Visitor, An Ask

On a sleety day in rural Woodbury, the bright spot in my afternoon is the woman who walks to the library — a mile or so on slushy backroads because she and her partner have no vehicle. The truck died.

She checks out books, we talk about men and raising kids, the cost of living in Vermont. I’ve been working in rural libraries and schools long enough now that I quickly know who’s hard up versus who’s driving that old Subaru because an old Subaru might make them look a little less affluent. In the sogginess of March, my library visitor is sharp and funny, with an amusing eye for details. Sitting there, in the warm library, after a few hours of relative quiet to catch up on work, I winch, thinking of how carless-ness, unemployment, and rural Vermont can crowd up against a person.

When I leave, I drive her down the road to Hardwick, the two of us, talking, talking. It’s after 5, and while dusk isn’t far off, the day still holds light. She’s pragmatic about her chances for a ride back up the road. I never know. Then, just before she gets out, she asks for two dollars, for him, the boyfriend.

… understanding, and action proceeding from understanding and guided by it, is the one weapon against the world’s bombardment, the one medicine, the one instrument by which liberty, health, and joy may be shaped or shaped towards, in the individual, and in the race.

James Agee

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By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

13 comments

  1. ” I quickly know who’s hard up versus…” is a nice dose of realistic living and writing honed by a “Hewitt like” rural bluntness. I sense how Vermont shapes both of you all. I have to ask-is this the same lady in the ramshackle but not forlorn home who’s pie (I think it was pie) you youthfully refused? Enjoyed the piece. GT

    1. Different woman, different year, different town, same March season — although not yet mud season. Maybe writing in Vermont tends more towards bluntness the more winter lingers?

      As always, a pleasure to hear from you 🙂

    1. At least it’s sunny on this Election Day. Thinking of you these days, Heidi. Sorry we didn’t connect up over school break. Illness laid us low, but we’re back in the world now. Hope you’re all well 🙂

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