The Continuing Saga of Bacteria and Words

How is this possible? My sore throat is back but I feel perfectly strong and rested. Putting in MD and Acupuncturist calls tomorrow. Ugh! What more can I do – I’ve been on house arrest for six days, not having left the mountain ONCE!

I don’t know where my other writing voice went, but this other one is still siphoning cells from my brain. This is how it goes – the writing life is a process of surrender…So tonight, another excerpt from the same draft story, picking up where I left off two nights ago:

The consequences of those early morning rides finally caught up to us on an advanced trail ride one afternoon during fifth session. A 13-year-old camper named Heather had fallen instantly for Casino, hurrying down after lunch chores each day to give him an extra brushing before saddling up. Seeing her confidence with him, Tina and I obliged when she requested to ride Casino for the remainder of the session. Tina would ride Blaze, a complacent Quarter horse cross, sent to us mid-summer that stood 16 hands tall. Heather could ride second in line on Casino, who had by now grown accustomed to leading but might fare well with the transition. I held position in back, the exhaust from Lady’s ass profuse enough to keep Vegas at a safe distance without my command.

Our line must have been ten or twelve horses long and as I imagined Tina and Blaze rounding the bend from the fire road that opened up to Main Beach, I heard a commotion at the head of the line. Tina called on Channel 2, “Casino’s bolted. I need you up front now. Hold the line!” Fear hijacked her voice and while I steered Vegas through brush alongside the line of horses, I heard Heather’s rabbit-kill shrieks fading in the distance. By now, Blaze had worked himself into a fit; sidestepping and circling in the middle of the trail while the rest of the line whinnied and backed up. I had left a camper on Lady to hold the rear of the line and could only hope she’d play the part. At the sight of Vegas, Blaze took off across Main Beach, Tina cussing in Czech all the way, though by the time they crossed the beach and re-entered the woods, she had him under control again. Surely she knew enough not to chase Casino, an act that would only hasten his revolt. Vegas seemed nonchalant and stepped into position at the head of the line without a fuss, which allowed me to assure the harried campers.

If my own fear felt as poignant as I remember it, it did not show when I turned to face the campers. Casino had bolted, camper and all, an act I never experienced as a rider, the mysterious threat of it echoing in me as persistently as Heather’s screams. Somehow her wails had embarrassed me. My imagination could relate to every trill of uncertainty in her screams, a confession that made me feel all the more childish. Though this would be my best summer at Y-Camp, holding the line with Vegas that afternoon I’d had to face up to the severity of my own lack of experience – as both a rider and a would-be lover.

Seconds felt like minutes and the row of riders, myself included, stared through the woods making a slow arc from left to right with our collective gaze, following the loop we knew the trail made, though we could not see the other side of it through the dense forest. The only sign that Casino stayed roughly on trail was the continual call of Heather’s shrill voice, which despite its pitch, I knew proved she hadn’t been knocked senseless by a low-hanging branch. But as our eyes scanned the woods, by now at the far edge of the periphery where the trail should have looped horse and rider back around, Heather’s cries grew distant instead of near. In that moment I realized Casino had run off trail, for the fire road ended, leaving only two options: barreling through the woods toward the property line or to looping back around towards our diligent line.

Tina radioed again: “Bring the line across the beach now, and loop around. Casino’s found a patch of blackberry at West Beach. We’ll meet you near the far end of the loop.” Again, the curved tones of her Czech accent exuded confidence. West Beach. I hadn’t thought of that but it made sense now. West Beach fanned out at the end of an un-groomed trail Tina and I frequently ran the horses on during Chapel, a trail far enough from the worshipping campers so as not to disturb their silent prayers with the sound of pounding hooves and our uncensored whoops and hollers.

By the day’s end, Tina and I both needed a beer. Being underage and on-duty this was out of the question, so we rallied the rest of the AHE team members for a swim in the cold Sandy River to ease our sweated thigh muscles and lick the corral dirt from our pores. Carl, our team director, had been on Channel 2 during Casino’s bolt and commended us for a job well done. While he hadn’t seen the fears I’d hidden from the campers, he had heard me call to Tina over the radio and suggest they join back up with the group on foot, a move Carl approved of for the psychological relief it provided our young camper. He’d also gotten wind that Tina and I worked with Heather in the corral later, helping her back on Casino and chaperoning five laps of trotting and a few stretches of cantering so she could regain her integrity and Casino wouldn’t get the last word. Carl’s praise, although short-winded, rang in my ears the rest of the week enough to relieve the pangs I’d felt on the trail in the heat of the moment. Maybe I did have a bit more know-how than I thought and besides, what did my foolish act with Emmett matter? I had found a new attraction and this time, I led the way.

His family called him Drew, though everyone else called him Doughboy – unflattering only if you hadn’t seen his Pillsbury impression. Soon, Doughboy shortened to D-boy, the name that finally stuck. Spoken quickly enough, it reminded me of Dubois, an author whose work I admired and a fact that served D-boy well, though he hadn’t heard of the man. D-boy stood a whopping 6’6” and the one time I saw him on a horse, it simply didn’t look right. His distaste for large mammals made my work as an AHE team member that much more admirable to him and he frequently complimented the knack I had enticing small children onto horses for the first time. “You know how to make them smile,” he’d said, then slipped his smooth, giant palm into mine.

Where Emmett and I had been unromantically bold and bordering on obscene, D-boy and I stayed G-rated. I believe we kissed only once, something I had pulled off late one night in the staff lounge in order to get his attention and finally persuade him that yes, I was interested in him, despite his size and ungainliness. Honestly, this had been just the pairing I wanted – something that came with enough genuine affection to merit acceptance and get noticed by the other staff members, while also remaining utterly simple and manageable. I never considered him a boyfriend, never wanted more than his approval, and rarely offered more than that in return. It wasn’t until later that fall, both of us on opposite sides of Washington State attending college, when his emails persisted and I discovered he had more room in his heart for me than I’d originally thought. But by then I’d moved on, wooed too easily at a Violent Femmes concert by the sad-eyed Rex Wallace, an Army recruit and the man I’d eventually lose my virginity to.

[NO, the rest of the story does NOT divulge the details of Rex Wallace…I don’t believe in sex scenes.]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.