Thursday, July 23, 2015

MIRIAM, MIRIAM QUITE CONTRARIUM

This week, lets try some short fiction again. Something light I wrote without any deep meaning. Just for enjoyment.

*****
MIRIAM, MIRIAM QUITE CONTRARIUM
I loved the name Miriam. The genesis of today’s Mary or Maria, it appeared in the first book of the Bible – Genesis, appropriately – as the name of the older sister of Moses. Etymologists cited the name as ancient Hebrew, but disagreed as to its root. Some said the word derived from marar, Egyptian for beloved. Others cited the name’s origin as mara, a word that meant something quite different: rebellious, disobedient.
It is quite possible I fell in love with Miriam’s name before I fell in love with her.
I first laid eyes on the attractive brunette six months ago when I joined a table of friends at a local watering hole called the Oak Barrel in the northeast heights area of Albuquerque. I walked up just in time to hear a spirited rejoinder by a pretty woman with truly lovely emerald-green eyes tell George Hardesty, who can sometimes be an obnoxious ass, that her name was Miriam, not Mary.
“Miriam, Mary, what’s the difference?”
I butted in. “Respect, George. That’s the difference. The lady says her name’s Miriam, then you should show a little respect.” I leaned over the table. “Miriam, my name’s Henry. Henry Leatherton.”
The pretty stranger held out a delicate hand. Her beautiful eyes sparkled with mischief. “Then you won’t mind if I call you Hank.”
From that moment on, no one else at the table mattered. I ended up taking Miriam home that evening. She’d ridden to the pub with a friend, so we didn’t have to worry about a spare car. No kiss, no hug, no endearments of any kind occurred that night, but it was clear we were simpatico. Before the month was out, Henry and Miriam were an item. A week after that, we first made love.
I cannot possibly describe the event. It was earth-moving, stupendous, a totally new experience although not the first for either of us. It was exhausting, exhilarating, frightening. Frightening because by the end, I was certain I would die of a heart attack. A hundred heartbeats later, I was trying to figure how soon I could climb that mountain again.
And it proved, at least to my satisfaction, the root of her beautiful name derived from the Egyptian word, marar … or beloved.
On the day we went on a picnic on Sandia Peak, I parked in a public area on the lower slopes, threw a black, merlot-trimmed wine tote over my left shoulder, hefted the basket of packed food, and started up an easy, well-traveled trail. My destination was a secluded redwood table with a nice view about a mile ahead of us.
A gentle west wind blew out of a clear summer sky and swept up the slope of the mountain, playing noisily in swaying tree branches, disturbing a pair of quarrelsome squirrels, and raising the sharp scent of evergreen resin. At this altitude, the sun’s bite wasn’t bad, although I felt sweat pop out on my scalp beneath a visored ball cap. I kept a wary eye out as I walked with Miriam on my heels. Well-traveled or not, we humans still share these mountains with wild critters, not the least aggressive of which were the mountain sheep that populate the place. But they were generally up near the peak and shouldn’t be a problem.
“Hank.”
I heard Miriam’s call from behind me and turned to find her halted at a side trail that led down into a canyon.
“Let’s go this way.”
“It’s a tougher climb. Steeper. Footing’s not as good. Anyway, I want to show you the view up ahead. It’s gorgeous.”
“I want to go this way. We’ll go to yours later.”
“I don’t think …”
But she was gone. Disappeared down the side trail.
“Stay on the pathway.”
I scrambled back down the hill in an effort to reach her, but by the time I arrived at the side-trail, she was no longer in sight. I caught up with her two minutes later as she stood on a rock promontory and gazed out over a shallow but steep-sided canyon.
She slipped a slender arm around my waist as I halted beside her.“Isn’t it beautiful? I’ll bet your view isn’t better than this one.”
I glanced around. “No good place to spread out the lunch.”
“Who’s interested in food? If you’re tired of carrying it, just put it down and we’ll pick it up when we come back.”
“Come back? Where are we going? Besides, I don’t want to come back and find a bear munching on our liverwurst.”
Her laugh mirrored the sound of a golden gong. “Hah! I’ll bet if a bear wanted your basket, you’d hand it over quickly enough.” Without waiting for a response, she started down a faint, steeply graded pathway. “I want to see where this goes.”
“Wait! That’s too steep. You’ll –
She emitted a small yelp and disappeared from view. I dropped the basket – unmindful of glass and hard-boiled eggs – and rushed to where she’d disappeared.
Twelve or so feet below me, she was getting up off her pretty little rump and dusting off her jeans. She was on a small ledge with nowhere to go but down. She hadn’t chosen a path, just a graded drop-off leading to nowhere.
