It was a vibrant lily. Sitting full of life in that vase. Its two green, elephant-ear leaves could easily cover my entire 6’2” torso, and it was impossible not to look at – or touch – when passing through the kitchen.
“What kind of lily is it?” I asked Corey. “I’m not sure, but they’re everywhere down by the river right now, I’ll show you when we go swimming tomorrow.”
Tomorrow came and went, as did several more tomorrows. My time hanging out in Mount Shasta – a town and mountain I visited and climbed every year – was winding down.
Shasta held a special place in my heart ever since rounding that corner on I-5. Bam! There it was, all 14,180 feet of glory. People say the mountain emits an otherworldly energy, called a spiritual vortex. Some even move here to feel it, though that was never my reason for visiting. I came to climb and ski and swim in one of the last remote wilderness areas in California.
The strange folks Shasta attracts had never bothered me, until today.
The late summer night was burning orange and warm. The sun had set, and we were drinking beers, seeing who would move first to make dinner. Out of nowhere, Corey’s neighbor appeared at the open door, breathless. She was a good looking woman in her late 50s… her inflated bosom desired the attention of her 20-year-old self.
“My… my horse just kicked me… I… I think my arm’s broken,” she said, struggling through tears. The way she held her arm seemed wrong for someone with a broken bone, but I stayed quiet. She pleaded with us. “I need help getting the horses back into the pasture, can you guys help me?”
Sam, Corey, and I have probably all done some un-gentlemanly things in our lives, but we certainly weren’t going to turn down a damsel in distress… even if something felt off about her distress. We spent a few minutes calming her down, and before leaving, she placed her hand on the lily. The plant stood firm and proud in her presence.
When we got to her ranch house, she talked a lot of nervous words, eventually telling us she had recently divorced. Music played from the indoor and outdoor speakers, candles were lit… everything was arranged perfectly. It felt like a date would be arriving any minute. Were we the date? Our eyes all agreed.
The horses outside looked peaceful. She jiggled the gate to the pasture, pretending it was open, but Sam confirmed it worked just fine… and was already closed.
A stallion walked over and bent its head over the fence, asking gently for a rub. Suddenly, she erupted in a crazed fury, “Don’t you ever kick me again!” she screamed. Then reared back and punched the horse in the chest.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In the darkness, my brain felt woozy, like I was dreaming up something crazy. I hoped the horse would retaliate, but he didn’t.
I had to get out. I walked across the yard and through the house. Everyone followed. She asked us to stay for a drink, as if nothing had happened. Corey and I flatly turned her down. Sam paused for a moment, knowing what the offer meant and what a story it would be. Sam’s a story kind of guy. But self-preservation eventually trumped machismo, and we all marched home, following the dark gravel road.
Corey swung his front door open, and we all stared at each other… utterly stunned. “There’s nooooooo way!!” Corey said.
The vibrant lily we had left only ten minutes ago was completely wilted and dry to the stem, still sitting in a vase full of water. It had lived two, healthy weeks in that vase – being touched by every person coming and going. Now both elephant ears lay limp on the kitchen counter… and she was the last one to touch it.