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[Tom] [Colophon] [More pK] [Manual Control]


We were in our twenties: she, twenty five-ish; I, twenty four-ish. I remember this because it was during the late sixties when the Zodiac killer was active and in the news; and the bastard was in peoples' minds, too--especially when they found themselves alone and imagined they were unprotected, defenseless and otherwise vulnerable. People learned a lot about themselves when the Zodiac killer was running loose; and we were no exceptions.

I think we were driving the 1968 MGB convertible, our new, British green two seater about which Toni had let me believe that I had convinced her that it was exactly the right car for her--even though she knew damned well it wasn't... and she knew damned well it was really the car that I had wanted. She thought the car impractical and she hated driving it... and I knew this... and she knew that I knew... and I knew that she knew that I knew. We had taken off in the MGB one day--I'm not sure which day, perhaps a week day, as our days off rotated, (me, being a student and a waiter and a guitar-picker; she, being a psychiatric technician on a rotating schedule)--just to go someplace. We could do that, back then: just take off and go someplace, anyplace, without a care in the world; we used to do it a lot.

Like other drives on other days, from the (then) quaint City of Sonoma, where we lived, we aimed ourselves westward and drove over to Petaluma and onward through the rough, fog-swept, farm-dotted, rolling hills of western Sonoma County which lay between the valley and the coast. I don't recall, but we probably stopped at one of those funky old general stores in the outskirts of Petaluma--or perhaps Tomales or Valley Ford--for a six-pack of beer or maybe a bottle of wine; it was all part of "just taking off." The car was at home on the two-lane roads which wound through the rolling hills like long, black snakes. The convertible top was down and the passing air swirled past our noses bringing whiffs of eucalyptus and cypress or the pungent aromas of freshly plowed fields. Whitewashed fences of varied designs raced by and stood out bright against the rich, green pastures which lay behind them. California poppies of yellow and red grew thick along the roadsides and blew in the breeze which smelled more and more like salt and sand as we drew near the coast. When we reached Bodega Bay we pulled in at the Tides Restaurant where we bellied up to the bar with the local fishermen and drank whiskey, neat, while we looked out at the salmon trawlers as they rounded Bodega Head and grew in size as they approached through the relative calmness of the bay and chugged their way through the channel and back to the wharfs. After our whiskies, we walked out onto the adjacent pier and watched as the catches were unloaded and put on ice and we breathed in the smells of the bay and the boats and the fish and the bait and we felt very, very alive.

We left Bodega Bay and drove north along windy Highway 1 toward Jenner, where the Russian River pours passively into the aggressive Pacific Ocean. Near Jenner, we stopped at Goat Rock and we climbed to the top where we watched the surf as it pounded incessantly against the jagged rocks below, sending giant white fingers of salty spray high into the air. Then we climbed back down to the neck of a sandy beach upon which Goat Rock stands, a stretch which is always strewn with driftwood and small stones and shells; we took souvenirs.

We left Goat Rock and drove across the Russian River Bridge to the Jenner-By-The-Sea restaurant and I remember getting out of the MGB by jumping over the car door instead of opening it. We went inside and sat at the bar where we ordered Irish Coffees and sipped them while we watched those crazy colored blobs swim magically from top to bottom to top to bottom through fluids which were held in large containers behind the bar; we hesitated, as we had hesitated on other visits, to ask the bartender how in the hell they did that.

The bar in the Jenner-By-The-Sea restaurant was home to an immense fireplace which was made of local rocks set in mortar and climbed the entire height of the bar's high wood-paneled walls. The hearth was huge, as was the fire pit, and I found I was envious of anyone who owned a place with a fire pit large enough to burn tremendous sections of oak trees without splitting them into smaller pieces. The bartender rolled a dry oak log into the fire which blazed and cracked and warmed the room; we could feel the intense heat from where we sat, laughing and talking at the bar; laughing and talking and wondering what made those colored blobs move up and down...

Perhaps we had an Abalone Sandwich and some homemade chowder in the restaurant; but perhaps we didn't--I don't remember too much about food on that specific day. We had had Abalone Sandwiches and chowder there before and they were always delicious. Maybe we just had a few Irish Coffees before we decided to climb back into our little, green sports car and drive further north on Highway 1; further north where the sparsely traveled roadway narrowed as it climbed up the steep mountains which overlooked the coast.

