Adventures At The Maize Maze


devon2_icon.gif dumortier_icon.gif emily_icon.gif roxie_icon.gif

Scene Title Adventures at the Maize Maze
Synopsis Harvest season comes, bringing outdoor activities to residents of the Safe Zone and Providence both.
Date October 22, 2019

Farmland near Cranbury Township, NJ

Not exceptionally far outside the borders of the Safe Zone, some things feel not overly changed since the war. Life in rural areas has resumed where fields have been cleared of mines and debris of what was before. Now: Crops grow. Pumpkins are picked. Corn dries.

And mazes are made from them.

Travel outside the Safe Zone, by land at least, still leaves many uncertain, even uneasy about what they may find on the roads— but the corn maze and pumpkin patch growing just north of the Pine Barrens has been advertised in the paper and at Red Hook Market for weeks now, attempting to entice travelers from the city to come and enjoy the experience and spend their money.

Picnic tables lined with tools for gutting and carving pumpkins lay out, and a stack of wood sets apart from the gathering in preparation for a bonfire after dark, for those who stay that long. Cider, warmed, is served by one of the helpers with a suspicious lack of anything to actively keep the containers warm with.

Caddy-corner to the maize plot, a simple metal tower with a dishes on every side has been erected. Maybe a radio tower of some kind. Unlike the others traversing the grounds, two dressed in darker colors stand near its base, rifles slung at rest over their backs. Safety is assured through their guarding the site.

"I swear…" Emily Epstein grumbles to herself as she snaps her wallet closed. It even feels lighter after paying for her maze ticket. "This better be worth it, after coming all this way." She stuffs it back in her old, beat-down bookbag that she slings back over her shoulder. She threads a lock of hair behind her ear as she looks out over the families and couples that have all come from nearby towns and the Safe Zone to be here.

That's some clever marketing, she thinks to herself.

There are a lot of good smells here.

A nose wiggles and head tips up, as the scent of cider drifts towards the brown dog laying under a bush not far from the action. He sneezes and lowers his white tipped muzzle to rest along short legs, only his eyes moving to watch people walk by with excited kids. He thinks himself quiet and stealthy and he might have been… except for the swish of a tail against the fall leaves. It was hard to wait when there were so many little humans to play with, too.

Though all patience goes out the window as the smell of roasting corn and pumpkin innards gets the dog on his feet and weaving through legs, nose to the ground looking for bits to taste.
When it comes to food, a dog’s mind can be a bit single minded. Not even the fiercely whispered, “Goober! Get back here,” in the bushes behind him, will stop him on his mission to fill his belly!

Harvest time means the end of labour and the beginning of cold, and Dumortier has never liked the latter. All the various crops no longer need his help, and what they've come out with is a decently sized array to sell off. Thankfully he didn't get conscripted to help with the maze. Yet. His fingers are cold enough already! Enough that he's got thin leather gloves on in addition to the zipped jacket and its inner layer of downy fur; it's not his fault the wind blows right through him.

Pumpkin swindler wasn't always on his resume, but at the moment minding the pumpkin patch is what he's saddled with. People seem able to manage themselves, which gives the small-framed, sharp-eyed blonde the chance to examine people without sticking out. People in and out, mostly. The ones buying tickets. A dog. Rene knows he hasn't seen that particular one before, but dogs are just dogs. Right?

His eyes coast right over several familiar faces, though in the end he seems drawn to foreign ones.

Dog. There's a dog. Emily freezes as she sees the unattended scoundrel scampering its way through the crowd. A child turns and squeals in delight as they're sniffed, but summarily ignored once the dog's nose has determined no food here. The thin blonde stands stock still as the pup makes its way closer her direction, looking this way and that to search for the dog's owner without moving her head.

Or was it just normal that animals roamed out here? Not seeing anyone claim the dog makes her wonder if it's a feral that's just … wandered over peacefully.

She continues to stand in place while she mentally debates this, looking like a piece of still life with her arm still mid-adjust of her backpack strap.

