LookoutbyEl Amor Brujo©
Do I believe in soulmates? You bet I do, and if you're destined to meet yours you will, no matter what mountains may be placed in your path. In the case of Evan and me, there was just one mountain and it was an isolated peak of 7200 feet in northwestern Montana. It was called Wolf Mountain and there was a lookout tower on top of it, a fourteen by fourteen foot box perched on stilts above a barren rocky summit, below which stretched sloping meadows of beargrass and dwarf huckleberry interrupted by granite outcrops and talus fields. A stone thrown from the tower would find the first scrubby trees of timberline, but real forest started lower, at around 6,000 feet. The tower had windows all around and they afforded a spectacular view: to the southeast lay the Mission Mountains, still wearing snow on their north faces; beyond the Missions marched the main chain of the Rockies, taller and snowier, bearing the Continental Divide north into Canada; northwest the Selkirk and Purcell Ranges in the Idaho Panhandle also faded away into distant British Columbia, while to the southwest and west reared the Bitteroot and Cabinet Mountains, respectively. In all of this wild expanse the only signs of human activity were a few distant clearcuts and a little pastureland. All else was mountains and forest, as far as the eye could see. I was the fire lookout on Wolf Mountain and it was my job to periodically gaze at this magnificence throughout the day. If I saw any smoke or lightning strikes I radioed the dispatcher at the District Ranger Station and reported the location. Aside from this duty my time was my own. I'd been on the tower for six weeks, since early July, and in that time I'd not seen a single human being, save two visits from the packer, who'd brought fresh supplies. I was desperately lonely and horny as a goat.
My name, by the way, is Janet. I was a forestry major about to start my senior year at Iowa State. Iowa doesn't have much in the way of forests so a lot of students there look for summer jobs in the West where they can experience the real thing. The previous three summers I'd planted trees, fought fires and cruised timber, all for the U.S. Forest Service. The work was tough, the company rough and predominantly male. When the chance came to spend this summer as a fire lookout I jumped at it. Having just gotten out of a relationship with a brilliant, attractive and domineering engineering student, I was really looking forward to some solitude in which to recuperate, ponder and catch up on my music and artwork. My body had other ideas.
Working summers for the Forest Service may not do much for the mind but it can do wonders for the body. The nearest water was a spring and shallow tarn about a half mile and 800 vertical feet below the summit. The daily hike back to the lookout packing five gallons of water on my back had given me legs of iron and buns of steel. At five feet nine and maybe a hundred and forty pounds I was no fashion model, but the only fat on me was right where it did the most good. Actually, that tanned and curvaceous bod was doing nobody any good, unless you counted the pikas. When I'd wander out into meadows to pick berries, clad only in my hiking boots, they'd stare lustfully at me and whistle. Lascivious little lagomorphs.
At the beginning of August I'd had a wonderful dream. Normally my dreams are pretty inconsequential and soon forgotten, but I'll never forget this one. I was in an airport gift shop and a friend was introducing me to a man. He had strong features and eyes you never wanted to look away from. Instead of shaking hands we embraced, and with the embrace all barriers came down and our souls merged. He threw back his head and laughed in exultation, a hearty, earthy laugh. I awoke exalted, feeling that I'd never known love until that moment. I was certain that the dream was precognitive, that at any moment this man would step into my life and we'd live happily ever after. Now, after three weeks of continued isolation I wasn't so sure. After all, I could hardly have picked a worse location for meeting new people, let alone the love of my life. Besides, maybe my dream figure wasn't a real person; maybe I was meeting the male side of myself – what did Jung call it? – my animus. Or was he a disembodied spirit, maybe some kind of angel. But would an angel bringing God's love be so sexy and down-to-earth? Angels weren't supposed to be sexy, were they? Every time I'd think about his eyes, and his embrace, my nipples would grow erect and I'd feel moisture between my thighs. I wanted to maintain a sense of purity about the experience but my body, as I've already noted, has a mind of its own.
