Chapter 29: Slippery When Wet
Earlier that evening, after the card game, Molly asked, “Do you have any plans for tomorrow? We tried to make a reservation with one of the white-water rafting guides last month, but they were already booked up.”
Rather than answer her question directly, I’d said, “Davie, hand me my phone; it’s over there on the counter.” I didn’t have it on me because I didn’t have anything on me at the moment, a continuous state for me since peeling my dusty clothes off for a quick shower once we’d climbed into the motor home after our off-road expedition.
My smartphone’s screen said I was on the “Extended” network with two bars, but it’d suffice for a voice call.
“Hi, Kate! What’s going on?” asked a lo-fi voice from the little speaker.
“Hey, Kenny! That’s what I was calling you about: do you and Alex have plans tomorrow?”
“We’re both off work, so we were just going to stay home, play some video games, maybe sacrifice some beef to the barbecue gods. You got a better plan?”
“Well, do you still have that 7-person raft, Kenny? Please tell me you didn’t sell it!”
“Yeah, it’s out in the shed. We haven’t had it out this season, so we’ll have to air it up. Who’re we taking?”
“We’ve got a couple of friends down from Salt Lake, so that’s four of us and two of you, so you need to come up with two more: one for the raft and one to drive.”
We nailed down several other details in that way.
As we were winding things down, Kenny observed, “I don’t think you can get away with going down river bottomless and sunbathing nude like you normally do, as busy as the river will be tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry,” I told him, “I’ve got a new plan. Just be sure your +1 is cool with a bit of nudity.”
“Oh, I know exactly who we’re inviting, but you’ll have to wait and see. Can you get over here by eight tomorrow?”
“Yeah, see you then, Kenny, and thanks!”
After I’d informed my audience about the plan, my Davie said, “Norm, get dressed; we need to prep tomorrow’s lunch. No arguments; details on the way. You two,” he said, waving at Molly and I, “can do…whatever.”
Soon after, our men were rolling out of the campground in the FJ, leaving Molly and I behind.
“Now whatever will we do, two bare-naked women all alone together, bereft and abandoned as we are?” Molly cooed comically at me.
I towed her into the queen bed that dominated the back third of the motor home and wiped her joking mien clean, inscribing in its place a picture of genuine ecstasy.
Then she returned the favor.
We got up with the dawn the following day, needing time to strike our camp. We’d be sleeping in our own bed tonight, tomorrow being a work day for us.
After breakfast and ablutions, the Alexanders piled into the FJ with Davie, crowding its single bench seat while I rode down to Kenny’s separately on my bike.
I beat them there easily, less because my normal 25 miles per hour downhill cruising speed matched well with Moab’s average speed limit than because they took a detour out of town to pick up a few lunch things Davie and Norman weren’t able to bring back to camp yesterday. This gave me time to settle some final details with Kenny and to meet the other two people he’d invited along.
“Kaitlyn, this is my little sister Laura. I don’t know if you remember her…?”
I didn’t; she was something like two years younger than me, and at the time I’d been growing up with Kenny and his friend Alex, two years made all the difference in the world. Nevertheless, I said, “Hi, Laura.”
“I remember you,” she said. “You used to let me have your dried peaches from the lunches your mom packed.”
She was right, I realized with a rush of memory. I hadn’t liked their texture much, but I didn’t have the heart to tell mom to stop packing them, so I’d given them away to Kenny’s little sis most days when I was over here after school.
“So what are you up to these days?” I asked her.
“Just graduated from college,” she said proudly.
I tilted my head curiously, because this didn’t make sense. If she was two years younger than me, that’d make her 23, so…
She interrupted my puzzled figuring, saying, “I crammed an MS into five years by taking summer classes.”
“Ah!” I said, now enlightened. “What field?”
“Yours, actually: natural resource management. The profs talked about you a lot; you impressed them. I’m probably going to end up being one of your coworkers at the BLM office.”
“Or maybe my boss, with that degree,” I said wryly. “I only have a BS.”
She smiled and shrugged in a “Who can say?” sort of way.
“I thought they only gave out bachelors’ degrees down here,” referring to the Moab branch campus of USU.
“They do. I had to transfer up to Salt Lake to finish. I added a specialty in renewable energy.”
“Cool! Davie’s got an idea for putting in a small pumped hydro backed solar power system at the house. Maybe you can help him bring it down out of the clouds and into reality.”
That thought made me wonder where Davie would be able to park. Kenny’s big crew-cab truck took over the single-car driveway with the raft strapped into its bed, the garage door open behind it, where they’d clearly been working on it before we arrived. Alex’s equally big truck was in the gravel area to the side of the house.
That made me wonder, how did Laura get here, then? I thought it was unlikely that she lived with her brother Kenny. Maybe back with her parents while she got settled after graduation?
I was about to ask when Alex came out of the house carrying some of the gear. He derailed my train of thought with a “Hey, Kate!” then tossed the stuff in the back of his friend’s truck, sliding it under the raft to keep it from blowing out in the wind, sliding himself around to Laura’s side where he asked, “Ready, babe?”
