Saturday, June 15, 2003
On may home now. I was in Haverhill/Woodsville/Bath, as well as Amherst and Northampton. I have had some powerful emotional reactions and learned some new things. Posts and updates to come. For now, an anecdote.
I rolled in Woodsville around 1:00 am earlier this week. I explored, walking along 112 and BHR, then probing cautiously up a few trails trails or rutted paths off 112, just to see how things looked and felt at night. Upon starting my car to leave, about 3 miles east of the accident scene, I was heart-in-throat surprised as my headlights dawned on a moose trotting off the trail I had just been on, right in front of my car. I followed the slouchy-trotting creature at about 5-10 miles per hour for a minute or soas he moved along the road. He disappeared up a steep gravel driveway behind a house. I headed for the only middle-of-the-night food option; a Cumberland Farms (CF) mini mart and gas station in Woodsville. Then I slept in my car on the periphery of the new Walmart's parking lot.
At CF, I got to chatting with the friendly and articulate woman working overnight. She has worked for more than 10 years. I didn't say why I'd come to NH. But starting with the prompting comment, "what a beautiful place, it must be crime free up here huh?" we first talked about the Walmart shooting and then she said "and then there is Laura Murray (sic)."
(If you are reading this, friendly lady from CF, I am sorry that I deceived you and I really enjoyed talking with you. I wanted to hear what you had to say without being direct and possibly annoying you. Also, please forgive me for having forgotten your name.)
She knew the story well, although she thought that Fred had died a couple years ago, possibly having conflated him with Laurie upon passed around news of her passing. Here is what she told me.
- Fred used to into come into Woodsville businesses and restaurants and - without introducing himself - throw down Maura posters, brusquely demanding, "you need to hang these in your windows and ask your customers if they have seen her!" The way she mimicked his manner called to mind the way Kurt described Maura coaching him, applying the same discipline that her father had applied to her. It also reminded of the call Coach Lafreniere got, where the voice on the other and responded to her hello without introduction by blurting "do you know where Maura is?"
- The CF manager manager once had to forcefully ask Fred to leave because he was bothering their customers. "Did you meet him," I asked. "Yes," she replied. "The guy's a jerk."
- "For a while," she told me, "they thought he [Fred] had something to do with it, but after he died that went away."
- "Her tracks disappeared 100 yards away, so she got in a car," she shared. "The accident was staged."
- "So she could be dead out there somewhere?" I asked at one point. "Mmm-hmm, she replied with a kind of winking look, "or maybe living it up as we speak ... in Canada ... Tor-ONTO."
- "There was a writer who came up here too," she told me. "What was his name?" I asked but she didn't remember. "Was he a jerk too?" I asked. "No, he was very nice," she replied, continuing on to offer that "people liked him. But most of the people who come up here asking about Maura are impolite. After a while you don't want to talk about it ... it is just like ...." Her voice trailed off and she looked skyward, her hands making a gesture like the French make when they say 'comme ci comme ca.' I took her meaning: it doesn't matter to the locals anymore and the topic annoys them. But I thought: the real issue is that you don't want to be interrogated by vain people. She was happy to talk about it to someone who engaged her sincerely first, just to make conversation and be friendly. I enjoyed chatting with her and would have even if I had not furtively stoked conversation of Maura.
- I was about to leave when she said, "and then there is Tom Conrad." So I let the door shut and stayed a while and found about him too.
As our conversation wound down, a large red pick up truck pulled, with three people seated across the front seat. The driver - a petite, college aged girl as small as the truck was big - jumped out. She was dressed like she'd been to a party or bar. She ran inside, a little flustered but composed herself enough to be polite in the way she urgently asked "can I have a plastic bag!?"
Running back out with the bag, she handed it off the girl in the middle seat, who - her hand guiding his hand - helped the young man leaning on the passenger side door to throw up out the window and into the bag as the truck roared away. The store attendant laughed.
I remembered my days in college and those situations and it made me remember how and why Maura is so sad for so many: she at once looked like what we want kids to be and we wanted to be when we were kids, but she was also just a kid in a world that offers so many blind alleys lies and adults willing to compromise a beautiful child with their own ugly needs and wants rather than dealing with their own shit. And I thought in a kind of stunned way, "my oh my, but for the grace of god ..."
Maura deserves better than to be left as a New Hampshire folk tale, which - if her truth is never known - is what she will fade to. Her life is even more beautiful as the flawed and struggling kid she was. Her truth if known, I bet, would help and inspire many, including perhaps Julie and Kathleen to transcend in transcending their issues, like a gift back to them from their little sister.
Good thing for that Renner, who I agree is a nice guy and who I admire more and more as the days go by.