By eleven o'clock on August twenty-third my thermometer read seventy degrees. In Missoula the temperature would already be in the nineties. Yesterday the high there had been one hundred and three, while Wolf Mountain had topped out at eighty-one. No more perfect summer weather exists than that which is found in the northern Rockies at 7000 feet. The radio came to life: This is your updated fire weather forecast for August twentieth: Three weather systems are approaching the northern Rocky Mountains and are expected to converge over the area tonight bringing thunderstorms, high winds and locally heavy rains. A strong cold front will be dropping down from Canada and meeting a Pacific system which is presently bringing rain to the northern Cascades. These two systems will combine with the flow of monsoonal moisture already in place to produce strong thunderstorms, high winds and locally heavy rain. With the passage of the cold front after midnight the rain should turn to snow at elevations over 7000 feet. Accumulations of one foot or more could occur on the higher peaks. Temperatures tomorrow...
I turned down the volume and absorbed the news. The fire season was about to end, and with it my summer job. I was ready to come down. My hoped-for period of reflection and regrouping had turned into long days of lonely yearning, and I had no more answers to life's questions than I'd had in June, only more questions. Out of habit I scanned the surrounding territory for plumes of smoke. Nothing on the ridge to the east where I'd reported several lightning strikes the night before last. Not that it mattered. By tomorrow there wouldn't be a fire burning anywhere in the Northern Region; fire crews would be packing to go home and so would I.
My musings were distracted by a flash of movement several hundred yards down the ridge to the east, where the trail to the lookout emerged from the trees. Was it another bear? I'd seen one in just that spot two days ago, a big cinnamon-colored sow with two cubs. No, this was a human! I grabbed the binoculars. A man in shorts and tee shirt leapt into view. He had a daypack on his back and seemed to still have a spring in his stride after a steep four-mile climb from the trailhead. I couldn't quite make out his features at this distance, but what I could see looked pretty good. Hell, Quasimodo would have looked good to me at this point. I was finally getting a visitor! Oh damn! The place was a sty! I scurried frantically around the cabin picking up clothes, books, my neglected art supplies. Actually, there wasn't that much to pick up; I hadn't brought a lot of stuff, knowing that there wasn't room for it. I laid my violin case on the alidade. At least I'd washed the dishes. Yikes, I wasn't wearing a bra! I dug into my bag of clothing and fished out the only one I'd brought, a lacy flesh-colored item. No, dammit! I hadn't worn a bra all summer and I wasn't about to start now! My tee shirt was a little on the thin side but it would have to do. My shorts would have to do as well, even though there was a big huckleberry stain on the butt. Hard to avoid if you sit down to pick berries. I took another look out the window. He was nowhere to be seen! The trail was empty! Where. . .
"Anybody home?" called a voice from directly beneath my feet. I ran out the door and leaned over the railing of the catwalk. I still couldn't see anybody.
"Come on up. You're a fast walker! Would you like some tea or lemonade? Of course you would, after that hike."
"I don't want to intrude. I didn't realize this tower was manned. I just came up to see the view."
"Well you'd better come up and see it. You're my first visitor all summer and I'm not going to let you escape yet!"
"I don't think I want to escape. I'll be right up." I heard his footsteps as he started up the stairs. A moment later he stepped onto the catwalk. He was dusty and streaked with sweat. He was maybe half a head taller than I was. He smiled, looking at me. He was gorgeous.
"The scenery up here is even more beautiful than I'd imagined," he said, looking into my eyes. I felt a major blush developing beneath my tan.
"Those peaks over there are in Glacier Park. You picked a good day to come up. It's supposed to storm tonight. What made you decide to climb Wolf Mountain? Nobody ever comes up here. No lakes, no fishing. I'm Janet, by the way." I knew I was babbling. I couldn't stop. My loneliness had made me as garrulous as a barfly. Actually, that was probably a good thing. Normally I'm rather shy around strangers and on the few occasions when I'd been introduced to really attractive men I'd been absolutely tongue-tied and no doubt came across as cold and distant.
"I'm Evan," he said. We didn't shake hands. We didn't embrace either. Rats. Nothing like my dream. Those eyes, though- Brad Pitt would have swapped on the spot. "I was on my way to Glacier this morning, but when I saw this mountain from the highway, with the lookout on top, I thought maybe I should climb it; I'd never been to a lookout. Just then I saw a sign for Wolf Mountain and decided it was fate. I followed the road to the trailhead and here I am." He paused. "So were you pretty lonely up here all summer with no visitors?"
