Thursday, December 19, 2019

Impotent (A Serial Novella) blog post #367
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I’m going to try something different (at least to me) this week. I want to publish a heretofore unpublished novella in serial form. I’ve done short stories in installments, but this is quite a bit longer. We’ll give it a try, at any rate. Please let me know how you like this first installment.


          Forrest De la Roche swiped at the cold, damp windshield. The Volvo’s defogger failed to clear the mist inside, just as its wipers could not cope with the downpour outside, leaving him virtually blind. It appeared to be twilight, although the dashboard clock and his gold Rolex insisted it was not yet two in the afternoon. Who in the hell knew it rained like this in New Mexico? Admittedly this was northern New Mexico… but still.
          For a brief moment, De la Roche surrendered to a sense of overwhelming depression, something entirely foreign to him. As the chairman and CEO of ConstructCo International, he had controlled his own destiny and that of thousands of employees for years. Problems were simply knots to be undone by the application of knowledge, experience, logic, and brainpower, and this situation was no different
          An inveterate workaholic, he had felt the sudden need to snatch a couple of days from his crowded schedule, and a solo trip to a meeting in Albuquerque seemed just the ticket. He deplaned the company’s executive jet in Farmington, a small New Mexico city in the Four Corners Area, rented the Volvo, and started driving, ignoring demands that one of his security staff accompany him. He wanted to forget about White House invitations, Congressional hearings, power lunches, and merger strategies while motoring cross-country in the superbly engineered Swedish automobile.
          Almost immediately upon leaving Farmington, he ran into long stretches of road construction. After consulting a road map, De la Roche struck out across the Jemez Mountains, planning on rejoining the highway at some place called San Ysidro where the construction would be behind him. In any case, the prospect of a mountain trip pleased him more than the flat, high-desert country he had traveled so far. A few miles east of a quaint little town called Cuba, he ran out of pavement and really began enjoying himself.
          The first big raindrops approached from behind and failed to give adequate warning of what was to come. The landscape faded from green to gray behind a heavy veil of water. The weather system hovering to the west all day had rushed up to catch him by surprise. De la Roche pulled to the side of the road to punch up his satellite phone. Nothing but static. He glanced at the briefcase on the seat beside him and assumed the Global Positioning Unit inside was doing its job. Past experience with mountain storms told him the front would rush past, leaving only the worry of washouts and bog holes. Since the road was well graveled, he threw the Volvo in gear and continued. 
          Before long he suspected he had miscalculated. The rain relentlessly pelted the countryside. Frequent flashes of lightning momentarily brightened the day-turned- night, but the deluge drowned out the thunderclaps except when a bolt hit especially close. One strike on a stretch of road a hundred yards ahead of him excited the hair on his forearms. The gravel foundation that gave such comfort and confidence began to thin, and in places totally disappear, but by that time he was committed. Reducing his speed, he doggedly kept driving.
          Half a mile later, he powered through a stream of water rapidly eroding the dirt road. Once across the newly formed creek, he realized he’d foreclosed returning the way he came. The roadway would be completely washed out in a matter of minutes. In typical fashion, he shrugged and continued his slow way over the sodden road.
          He was climbing now, and his primary worry became the condition of the roadway. On sudden, severe down-slopes typical of mountain roads, the car planed on treacherous caliche clay. More than once, he slid off the slick road into water-filled ditches, but the valiant machine always pulled itself clear... until it didn’t.
          Cursing vehemently, he crawled out into the pounding rain to stuff rocks and branches under the bogged wheels with little hope that it would help. To his amazement, the rear wheels grabbed, and the Volvo gradually tore itself from the mud with loud sucking noises that sounded amazingly like Griego, the hunky masseur at this discrete little club in San Diego.
           The car topped a steep hill and entered a flat, open meadow. Negotiating the long gradual curve to the right, he almost did not see the fallen tree until too late. Even so, he calmly pumped the brakes gently. The automobile fishtailed alarmingly but stopped short of the pine blocking the road.
          Fighting panic, he noticed a track leading off to the left, undoubtedly an old logging road. With no other real alternative, he urged the Volvo on its uncertain way into the misty forest. A short time later, the rough track connected with another graveled road. Relieved, he turned right and prayed this would lead him to civilization.
          One hour and no more than five miles later, the road dropped abruptly to snake down the side of a steep ravine. He pumped the brakes, but it did no good. In the terrifying moments before the car gently caressed a big Ponderosa, halting its uncontrolled forward movement, De la Roche noticed a Forest Service sign announcing Cañon Cebolla. As he stared down the two hundred-foot precipitous drop just beyond the friendly pine to the distant floor of the canyon, his stomach dropped into his scrotum.
