tagNon-EroticProblems in the Ponderosas Ch. 01

Problems in the Ponderosas Ch. 01



This is another story arising out of the seemingly innocuous situation of a young couple going into a forest to have a picnic lunch and make out a little while they're there. The first story I submitted that started out that way, got mangled up in the submission process, and only a little bit made it through. Later I re-submitted it, slightly rewritten, under the title 'Peril in the Pines' in seven chapters, and it came out all right.

This story starts out the same way, but it takes a different route, with a different setting, different characters, and different plot. So you might think of this as 'Peril in the Pines Reconsidered.'

This story contains almost no sex. What little sex there is, I have described in general terms rather than elaborate on every drop of sweat and glob of semen. If you want torrid sex scenes, minutely described, that will leave you feeling gooey and sticky and exhausted, you'd do well to read some other story.


The only sound in the forest was the breeze swishing through the tops of the tall pines. On the forest floor, the thick mat of needles was like a soft, spongy carpet that cushioned each footstep. As we carried our picnic provisions between the tree trunks, each step was as silent as if we were tiptoeing, and the music of the pines was like the background score in a suspense movie. We found a tiny clearing, just wide enough to accommodate our blanket, and set Val's backpack down in a corner and my cooler next to it, agreeing to all these decisions in muted voices, barely above a whisper. Looking around, we were awed by the solemn beauty of the place. It could have been a majestic cathedral.

I lay down on the blanket and motioned Val to lie beside me. Our eyes darted everywhere, taking in the interplay of light and shadow, of brown trunks, light green undergrowth, and darker pine needles.

Val rolled onto her side to face me and softly said, "Hold me, Ken." I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and gently pulled her close. I could feel her breath against my neck. "I love you, Ken. I love you all the time, but this seems like the ideal place to tell you so. It's so still here, like being in a world of our own, without another soul to break in on our privacy. This is our own little Garden of Eden, and all the world beyond these trees doesn't exist any more."

"You're right, that's just what it feels like. Lying here, I can feel every muscle in my body relaxing. I can even feel your heart beating. It's so peaceful, and the trees sort of blend into the background so I can concentrate on you. Ever since I came home from overseas I've been a little tense, and the only way I ever feel totally at peace is when I'm with you. This is so relaxing, holding you, looking at your face, your body, and feeling you warm and soft in my arms. But what about you, are you comfortable? Can I do anything to make it better for you?"

"I'm all right. My shoulders were a little tired from hunching forward carrying the backpack but they're feeling better now. Could you rub them a little?"

There it was, the invitation I'd been hoping for. I had to suppress the impulse to reach over suddenly and rip her clothes off. Instead I made myself move slowly, undoing one button at a time, but I didn't stop at two or three; instead I let my fingers march steadily down to the very last one. I pushed the shirt open, and Val raised up halfway to let me take it off and toss it over by the backpack. I pushed her brown hair with the blond streaks back from her shoulders and rubbed the places where the straps had pressed against her tender skin. Then I slipped the bra straps down off her shoulders and rubbed those spots, too. Finally I reached around back and unhooked the bra, which found its new home on top of her shirt. Val smiled a little contented smile and did to my shirt what I'd done to hers, then lay down with her beautiful breasts pressed into the hairs of my chest. We lay still, just enjoying the feeling of skin on skin. Our intimacy didn't depend on either one of us saying a word, except for when I whispered, "I love you, too, Val. Loving you is the best thing that's ever happened to me, and I want to hold you like this forever."

Then a rifle bullet slammed into a tree trunk about four feet from our heads with a cracking sound, followed immediately by the distant bang of the rifle shot, and I instinctively tightened my grip on Val and rolled up over her to shield her from harm. I felt little fragments of pine bark falling onto my bare back.

Val struggled a little, and I whispered, "Stay down. We make a small target down here on the ground. That shot may have been to scare us into doing something, and if we stand up and run we may be shot down. If the message is just supposed to be for us to get out of here, somebody will warn us off. Let's just wait and see what happens. You stay where you are." I rolled off her and reached over to the backpack, lifting the flap on the side so I could pull my pistol out of it. It was a Daewoo 9mm, loaded with thirteen hollow point cartridges in the magazine and one in the chamber. It was an accurate shooter, a good defensive weapon at twenty yards but useless at fifty or more, which I guessed was the distance from us to the rifleman. With my other hand I grabbed Val's shirt and quickly rolled back to her side, laying the shirt over her, and spreading it out so it covered the gun on the blanket between our bodies.

