Up Country (well, the title may change later as McNelly says). He is publishing the narrative as a series of Novellas on his blog 100 Films. We are supporting him to raise funds for the film by reposting his posts here.
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UP COUNTRY, Chapter 1
The truck pulled to a stop at the edge of the woods. They had driven a mile or so through a field, past a weathered red barn with a Dukakis ’88 sign facing the road. John had asked if people up here were that far behind the times. The joke had not gone over well with the truck’s driver.
As far as John could tell, there was nothing to indicate that the truck should stop here. No parking area, no path into the woods, nothing but a solid wall of bushes and trees. It was, simply, the end of the field. He looked over his shoulder, but the red barn was gone from view.
Six months ago, his brother-in-law Mark had told him about this fishing trip his cousin had taken in the northern Maine woods–camping in a tent and living off the fish you caught for a couple of days, a real back-to-nature vacation. It sounded compelling enough. But when Mark had scoffed that, no, it wasn’t Stephen King country, it was much more remote than that, he was sold.
It took even less to convince his lawyer Paul, a tax attorney who wore Armani suits during the week and a ratty old hat with fishing lures stuck through it during the weekends. Paul had copies of Field & Stream magazine in his office, framed prints of lakes and rivers along all the walls, and some sort of large fish mounted over his desk. He had described to John once–in great detail–the process of catching it, the lure he used, the body of water he had been fishing, the thrill of victory. John had nodded politely, but never could remember what type of fish it was. He was too polite to tell Paul he’d forgotten, and didn’t care enough to ask to hear the story again. He only knew it was impressive. Or, at least, he assumed it must be. Why else would he go to the trouble of mounting it?
The driver of the truck, the one who wasn’t impressed with John’s joke, was their guide. Brian or Ryan or Ian or something. He had said maybe twenty words since picking them up at the Portland airport four hours ago, and what little he had was so deeply buried underneath a accent that none of them had understood more than a fraction. John knew Pakistani cab drivers in New York that were easier to understand. Brian or whoever shut the truck off and muttered something like “this is it”. He took a sun-bleached Red Sox hat off the dash and jammed it on his head.
They all piled out of the truck, walking around to stretch their legs. The guide walked fifteen feet down the edge of the woods and without giving it a second thought, unzipped his pants and relieved himself. Then, he grabbed some gear from the back of the truck, walked to a spot in the tree line, and pushed aside a bush to reveal a well-worn, clearly marked trail.
John, Mark, and Paul scrambled to get their gear out of the back of the truck and follow him before he disappeared into the woods. By the time John got his backpack on, he could barely remember which bush to move and the guide was already thirty feet away. He ran to catch up.
UP COUNTRY, Chapter 2
The first thing John noticed was the darkness. Kind of like walking into a cave. Here and there a shaft of sunlight hit the ground, but for the most part, the trees took care of that. It took John’s eyes a second to adjust, to focus, to take in the shift in brightness. The floor of the woods was covered with a thick coat of dead leaves and rotting branches that had broken off during storms or just given up all hope of consistent sunlight. All around moss poked through. John tried to remember what he’d heard about moss. Did it always grow on the northern side? On the southern? Or was that something else?
Mark was yelling back at him. He was thirty feet ahead; Paul twenty feet more. John couldn’t even see the guide, even though he wore a blaze orange shirt with a deer decal on it and the phrase “Getchadeeryet?” all mashed together as one word. Actually, blaze orange probably was no longer accurate. It was an old shirt. Perhaps just orange or whatever you’d call that color when it had faded over the years.
John jogged to keep up, careful not to trip in the trail that was more of a footpath weaving around trees with a strip of flagging ever forty feet or so to mark the way. As he got closer to Mark, he started to catch glimpses of the guide. He was moving fast, walking through the woods with purpose, only occassionally checking to make sure they were keeping up.
“Fucking hell. Does he even know we’re back here?” The pack was heaving and John was slightly out of breath from jogging.
“I think so. I saw him check a minute ago.”
“Where did you find this guy anyway?”
“My cousin recommended him.”
“The one in jail?”
“I do not have a cousin in jail.” Mark’s voice came up a little. It was a touchy subject. “He’s a second cousin. Not even a blood relative.”
“Anyway, it wasn’t him. It’s a different cousin.”
“You know, Paul’s a lawyer.”
“Sure. Hey Paul!”
“I don’t want to know,” Paul yelled back. “I’m on vacation. You see this hat? This is my I’m not a lawyer hat.”
“So I lose my attorney-client privileges?”
“Yes.” Paul stopped, turned to face them. “But replaced with the ever more solemn fishing trip code of secrecy. Like Vegas, only without the strippers.”
“So you don’t want to know about Mark’s genetic pre-disposition to crime?”
“Not a blood relative,” Mark protested.
“No. I don’t care.”
“Ladies!” The guide had walked back toward them and didn’t look pleased. “You wanna stand around in the woods or you wanna fish?” They all wanted to fish. “Ok then.” The guide turned and walked down the path, muttering something about people from out of state and city folk being a waste of time.
Like chastized children, they walked in silence for the next ten minutes, doing their best to keep up with a guide who was moving even faster through the woods. Finally, he stopped. They could hear running water, but they couldn’t see it. The guide put his pack down and pushed aside some brush. The woods opened and before them lay a bubbling brook. The burst of light took their breath away.
…to be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $1,000…