I guess this starts out to be a quest, but turns into an adventure I had never thought would happen to me in million years. You see, something like this experience doesn't normally happen to a man who will be 40 years old in a few months.
Leonids. A once a year event, if seen in clear skies, is a rare and unique experience. The streaks across the sky are more than the combined viewings of a lifetime of stargazing and happening to view the random meteors that enter the earth's atmosphere.
The trek was on, I was encased in a light polluted urban sprawl, and absolutely had to try to find some dark skies in which to view something that won't come again in such intensity, until the year 2099. Just before dark, I escaped my cocoon of an apartment in search of remote airspace. The air was quite chilly and I brought some extra clothes and a warm jacket on the off-chance I were to get cold, and I included a small bottle of my favorite single-malt for some enhanced warmth perception, as well as my .45 and two loaded magazines. Since I was going out by myself I just wanted to be prepared for almost any situation.
I stopped at the gas station/convenience store near the apartment complex to fill the tank on the rental car and went inside for some liquid refreshment of my own. As I was choosing and perusing the bottled refreshment selection, I overheard these two people talking about a viewing area, and that several large wide angle telescopes would be setup there for close-up observation. From their description of the area, it was north west of the city and was about 35 miles away from where I was, so I begged my pardon for eavesdropping, and asked directions to this site. The man and woman were very friendly and told me I could follow them, as they were to meet a few other people and were going to caravan to the site. The couple was approximately my age, obviously attached, and seemed to want me to join them. And damn it, it sounded like a good time to me; breaking out of my self imposed hermitage tonight was a must-do on my agenda. I just didn't realize at this time how much of a break-out I was about to experience over the next 24 hours.
By the time we reached the destination, it was already dark, but as we came over the last rise, I got my first view of this small bowl-shaped valley the "festivities" would be held in and around. We had made a spectacular climb through this wilderness area on some barely paved roads in order to get here and the skies were nearly as dark as what I am accustomed to in New Mexico in this cozy, small valley, no more than a mile across at it's widest point. In the center of this valley was an old farm house, a cheerful candle-lit glow emanating from all of its windows, and an open field with a firefly effect of infared flashlights moving among the six large telescopes setup in the center of this, approximately one acre, field. As we pulled up into a side field crudely marked off as a parking area, I noticed the abundance of vehicles that were parked all around the valley. This was no small party!
As we walked up to the crowd around the telescopes, my new friends and I dispersed rapidly and I was left standing in front of the largest wide field telescope I had ever seen. I walked up to the viewing platform and watched an older man and a gorgeous young woman making some small adjustments to the motor control on this automated monster.
"That is some telescope ya'll have, I can't say that I have ever seen such a cool setup in all my life." I drawled.
The man ignored me, but the girl, turned towards me and asked,
"Thanks, do you know anything about electronics? The X-axis motor drive isn't working, and there is no one here that knows anything about it." She looked to be about 25 years old, mid-length brunette hair, and a pair of striking blue eyes. She was dressed in tight jeans and a fuzzy, dark colored sweater that was curved in a very pleasing way.
"Err, sure, I know a little about control circuits and motor drives..." I replied. I ought to, with 18 years of semiconductor equipment experience, I had better know something. " I will take a look if you would like."
The look she gave me was so inviting how could I not say no? The multitude of emotions on her face, a stunningly beautiful face by the way, caught me off-guard. Her cheeks were red from either the cool temperatures or from possibly crying, the sparkle in her eye from doing something she obviously liked, and the anxiousness of things not going as planned. I stepped up on this smallish platform as the older man stomped away grumbling expletives and throwing, what appeared to be a wrench, into the back of the truck adjacent to the scope, and stomped off in a huff.
"Don't mind him, he is really frustrated right now because Marty the asshole, isn't here to help him set the scope up. Oh by the way, my name is Jennifer."
I extended my hand to her and said, " Mike, a pleasure to meet you." She shook my hand like a man would, although her slim and smallish hands seemed to disappear in my huge mitts. She gave me an unreadable smile, as her hand lingered in mine.
