I call this “hiding exposition in plain sight.” Sometimes we all have to get the backstory out there. I prefer to have people walking & talking or maybe around a table with drinks. Then there’s this: a montage.
There will be a bit more tomorrow. Then we’re off to the final scene. Trying to wrap it all up by part #25.
Gil began, starting with Nichole’s sudden departure that awful night, twenty years ago. The suburbs and bedroom communities to Portland’s west were still mostly deserted from the initial effects of the Breakup. What few others they did see seemed to completely ignore them; since they looked more like bandits and looters than farmers, that suited Gil and Mac just fine
“Do you think that had something to do with that Nike person, the owner of Zom’s?” Mackenzie asked Nichole.
“Yes, I do.”
“But… how? What?” Mac pressed.
“I do not know the answers to those questions,” Nichole admitted. “We are all older that what was the Breakup is now the Change. And the world is different.”
With that, Gil resumed, describing the farms to the northeast of Hillsboro. Some were abandoned but at least some had already adjusted to a nineteenth-century style of farming. News from the City was rare, so they traded stories for food and the occasional roof over their heads.
“Honestly, that was Mac, not me,” Gil said. “While we all knew she was good at any artistic work she tried, it turns out she’s just as good a bard.”
His wife leaned to kiss him at that; Joe and Mike made an “eww” sound.
“Honestly,” Gil laughed, “we were almost preferring sleeping outdoors at that point. Especially once we started… er…”
“I’m glad you were able to physically love one another so soon,” Nichole smiled. “I was worried.”
“And that’s your fault, Nichole!” Gil said, pointing at her. “Because of Mac’s artist-fueled imagination of listening to us carry on in your room, this quiet, mousy little girl here was like a damned wildcat once we were alone!”
“Oh, yuck, you two,” Erin gagged. “Change the subject, please!”
The adults shared a laugh.
The easier road to the coast led northwest, Gil said, returning to the topic. But after the offhand mention of Tillamook, they turned southwest, instead, crossing the Coastal Range at one of its most difficult points. Their rations from Portland were nearly gone so they fished in the little Wilson River and both of them became adept squirrel hunters.
“When we finally walked out into the Tillamook valley,” Gil admitted, “it looked like heaven on earth.”
Mac picked up the story as her husband fell silent. Much of the local economy had been based on cheese and dairy products but with no trucks or rail coming anymore, that had collapsed. She said she was able to help some of the brewers and later the mayor’s office with the account books before it became known she was an artist. For a drab little community who thought it was dying, her murals about town began to change hearts; to offer hope.