by Joseph Orost
The sun was shinning brightly, not a cloud in the sky, when someone driving an old red Saab pulled into a gas station in Northern Vermont. A scraggly, bearded man wearing a headband stepped out of the car, removed the pump nozzle from the most expensive high test gas pump and then proceeded to fill the tank of his car. Almost as by some mystical signal the sky suddenly darkened and a deluge of rain poured out of the black heavens. He stood undaunted and nonchalantly gripped the nozzle to fill the tank. When the pump nozzle clicked off, he replaced it and proceeded into the store to pay for the gas.
Upon entering the rain stopped just as suddenly as it started. I assumed the timing of these incidences to be what I thought were two amazing coincidences, but soon changed my mind when after he paid for the gas, he stepped out of the door of the store when another deluge of rain came pouring out of the sky. Still undaunted like nothing had ever happened, he got into his car and drove away. Later that evening just before I fell asleep I wondered whether I had really witnessed this, or was this some sort of impassioned dream? Several other times, he would come to the same store to buy gas and once I observed he had a propane tank filled.
I had learned that his name was Chad and he lived on one of the nearby mountains. At first he was reluctant to talk, sometimes not answering and intentionally ignoring me and looking at the floor. Later, however, I learned that he originally came to Vermont to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.
His shabby appearance clashed with the colorific headband he wore and it belied what appeared to be his sophisticated underpinnings. His eloquent speech and forthright gestures revealed a cosmopolitan upbringing. His idealism was probably acquired from Boston University where as a student he majored in Geology.
He met Marie, who would be his closest companion, while at the University. Marie had a fair complexion, with light curly hair which she kept long. Her eyes were green, clear and crystalline. When her gaze caught yours, her eyes penetrated deep inside your soul. And it felt like nothing could be hidden from her- she read you like a book. Her slow deliberate movements and the aroma of her ever-present perfume hinted at mystery. She walked with an air of suppleness both lithe and limberly. The perfection of her statuette beauty
appeared to overwhelm one such that it created an aura of inferiority within oneself. This caused most men to be reluctant to approach or engage her for conversation. Except for Chad who probably wasn't aware of the invisible glass shield surrounding Marie.
Chad's physical appearance was diametrically opposite that of Marie's. He in a sense was as ugly as she was pretty. Perhaps the mixture of these ingredients was responsible for the shattering of the glass shield around her. When people saw the two of them strolling together they would stare with disbelief.
But the two had an idyllic relationship, which led to a Utopian lifestyle. Chad deployed violence and the killing of any living creature and especially he hated the brutality of killing people in what he had concluded were senseless wars. There was also the fear of death and a bit of cowardice involved . And with the draft rapidly closing in on Chad, they chose to move to some remote location and drop out of society until some time when conditions were better suited for Chad.
Chad had lived in New Jersey most of the twenty-five years of his life. As in many communities there existed in his home town of Freehold an underground organization meant for people like himself. Already there was the a settlement in place in the mountains of Northern Vermont, near Montgomery.
The Underground had outfitted Chad with traveling maps and directions to the area as well as introductions to the people who had established this Commune in the first place. They had stuffed as many of their belongings into Chad's car as possible and headed northwards up the Garden State Parkway, The New York State Thruway and up the Northway to Vermont. At the Welcome Center in Vermont they had met a group of similarly inclined people. Altogether there were six couples.
The next day they all agreed to convoy to the Commune. Luke, one of the members of the group, being familiar with Vermont was certain that he could find the Commune. It was spring and the Vermont weather was perfect as was the breathtaking scenery. The flowers were in bloom, the trees were leafed out and the grass, which was everywhere, was of a certain dark-bluish green. And the fragrance of the blossoms in the air was like a breathe of Heavenly nectar. Chad and Marie had never been to Vermont before and they both agreed that this was as close to Heaven as was possible on this earth.
That evening the group stopped near the road in a pine grove where they had set up sleeping bags which all of them had the wisdom to carry with them. The cool evening brought Chad and Marie closer to one another than they had ever been. They both committed themselves to each other. Short of marriage, this was the closest their relationship had come so far.
When Chad and Marie arrived at the Commune, they had observed several large buildings as well as some large freshly cultivated gardens and a greenhouse partially covered with clear plastic. Later they found that the crops grown there was the sole cash income for the whole Commune. Since most of the people living there were in violation of the law, no one seemed to be bothered by the fact that what was grown there was also illegal.
The Vietnam War is long over. All of the former residents of the Commune are long gone. All have become respected members of society. Some have gone into government work, others are businessmen. Some have even earned fame and fortune in the society that they had once turned their backs on.
Even the "Love of my Life" Marie left. Chad still lives there alone. He will not leave. Marie and certainly the rest of the people in the Commune begged him to rejoin society. But Chad was adamant. From the little I could glean from Chad, he is doing penance for all the lives that were lost when others had to take the places of the ones in the Commune who dodged the draft.