Rolling in Pine Needlesbyquietheron©
Drew put-in before Dooley Bridge, his goal being to photograph the length of the river through town, marking its changes as it went from rural to urban to estuarine environments in the space of four miles. Being June and approaching the summer solstice in this northern state, the sky began to lighten before five in the morning. Drew had been up since four, having loaded his kayak onto his Subaru the previous evening. His main goal was to be up before the tourists and their jet skis, and he had provided himself a wide buffer. Most of the tourists were not up for breakfast until around nine. The tides were also fortuitous; he would be going downriver during ebb tide and returning at flow.
Traffic on the highway was almost completely silent, had it not been for the logging trucks going both north and south, a puzzle to Drew. Why would logs cut from forests south of him be transported north, and vice versa? Did the mills accept different diameters of trees? He made a note in his waterproof field notebook to look next time he was up on the highway. Beyond the minimal traffic, Drew listened to the birds in the riparian zone and deeper into the alder and hemlock forest. The robins were awake, as were the Swainson's thrush and Pacific-slope Flycatcher. He paddled quietly, primarily to stay on course, and looked for photo opportunities.
He was not a nature photographer. His composition was passable, but wouldn't win prizes. Instead, he taught biology and ecology at the local community college and used his photos to highlight local flora and fauna, as well as issues facing the county. Right away he started getting pictures of the riparian zone. Shrubs and woody debris provided good cover for juvenile salmonids, and trees shaded the banks in some areas where cattle hadn't trampled it. The shrub story was dominated by Himalayan blackberry, which was not good, being an invasive plant. He took close up shots of the blackberry so that students could learn its distinctive five-leaflet shape, and then backed off the bank for a long shot showing nothing but blackberry from meander to meander.
He enjoyed exploring in the kayak. It sat so low in the river that he felt as if he were part of the river in a way he never had in his canoe. It moved with his hips and he idly wondered if the kayak were causing his hips to roll or whether it was his hips that caused the kayak to rock. It was like an extension of him, or a graceful extra limb.
Satisfied that he had a good representative sample of the rural area, he powered along the river, developing a satisfying burn in his shoulders and arms. He was slender, fit and young looking; his light hair had not yet started to gray, and despite his years outdoors, his face did not look weather-beaten or even much lined.
In the residential area south of town, which tended to contain short-term rentals and thus tourists, he slowed down again to take pictures of storm sewer pipes and fertilized lawns, and shortly after that, he arrived downtown. Here there was no shading of the banks, and concrete and wooden boardwalks indicated that the city valued human enjoyment of the river over the organisms that depended on the river for their lives. This was no surprise to him, but he wanted to document it for his students in such a way that explained non-hysterically that humans had the ability to make choices, that they didn't have to be unconscious to organisms that had no choice.
He had to strike such a careful balance of passion and logic with his students. During his college years, he remembered his fellow students willingly swallowing ideology and spouting off about the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, Women's Lib, and so forth. Students today were more cynical, he thought, and possibly apathetic, and didn't appreciate appeals to their emotions. Perhaps they were overwhelmed in the information age, or maybe the ease of consumerism and increased materialism or readily available internet porn had dulled their passions for abstractions. Or maybe they were overwhelmed by having to work a full-time job in order to pay for school tuition, which in real dollars was far higher than it used to be. Or maybe they were just smarter than his generation was; maybe they were more cautious about expressing their opinions until they had done more research about sensitive topics. He was willing to entertain that thought.
Once past downtown, he entered the residential area north of town, where Ocean View's actual residents lived, and then the river opened up into a sheltered estuary. He was particularly interested in getting shots of all the shore pines that had fallen from the cut bank into the estuary from the south. Several years before he had identified and flagged rows of individual pines so that he could estimate the rate at which the north end of Ocean View was eroding. Depending on the intensity of the winter storm season, he had found that the city was losing about half a foot of sand per year, which was subsequently deposited north of the estuary. The exclusive little village of Stratford was thus gaining at about the same rate. This caused no end of letters to the editor from upset Ocean View property owners. As the geologist at his college always said, with glee, "The ocean will always win!"