          Mindful of the shallow root systems of these mountain pines, even one so formidable as this, he threw the car into reverse. Alarmed that the rear wheels spun sideways, swinging the nose of the car free from the protecting tree trunk, he hit the seat belt button and prepared to abandon the vehicle when the tires found purchase and threw the car backward. Removing his foot from the gas pedal, he allowed gravity to take him wherever it wished, so long as it wasn’t down into the canyon. Where it took him was on an unrestrained slide back along the sloppy road. The car slued sideways as it picked up speed before bouncing across a washed-out furrow and crashing against a boulder.
          The rain quit abruptly as he climbed out of the car. The respite was only momentarily; another wall of water approached from a hundred yards down the road. Rushing through an inspection, De la Roche found the right rear fender crushed and the wheel beneath it bent at an awkward angle. The Volvo wasn’t going anywhere except for a piggyback ride aboard a wrecker. Unwilling to risk the steep road down into the canyon, he tackled the hill behind the disabled car. After falling twice and sliding on his L. L. Bean-clad butt all the way back to the car, he turned at right angles to the hill, dug the length of his soft Italian shoes into the mud, and side-stepped his way to the top.
          Despite hours in a gym and a disciplined exercise regimen, he was breathing laboriously. It was the altitude, he told himself, exhaling white vapor into the mountain atmosphere. Just before the rain came again, he caught the distant growl of a laboring motor. Immediately, he began running down the road like some panicked greenhorn in pursuit of what may or may not be a vehicle. The rain struck, descending in angry torrents that blinded and rendered him deaf. He floundered on, clutching at the faint hope of salvation. Chilled to the bone, he nonetheless began to sweat heavily as he slipped and slid on the untrustworthy clay.
          Then he faltered, coming to a halt with his hands clutching his knees while he fought for breath. Out of the corner of his eye he caught movement! Lights! A car! Awkwardly, he stumbled ahead, understanding immediately that the machine was on a sidetrack intersecting the road fifty yards ahead of him. The vehicle towed a stock trailer so the driver would not attempt the descent into Cebolla Canyon. The car would turn away from him if he did not attract its attention. Given the lashing rain, the driver would be concentrating on the road ahead of him.
          He wouldn’t make it to the intersection in time! The headlights shimmering through the rain approached the turn-off while he was still twenty yards away. Realizing that he wore dark clothing, De la Roche tore off his windbreaker and quickly reversed it, flapping the tan lining frantically. The vehicle, a Jeep, reached the intersection and turned in the opposite direction. He nearly collapsed from fear and disappointment.
          Halfway into the turn, the brake lights flashed. The Jeep drifted to a halt and sat puffing pale clouds of fog at him. A yellow-slickered figure in a Stetson emerged from the cab of the vehicle and peered through the falling rain.
          De la Roche, reaching down inside himself to reclaim his dignity, calmly put on the soaked windbreaker for the scant protection it afforded before walking toward the vehicle with as much poise as he could muster on the slippery surface. The driver, a large figure obscured by the pelting rain, approached on foot.
          “Trouble?” asked a basso-profundo voice when they were five yards apart.
          De la Roche downplayed the thing. “You might say that. Car’s propped up on a rock at the bottom of the hill,” he half-turned and gestured behind him.
          “Let’s take a look,” the figure said, striding past him, amazingly sure-footed on the treacherous surface.
          De la Roche had the impression of a big, beefy man. Young. Confident. Capable. “It’s disabled,” he called, turning to follow the yellow oilcloth raincoat.
          “Blocking the road?” The voice was muffled by the failing rain.
          “Halfway. Rear end’s in the ditch; front’s sticking out some.”
          “Better do something about it.”
          The man preceded him down the slope, digging in the heels of his calf-high waders to keep his sliding to a minimum. De la Roche almost plowed into him from behind when he stopped beside the Volvo.
          “Let’s see if we can shove the front end into the ditch.” In a move De la Roche admired, the stranger picked out some hefty rocks and stomped them into the greasy mud for leverage. The wet clay made the task reasonably easy. Soon the handsome black car sat forlornly in a water-filled ditch at the side of the road.
          “Help you carry your things?” the man asked, pushing his dripping hat back on his head during another brief lull in the downpour, revealing an immensely pleasing face of angles and wind-burned hues.
          Cowboy for some ranch. About thirty. Good-looking. Sexy as hell. And a Godsend.
          “Thanks,” he responded aloud, allowing the stranger to take his overnight bag while he claimed the briefcase.
          They reached the Jeep just as the rain started in earnest again. Safe from the deluge for the moment, the cowboy eased his vehicle and trailer out onto the road before glancing over at De la Roche and shooting out a hand.
          “Austin Andino,” the cowboy yelled over sound of rain slamming against the roof.
          Impressed by the grip, he responded. “Forrest De la Roche.”

Well, now they’ve met. And they’re stranded in the middle of the northern New Mexico mountains in a horrendous rainstorm. At the outset, I said this was a novella, which gives me time to develop characters, unlike a short story. We already know that Forrest De la Roche, big shot or no, occasionally likes to get it on, like with Griego the masseur. But we don’t know anything about the desires of a big cowboy, do we? Not yet. At any rate, the Los Angeles executive usually is in control of things. But now he’s at the mercy of a strange cowboy. He’s in an unaccustomed condition… he’s impotent.

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