For his part, Goober doesn’t notice the scrutiny. There is a visible part in the scruffy and semi matted hair where a barely noticeable red collar rests. So maybe not too feral… But the dirty red fur could make one wonder.

More smells assaults the dogs senses and his direction shifts into Emily’s path. When feet come into view, those brown eyes lifts up to see what the obstacle is. Oh.. hello. It isn’t hard to know when humans are nervous, so he gives a swish of his tail to say ’See! I’m good boy’, before moving past her towards the food source. Mmm.. roasted corn. The smoky sweet smell is just too tempting and he snuffles around the base of the table.


Lucky for him, the dog finds a quarter that has tumbled under the table and proceeds to plant himself there while he gnaws on it. Tail only visible from under the table cloth.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck,” is hissed under the breath of person in the bushes. Fingers scratch through short dark hair as Roxie watches the dog disappear into the crowd, leaving her alone with a choice: Stay there or follow and risk exposure to people.

And there were so many damn people. :|

“I’m going to wring your fucking neck,” she continues to murmur. No, she's not. She’d never, but Roxie isn’t happy about the situation. Making sure their things are well hidden under the bush with a layer of leaves, she tugs up her hood up to cover her own unkempt hair and takes a step or two out of the bushes.

To be honest, Roxie didn’t blame the dog, their meager rations had run out. It all smelled so good to a hungry stomach. Unfortunately, she had given all their money to the truck driver and she hadn’t found a place to do some odd jobs. As her stomach clenches with hunger, Roxie realizes she needs to fix that.

The pup's subtle sort of antics pulls Rene's eye back, and he smirks to himself when the animal finally finds a cozy spot under a table of food, tail swatting at the hem of the tablecloth. He takes a moment to make sure that he can sneak off for a break before wandering lazily nearer to Emily. In one palm he opens a tin of cigarettes, though they smell less of tobacco and more of something sweeter; as Dumortier fishes out his lighter, he quietly notes the slim frame of the stranger moving into sight. No judgment for how people show up to these things, of course.

"Not yours, I take it." Rene jokes from Emily's right, fingers around a cigarette and manner aloof.

Excited shrieks and squealing laughter follow the dog’s wake. It's enough commotion to attract curious looks from the line of maze-goers, with necks craning to see what’s happening and can the line move faster so we don't miss it? At the front of the line, the act of paying the entrance fee teeters on the edge of sudden indecision. In spite of the irritated look from the booth operator and the impatient huffs behind him, Devon’s hand with several bills hovers halfway to the station while his eyes have locked onto the dog.

He makes a slight face, almost a cringe, and finally slides his payment forward. His vague reluctance at the choice is an equally vague smile and flat thanks.

Stepping aside, now that he's paid the fee to enter, Devon watches the dog until it's hidden amongst legs and youngsters. Maybe it'll go back to wherever it belongs. He shakes his head and shrugs at himself. Dogs. Now that the beast is gone, at least as far as he can tell, he begins a slow wander forward, searching faces for a familiar one.

Anxieties heightened, the scent Dumortier carries with him is noted before Emily even turns to him, taking stock of his slight form with a single glance. "No," she clarifies, and then her gaze darts back to the wagging tablecloth. "No, it's not. Not yours either."

No bonus points for that guess.

"Then whose? What if it bites someone?" Emily wonders. Her eyes narrow at that possibility, sharp ice honing in on that happy little tail. "There's kids around." Even the best dogs could get territorial over food.

For all that, she hasn't yet moved— but seems gradually emboldened by her reasoning. The kids are the tipping point. She takes determined steps toward the table.

For his part, the dog is completely oblivious to the determination of Emily. Underneath the table cloth, teeth worry at a section of the corn, propped between short legs.

Roxee in the meantime is searching for that same dog. Head down, hands shoved into the pockets of her jacket, and shoulders hunched against the burning core of anxiety. The young woman could probably find the pup faster if she asked people, but instead she keeps her head down and avoid any and all interaction.

Back over at the dog… the happy tail suddenly disappears under the table cloth. For a moment, one might feel a flutter of anticipation expecting a head to pop out, but that never happens. When someone lifts the cloth to retrieve a box, there was nothing under there. The pup had simply vanished!?!

