Thursday, February 4, 2010


[In this scene, protagonist Steven Meyer, a rather bumbling screenwriter, is on a wilderness hike, scouting locations to stage a hot-air balloon crash that will serve as the setting for a screenplay.]

…At the edge of the carpet of greens and colors rose huge, fragrant red cedars and deep green firs with black bark. One kind of pine in this environment, Steven recalled from his failed days as a boy scout, gave off the scent of butterscotch or vanilla if he stuck his nose into a crevice in the bark. Steven spotted a pine, seeing its clusters of long needles and veered from the road to take a sniff. Wading through the undergrowth of manzanita, scratching his bare ankles on the spiny, stiff branches of the plants, he made it to the base of the tree and inhaled.

Wrong pine tree.

Advancing from the distance, from up the hill, came the gentle putter of a trail bike or two. Hondas. 90cc. Steven recognized the sound as he treked to the next pine sentinel. As a boy, he’d owned one of these bikes and had enjoyed days of exploration in these very woods. Closer and closer the tiny motorcycles drove as Steven inhaled the bark of another tree a few yards from the road.

Wrong again.

Steven stumbled a bit farther off the track and found a third tree. Bingo! The aroma filled his nose and almost set his mouth to watering. The tiny rumble of the trail bikes ebbed to an idle. Over their puttery din Steven heard:

“Shhhh. See that, son?”

“Yeah, dad.”

“Tree hugger.”

Steve secreted glances at the two. Tree hugger?

“A what?” asked the kid.

“Tree hugger.” The older rider pointed at Steven. “Must be one of those damned tree huggers that Pug LeBreaux’s always talking about on the radio.”

LeBreaux. Steven thought. He’s everywhere.

“Really?” asked the kid.

“Yeah. You can tell.” The older rider pointed. “See, he’s too close to that tree to be peein’ on it,” the older rider said. “I seen bear, and elk and coyote and even shot me a deer or two. But I don’t think I ever seen me a tree hugger before, son.” The engines of the two trail bikes continued at idle.

“Is he dangerous?”

Of course I’m not, Steven thought.

“Don’t know. Just better keep our distance,” the older rider warned. “Might be a young one around somewhere and you don’t likely want to get between ‘em.” He laughed and slapped the younger rider on the shoulder. “C’mon.”

“Wow,” the kid uttered breathlessly, clearly believing his old man. The two throttled up their motorbikes and continued on the road toward the camp.

Steven shook his head remembering the conversations of a few days before, back in the Squirrel Cage. There are wing nuts and nitwits and worse nowadays, everywhere, he recalled Hines saying. Then he thought: Maybe this LeBreaux fella is the source. The fountainhead.

© 2002, 2010
Church of the Open Road Press

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