Aha! Mystery solved!
“I’m always ready; you know that!” she said coyly.
“How long’s this been going on?” I asked.
“Just after Christmas,” Alex said as Laura snuggled up closer into his embrace.
“’Bout time you caught one, Alex!” I said. He’d been single more than not ever since high school. I’d begun to despair for him. Turning to his girlfriend, I began, “Laura…,” then faltered, not quite knowing how to proceed. I shot for circumspection, lacking any better plan. “I assume Kenny and Alex explained how we like to do these rafting trips?”
By way of answer, she pulled down the band on her shorts to flash her kitty at me!
I laughed, then said, “Yes, very good, you may indeed find underwear to be a hindrance today!”
She looked ready to answer that when we were interrupted by the FJ’s noisy arrival. Davie parked it on the curb in front of the house.
I introduced everyone. “Most of you know my husband Davie. These are our friends Molly and Norman Alexander, down here from Salt Lake for the holiday weekend. Molly, Norman, these are my old school friends Kenny Scott and Alex Grant; they’ll be our river guides. And this is Kenny’s father and his little sister, Dan and Laura. Dan will be driving us up-river and collecting us when we land, so you need to be extra-nice to him, or we’re walking back to town!”
Everyone laughed and then began loading things into the truck. Minutes later, we’d all piled into the two crew cab trucks and were flying up the highway out of town.
Dan Scott drove us up to our favorite entry point on the Green River, which was generally less muddy and less crowded than the Colorado.
We had a great time rafting down the river. We put Laura in the narrow nose seat up front and the Alexanders on the broader one just behind her, so the first rapid absolutely drenched the three of them. Laura knew it was coming and reveled in it, but it caught the Alexanders by surprise.
Our lunch stop wasn’t far down from the second of the big rapids which soaked those three all over again, so when Molly complained, “I’m absolutely freezing!” as we towed the big heavy raft onto the beach’s rounded river rocks, I told her, “Don’t worry, we’ll have you warmed up soon.”
“I hope so!” added Norman, who was still positively dripping wet.
In all of our prior trips, we settled down for a cold lunch here by the boat, but with this big holiday group, we wanted to do something special. We’d scoped this spot out earlier for this very purpose, finding that the beach was the mouth of a canyon that wound up and around atop the bluff that overlooked this section of river.
From there, we could see no one else nearby, so I peeled bare and sent my Gaia senses out into the landscape, confirming that there was indeed no one else around other than a few groups down in rafts on the river. One of those would be in eyeshot of the cliff in about five minutes, but they wouldn’t see us if we kept sufficiently far back from its edge.
Davie was out of his damp rafting clothes, pressing the water out of his life jacket, laid open on a rocky section of the bluff top to sun-bake its interior. It wouldn’t fully dry by the time we had to get back on the river, but we’d learned through experience that the admonition to “Cool your tits!” had an unfortunate application to this particular sport.
The Alexanders were right behind Davie in baring themselves to Gaia, followed by our friends.
I thought Laura would be last to strip, but she ended up racing Molly to full birthday suit status, bringing a smile of delight to Alex’s lips and a tolerant one to Kenny’s.
By the time the full party was bare and looking for places to sun themselves dry, Davie’d built a small fire in a rock-lined fire pit already up there, near the precipice. There was plenty of deadwood around, and of the group, only Norman noticed that we used neither matches nor any petroleum products to get the fire lit.
“How’d you do that, Davie?” he asked in a stunned tone, pointing at the blaze that now fully engulfed the deadwood.
“I told you, me wise Indian guide. Now go get warm. Lunch will be ready in a few minutes.”
Norman walked away shaking his head incredulously.
“So quickly?” queried Laura, apparently referring to lunch rather than my husband’s inexplicably-rapid fire-building skills.
Davie explained the virtues of sous vide cooking to her, it being his favorite method of cooking things like steak, being both somewhat techie and also low-effort. “Bottom line,” he concluded, “all we need to do is warm them back up and get them a bit browned on the outside. Everything else we brought is best served cold, like the potato salad.”
Lunch was lovely. The steaks in particular were so tender that knives were nearly a formality, their utility coming mainly from the fact that we were using lightweight stamped-steel camping utensils that might have bent if tried on a traditionally prepared steak.
“What do you want us to do with our dirty things?” asked Laura.
Davie answered, “Just put them in this nylon stuff sack. I’ll give it all a rinse-off in the river before we leave to keep the smell down, then we’ll clean them properly in the sink when we get home.”
With that, he went to go sit by the edge of the cliff, walking confidently, knowing full well that there were no onlookers down below at the moment. Davie and I watched the nearest raft behind us on the river pass by with our Gaia senses, a good ten minutes gone.
As I walked up to join him in appreciation of the vista, I rechecked up-river and found that another raft was shortly going to come around the bend, but I could be exposed up here until then, and I intended to take full advantage.