Okay, not really.

A glance beyond the corn seller, finds the brown mutt trotting away towards the pumpkins; taking a moment to stop and rub his face on a browning patch of grass like a napkin, snorting and sneezing when the strands of grass tickle his nose.

Emily's newest shadow just rolls his eyes helpfully, smoke on his lips and a small laugh trailing up after.

"It's just a mutt." Not like any feral stray he's ever seen. So- - mutt. And even if food aggressive, he doesn't seem especially concerned with the dog's wandering. Moreso, Emily's wandering, which only serves to make him curious. Being himself, Dumortier glides along after her, laughing a touch more loudly through his teeth when it's clear that the dog has vanished from under the table. No luck, Ems.

"He's checking out my pumpkins." Rene adds to the tail end of his next puff of cigarette, eyes crinkling a bit as he waits to see if Emily decides to keep chasing. You never chase a dog, what's wrong with you.

There it is again. Movement of a rusty brown furred variety draws a second look. The dog is further away now, but still… “I miss leash laws,” Devon says aloud, likely to be ignored by most people. He shakes his head slightly, but seems more inclined to keep an eye on the dog. It's not that he doesn't trust the animal, it's more that… well, it's a dog.

His wandering, already at a slow pace, becomes practically glacial. Hands tuck into his jacket pockets, and the only time he looks away from the devious canine is to make sure he isn't about to walk into someone.

The case of the missing dog brings Emily's steps to a halt, the unexpected disappearance dismantling her train of thought. What in the—

Ah, there the pup goes. Dumortier is helping while not helping. And the mutt is being cute while also being suspicious.

"Just who do you belong to?" she wonders, nosily, quietly, as she wanders — quietly, nosily— after the dog. Her eyes lift to confirm its trajectory, and then she peers after it hard, squinting as she considers whether or not he is a good boy or a feral stray.

She makes a clicking noise, snaps her fingers lightly before her, and leaves her hand outstretched. "C'mere, boy," Emily coos.

The pumpkins are interesting, each one gets thoroughly sniffed by the dog. A small one with part of the vine still attached becomes a play thing. Too small for carving or much, it might have enough meat for a pie. Instead, it becomes something of interest. A toy. Paws digging at it, making it roll awkwardly as his paw slides off it. He is having fun…

Or at least until Emily calls to him. Ears perk up and the scruff head turns towards her and the others. Seeing them all approaching him, the ears fall and pull back like he is suddenly guilty, giving an uncertain wag of his tail.

It is really hard to read what a dog is thinking, so while he looks guilty, he snags the pumpkin by the stem and takes off into the crowd dragging it with him. He exits stage right to the chorus of shouts about thieving mutts!

Unknown to his owner, Roxie dips and weaves past people; getting shoulder checked by a rather big guy for her efforts. “Hey! As—-”

Roxie doesn’t complete that insult, the shouts catch her attention and send a slice of anxiety through her. Turning, she sees the dog dodging those grabbing for him and diving right under a table.

“Dammit! Goober!”

The young woman’s voice mixes in with the other raised voices. Others there may or may not hear it, but they will see her shoving her way through the crowd towards the dogs direction.

Rene doesn't look bothered that the dog chooses a dwarf pumpkin for a toy, ambling along after Emily. The dog's guilty look up and Emily's failed attempts are worth a laugh; rather than remain an observer in the peanut gallery, Dumortier puts out his partially smoked cigarette against the heel of his boot, tucking it away and following the Pup rather than Emily.

It's more amusing to him that the group of visitors are more upset than he is, but it also sounds like the dog's owner is tailing behind- - if the shout of 'Goober' has any meaning amidst the confused reaction of others.

"Heeey, chienchien," Dumortier zeroes in on the table and stoops to lift up the cloth. He sounds as friendly as he can manage, hair wisping in his eyes. His free hand reaches out to offer for a sniff, yet at the same time the vine still attached to the pumpkin reaches back and slips into that extended hand. "I'll fight you for it~."