"Yeah. I thought I'd enjoy it. I needed some space. But I got over that in a hurry. I guess I'm not cut out to be a hermit - or a nun. Come on in. I can make iced tea or lemonade, and there's huckleberry pie. Have you had huckleberry pie? Are you from the Northwest?"
"No to both questions. I'm living in Salt Lake City right now, but I'm originally from Pennsylvania." Good. Probably not a Mormon. Mormonism or born-again Christianity wouldn't mesh well with my own rather vague pantheism... Oh brother! I'd known him three minutes and here I was planning our future together! I realized with a shock that I also fully intended to jump his bones. And there was no time to lose.
He followed me inside. "Would you care for lemonade? It's not fresh, but the mix is pretty good. And I've got ice. Go ahead and sit on the bed, it's the best seat in the house." He sat down. Oh shit! I'd left my bra on the bed! He was practically sitting on it! Oh well. I got the ice cubes out of the little propane refrigerator and started to measure the lemonade mix. My back was to him but I could see his reflection in a little mirror propped on the counter. I couldn't stop looking at him, even to make lemonade. He'd noticed the bra. He cast a couple of sidelong glances at it and then quickly fingered the tag.
"It's a 38C," I said without turning around. "The label's faded and kind of hard to read."
He was immediately mortified, but managed a rueful grin. "Busted," he said.
I laughed. "Was that a bad pun?"
"Is there any other kind?" He was really cute when he blushed. "God, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-"
"Oh hush! I shouldn't have left it out. Anyway, I'll forgive you on three conditions: first, you can help me carry water up from the spring; second, you have to stay for dinner."
"I can happily agree to those conditions. What about number three?"
"I'll think of something," I replied. Yes! That bra had bought me some time, unless I sent him fleeing prematurely down the mountain by being too forward. Not my usual problem. Part of me was standing back and admiring my unprecedented chutzpah.
I gave him his lemonade. "Can I see your fiddle?" he asked.
"Sure." I opened the case and handed him the instrument.
He examined it from all angles. "Looks German. It's in pretty good shape. Maybe a hundred years old?"
"I guess. It was my grandmother's. She gave it to me when I was eleven. How do you know about violins?"
"It's what I do. I majored in violin performance at Temple for two years before I decided I'd rather make them. I've been going to violin-making school in Salt Lake City. I'll graduate next spring, or at least I hope to."
"Evan, that is so totally cool. Listen to me, I'm talking like a fourteen-year-old. Will you play something? Please?"
"You can't sound like a fourteen-year-old unless you misuse 'like' at least twice in every sentence. You only said it once and you used it correctly. And yes, I'd be happy to play if you don't mind some rustiness."
I gave him the bow and shoulder rest. He stood up and launched into a soulful, bluesy rendition of Summertime. I was immediately enraptured. By the time he finished I was nearly in tears. "Evan...I'm overwhelmed. Ask me for anything."
He smiled. "I'll think of something," he quoted.
"Which reminds me," I said, "you owe me a trip to the water hole. We should probably get started. But I want to ask you, could you teach me to get that kind of sound on my violin?"
"I could try. If you have a strong concept of the sound you want and are determined enough, you should be able to do it. But maybe we should start your lessons at a later date."
I liked the sound of that, especially the part about a later date. I wanted lots of later dates, but I decided for once to keep my mouth shut.
We strapped the empty plastic water containers onto packframes and started down the steep, narrow trail to the spring, occasionally stopping to pick and eat huckleberries. The day was still warm and sunny, but off to the west the sky had a steely cast, and in the east thunderheads were piling up over the Rockies. And I was planning on generating some electricity of my own when we got to the waterhole.
"This is fantastic!" exclaimed Evan when we arrived. The spring seeped out of the base of a rocky outcrop, flowed over a miniature waterfall framed by ferns and moss, and trickled into a small pond, about forty feet across and maybe four feet deep in the middle. "Do you swim in here?"
"Every day," I replied, "at least if it's sunny. If it's cloudy the water stays too cold. I'm not your polar bear type." I set the five-gallon containers to catch the water as it went over the little falls, then started to remove my boots and socks. Evan was eyeing me speculatively, perhaps with a little alarm. "I generally wear my clothes when I go in. That way I can wash my clothes and me at the same time." I began to wade. "Come on in, if you're so inclined. I brought soap," I said, flourishing a bar. I was pleased to see him start to follow me into the pool; I wanted to seduce a clean, sweet-smelling man, not a grimy, stinky one. I know some people prefer it otherwise, but not me. A dirty mind in a clean body, that's my motto.
