Written and read by William Leavitt
The three horses tethered in front of Lensie’s and Dolmen’s cabins were there for the reserved, lunch included, morning ride to Arrows Canyon, famous as a hideaway for the Apaches in the days of Geronimo.A cock crowed as the wrangler rang the bell of Dolmen’s cabin. Lensie was already up, and came out of her door carrying a plate of watermelons, which she placed on the barrel that was under the pine tree. Dolmen opened his door, his shock of black hair untamed. He waved his palm in a vague gesture that meant he would be out in five minutes. Lensie thought he looked like a stork in the pin-striped pajamas she’d bought for him. She drummed her fingers impatiently on the barrel she was using for a table. “Chelló,” she said to the cowboy, not wanting to harp on Dolmen’s insleeping. “Good morning,” he croaked in a froggy voice. ” Miss, you’ll need a bonnet out on the trail, though I brought a bottle of water, it will get real hot once the moon goes down.” “And I’ll need a ladder to get on that horse,” pointing to the tall bay that was at least twenty hands high. “Do they have names?” Lensie asked without any real interest in their individual nomenclature.
“This one here is ‘Dancer,’ because she’s a little skittish,” the cowboy said, patting the buckskin on the rump, but she won’t flag on you. That big one we call ‘Shrimp,’ and mine here is ‘Parrot‘ cause he likes to talk. Doncha bird?” who whinnied on cue. Dolmen appeared on the porch of the cabin, hair combed and boots in hand. “Mi corazón, donde está mi guitárra?” Lensie sneered and replied, “What are you saying? Now you’re a musician?”
Dolmen reddened and replied gruffly, “St-Lô isn’t the only star around here.” Lensie said, “Excuse me, while I go fish for your crown.” A siren went off in Dolmen’s head, and he wondered what he was doing with this
prickly pear. Ever since he’d spied on her in the tub, his world was turned around, and each encounter with her was more jarring. “Dear, do you remember the woman in the boat selling flowers?” Dolmen asked. Lensie rolled her eyes and snipped, “Yes, she did bless us, but that doesn’t mean… Sit down and have a piece of watermelon before our ride. This kind man will take us to the bluffs that swallowed Geronimo when he needed refuge.” Lensie then began fiddling with the silver hourglass brooch, she had just now pinned to the collar of her denim shirt. She then blurted out excitedly, “Go you and see the arch, and then maybe you’ll pick the proper key.” Dolmen’s ears burned in embarrassment for her outrageous speech in front of others. Alone with her he tolerated the odd constructions and was often amused. The cowboy however, appeared unresponsive to what she was saying, concerned only with a new pair of soft leather gloves, the cuffs on which he was pulling and tugging to stretch them. Dolmen’s stomach churned from hunger and his hating watermelon. To please Lensie he’d agreed to this ride. The canoe trip had been his idea, and thus he couldn’t say no to her wishes. He put on his boots, and then in a move unseen by the others, he crushed a snail that had crawled on to the cool cement of the steps.
Their guide made a preparatory orbit around each horse, checking the cinches and the bridle straps. “Anytime you two are ready, we can weigh anchor. It’s not going to get any cooler sitting here. And just for good measure, I brought some atomizers we can use to mist ourselves and the horses if necessary.” “Let her rip,” thought Dolmen, his mind turning to other forms of transportation, a berth in an airship perhaps, then remembering that his grandfather Eddie had almost booked passage on the Hindenburg. Lensie in the meantime had unbuttoned her shirt a few notches, showing considerable cleavage and as a result changing Dolmen’s perspective. He thought again about his chances with her. Lensie interrupted his thought with, “You’re a thistle in my side sometimes, D.” The wrangler, whose name was Alex, eyed her suspiciously. “You won’t regret her,” he whispered to Dolmen in his nasal tone of voice. “She’s cross, sulky, and you’ll think she has many arms and legs, but once you glide into her font, I give you my word that from hereon, you’ll be glad, and maybe even you’ll be a dad.” Lensie’s antennae were up now, but she was distracted by the quickly darkening sky, that soon filled with leaden clouds. “We’ll go straight to the waterfall that I saw on the map, and storm if it does, won’t matter because we’ll be in the reign of rain.”
“May I see the map?” Dolmen asked. She unfolded it and showed him the landmark. “Here’s our point of departure, and here our arrival. “I’ll lie under it and let it splice me with cool pods of water.” “This caps all,” thought Dolmen, “a chorus girl whose veils were falling away.
“Our first stop is what’s called the observatory, a small cliff dwelling just this side of the wash.” They settled into a comfortable plodding gait along the rustic path, riding in silence, awed by the grand vista of the mesas ahead. They followed the trail through the sage and piñon for almost an hour before the elements let go. Rain poured on them as if from a giant dipper.
Their guide led them to a small outcropping of rock that jutted from a split in the canyon wall. They dismounted and huddled in the opening of what was a much larger cavern than first appeared. Dolmen searched the interior, finding a clear shallow pool, fed by an underground spring. In it he saw furtive amphibious animals. “Lensie, come look, I think I found some axolotls, the fabled serpent of the Aztecs!” “Liar,” she replied testily. Dolmen’s hackles were up again.
“I don’t ask a lot of you,” he thought, smiling at his unspoken pun. She joined him by the pool anyway. Alex was asleep on the apron of the shelter, lying with his head on one of the saddles. Lensie quivered when she saw the salamanders. “They look like little nozzles.” “Can I pee here, now. He’s sleeping.” She’d gathered her skirts into pleats and was hopping from one foot to the other. “Not by the pool, you’ll poison them.” “My honeycomb, you can be such as grouse at times.” She bustled over to a far corner of the cave and disappeared into a maze of rocks.
While Lensie was relieving herself, Dolmen recalled their one brief kiss and the feeling of her full lips on his.
It was midmorning when they reached the waterfall.
Lensie’s disappointment was evident immediately. “Oh, it’s no bigger than a lozenge.” It was in fact modest, a mere outpouring of a stream, falling ten feet into a small basin. Alex didn’t bother to dismount, his face a mask of boredom. Dolmen was lured off his horse when Lensie began shedding her clothes. Alex, in an embarrassed mumble said, “I’ll leave you two here for a while,” and rode off. She was down to her bra and panties before he’d taken off his boots and shirt. “I feel like a seal,” she said as she sat down in the water. She splashed the water gaily with her palms. “Come on in. Your gourds will really scroll up in this cold.” Dolmen sat down gingerly in the freezing pool. Lensie then slid down into the water, completely submerging herself for a few seconds before shooting out of it like a comet. “You forgot the towels, and the comb,” she said as she stood on the bank shivering. Dolmen crawled out and embraced her. She went limp in his arms, her cool wet skin like mercury. But, before he could kiss her properly, she lost her balance and nearly slipped from his grasp. She responded to him as a puppet would, mechanically. “My cricket, we dress now. We’ll ride this chariot later.”
(c) William Leavitt 2002