“Oh, Hank! I don’t know if I can get back up.”
“Don’t worry, fair lady. Hank Leatherton to the rescue.”
Her face closed down. “Don’t make jokes. Get me out of here.”
She didn’t have to be so curt. After all, she’s the one who got herself into this mess. After I warned her, too. She didn’t seem frightened standing on that narrow ledge, just petulant.
I tried lying on my stomach and reaching down to her. She was a petite woman of about five-foot-two, and although I had long arms, all we could manage was to touch fingertips. I’d have extended my belt to her … if I’d had one. But years ago, I’d gone to elastic-banded waists and discarded those annoying strips of leather.
I extended my legs over the edge, but she absolutely refused to climb up my back. Too afraid of slipping and falling backward into the canyon, she claimed.
Eventually, I ended up sliding down that same scary, scree-lined embankment that had gotten her into trouble to land beside her on the ledge.
“That’s what you should have done in the first place.”
I ground my teeth and left my retort unstated. I placed my back to the bluff face and cupped my hands. She put a dainty foot in my palms, grabbed my shoulders, and lifted herself up. She was amazingly light – in fact the food basket resting on the promontory above us had seemed heavy by comparison. However, she seemed a bit heftier when she grabbed my head, dislodging my favorite NY Yankees cap and sending it floating out into the ether as I lifted her with my arms until she stood on my shoulders.
“I can’t reach the top,” she complained. “You’ll have to lift me more.”
Without warning, she lifted one clodhopper and placed it on top of my head. Then she raised  the other foot so that  all half-ton of her was supported by my neck. As I grunted aloud and my spine creaked less audibly, I heard her say she couldn’t quite reach it yet. More to relieve the painful weight on my neck than for any other reason, I grabbed her ankles and shoved my arms straight over my head.
Miriam gave a little shriek and vanished from my sight. Startled, I glanced down, halfway expecting to see her tumbling into the void. Instead, I heard her delighted voice above me.
“I did it!”
I put a hand to the back of my neck and tentatively rotated my head. Beyond a click and a clack, everything seemed okay. Then I began exploring ways to extricate myself from the situation I’d – no, she’d -- gotten me into.
I saw no way out. Twelve feet straight up or fifty feet straight down. No, not straight. The cliff wall angled a bit. After a careful inspection revealed a series of small ledges, I made a decision.
“Miriam, no way I can climb, but I might be able to make my way down to the floor of the canyon.”
“No! Come up here. I don’t want to be left alone.”
“Just go back down the trail to the car. I’ll meet you there, but it’ll take me a lot longer going back this way. You’ll have to wait for me.”
“Hank, climb up here. I insist! What if that bear comes?”
“What bear?”
“The one you said wanted the picnic basket.”
“There isn’t a bear. Just walk back to the car.”
“Oh, all right!” I heard her stumble away.
Jeez, wasn’t she even going to wait to see if I got down safely? Screw it. I’d make it with or without her.
I reached the ledge below me in a semi-controlled fall. Actually, I skied on a jumble of loose stones, almost pitching over into the void when I came to an abrupt halt on solid rock. I managed to restore my balance by waving my arms wildly. Or perhaps recovered despite my flailing arms. I repeated the process twice more without too much difficulty. Perhaps it was overconfidence or just kismet, but on the last fifteen-foot slalom, I twisted my left ankle and tumbled onto my face as I hit the bottom of the canyon. 
           After spitting out pebbles and dirt, I tried to stand, but promptly fell over again. My left ankle wouldn’t support my weight. I examined the injured joint. It didn’t seem to be broken but was badly sprained. I managed to stand and take a couple of lurching steps. I didn’t fall again, but it was painful going. As I hobbled down the rough, uneven floor of the canyon wondering if I would make the two miles back to the car, I had another thought.
Would Miriam take the food basket back to the car with her? I shook my head and winced from a sore neck. It was too heavy for her. Oh, well, what’s a $64 Veranda Collection Willow Picnic Basket and a $50 Picnic Time Wine Country Tote in the total scheme of things? Plus cutlery and linen and food, of course. I hoped the bears would appreciate the feast.
A mile into my agonizing and ungainly trek, I reconsidered. Maybe the genesis of Miriam wasn’t the Egyptian marar, after all. Perhaps it was mara.

*****
A little longer than I wanted, but I hope you got a chuckle or two out of it. Or maybe a recollection from your past.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Be happy to hear from you.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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