«I wish I didn’t have to hide myself away before that raft comes around the bend up yon,» I told Davie through the bond, so our fellow vacationers would not overhear us speaking of magic.
«Yeah. You can peek your head and shoulders over, but if you dare flash your boobs, they might lose their freaking minds.»
«You should talk!» I teased him. «You aren’t always fully rational when you see my tits, either.»
He walked wordlessly around behind me, gathered me into a standing spoon pose, and groped me sensuously.
«None of that, now. We do not want to shock my friends.»
Davie sighed, let me go, and went to sit down at the precipice, his so-called naughty bits thereby concealed. I lay down behind him out of sight from the river, the sun-warmed stone baking my bare body.
“Anyone down there?” Laura stage-whispered.
I replied, “Yeah, some rafters. You can stand beside me without them seeing below your shoulders, though.”
She did, and we began chatting, connecting for the first time since we’d been children together. We had so many things in common, but without this trip together, we’d have hardly known of it. Strange how life twists and turns!
The raft that prompted my retreat beached alongside ours, and I sensed its two occupants get out and park themselves on the rocky beach, the two using the narrow spaces between rocks to lay down and relax for a while, as we’d usually done on past trips.
Perhaps ten minutes later, I sensed them get up and walk over to our raft, not their own. Davie stuck his fingers in his mouth and let out a piercing whistle. I looked up and saw him giving the pair down below that two-fingered “I’m watching you!” gesture.
Then I saw Davie’s back stiffen, so I asked him through the bond, «What?»
«Those turnip tonkers just flipped me off! They’re starting to paw through the stuff we left in the raft.»
I didn’t sit up to see, just quested down to the rocky beach with my senses and woke up two rattlesnakes sunning on a narrow cliff undercut by spring runoff, well above beach level in this season. I encouraged my scaly friends to go down to the water and scope things out.
Perhaps twenty seconds later, I heard a series of distance-attenuated screams and splashes, overpowered by Davie’s belly laughter.
“What?” asked Laura aloud, coming up onto her elbows and squinting in the bright mid-day sun, her sunglasses not helping as much as she probably wished they would.
“Two guys just tripped over a rock trying to get into their raft. Ended up in the drink and almost lost their raft in the scramble. They’ll be awhile drying out!”
Through the bond he said, «Remind me not to annoy you, my guru.»
«Shush, my shishya,» I bade him. «I need to reward our dragooned guards.» With my magical senses, I found a few desert mice and sent the snakes over that way and let them go. Nature would take its own course from there.
Soon after, we broke out the oil-based sunscreen and began using it to give full-body massages, mixing in little bits of healing as we worked, not needing to do much of that, our party mostly young and healthy, the Alexanders being the exception, who were instead middle-aged and healthy following the long weekend’s activities.
It started out with just Davie and I doing the work, but we purposefully started the massages with Laura and Norman. Davie and Laura chatted about renewable energy systems and techniques for getting off the grid while I worked Norman silently. It was a fairly interesting conversation, I suppose, but I didn’t have anything to contribute to it, so I don’t remember it well enough to set it down here. That’s my Davie, an engineer to the core.
Once we’d buttered these two up, we sent Laura off to do her boyfriend Alex and Norman to do his wife Molly. That left Davie and I free to give Kenny a four-handed massage, which he enjoyed greatly.
Once we were done, Kenny said, “Okay, I demand four-handed nekkid sunscreen massages on rafting trips from now on!”
The rest of the group laughed in delight at that.
After letting the group sun for a while longer, Kaitlyn and I led them on a hike back down to the raft, keeping well ahead to give them the impression that we were scouting in the good old-fashioned way to avoid flashing any rafters, but we just used our life senses to time our descent to coincide with a gap in the passing rafts.
Laura was especially happy with this arrangement, since it gave her an excuse to tow Alex down-canyon by his stiff pull-handle.
The group stayed together through the evening, half of us playing games in Kenny’s kitchen, the other half in the front room holding a video gaming tournament, players swapping between the groups from time to time.
After dinner, we watched a movie, Norman’s choice, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I don’t much care for martial arts movies, but even I’ll concede that that is one gorgeous film!
While I biked home from Kenny’s, Davie drove the Alexanders back to their camping spot, where they’d be staying an extra day to avoid the risk of driving their big rig on highways crowded with impaired people returning home from Memorial Day parties.
On joining me in bed, Davie said, “Molly renewed her promise of massage referrals. Expect to be busy this summer.”
“Good. But you, Davie, had best expect to get busy right now.”
As his tongue caressed my lady bits, my last coherent thought through the mage bond was, «I love you, Davie.»
He knew it was true; it is impossible to lie or deceive a person in rapport like that.
It was also unnecessary for him to answer in words, but he did anyway, the sweet, sweet man. “I love you, my Kaitlyn, my shishya, my guru, my all.”
And then he closed my eyes for me.