Shaking his head, Devon is about to completely dismiss the dog — at least if it's way over there then it isn't right here. He’ll likely still keep tabs until he's sure it's gone. Or he's left himself. But something keeps him from moving on.

Movement, a familiar silhouette, a recognizable voice.

Heading after the dog.

Dev’s eyes track Emily's path. Of course she'd go after the beast. It really doesn't surprise him. Nor does it change his perspective of the four-legged creature. What it does is increase his dubious trust of the dog, and prompts him to step from his own route to follow.

“Careful around that mutt,” is a worried warning once he's nearer.

A warning which draws Emily’s attention, stuttering her train of thought. She stops in place while Dumortier keeps on, bootfall halted midstride. “Dev,” comes from her in a surprised exhalation. He was here! Slipped by unnoticed past her, given her preoccupation with…

“The dog— do you know whose it is?” Emily turns then to look after it and the short Frenchman who’s huddling by the table with it. “It… doesn’t seem awful. Maybe nosy and a troublemaker, but… not bad.” The shout earns her gaze, seeing the woman who also heads in the dog’s direction. The thin blonde twinges her brow thoughtfully, content to stand back for just a moment. It was getting a bit crowded, suddenly.

Instead, she turns to Devon. “You made it.”

When the table cloth lifts, half drooped ears lift towards this person. Uh oh! Caught. Pumpkin still in his possession, the wayward pup tries to make a break for it. Unfortunately for him, the other end has been caught up by Dumortier and the dog it brought up short. Body flipping around to start up at the man, it is not hard to guess that Goober is confused by this sudden development.

All for paw dig in and he gives it a jerk and a tug, a soft gruff slips out; a playful sound.

“Get the fuck out of my way!”

Pushing out of the crowd, Roxie comes out pulling her hood back up on stringy black hair, face flush. With a huff, the young woman takes a deep breath to say something unpleasant to the man messing with her dog, “Hey! Y” But… comes up short. Expecting the worst, she’s surprised to find a happy pup and a friendly game of tug-a-war. “The fu

As soon as Goober spots Roxie, the pumpkin is dropped and ears fold back in guilt. Oops!

Dumortier gives the pup time to realize what's happening before tugging back, a silent laugh in a sharp grin coming as he tug-o-wars the dog out from under the table completely. The vine makes a good chew-toy, at least.

"You're a silly one, aren't you?" The pitchy laugh of a kid punctuates the scene, origin unclear but certainly cementing the tableau as lighthearted. Rene lifts his head when he hears the start of a protest, brows arching high back at the person who seems to make Goober drop what he's doing. "Ah, you must be mama." Poor Goober. Picking the roughed up pumpkin from the grass, Dumortier amusedly snaps off the vine and stem, offering the latter at Roxie.

"He can have this part, if he wants." It's more or less a stick. A chewy, pumpkin-smelling stick.

“No idea.” Devon slants a look at Dumortier and the dog, resting on the verge of saying more. It’s when a new voice — a frustrated one at that — enters the din of amused words and excited chatter of onlookers that he decides to shake his head instead. Whatever it was, it’s not important.

He angles his focus enough to catch sight of Roxie pushing her way through the crowd. Brows tick upward slightly. Why anyone would want a dog in the first place…

Dubious looks turn to smiles as Devon puts all that aside and returns his attention to Emily. “Did you doubt,” he teases, head tilting slightly to one side and grin gaining an edge with the joke. “It’s insane trying to get here, and not only because of the lack of infrastructure.”

“I was lucky to get a ride,” Emily admits absently, her eyes on the altercation(?) in progress either between dog and owner or owner and intervener. “Rode shotgun on the way out.”

Literally, but she leaves that nuance alone.

She’s distracted now, feeling a little bad for the dog. “What a troublemaker,” comes from her in a sympathetic murmur. “It looks like he must not get a lot of playtime.” The aside is made, again, in favor of the dog. She pulls her arms into a fold around her, drawing warmth from her sleeves while she watches.

