A young woman's body lay for over a week in mid-November, undisturbed by human beings. Then, one Friday morning, an old strawberry farmer named Dieter Stolz caught sight of it because he had crouched not four feet away in the highway ditch. He was helping a wounded hunter climb onto his back so he could carry the man up the embankment of Minnesota Highway 53. There lay the corpse with its face, edged in blown leaves and a little snow, its face half-turned to him. Some creature had eaten one of its eyes. If Dieter Stolz hadn't had the hunter getting onto his back, he would have shone his flashlight for a better look. As it was, he didn't even pause. He grasped his man's legs, and pushed his neck against the fellow's hands like a horse of good-will putting its shoulders against harness. He scrabbled his way up the embankment. It wasn't yet six o' clock so the smooth highway was dark. A few lights of St. Fursey shone a mile to the north. Above them the sky drew back its hood of stars.

Dieter Stolz had risen much earlier, in his usual way. He'd been married for years and years to a woman whose face had stayed motionless during whatever comment he was making on any subject. If she had been still alive on this cold morning, he could have told her about the mother bear and two cubs who robbed their Haralsons, and a hunter caught in a Conabear trap. However, he didn't wish her there to hear about his scared feelings. She'd been a wife who obeyed a law of manners that said, wait your man out when he is speaking. So she had never interrupted him. On the other hand, her motionless eyes were like the gun and cannon muzzles of a tank still pointed at you well after its captain or crew had died inside.

From "Shelter Half," by Carol Bly, a novel to be published this June by Holy Cow! Press in Duluth, Minn.