When I got waist-deep I began to wash. I soaped and rinsed my face and then laved my pits, working the lather into my tee shirt. Next I started working on my shorts, taking extra time with the huckleberry stain. Hopeless. Behind me Evan was watching circumspectly, but with interest. I unfastened my shorts but left them around my waist. I reached between my legs and soaped my crotch and panties. Then I zipped back up, turned around and tossed the soap to Evan. "Your turn!" I called, and dove in and swam underwater across the pond. When I neared the shore I came up for air and turned to watch Evan as he bathed. I didn't bother to be circumspect.
He followed my lead and soaped over and under his clothes. I wanted to help, but held my peace. His body was lean and muscular. I wondered how he kept it that way. He was less bulgy than a bodybuilder, but bulkier than a distance runner and with more definition than a swimmer. He looked the way God intended a man to look. I really wanted him. Whoa, girl, not yet. Time to stoke the fire a bit. I stood up in the water and walked toward him. The thin shirt had become semi-transparent and was plastered to my breasts. The large, tan aureoles were plainly visible as were my small, hardening nipples. Evan was visibly excited but still trying not to stare. "Looks as though I win the wet tee shirt contest," I said cheerfully. Brazen hussy!
"There's no contest," he replied weakly.
"Oh, I don't know," I said, walking still closer. "I know lots of women with smaller boobs than you've got." "Hey, those aren't boobs, they're pecs!" he said with mock indignation.
"I dunno, they look like boobs to me." I put my hand on his chest and squeezed "They feel like boobs." Evan flexed his chest muscles, which became rock hard under my hand. "Wow! I stand corrected. I certainly can't do that with mine."
"Are you sure? Maybe I ought to check. After all, turnabout's fair play."
"No!" I exclaimed, knocking his hand away. "Turnabout is definitely not fair play!" Not yet, anyway, I added silently.
We shouldered our now weighty packs and trundled back up the trail. Our wet clothing helped provide evaporative cooling, preventing us from getting hot and sweaty again. "Is this what the physicists call 'heavy water?'" asked Evan.
"I don't think so. At least when I spilled some on the radio the other day it shorted it out."
"And that meant it was..."
"Radio-inactive." We appeared to be on the same wavelength.
Evan thought for a moment and then asked, "did you know that there's a way to recharge a battery without using electricity?"
I sensed a punch line lurking just out of sight. "No, tell me."
"You simply pour sodium chloride into each cell of the battery and you'll be back to full charge within minutes. But it's illegal. In fact, you could get up to five years in prison."
"On what charge?"
"A-saltin' a battery."
By the time we reached the tower the exertion and bad jokes had dissipated most of the sexual tension that had been building up since we met, but it quickly redeveloped as we prepared dinner. We chatted freely about everything but sex and our feelings for each other. Also left unmentioned was the likelihood that if he stayed for dinner it would be too dark to hike down afterwards. And the fact that there was only one bed. . .
Fresh vegetables were in short supply so we cobbled together a shepherd's pie using mashed potatoes, carrots and leftover lentils. We put it all in a cast iron skillet, which would serve as a casserole dish, and topped it with cheddar cheese. I knew that by the time the propane oven preheated and the pie baked it would be too late for him to leave, even if he bolted his food. I stood unnecessarily close to him as we worked, sometimes brushing thighs and once managing to rub against his arm with my breast. Each time we touched I felt an exquisite electricity. This was something new in my rather limited experience. I think he felt the same charge, because when it happened he looked at me and smiled shyly.
For a romantic touch at the dinner table I put a candle in a wine bottle and lit it. Too bad I'd already drunk the wine in July. For dessert I served a whortleberry pie that I'd baked the day before. There was only one piece missing. Evan's eyes opened wide with amazement after his first bite. "This is incredible! I've never tasted anything like it!"
"Whortleberries are to huckleberries what huckleberries are to blueberries; much smaller and more piquant."
"Every berry is an explosion of flavor. But they're so tiny. How long does it take to pick enough for a pie?"
"In this case about two hours, but the picking was exceptionally good. But on a lookout tower time is seldom of the essence." Except today.