• waterfall •
He hadn’t really said much about where they were going, except, somewhat cryptically, that they would be “in the Great Outdoors” and that he thought she would ‘pro’lly get a kick out o’it.’ They had headed-out in the metallic-green ’64 Ford pick-up truck sometime before sunup. Sometime after, the mists of morning had hastily retreated into the pale blue radiance of the total sky. They had been driving down Texas highways for several hours now, and thank-God for air-conditioning. The radio was set on KD-43 Kickin’Country and Waylon and Willie were ‘wailin’ and wiley’, and thank God, and serendipity, for that, too. It dawned on her that this was turning out to be a perfect morning, and smiling inwardly, she brushed a lock of hair over her ear with a finger, and shifted in her seat. She looked over at him, with his shapely forearms draped over the bone-colored steering wheel, his hands clasped casually. He’s a good driver, she thought, as she tucked her legs under herself, readjusting, leaning back lightly on the passenger door, and didn’t he look good enough to eat, all scruffy with his denim shirt rolled up on his arms and with the turquoise-and-silver-ring-she-had-given-him-on-his-last-birthday all snug on the calloused ring-finger of his right hand, like a newborn baby, reflecting everything. He looked at her, and crinkled his brows, looking through her.
“Is that locked?”
He indicated the door onto which she was leaning, pointing, Indian-style with his chin. Grinning, she looked over her left shoulder at the push-pull of the door-lock, and reaching back over with her left hand, pulled it into the up position.
“O.K. Don’t come cryin’ to me when you bust yer pretty little ass.”
“I din’t know you cared.”
“I don’t. I just don’t want yer Dad takin’ it out on me when you turn out like the hunchback of Noter-Dame.”
He sucked his teeth, and rolled his green eyes over at her from under his white straw cowboy hat. If looks could kill…she thought. She liked it when he cared.
(They had left floral vistas of wildflowers some time back; she recalled the incongruous acres of bluebonnets, the sinuous strands of Blackeyed Susans, the pink patches of dainty primrose, and that made her think of that day when they were all so little when she and her brothers and sisters would sniff the pollen up their noses like little vacuum sweepers and sneeze-to- beat-the-band. How they had laughed at ‘the little tow-head’, Jimbo, trundling around in his hanging diapers, dirt caked on his fat belly and on his roly-poly legs and in his armpits, twin rivers of grimy snot glistening down over his top lip, and golden blobs of pollen all over his face where they had decided to ‘make him up’; Roger Lakey had said didn’t he look damned-all-fire-ridiculous, and darned if he hadn’t. Momma hadn’t gotten mad, neither, but she didn’t she laugh either, when they had come down over the hill where she was hanging the wash by the barn. She took one look at us and at him and, trying desperately to look disapproving, rolled her lips inward and put her hands on her capacious hips, elbows out, and shook her head. She covered her face with her hands, bent in the middle, and slapped her thighs, the corn-blue of her eyes radiant when she looked up again. She scooped up little Jimbo, wiping his snotty face with one end of her apron and asked us if we didn’t want some grape Kool-Aid-pops, that they should be ready by now. Our arms shot into the air, unwilled. We yelled and hooted and danced barefooted over the course dried-brown grass, down the hill, and up steep steps onto the back porch of the house, and to the sound of the back screen-door slamming, (pow!) and of the rusty melody of its stretching and contracting spring (like a Tuvan throat-singer intoning nascent harmonies in the penetrating air) we licked our purple lips, and dripped icy Kool-aid drips on the articulated bodies of unsuspecting and grateful red-ants so that they could have some, too. Momma yelled at us not to go too far, that ‘lunch would be ready in a little while.’ That had been a perfect morning, too. True-blue bliss. She had come to realize, sometime after, though she couldn’t remember when, exactly, that on certain days, for no particular reason, when jealous Probability loosened it’s vice-like grip on Eventuality, it seemed to be that anything at all was possible, and yawping happiness and wonder nuzzled on you like a big-pawed pup. She pulled on her earlobe and woke herself up. He was looking at her. He brought up his chin in one deft motion, to inquire what was ‘up’. Avoiding his gaze, she demurely shook her head and shrugged imperceptibly; then, scrutinizing the chromed-button on the face of the glove-compartment, pushed it, and began poking around inside, assiduously looking for pecans, though she hadn’t really expected to find any.)
The highways had gone from four lanes to two, becoming steadily, if predictably, narrower and less well maintained, as time, and their journey, went on. From this, they gradually diminished to dusty farm-to-market back-roads, then to rock-and-gravel and dusty caleche, plumes of dust rolling up behind, and finally, to unmarked and winding roads whose only demarcation consisted of two parallel paths of dirt peculiar to very rural areas, and, though somewhat grueling for being bumpy, and she could not remember passing any fence-gate, she had the feeling they were driving on someone’s private property, maybe one of the ubiquitous ranches that comprised most of this part of South-Central Texas, and felt relieved that, as she suspected, or at least, hoped, they were nearly to arrive at their mysterious destination. Little wisps of wonder, and of winnowing excitement began to flutter inside her. On every side, pale caleche-dust covered the truck’s windows, making it hard to see out. In the distance, she could just make out a line of trees. Finally, when they came upon a wide grove of cottonwoods and live-oaks which provided welcoming shade, it became much easier for her to make out their surroundings. Slowing, as the truck descended the sloping terrain, she could just make out a river bank, and the clay banks of the other side, and between, the frothing, cool, luxuriant blue-green falling waters of a waterfall. She placed both of her palms on the warm metal dashboard of the truck and, blinking, and taking in a refreshing breath of cool air, looked over at him and shaking out her hair and smiling broadly, opened her eyes wide with deep appreciation. This resplendent river, this welcome sight before her, he announced, was ‘the Gwadaloop’.
She pulled on the door handle and rolled out in bare feet onto mossy, cool earth. Before her was a place, hundreds, possibly thousands of years old, she thought, where people, families, tribes, had stayed, maybe even Indians, like she, now, charmed and welcomed, enjoying and relaxing into this place which opened its arms to all under the canopy of trees, revealing the most peaceful setting imaginable. She made her way to the bank and took in the susurration of the tiny waterfall which crossed the entire river, only a drop of a couple of feet, but it made the most wonderful sound as the water fell from the edge into the water below.
“Take off yer clothes. Don’t worry. There ain’t no one within fifty miles of here, unless they’ve got a canoe, in which case, lucky them.”
“Just keep yer sneakers on.”
He grinned, flipping his last boot to the ground, and humming the tune to ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’, meandered butt-naked to the edge of the river. He waited for her at the edge, standing on a boulder, taking in the light of the ‘golden hour’ before sunset. Everything was washed in a golden glow, including his still-fit body. Somehow he retained the glow of youth, and standing here he seemed fourteen again.
“C’mon in.” he said, wading in up to his knees, he turned and took her hand.
In short order they were swimming in the river up to their shoulders, and at the waterfall, they could easily touch bottom.
“Hold yer breath”, he said, and taking her hand, in the next moment, they were under the falls.
What a magical place, she thought. There they were, under the falls, the sound of water filled their ears, and millions of tiny bubbles encompassed their bodies. They stood there, facing each other, and wonder filled them both. He grinned, and so did she. She wiped her eyes, and pulled her hair over her ears, exposing her face, and gazed through the translucent falling sheet of water at the golden glow of the waning day. They said nothing, and did nothing, but, somehow filled with hitherto unknown erotic grace, and bathed in sensuous light and sound and sensation, the irrevocable shared knowledge of fulfillment bound them, intrinsically, as it had so many fellow-travelers before.
~ Tim Burchfield