He had been on the river for about three hours. The day was clear and beginning to warm up; the past week had been a heat wave with temperatures in the mid-80s. He had some time before the tide turned, and he planned to beach his kayak and eat a picnic breakfast before investigating the encroaching European beach grass on the dunes to the west of Stratford. As he looked for a suitable pullout, he noticed a small dark head bobbing up and down, swimming slowly upriver. A sea lion? Too small. An otter? Wouldn't that be feather in his cap to document the first otter on the north Oregon coast, he thought. He pulled out his binoculars. Not an otter. Human. Female?
He paddled down to meet her.
She was swimming up river, a head-high breaststroke, and she drew even with his kayak and put her slightly blue hand lightly on the bow.
"Hey, Drew! What an unexpected pleasure! What are you doing out here?"
It was Katy Michaels, his ex-wife's teaching partner at the town's middle school.
He smiled back and said, "I was just going to pull out and have some breakfast. Would you like to join me?"
"Sure," she said, "I'm sure my lips are blue. My pack is upriver about another hundred yards. I'm about ready for breakfast." She turned to her side and switched to sidestroke. She kept pace with him.
Katy, according to his ex-wife, was wild. There had been some personality conflicts between them. She was the youngest teacher on staff at twenty-four; his wife, Annette, was his age, which was just over fifty. In Annette's opinion, Katy was nothing but an overgrown pre-adolescent herself, and not mature enough to teach. Annette complained that if Katy were unprepared for a lesson, she'd just take the kids outside and measure the depth of the mud on the creek bank or some other nonsense.
Drew had said, "I don't see anything wrong with measuring the depth of sediments. That's actually valid scientific inquiry. Was she measuring it on a cut bank or a point bar? I'm glad there's a middle school science teacher who's teaching something other than trivia." They were already separated at this point and Annette hadn't talked to him for three days after he had stuck up for young Miss Michaels.
Annette always had something to complain about, and the past year Katy was her favorite topic. The latest and most interesting information about Katy had nothing to do with Annette, but Annette felt it necessary to spread it around as widely as possible: Katy had seduced the second-youngest faculty member, Sandeep, a math teacher and first generation American whose parents had moved here from the Indian subcontinent years ago because of violence between Muslims and Sikhs.
"How did you find that out?" asked Drew, affecting a bored tone of voice to let his ex-wife know that he didn't approve of gossip, without admitting that he was actually interested in Katy's seduction of Sandeep.
"Oh, it's just awful and so unfair," Annette had said. Annette had heard it from Judy, who had heard it from Adina. Adina was the third youngest faculty member and a widow with a six year-old child. Adina was Judy's teaching partner and Judy and Annette were best friends. Before Katy had come to work at the school, "a slow fire" had been building between Adina and Sandeep for about a year and a half, according to Annette who had heard it from Judy.
"How did Judy know?" Drew asked.
"Adina had confided in her!" Annette had retorted indignantly.
"Some confidant," Drew said and rolled his eyes, something Annette couldn't tell because they were on the phone.
Ignoring the slight to her friend, Annette said, "Well, over spring break, Adina's daughter was staying the night with a friend and so Adina got up early to take a morning walk on the dunes. She was just minding her own business when all of a sudden she stumbles on Katy's little lovenest in the shore pines. There's Katy, naked as a jay bird, her leg flung over Sandeep, both asleep in a pile of sleeping bags. Adina said Katy woke up and invited her to have some hot chocolate right out of her thermos! She had some gall, that's what I say. Adina said Sandeep wouldn't meet her eyes."
"Did Adina stay for hot chocolate?" Drew asked.
"Of course not! I don't know! You ask such stupid questions!"
Drew ended the conversation, although certainly it was at the top of his mind upon meeting Katy now, because it was the last thing he had heard about Katy.
Katy stood up in the shallows and pulled Drew's kayak out of the water with him in it in one smooth tug. She grinned and looked pleased with herself. She was a tall, lanky girl with tightly curled, long, red hair. For swimming, she had separated it into two braids. She looked cold, with goose bumps prickling her fair, freckled skin.