"So, you say you know something about axis drives. Have a look at ours if you would, sir, we can't figure out why the X drive is not working." And then she showed me the control cabinet. I looked at it for a minute; it was all off-the-shelf parts from a good electronics supplier. Good, I did know this equipment.
I turned to Jennifer and said, " Piece of cake, do you have any spare electronic parts and some tools around in case something inside here is toasted?" She glanced into my eyes for a moment and, like breaking a short trance, said, "Sure, I will bring the cases from the truck...and yeah," she hesitated for a second, deep in thought about something, "I will go get the cases." She stood up quickly and walked away from me, disappearing around the side of the truck. I couldn't help but look as she walked away. She had the most beautiful ass I had ever seen. She is one gorgeous, young woman! As she went out of sight, it was my turn to break a short trance, and I turned to the electronics cabinet open in from of me and turned the power off to the unit. The cards were amply labeled and I found the X-axis card cage within seconds. I pulled the small flashlight out of my pocket, and I pulled the driver card out to look for hot spots anywhere on its surface. When a electronic component dies, sometimes it burns up and leaves a charred place on the board. Sure enough, I found a big burn spot on the Darlington driver pack, no wonder the drive wasn't working. I pulled the driver pack out of its removable socket, and checked the board for damage. There was no major carnage, and the socket was intact. I picked up the old burned pack, and I was standing up and turning around towards the truck when, I come in full frontal body contact with Jennifer, who had just walked up with two plastic hard case tool boxes. I caught her to keep from falling back down the short flight of stairs to the ground. But in the process, had pulled her to my 6' 3" frame in order to use my mass to balance us and the two large toolboxes.
"Are you OK?" I ask her as I take one of the boxes from her. " I am sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going." I look at her I see her looking at me with this distant grin on her face.
"That's OK, Tex, no harm done." she replies, and hands me the other case.
"Tex? How did you know I was from Texas? I don't live there now though. I live in New Mexico, please call me Mike." She looked me up and down and said,
"You sound like you are from Texas, and you are definitely built like you are from Texas... OK, Michael." and walked away from me slowly, looking over her shoulder at me.
Man! Is that girl flirting with me or what? I shake my head and take the two cases back over to the ailing control cabinet. I search in the box labeled 'components', and find an exact match to the burnt driver pack. Cool! I insert the new pack into the board, and then seat the board into the rack. I cross my fingers and turn the power on. The stages reset and the X-axis actually moves, but it is not a very smooth movement. I slide the cabinet back into place and stand up to access the controls of this beast. More off-the-shelf electronics parts. I looked at the setup with the laptop computer plugged into it and figured I should get Jennifer, or the older guy, which I gather is her father, to see if the movements work properly. I turn towards the truck and I see her approaching me with a beer in each hand, and a curt smile on her lips.
"It appears you have fixed it," she said as she handed me a cold Henry Winehardts.
"It isn't fixed yet," I told her, taking a swig off of the beer, "The axis wasn't very smooth when it moved back to home position. Can you show me how to manipulate it through the computer? I would like to check a few things." She grinned and nodded to me and I watched her maneuver to the diagnostics page on the program running on the laptop. She moved the X-drive and it still was sluggish, not smooth and quick like the other drives. I pulled that offending card cabinet out again, selected a small flat screwdriver from the toolbox and began making corrections to the potentiometers on the edges of the drive cards.
"Jennifer, would you run the x-stage through its range of travel? I think I can fix this." She nodded and the unit begin to move again. I made several adjustments, a few the wrong way, but when I closed the cabinet the offending drive was running as smoothly as the others. As I turned around to put the screwdriver away, the sweet young thing was in close proximity once again.
"I can't tell you how happy my father and I are that you fixed the scope for us, and I want you to know if there is anything I can do for you tonight as repayment, just ask. Thank you so much." The look she was giving me was the same as a cat gives a mouse.