"Just lie still. If they just want us to clear out, they'll tell us. If they want to kill us, the shooter will have to get closer to get a clear shot between the tree trunks. I hope he'll come close enough so I can get a shot at him. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

"Ken, I hear somebody coming!" I laid a finger across her lips and inched away just enough to free up my right hand and arm. I picked up the pistol and shoved the safety off with my thumb, and then tried to hold it loosely so my hand wouldn't shake when I raised it up. Val was trembling with fear. I was afraid, too, but tried not to let my body fail me when I needed to act quickly. I recall bargaining with my body, thinking that when this was over I'd allow myself the luxury of going all to pieces, if only I could maintain control when I needed it.

A man approached and stopped just beyond the blanket. He was tall and lean, wearing jeans tucked into work boots and a plaid shirt with the sleeves torn off. He had a week's growth of beard, and dark, oily hair sticking out from under a grimy John Deere cap. In his right hand he held a 30 caliber bolt action rifle with a scope, pointing down at the ground. He looked us over and said, "Well if this ain't cozy. Listen, I'll give you two kids a chance to git outta here. You got one minute to git outta my sight 'fore I start shootin'."

Way back where the gunman had come from, a man shouted, "Put 'em down, Clyde, right now. Can't have 'em runnin' their mouths to the law. Remember, they've seen yer face now."

Clyde's hand holding the rifle started to move, and stopped. He was thinking, apparently something that he didn't do often and couldn't do quickly. My guess was that he was hesitant to murder us in cold blood, or he might be thinking of the hard work of dragging our bodies away through the woods and digging a grave. While he thought it over I lifted my pistol, still covered by Val's shirt, and got off a quick shot, shooting from the hip except that I was lying on my back. Hipshots are rarely all that accurate from a standing position, and lying down flat didn't help any, so the bullet barely grazed his right arm. He started to drop the rifle but it lurched forward and he just caught the butt end of the stock with his left hand. He was startled, more than hurt, but the unexpected injury, plus the rifle being upside down, confused him, and I took advantage of the moment to yell, "Lay the gun down and step back."

Clyde blinked, shook his head, and then laid the rifle on the ground and took two steps back, stopping when he backed up against a tree. I got up into a crouch, took a step forward, grabbed the rifle with my left hand, and passed it back to Val. "Now turn to your right and start walking. Don't stop, don't turn around, and don't go anywhere but out toward the railroad track. And keep quiet. At this range I couldn't miss with my eyes shut."

We made a strange procession. Clyde was in the lead. His right arm was bleeding steadily, just above the elbow. His left hand was clamped around the wound, and he staggered slightly as he walked. I came next, with my pistol in my right hand and my shirt in my left. Val brought up the rear, struggling to carry the rifle, slip her shirt on, and stick her bra in her jeans pocket, all at once. As we got to the edge of the woods I reached back and took the rifle from her so she could get herself organized, and by the time we got to the pickup she was looking pretty good. But she always looked good to me so I guess I'm not the most reliable witness.

Val dug her phone out of her pocket and dialed 911. She handed it to me, and I talked to the police operator. "We have been assaulted by an armed man. We're holding him at gunpoint, and we need a policeman or two to take him off our hands. They should go on Miller Road to the railroad and drive east, along the south side of the tracks, half a mile or so. Look for a bright yellow pickup. There's another bad guy in the woods who wants us dead, and he may come after us. Please hurry."

I had Clyde sit down halfway between the woods and the pickup, with his legs straight out in front of him. Then I had him take off his cap, put the rest of his rifle cartridges in it, and put it as far to his left as he could reach. Then he quickly returned his left hand to his wounded arm, and I stayed behind him while I grabbed the hat. Val popped the magazine out of the rifle and pulled back on the bolt just enough to see that there was a live round in the chamber. She put the safety on, topped up the magazine, and shoved it back into place. Then she pushed the safety to the 'fire' position and turned her attention to the woods. At my suggestion, she moved away from us by ten yards, and got into a prone position with her elbows planted in the dirt. Her position was perfect. I just hoped that if it came to pulling the trigger, she was up to it.