"Do you have dry clothes?" asked Drew, thinking he might offer her his fleece now that it was warm.
"Oh yeah, of course," she said. "I've come down here every day since school let out. I like to go for a swim, then eat breakfast, and then go have a nap under my favorite trees. Then I go mountain biking in the afternoon up on Weyerhaeuser roads. I just love summer."
She was standing in front of him, her board shorts riding her hipbones. Her shorts were wet and dipped so low that were they to dip any further, Drew would have been able to tell the color of her pubic hair, a thought he banished from his mind but then revisited when he considered whether or not she shaved it. He thought not, looking at her bare legs, which were unshaven. Her legs were covered with a fine down that was completely unobtrusive, as light as the hair on her arms. It glinted golden in the bright sunlight.
She turned her back on him and bent to her pack. She pulled out a small blue chamois towel and a neatly folded white cotton t-shirt with a surfing logo and laid those carefully on top as if fastidious about sand.
Sitting on the sand, Drew began pulling food out of his own pack but watched her surreptitiously. She wrung out her braids and ran the towel over her head, and then without warning tugged off her long sport top, standing bare and running the towel over her torso and arms. Drew glanced up again and admired the musculature of her back, the knobs of her cervical spine, the motion of her shoulder blades. Katy bent down to pick up her t-shirt and Drew caught a glimpse of the generous curve of her breast. He looked down quickly as if searching for something in his pack. Thinking about Sandeep and seeing her so free while outdoors made his thoughts wander to whether or not he would be seducible by her. He could hear Annette scolding him in his head. Katy was hardly older than his students at the community college and he was only about three months officially divorced.
Katy next pulled out a colorful Mayan print, which she wrapped around her hips. It fell beyond her knees. She reached underneath it and removed her board shorts, and then proceeded to use the little blue towel to dry her legs. Satisfied, she carefully readjusted her wrap and sat down.
Drew knew she was wearing neither underwear under her wrap, nor a bra under her shirt. He kept thinking about it.
Interrupting his impure thoughts, Katy said, "What'd you bring? I brought bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions and hot chocolate. Want some? I am starving."
Drew had brought cinnamon rolls, oranges and coffee in a thermos. They traded food and ate quietly, watching the influx of Caspian Terns. They were gathering in a large flock. The adults were diving for fish for their young.
As they were finishing, the first jet ski of the morning came down the mouth of the river and took a few turns around the bowl of the estuary, putting the flock of Caspian Terns into the air.
"Well," said Katy, brushing off her hands, "That's my cue to leave. What are you doing next?" Over her feet, she began to fasten the velcro on a pair of black, neoprene sandals.
Drew told her about his plans to photograph the dunes and the beach grass.
"Oh, you want to talk about plant succession with your students?" Katy asked.
"Well, both that and the effect of the beach grass on Snowy Plover habitat – things like that."
"Well, cool. We can walk together. I'll show you where I enjoy my mid-morning nap."
"Why do you nap?" Drew asked.
"I like being outside. I mean, I bring a book. I usually fall asleep and wake up in time for lunch, at which point I go home."
Drew picked up his pack, carried the kayak to a point higher on the bank, and tied it to large silvery piece of driftwood.
"You're not worried about your kayak?" Katy asked, following him, her breasts swaying under her t-shirt. Her nipples stood out.
"Nah. I've never had a problem." Drew looked at her feet so as not to look at her breasts.
She turned up into the dunes and he followed. She stepped confidently on the loose dry sand, her hips swaying a little.
The north spit of the estuary was about a half mile long, and its interior was covered in European beach grass, which the Army Corps of Engineers had begun planting in the 1930s and 40s for dune stabilization. It grew more thickly than the American variety, and in seventy-five years had reduced Snowy Plover habitat to very thin strand along the dune and the high tide line; Snowy Plovers were unable to nest in European beach grass. How to manage the beaches for the Snowy Plover was an issue in the county. Drew wanted his students to debate this topic.
In addition, the dune stabilization project had allowed shore pine to colonize the swale behind the fore dune. Shore pines were native, of course, but their growth on that part of the beach was new. The good citizens of Stratford, fussy about their view out to the ocean, topped the shore pines repeatedly, which prevented them from growing straight and tall. Instead, they took on more of a bushy appearance, and never got to be more than fifteen feet in height.
