Farewell to the Western World (part three)
Publication date: 21 March 2022
– "Name one place you'd rather be than here right now?"
– Describe tragedy of Michael's death in 1995.
– There is some culpability for Emerson in this.
– Michael's dying wish is to be buried in the uplands, at a place that they were trying to hike to but never reached.
– Nature kicks in.
– Sweet smell of honey and pine coming in through the window over Emerson's kitchen sink.
– He has learned a lot about nature in the past couple of years.
– Leave open as to whether Emerson is genuinely living the off-grid life or is more of a fraud. Imply from activities such as "making coffee" that he is living in western comfort.
– Emerson reads copy of the interview about him, published a few months earlier. Regrets how boastful he may have come across.
– It was one of those times when Su had some slack in her personal budget.
– Travels up to Scotland from England on a sleeper train. Is seeking out Emerson.
– No longer convinced that he is a fraud. Thinks about more obvious targets she could have gone for instead. Sports stars who declare their ecological conscience yet travel by private jet. Rich-living celebrities who feign sympathy for socialists causes. None boasted the mystery and lure of this character, though.
– Passes a garden with a ragged hammock whose rope ties had been subsumed by the expanding cambium of the supporting trunks.
– Thought once more about Emerson's line in the interview. Who, really, had time to lie in a hammock?
– Su spots Emerson in hotel bar, recognizing him from author photo. Has to admit that he has retained much of the handsomeness from old author photo. Surprised that he is not much taller than she is.
– She follows him from hotel bar. He gets on bus. Tailing someone on a bus even more difficult than in a car.
– Emerson stops the bus at an unofficial dropping-off point at the bottom of a wide track up into tree-covered hills. Su cannot follow him off here. She pings the bell once it departs and hopes to disembark in time to follow him up the track.
– She manages to catch sight of him heading up main track and then cutting off on a side path overgrown with vegetation.
– He regularly stops to check trousers. What is he looking at? Seems to be flicking something off from time to time. Seeds?
– She finds cover near the cabin and watches him for a while.
– Smoke starts coming out of his chimney.
– Su introduces herself to Emerson, after he has completed outdoor shower.
– Turns out that he had been flicking ticks off her legs and she looks down to see one biting her.
– Emerson wears left-over office attire. Beige chinos, plain shirts. Not the archetypal off-gridder.
– He sets up the shower for her and then goes for a walk up into the hills. Returns with a few wildflowers that he puts in a mug with a broken-off handle.
– He settles into hammock and stares up towards the stars.
– No electricity. Cools beers in river.
– His possessions are old, but the cabin is clean inside.
– Su heads back to her cheap hotel. Has read more of his book and is growing to appreciate it.
– Start to the book: "If you are like most people, the most significant thing that you will do in your life is to die." What his career advisor told him at secondary school
– Su knows that anniversary of Michael's death is approaching. Waits at bottom of track for him and secretly follows him on foot. More ticks result.
– He does indeed enact his ritual.
– Here we get the rest of Emerson's story, explaining how he came across the cabin.
– He would love a car in as much as it would allow him easy access to the wild. But machines were the antithesis of the wild experience – he mocks the car adverts he used to see on television, trying to portray a wild aesthetic with a car parked to one side.
– Su is interested in trying to reunite him with his niece, for the wedding.
– Emerson gets ill. Starts mumbling something in fever. The name of a lady. Let reader think it might be Su. In fact, it is his ex-wife.
– Does not make it to niece's wedding.
– Apologizes to Su that he failed in what she had so kindly hope for him.
– He writes: "Emerson Mayhut. Nature's my home." ■