Then it all happened at once. A short, fat guy with a pistol in his hand stepped out of the woods, just about in front of me. I don't think he noticed Val off to his left, and I know that my pistol was hidden from him by Clyde's body. He yelled, "Clyde, get up and get over here!" Clyde started to obey, and put his left hand down on the ground to help him stand up. I fired a shot into the dirt a few inches from his fingertips and he changed his mind. The fat guy said, "Then I'm gonna kill you both." He raised his pistol to aim at us but he never made it, as the rifle fired and he got a funny look on his face. He started to fall forward, dropped the pistol as he fell, and landed flat on the ground, face down.

Val asked me, "What do you want me to do?"

"Cycle the bolt and then watch him through the scope. If he moves, put a shot into the ground near his head as a warning. If he moves again, shoot him in the head."

We could hear a distant siren getting closer, and by the time I'd finished talking to Val the tires of the police car were crunching on the dirt of the railroad right of way. Two uniformed policemen got out and took charge of the situation. Clyde was handcuffed and bandaged, and put into the car, where he was read his rights. They decided the fat guy was dead, and left him where he lay in a pool of blood. Val and I were questioned and gave statements separately, speaking into a hand mike in the front seat of the police car. Then she was put into the police car and taken to the police station by one policeman, while I followed, driving my pickup with the other policeman riding in the passenger seat. On the way to Miller Road we passed the police van that was going to look at the crime scene and haul the fat man's corpse away.


I sat in an interrogation room, across the table from a police captain. First he asked me to tell him what happened. Then he started with questions.

"What were you doing in the woods? Don't you know you were trespassing?"

"It's BLM land. Everybody goes there and nobody ever says a thing to them. It's not even fenced or posted. What we were doing was getting ready to have a picnic. We had our stuff in a backpack and a cooler, and unless somebody took them they're still there on our blanket."

"What if you'd started a forest fire?"

"This is where we grew up. We've lived with the threat of forest fires all our lives. We wouldn't be so stupid as to start a fire in the woods. We don't even smoke."

"How did you decide that those two guys wanted to hurt you?"

"First a rifle bullet into a tree just above my head. If I'd been standing up instead of lying down, it would have killed me. That was to get my attention, I guess. Then, when the tall guy came right up to us with a rifle, I had no illusion that he wanted to chat. Then the other guy yelled at him to kill us, and he started to move the rifle when he heard that order."

"How did you know that the person who yelled to kill you was the same one who came out of the woods with the pistol?"

"Same voice. He was yelling again, and I had no trouble recognizing the voice."

"What made you and your girlfriend so sure that the fat man was going to harm you?"

"He yelled that he was going to kill Clyde and Me. Then he raised his pistol to shoot us."

"Did you tell your girlfriend to shoot him?"

"I had told her earlier to top up the magazine, move away from us, lie down into a prone shooting position, take the safety off, and be ready to defend us from the other man. So while I didn't say, 'Fire' just as the guy was starting to aim his pistol, I had already told her enough so she knew what to do."

"How many shots did she fire?"

"Just one. Looked to me that she got him in the center of mass, and from that angle she probably took out his heart, some arteries, and a lot of nerves. If the bullet hit a rib first and tumbled, it could have torn up one or both of his lungs. She placed the shot perfectly."

"What were you doing while she did that?"

"I was lining up my pistol to shoot him, over Clyde's right shoulder. When he started to fall forward I held off, and when he dropped his pistol and went face down onto the dirt, I lowered my pistol."

"Did you put the safety on?"

"No. I still had to hold Clyde for the police."

"Why did you take a pistol into the woods with you?"

"It goes where I go, unless there's a sign on the building saying that firearms are not allowed, or it's a place where I know they aren't allowed, like a school or post office."

"What makes you think you can handle a gun properly?"

"I've had excellent instruction, both in the Army and as a civilian before I enlisted."