The distrust is quite apparent as the stick is offered over, Roxie’s gaze drops to it before looking at the guy like he is some sort of weirdo. Why was he giving that to them? Things often come with a price.

Instead of taking it, Roxie seems to lean bodily away from it while bending down to scoop up the dog. “Yeah I don't think so.” Her cheek gets an affectionate lick, as Roxie shifts the dog in her arms.

Oof! Goober could stand to lose a few pounds.

“And I ain't his momma, do I look like a fucking dog to you?” Was this country bumpkin suntouched?

Roxie’s annoyance seems to grow with each comment, but more than that she’s overwhelmed by all the people. Emily’s words end up snagging the young woman’s attention and she becomes something to focus on, besides her discomfort.

"Easy, tiger." Dumortier's first reaction is bemusement, followed by a miffed look and a crooked, sarcastic smirk. "Don't get out much, do you?" Yet, he gives some small indication in his manner that recognizes Roxie's discomfort being eyeballed, or even among people. Doesn't mean he won't point it out. He discards the stick with a toss outside of the footpaths. "Vas te faire foutre aussi…"

"We do not mind dogs here. Or, vagabonds." The way he pronounces it is distinctly second-language, and given that English has so many crossovers, it certainly plucks him out as non-continental. "Stay if you like. Or, don't." Rene's manner is nonchalant, despite his earlier friendliness; she was abrasive first, so ilk meets ilk.

“Fuck you.”

The young woman, bristles further with every word he says, pride driving Roxie’s own. Goober though, watches with interest where the stick goes, half flopped ear flipping forward with interest.

Roxie knows she should be nicer to these people, but assumptions always got her back up. This wasn’t helped by the fact that she was surrounded by bodies, some of which have started to slow down curious about what was happening.

“Fuck this place, I’m out.” Roxie snaps back at Rene, turning to leave, the dog scrambling to keep a watch on that stick, peering over his human’s shoulder.

Brows furrowing with Roxie’s irritation and feeling of humiliation as she passes the young pair, Roxie snarls, “And don't talk about shit you don't know anything about. He’s my friend and he plays plenty.”

The dog watches mournfully over her shoulder at that stick that was tossed down, until his view is blocked by all the people.

For all of Roxie's moxie- - Rene answers with a shit-eating kind of grin, practically cocked and ready. But really, he has nothing to gain from getting her riled up further. One hand picks up in a lazy wave, "Au revoir chiot, a bientot."

He's got the feeling that he might see the dog again, even if his human is a piece of work.

"What's so damn fascinating?" Dumortier turns on a heel to address one of the other locals hanging around the event, one who has stopped to watch. This little tooth-baring seems to at least coax them back into their own business, one at a time.

Emily's gaze flits to hold the woman in the corner of her eye as she passes, otherwise unmoving from her spot. She's not here to pick a fight, but she doesn't think she's wrong, either. Additionally, she thinks the woman needs more work on her people skills than even she does. Once she's stomped well past only does Emily turn, seeing the forlorn longing in the pup's eyes before Roxie's back fades into the crowd.

It hits her all too late the woman looks like she's been sleeping rough, like a hand to her elbow and a gentle word might have done more good than harm. She swallows the thought down, trying to not obsess over that missed opportunity. It's hard— she thinks maybe offering to buy her a cup of cider could have gone a long way.

Or maybe she's just a country bitch who hates all these tourists and just wants us all to go away, Em. Don't assume.

Eyelids low, she blinks rapidly to restore her sense of presence in the moment. "Well, that was interesting." she intones, leaning her shoulder into Devon's. "You about ready to check out that maze?"

Devon’s eyebrows raise slowly as he watches the exchange between Dumortier and Roxie. One the one hand, he can't exactly blame the girl — she looks like any number of the refugees he's seen over the years. However…

Clearly she's someone who can take care of herself. So the vague creepiness from the man trying to play with the dog is likely not something to worry about. Hopefully. Because he's taking Emily's suggestion as an excuse to move on.

“Yeah.” Dev pulls back from disbelief and caution to grin at Emily. “Let's get lost. This place might actually be worth the hype and the drive.”

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