"I may not be able to continue napping here for much longer," Katy said, breaking the silence of their walk.
"Why's that?" Drew asked.
"Oh, the snobs here want to cut them all down…They say it's for fire management and to keep the homeless out, but really it's about their view. I wish they'd be honest. Homeless people are not going to congregate where there's no opportunity for day labor and no restaurants for handouts. There's nothing here but houses and a golf course."
"Yep," Drew agreed.
They topped a dune and walked down the other side in the grassy tracks of an access road. Katy kept passing small, dense groves of shore pine. Drew had gotten all the pictures he needed but she seemed to want to show him her "napping" place (seduction place?) so he continued to follow her.
She stopped abruptly and turned around.
"In here," she said, and ducked under a low hanging branch and then between two tightly packed trunks of trees. She continued weaving her way through the outer ring of trees, Drew following, until they were in the center, which was wide and partially open to the sky. The floor was dense and springy with fallen pine needles. Drew could not see the path they had come from.
"I want you," Katy said, and dropped her wrap and then her backpack to the ground. She stood naked from her waist down and pressed her front to Drew as she hugged him. Drew's cock had been at half-mast ever since Katy had whipped off her bathing suit top on the beach, but now it pointed straight to the cloudless sky. Katy stood as tall as he did and he tipped her head back and kissed her mouth.
Don't question, he thought to himself, just do.
He could taste the hot chocolate she'd had with her breakfast on her tongue. He rubbed his palms over her smooth bare butt. She reciprocated, grabbing the material of his nylon shorts and pulling him into the curve of her hips. She gathered his t-shirt and pushed it over his head. Then she knelt in front of him, pulling his shorts to his ankles as she ducked down. She helped him step out of them and then removed his aqua socks. Still kneeling, she took his cock in her mouth, surrounding him with warmth.
Drew placed his hands on her curly red head and felt as if his entire world balanced around the axis of his penis. Her tongue flicked over his glans and into the hole at its tip. She placed her hands on his hips and took his cock as far into the back of her mouth as she could. He pressed the back of her head and rocked his hips in and out.
So close it seemed like they had company, Drew heard two women walking and talking on the path outside the pines. They could not have been more than twelve or fourteen feet away. He stopped dead.
Katy looked up at him and smiled, her lips wet. She was panting.
"We just have to be really quiet," she whispered.
Squatting now, she removed her shirt and lightly rubbed her rounded, perky breasts for him to see.
"I saw you looking on the beach," she accused him. "It turned me on." She rolled a nipple between her thumb and finger. "Yes," she whispered.
He gazed at her; his hypothesis that she wouldn't shave her pubic hair was correct. She was rare redhead in that her pubic hair matched the wild color of the hair on her head, and curled even more tightly.
She shook out her wrap and laid it on the ground. She lay back on it, hooking her hands behind her knees and pulling them up to her chest and then spreading them out, so that her outer labia were pulled apart as well as her ass cheeks. Drew could see from the top of her slit all the way down to her puckered anus. She licked a finger and then began circling it over her clitoris.
"I want you," she said again. "I want you in my pussy. I have condoms and lube in the outer pocket of my pack. Get them."
Drew wasted no time, his cock standing tall once more after recovering from the shock of hearing voices.
He settled in front of her and touched the head of his cock to the door of her pussy. She watched him with wide-open eyes and a half-open mouth, never pausing from the circles she made as she let her legs hang up and open in the air.
Drew leaned in and let the backs of her thighs rest on his pecs, her feet dangling over his shoulders. She stopped playing with her clit and rested on her elbows as he entered her vagina, pushing until he could feel her cervix. He felt his balls slap her ass cheeks. The initial force of his entrance expelled the air from her lungs.
Drew pumped in and out, enjoying the resistance provided by her legs folded up to her abdomen. Her eyes were closed and she was whimpering softly to her own rhythm. Then she stopped. He looked down at her face, and she slid her legs over his arms and pressed her feet to the pine needle floor.