The Lion & the B
I'm in solo road trip heaven, heading west on Route 66. To my left, Arizona's Black Mountains rise up from the empty road...
To my right, the desert extends 75 miles west to Vegas, with only sage and yucca bushes breaking the horizon between earth and blue sky. There's nothing to break up the view out here; no buildings, signs or phone poles. So when a little dirt road pokes off to my right, I drive out to explore.
It turns out to be a dump where the locals bring dead cars and couches, and where other locals come to shoot at dead cars, couches and empty bourbon bottles. I walk back to the car, which is when I see the giant 'B'.
There it is: a huge letter on the side of a barren mountain, the spine of the B extending 400 feet up the side of the slope.
I must explore. It's way too steep to go straight up the spine, so I hike up its winding curves. After 20 minutes, my hands are on my knees to help me reach the small dirt plateau at the top, where I'm greeted by a mesmerising view.
At the center of the dirt shelf is a mineshaft, 4 by 8 feet wide. No gates or railings, just a rectangular hole diving vertically into the mountain. I throw a few palm-sized rocks down and listen as they hit walls and boards. Happy to imagine
that it's bottomless, I walk back to the edge of the plateau, notice that my car looks really tiny from here, and simultaneously hear a few rocks falling.
Now, given that I've just been tossing rocks down a mineshaft, my mind files this sound under 'recent aural phenomena'. But my gut hears the new rocks differently, and they're over my left shoulder, where I haven't been.
So I turn around and look straight into the eyes of a fullsized wildcat. It's about 30 feet away, carefully stepping down onto the plateau. Having just kicked those rocks, it's looking at me as if to say, "Shit. I knew you'd hear that."
I might have dealt with this situation in any number of rational ways. I was bigger than the cat, and I could have put my arms up to scare it. Instead, my intellect dissolves, and I become nothing but a pursued animal. I run, nay, launch
myself, off the edge.
Falling 10 feet, I hit the steep ground and find myself sprinting straight down the spine of the B that was too steep to walk up.
And here, amazingly, my adrenalin-soaked brain
somehow has the energy to conjure up stock footage from nature programs. [The lion leaps onto the weaving gazelle, claws and jaws meet its neck, and the victim wobbles to its knees.]
My car doesn't seem to be getting any closer. [The gazelle lays its head down, its eyes resigned to death.]
I'm flying forward, barely catching myself with each stride. [The other lions trot over, tearing a bit of leg here, gnawing on some tasty loins.] It's not my life flashing before my eyes;
I'm watching the Discovery Channel.
Perversely wanting to see my demise firsthand, I hazard a quick, unsteady glance over my shoulder, expecting to see nothing but teeth and eyes. If this is how I snuff it, I want to see it coming.
Maybe we could roll down the hill together in a bloody, screaming mass. Then a passing holiday camper could find my body in a day or two.
I'm almost disappointed when I see nothing behind me, but I continue sprinting. I make it to the road (nothing behind me) fumble the keys (still nothing) slam the door shut (safe!) and look back up the hill.
...and waaaaay up there is the cat, walking serenely near the edge of the plateau, taking in the view. It had barely moved. I'd been in far more danger hurtling down the hill like a possessed jackrabbit than I ever was from the bloody cat. I watch the cat as it calmly ambles out of sight.
My mind files the sound under 'recent aural phenomena', but my gut feels differently.
Mustard issue one 33