The Rocky Orchard, the novel that I am currently writing, has a multitude of underlying themes. In terms of the tone, however, it is meant to have the feel of a long, rambling, wondrous walk through the woods. I hope the following section engenders that spirit:
“The first trip Eddie and I took together, we went to Rocky Mountain National Park. We’d only been dating a couple of months. Eddie planned it. He wanted to make me happy, and knew that being outside and hiking and immersed in the mountains would be perfect. We found an adorable little inn – equal parts cute and kitsch – with a remote-control fireplace in the room and our own jacuzzi on the private outdoor deck. We arrived at night, popped open the bottle of wine Eddie had arranged to be waiting for us in the room. We couldn’t stop playing with the remote, turning the fireplace on and off, cracking up so much we spilled red wine all over our clothes, so we ripped them off and ran naked out to the hot tub. That was when I learned that Eddie had a thing about water. Hot tub, shower, ocean – whatever – something took hold of him the second he got wet. He had an immediate and overpowering need to make love. So we did. In our own little hot tub on our own little deck of the room in Estes Park.
“The next morning was one of those Colorado days you remember your whole life. The sky so vast and blue that the whole world seems to be in sharper focus. We took this amazing hike – straight up, like pretty much all hikes in the mountains; and when we got to the topmost point, we kicked off our shoes and waded in a stream not so much bigger than this one. I took a picture of Eddie standing in the middle of that creek, right about the time he was saying to me, ‘This may be the purest water we taste in our entire lives, baby. Drink up before we head down.’
“In a heartbeat, that blue sky darkened to a menacing, steely gray. The temperature dropped probably twenty degrees, and hail the size of marbles slammed us with such force it seemed like it must be trying to hurt us. We started running as fast as we could, and since it was a steep downhill, it felt like we must be flying. Flying and freezing and getting pelted. And laughing. Laughing so hard.
“Right about the time we could spot our car in the parking lot at the trail head, the hail stopped and the skies cleared. Poof. The same stunningly beautiful, warm day as before. Like the universe just wanted to play a funny little trick on us. Know what else, Lula? That ‘purest water we ever taste in our entire lives?’ I got a parasite from drinking it. Was sick as a dog for months. That is, I believe, an outstanding example of the concept of irony. Eddie was fine, by the way.”
Mazie couched down at the creek’s edge and submerged both her hands in the cool water. She spread her fingers wide, letting the creek’s slow current flow over and around and between them. She turned her hands palm-side-up, raised them out of the creek, and let the water run between her fingers.
With a great effort, Lula knelt beside Mazie.
Neither woman said a word for quite a while.
“Is Eddie fine now, Lula?” Mazie asked. “Is he all right?”
painting: Megan Gibbons