The Hunt for A Perfect Man

One man can ruin it for the rest of them

The perfect man had been on the run from the Cancel Committee for years.  This time, he made himself a home in the Maine woods, near the Copper Brook, about 100 miles southwest of Mount Katahdin.

I mean, he literally made himself a home.  Using the tools he’d brought with him, he felled trees and built a comfortable cabin.  Once the cabin was completed, he built cabinets and other furnishings—he was a skilled woodworker.

The windows and woodstove and other hardware he mail-ordered COD to the post office in a town about 16 miles away.  He used the sled that he also mail-ordered to haul the goods up to his cabin over the firm mid-winter snow.

Once his house was set up comfortably, he settled into his daily routines, chopping and hauling wood for the stove, hunting rabbits and other game, baking bread and muffins, and reading books he picked up from the Little Free Library in town.

In summer he set up a vegetable garden in the clearing next to the cabin.  He also went for hikes in the woods.  His cabin was only half a mile or so from the Appalachian Trail, and he alternated walking a ways north or south.

There wasn’t much hiking traffic on the trail in that area, except for the determined AT through-hikers.  Most through-hikers started in the spring at the southern terminus of the trail in Georgia, and by early September those that had made it that far were trickling through Maine on their way to the northern terminus at the top of Mount Katahdin.

Whenever he saw through-hikers plodding north, he invited them to stop by for muffins or a meal.  He always kept a pot of rabbit stew simmering on the stove in late summer, and the often-emaciated hikers—having walked almost 2000 miles already—were hungry and grateful.

The man built a few bunkies next to the cabin, so hikers could spend the night in some comfort.  He kept his cabin and the bunkies scrupulously clean, and by late summer he still had fresh wildflowers in vases in each room.

The hikers would go to bed, full of rabbit stew, then wake up in the morning to the aroma of a hearty breakfast cooking and coffee brewing.  The man kept a few goats, and he always had fresh milk for the coffee, and his chickens provided the eggs for both breakfast and muffin-making.  The hikers were sent on their way with a few muffins for later.

The hikers were grateful, and some tried to pay the man, but he would take no money.  Sometimes the hikers would sneak off after having left some money under the pillows.  The man always gave this money anonymously to the food bank in town, or left it in the Little Free Library when he swapped out books.

Some of the female hikers, as well as not a few male ones, offered more intimate expressions of gratitude, but the man turned these offers down politely yet firmly.  He figured the hikers were better off saving their energy for the trail.

Many hikers, having walked solo for several months, burbled with pent-up conversation.  The man let them talk, never interrupting, and made comments when appropriate.  He never gave advice unless asked for it, but he gave encouragement to all.  He hoped all the hikers made it to Mount Katahdin safely, although he seldom heard from them after they left, as they wouldn’t have known how to contact him except to hike to his door.

Winter comes early to Maine, and by then there are no passing hikers.  The man spent his afternoons knitting wool socks that he would give to next year’s hikers—by the time through-hikers reached Maine, whatever socks they had left were in shreds.  He also knit wool beanie caps, as the autumn weather in Maine can turn wet and chilly, and wool hats provide warmth to hiker heads while repelling water.

He was always happy to help the hikers, even though he was aware doing so put him at risk.  He was under no threat from the hikers themselves—they all loved him and his trail magic.

One year, a hiker who was celebrating having completed the Appalachian Trail, gushed a bit drunkenly about the man near Copper Brook who lived on the land and helped the hikers.  In this hiker’s opinion, the man was perfect.

That comment was caught by alert ears, and it was duly passed on to the authorities.  A Perfect Man had been located.

In the early days of summer the next year, the Cancel Committee sent a small task force of cancellers up to Maine.  They accessed the Appalachian Trail south of Copper Brook, and hiked to the man’s cabin and asked for shelter.

The man welcomed them like he would welcome any hikers.  He hadn’t any rabbit stew on, since it was a bit early in the season, but it would take no time to whip up a batch of muffins.  And, in no time, the man was serving fresh coffee and steaming muffins.

While the cancellers were sleeping off the mild but effective sedative the man had baked into the muffins, the man packed what little he needed and left.  He understood that Perfect Men were a constant threat.  The Cancel Committee would keep looking for him.  But he had evaded them before and he would do so again.

The perfect man walked away and later made another perfect home elsewhere.

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