My gentleman reply to her was, "That's OK, I am just glad I could help, it was nice to meet you, and thanks for the beer," I made my escape from the warm sensations I was starting to feel, and walked away from her and the telescope. I did not look back until I was several yards away, and when I turned, she was still looking at me. My God, I have a daughter almost as old as she is... And she was definitely coming on to me. I think I am a pretty good looking man, but I am also 39 years old, and married. So I went on my way, and found a good spot on a small knoll facing away from the telescopes and the house. There were some more people there and we got to talking about astronomy for awhile as it was still too early for the Leonids.
An hour or so later, still talking astronomy, I overhear two people arguing, loudly. Definitely a lover's quarrel. I rise from my seat and look over to where all the commotion is coming from and it is Jennifer and some tall blond kid, I say kid because he was about her age, and they are screaming incoherently at each other. Apparently, this must have been Marty the asshole, because he pushed her down, and stormed over to a car close by, got in it, and sped off. I brushed myself off and walked over to Jennifer, who was still sitting on the ground. She was crying.
"Are you OK?" I asked her as I offered her my hand to help her up.
"He is such an ASSHOLE! What I originally saw in him, I haven't a clue" she cried, as she took my hand and stood, face red from the outburst of emotion. Large tears were still forming in her beautiful blue eyes.
I looked at her, grass stains on her jeans, her hair an unruly mass; I reached over to her cheek and wiped a tear away that was about to run down her beautiful face. "Is there anything I can do to help?" I asked.
"No, I am OK, besides, you have already done a lot for me by fixing the scope." She said as she looked at me, appearing to appraise me once again, and smiled. "Can I offer you another beer?" she queried.
"That would be nice. Hey, why didn't anyone else here come to your rescue?" I asked as I reached over to pick up my bag that I had absently dropped while coming to her assistance. I walked with her towards the truck.
"Because Marty's parents are the one's that own this little valley, and they don't want to be banned from coming here for stargazing. Marty's dad is such an asshole", she replied.
"Like father, like son, I see. I guess I wouldn't know about that, not being from around here and all." I said as we approached the truck.
"No, I guess you wouldn't." she said as she looked me in the eyes again. "What brings you here to Oregon?" she asked, her gaze seemingly penetrating all preconceptions, and identifying my true nature.
"A work assignment for the company I work for. I have been here for several months now. I think I am growing webs between my toes and fingers." I quip, looking into her eyes now, and smiling. A mysterious sparkle of interest permeates the twin sapphires, as she looks back at me. A mischievous grin is slowly forming on her beautiful face. "This climate is so different than what I am used to. Everything is so green... and moist. I am definitely ready to go back home to New Mexico and my desert home at the end of the month." I said. The sparks of interest are definitely flying now. I am still amazed her interest is me.
We talk about each other for a over an hour, as the time came closer and closer, for the Leonid's to begin appearing. I find out that her father and Marty's father had basically put them together, in a quasi-fixed marriage scheme; her mother had died last year, and now her father's life was the telescope I had repaired. She also told me about how her father and Marty had designed and built the telescope, and spent way too much money on the endeavor. Then she told me how she came to dislike Marty so, and on, and on, and on. I tell her about me, my relocation assignment, and what I would be doing when I went back home at the end of the month. I told her I was married, and have three teenagers living at home. None of this seems to interest her much though. The whole time I am talking to her, the sparkle in her eyes intensifies, and after a pause in the conversation, she changes the subject.
"Do you think I am attractive?" she queries with an innocent look on her face.
"Err, ah, yeah, I think you are a very beautiful, young woman." I stutter, as I start to feel heat rise in my face.
"Well, I think you are a most handsome man, and sexy too." She replied, as she glanced at me sidelong, still smiling at me.
"Well thank you Jennifer, but I don't know..." I stammer, but she reaches up to me and puts a finger to my lips.
"Shh. When I saw you walk up to the telescope, you caught my eye. And then you come to my rescue, twice, Michael." she said. She hesitated a second or two before she continued, "My boyfriend dumped me tonight. I am a free woman." She ran her hand up the front of my chest, and then said," I am looking at a very handsome and intelligent man, who really turns me on." She flirted. "Come, let's watch the Leonid's together."
"But, Jennifer I am married.", I justify, not really trying to extract myself from this dynamic, young woman anymore.