"How did you know that your girlfriend could handle a gun properly?"

"Because I taught her."

"And I suppose you think of yourself as an expert in firearms instruction."

"I gave combat firearms training to over a hundred men in the Army. I don't have hard statistics, but based on what I could get I figured they accounted for over five hundred enemy combatant deaths, and not one of my trainees was ever wounded by small arms fire. A few were blown up, but that had nothing to do with their ability to handle their personal weapons."

"Where did all this happen?"

"A worthless wasteland called Afghanistan."

I pushed my chair back and stood up. "These questions have gone beyond anything that will be useful to your investigation, so I'm leaving."

"You'll leave when I tell you to leave."

"Think again. I've been sitting here cooperating with you all this time of my own free will. You have no evidence of any crime on my part, because I haven't committed any. Even if I had, not one word of what I've said could be used against me because you've never read me my rights. If you want to hold me here, you'd better go through the right motions, and if you expect to ask me one more question you'll have to do it through my lawyer. And another thing, I want my pistol back and the thirteen hollow point cartridges that were in it when I surrendered it to your policeman."

"We'll have to keep your pistol and ammo for a while until the coroner rules on the events that took place out there today."

"The coroner has no business with my pistol. It caused a minor flesh wound in Clyde's right arm, and that's nothing for the coroner to concern himself with because it didn't result in a death. One Band-aid will take care of it. Val killed the fat man with Clyde's rifle, and you can keep that forever, for all I care. Now stop lying to me and give me my pistol and ammo."

The captain looked resentful, as if somebody'd let the air out of his balloon, and I wondered if I'd done a smart thing coming on so strong to him. But he'd behaved like such an asshole that I certainly wasn't jeopardizing any blossoming friendship, so I mentally shrugged off the exchange. Looking at him I could see that the wheels were turning, but finally he said, "You can pick up your stuff from the desk sergeant on your way out."


I was surprised to see that Val was ready to go, waiting for me by the front door of the station. "How come you got off so easy? Here you were the one who killed the fat guy and they let you out in just a few minutes, and I had to sit there and get grilled six ways to Sunday, and insulted to boot."

"Why do you suppose that was?"

"Probably because you're a beautiful girl and I look more like a hardened criminal."

"Well, I told them all over again what happened and I wrote a statement and signed it."


"Because they asked me to."

"Well, if they decide that they need a fall guy, they can always pull out your statement and try to make something of it. When you told them what happened, they recorded it so they'd have it to refer to as they investigate what was going on out there in the woods. They didn't need your signed statement at all. It won't help them, but it could hurt you."

"Oh, I never thought of that. Should we have got a lawyer to go in there with us?"

"Probably, but it's too late now. Let's just see what comes of all this. Our defense is that we didn't do anything wrong, so I don't see how we can get into any trouble unless the police try to do something underhanded."

We got into the pickup and drove to the diner to get a late lunch, since our picnic stuff was still in the woods, surrounded by yellow police crime scene tape. The diner felt so familiar, so normal, that what had just happened to us seemed very far away, almost like a chapter in a novel that we'd read a long time ago. We sat in our usual booth, just as we had so many times before, making small talk about harmless subjects. The familiarity helped calm me down, and it helped that I was looking across the table at the most beautiful girl in the world. We ate our burgers fast because we were hungry, and then picked slowly at our onion rings and sipped our coffee refills, and let our world get back to normal. Our conversation about unimportant things was getting to be a way of avoiding our real thoughts. I kept imagining the things that Val and I could do together with no one around to see us, and finally I suggested, "How about we go over to my house and watch TV while we make out on the sofa?"

"I've got a better idea. How about we go over to your house and throw the TV out the back door for all I care, and make out on the sofa?"

"Great! Let's go."

At home I spread a big beach towel on the sofa cushions, with the soft velour side facing up, and it was so soft that we found we didn't even need any clothes at all. We sat up and took a break after an hour, and shared a bottle of Bud Light. While she was tipping the bottle up to get the last few drops, I told her about something that had been on my mind. "There's a position that I've seen in pictures that I've been dying to try. I don't know if it has a name, but it looks very promising."

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