High on the list of THINGS NOT TO DO
would be anything that sounds like a good idea after having imbibed in “a whole lot” of tequila
The Tao Te Ching frequently mentions “the 20,000 things.” I surmised that that number was HUGE to the writer, innumerable. And so, I would sometimes lament about the 20,000 things I would do differently in this life, given the proverbial second chance.
Ha. 20,000 THINGS NOT TO DO … again.
High on the list is anything you decide is a good idea after having imbibed in an inordinate amount of tequila. How does one define “inordinate”? You decide: you’re at a party. It starts calmly enough. Momentum is generated seemingly of its own accord. Hours later someone says “let’s go nude canoeing under the full moon!” This was the best idea I have ever heard. (You know you’re in trouble when …)
ribbons & banners & shreds of clouds swirl between our faintly shining buttocks and the brooding moon overhead
a dark story taking place in a town in (but not of) the mountains
This story may or may not be inspired? relating to actual events. Heck, this is totally, completely fiction.
Two sets of buttocks shining faintly amid the splashing of canoe paddles and the cacophony of the party back up at the house on the hill. Ribbons, banners, shreds of clouds swirl between us and the brooding moon overhead. It doesn’t matter that I left my glasses with my shorts and tee-shirt at the base of a tree in the yard; I wouldn’t be able to really see anyway. A few more paddle-strokes towards the center of the pond, then the unspoken implicit cue I was waiting for: George stood up, the canoe wobbling beneath the shifting of weight, and I stood too. Well, I would have ‘stood’ had the boat and I been steady. I more-or-less lurched to my right, tumbling into the water. In that two-second span between launch and splash-down, one freeze-frame in particular etched like acid onto the template of “memories-I-won’t-soon-forget, even if I wanted to.”
Since George and I leapt off the same side of the canoe, Newton’s Third Law of Motion dictated a potentially disastrous consequence. The right edge of the canoe sprang back up after our joint departure, whacking Pablo smack on the side of the head.
“Oh my god! We killed Pablo!”
Hints of the craziness to come surfaced as soon as it began to get dark. Betty had invited all our daughter’s geological field camp participants for showers and lasagna. Raye had completed her junior year at SMT (Sierra Moreno Tech — the foremost engineering school in the region). As part of her course of study in geophysics she had to participate in geology field camp. Students usually attended this in the summer before their final year. As luck (ill? or benevolent?) would have it, the field camp curricula entailed a travel weekend, the route passing by our house.
Raye suggested to Betty that during the weekend off between geologic field-mapping in one area and moving on to aerial surveys of another area, “wouldn’t it be nice” if her camp-mates could have a home-cooked meal, hot showers, and a place to leisurely rest NOT in some dingy campground. Of course Betty acquiesced. After all, the only previous SMT function at our house was when the volleyball team was in town for a tournament. “My team and coaches are tired of restaurant food,” Raye lamented.
And so, we (well, Betty — I just braced myself) prepared large pans of lasagna, salad, garlic-bread rolls, lemonade and soda. I bought a twelve-pack of Heineken and a box of wine, just in case the coaches weren’t under any microscopes. They were. They ate all the food, drank soda and lemonade, stayed a little longer to ‘make it look respectful and polite,’ and left for the motel. After all, there were games to play the next day.
Our town, Llano Naranja, is and is not, a mountain town. Situated in a wide valley, it is surrounded by (in order of cardinal directions beginning with the west): desolate sandy buttes and mesas, a long ridge in front of another twice-as-high ridge occasionally ascending to fir-and-spruce-tree-covered heights, a pine-covered pyroclastic-filled caldera rising to 3,000 meters, a brief south-easterly ten-kilometer-wide ‘straight shot’ to the towering El Cumbre Dos Cerebros (almost 4,300 m. high), and, to the south, the eastern-most portion of the Sierra Moreno Plateau. The aspect our home presented on this night to this on-again off-again mountain town alternated between being the peak of the area, and at times, the veritable Hadean depths (hint/note: the geologic field camp group bears little similarity to a SMT athletic team).
The dust-covered geologic field-mappers arrived in a half-dozen assorted vehicles on a clear warm mid-afternoon in late May. Dinner was already cooking, and, somehow, everyone was showered in time to eat together. The difference in temperament between this SMT group and the previous was revealed as day faded into night, coincidentally as the beer and wine began to disappear. There is a ‘beer store’ about a half-mile away, and it wasn’t long before it seemed that our guests had formed a bucket-brigade between here and there. The vision of one student continuously handing a sandbag or water-bucket to the next in an unbroken line occurred to me several times that night.
Though we attempted to divert the group focus from collective mass-imbibation to other pursuits, the ethanol momentum snowballed. At midnight the beer store closed its doors. Shortly afterwards, my unopened bottle of 100% blue agave tequila appeared into public view. (Okay, I won’t maintain that I resisted this sudden and inexplicable and unexpected? turn of events…) Such an appearance was, no doubt, indicative of dark portents, indeed. Human hand(s) may or may not have assisted in the transition from back-of-upper-closet to kitchen counter. I was BEYOND considering the impacts of such mysterious and occult proceedings.
A row of shot glasses was set up. The bottle swayed back and forth, seemingly of its own accord, most the contents ended up in the glasses. Just as quickly, empty shot glasses took their place in the row where the full ones previously were situated.
What had once been ‘my’ vestal bottle lay on it’s side, exhausted. There probably were other scenes in The Acts Played out thereafter, but I only remember: “Let’s go nude-canoeing on the pond at midnight under the fool moon!” This was, as mentioned before, as good an idea or course of action that I’d heard for some time. Under the circumstances, it seemed perfectly logical. (You know you’re in trouble when …)
The proponent of the suggestion was George. I don’t think I had met any of Raye’s field-camp-mates prior to this weekend. I remembered George emerging the previous afternoon from one of the dusty vehicles in our driveway — replete with bandana-covered shaved-head, complemented by large ‘pirate’ earrings. Now George was LARGER THAN LIFE — he was the holder of the reins of the horses of the stagecoach ferrying those within-the-carriage to the realms beyond the norm.
I was surprised that only three people ventured off through the yard towards the canoe and the lake. I shed my shirt, shorts, and carefully placed my glasses within the shirt, continuing confidently towards the beached canoe.
Of course George led the charge and Pablo was no surprise either. Pablo had been an instrumental force (literally, he strummed his guitar for hours) in the failed attempt to divert the group focus from collective alcohol-imbibition to other considerations. To his credit, Pablo had strummed, and strummed. Now, one of the passengers in the carriage of the stagecoach bound for the beyond, he was ready to confront the brooding moon overhead with faintly shining buttocks. We pushed the canoe from the shore onto the lake. Pablo and George each had grasped a paddle. I merely finished the push straight out into the perpendicular dark away from the shore and clambered in. Two sets of buttocks …
“Oh my god! We killed Pablo!”
Without that freeze-frame etched onto my retinal memory, I would have, no doubt, languidly sunk down, and not touching bottom, slowly bobbed back up. However, I frantically struggled back to the canoe, which was turned completely over with Pablo trapped underneath. I don’t know how George and Pablo and I were able, in water perhaps eight or more feet deep, to turn the canoe back over.
Pablo was resilient. Tough. I don’t want to consider nor imagine if things had been otherwise! (Darned inconvenient).