She says, "That's OK, I won't tell your wife, if you don't." as she removed her very warm hand from my chest and took my hand. We walked up to the landing for the telescope together, her gorgeous body very close to my side.
She released my hand, but remained close as we watched her father at the controls of his pride and joy, making some small corrections to his creation. He ignored us completely as an image of the sky appeared on a monitor to the left of the console. He babbled something incoherent to himself, and walked away from the platform towards the truck, whistling merrily.
I ask, "Is he always so personable?" and she laughed at me.
She replied, still giggling slightly, "When that telescope in on-line, nothing else exists in his vision. He ignores everything, even me, when we are using it. It's OK though, that is the way he is, he is my father."
The meteor shower was quite spectacular, and the view on this squat telescope was amazing as well. It picked up the small streaks of the meteors that we could not see with the naked eye. The small crowd of people in the valley would echo the "oohs" and "aahs" everyone felt as they watched this amazing astronomical presentation. As it started to taper off, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was nearing sunrise. People were starting to pack up and leave the valley, as I helped Bill, Jennifer's father, disassemble and load the telescope into his truck. The sub-assemblies fit into the back of the Ford F250 like it was designed for it. As all of the components were loaded, I noticed that the entire cab of the truck was full of equipment except for the driver's seat.
"Hey Jennifer," I ask her as I point to the full cab of the Ford, "Where are you going to ride? The seats are taken up with equipment."
"With you, of course, unless you are going to make me walk?" she queried as she looked at me with her bottom lip sticking out, in a pouty face. She was so beautiful. She continued after a moment, "Yeah, assface brought me out here, dumped me, and left me here to fend for myself." She walked up close to me, looking so innocent, and said, "I will make it worth your while." She slowly licked her upper lip in a most sexy fashion.
I look down at her and stammer, "No problem, you will just have to show me where you live." I couldn't believe the heat emanating from this young, vibrant woman, and it was all directed at me.
She nods briefly at me, backs away from me, turns, and runs over to her father who is about to get in his truck to leave. She hugs him, and has a brief conversation with him that I can't hear. They both turn and look at me, and she smiles, but I see a slight frown on his face. She kisses him, and he gets in his truck and drives away. By this time, the sky is beginning to lighten in the east, everyone else is in the process of going or has already gone. I gather up my bag, and start to walk towards the car. As I am walking, she runs up behind me and almost tackles me, and as we both nearly fall to the ground, I just manage to catch her petite 5' frame before she hits the ground. Once again we are in an embrace, as she looks up at me giggling.
"I told my father I would be home later." she said, as she looked into my eyes, no longer giggling. The attraction now very self-evident on her face. "I hope you don't think I am pretentious or anything, but I want to go home with you." she admitted, and she reached up and put both her arms around my neck.
The heat in my body was unbelievable as I released my embrace from her and said, "Jennifer, I still don't know..." What was I doing? Here is a vital, young, extremely gorgeous woman basically throwing herself at me, and I was hesitating. Granted, I hadn't has sex in a long time, and she was so gorgeous. I backpedaled, "What will your father say?" I asked her, my resolve breaking down rapidly.
"Who cares what my father will say? I am a grown woman, and I want to be with you right now." she retorted.
"But it is wrong." I said. "I am happily married." I stammer. "Hell, I have children who are about your age." There, I said it.
She disengages her arms from my neck, and puts one of her small hands into my free hand, and confidently says, "Take me home... please?" The innocent looks was back.
What can you say to that? My self-control battered, my physical attraction peaked, I walk to the rental car with her, hand-in-hand.
During the ride back to town, we talk about ourselves some more. Every once in awhile, she reaches over and touches my arm, maybe to reassure herself, or something. All I know is that every time the she would touch me, tingles would run through my body.
I find out in our conversation that she is a senior at a local university and will graduate with a doctorate in optics next spring, and that she is 27 years old. We talk a little about optics, as that is one of my specialties at the company, what she plans on doing once she graduates, and other small talk. The conversation stops though when we pull into the parking area of the apartments and I pull into the reserved, covered parking space for my apartment. The sun was just beginning to peak over the hills to the east, a warm orange glow appears in the sky.