When we left the City of Sonoma earlier that morning, we knew the day had promised to be a warm one. But since we also knew that the winds which blew in off the cold Pacific could drag the temperatures down twenty or thirty degrees, we dressed in sweaters and hats to prepare for the coast. The winds act strangely along the coast. Sometimes, while standing high on a cliff, perhaps overlooking a rocky beach, they can chill you to the bone and nearly knocking you over in the process. But down on the beach, a hundred or so feet below, it can be balmy, even hot, as the sheer cliffs somehow seem to shunt the chilly winds upward. This effect, or something similar, must have been occurring as we climbed out of Jenner on Highway 1 because the higher we climbed, the less wind we felt and the warmer it became. We decided to take off our sweaters and hats so we could feel the warm sun on our heads and necks and arms; and I remember having Toni steer while I purposefully took my sweet time pulling my sweater over my head... she hated that, and threatened to steer the car off the cliff to spite me; and I believed her because I knew she surely would have.

We climbed and climbed and climbed and about five miles north of Jenner we thought we were at the top of the world. I slowed the car and pulled onto the dirt shoulder of the narrow, deserted road and turned off the engine. To the west, the barren mountainside sloped sharply downward to the cliffs which stood against the rocky beaches far, far below. The coastal fog, the "marine layer," as it's sometimes called--an expression for which I always had a one-liner--had been drawn far out to sea and was visible only as a thick, dark-gray line which hovered on the horizon and separated the deep green of the Pacific from the bright blue of the mid-day sky. Whitecaps flashed on the ocean's face, blown up by winds which still eluded us high on the mountain's side. To the east, an old, barbed-wire fence separated the narrow highway from rolling, golden-colored pastures which sloped slightly upward and were dotted with large oak trees. Further east began the redwoods which grew thick and stretched for miles and miles back to the perimeters of the cities of the northern Sonoma Valley.

After staring out at the vast panorama to the west for what seemed like several minutes, I turned toward Toni to ask if she wanted to keep traveling north. But my question never fully matured because my words stopped in mid-sentence when I saw that while I had been staring off toward Japan, she had scooted sideways on the small, leather seat and now sat with her back planted firmly against the door and with her long legs, over which she wore tight, white Levi's, spread widely apart--one knee on the dashboard and the other pinned flat against the seat-back. Her hair, which had recently been bleached from chestnut to blonde--a look which set off stunningly her fair complexion and high, Scandinavian cheekbones--blew gently in the soft, warming breeze, and she wore that old familiar grin--smiley mouth turned up at the corners and round eyes that twinkled and shined seductively--which begged no further explanation; I wondered, but only briefly, why I hadn't thought of it first.

Without missing a beat, I grabbed the small picnic blanket from the tiny storage area behind the seats and this time we both left the car without using the doors. We helped each other through the barbed-wire fence, (this brings to mind another story: one about another barbed-wire fence on which a pair of Toni's yellow panties spent the night... but that's another story), and raced up and over the hillside to a shady spot under a huge oak tree which was just out of view of the highway--not that that really mattered.

She was twenty five-ish and I was twenty four-ish and we were, fully, all the animal potential we could possibly be... fully, and then some. We tossed the blanket to the ground with such a flurry that dry, fallen leaves flew up into the air. Tennis shoes and hiking boots, not fully untied, went sailing off helter skelter, (This wasn't a time for nudity, you see. This wasn't at all about wallowing in the magnificence of sun against skin or skin against breeze--or any of that; this was about lust; raw, wet, undiluted lust). We fell toward the blanket and all the way to the ground we ripped at zippers and pulled at belts and fumbled with buttons and snaps. We yanked down on our pants with a laugh and a fury and tried hard to kiss while we kicked and kicked in a feeble attempt to separate our pant-legs from our ankles--at least from one ankle so as not to be rendered immobile or unduly impaired physically when the band began to play and the chorus started to sing.

During times like these, times of impassioned lust, the world just melts away, I think. First go the surroundings--the sounds, and the sights; then the air, then the ground beneath. And it all becomes one moment, joined together in sex and lost to the rest of the entire universe--or maybe it becomes the entire universe, and you're at the center of it all. Seconds turn to minutes in a time which disappears; melts away to impassioned eternity; and if it's good, you become totally lost to it.

We were lost to it that day, I'll tell you! We were lost in space and time for God knows how long--postponing the inevitable in a trade-off which prolonged the lost, eternal moment. I was on top--young, proud and strong; I had remained on top from the start--and that was just fine for this type of picnic; that's the kind of picnic it was. And near the end, my eyes were closed; and hers were too--and I know this because she later told me they were closed. They were closed when we heard the footsteps crackle close-by on the dry leaves which covered the ground beneath the huge tree, and we kept them closed while we both froze solid and listened in horror to what we both knew was the Zodiac killer, who had seen us leave our little car and had followed at a distance while we romped, hand-in-hand, in lusty excitement and blind abandon across the golden pasture to our just-secluded-enough spot under the tree on the hillside. We didn't need to talk; we both knew each other's thoughts; we were goners.

Vulnerability takes many shapes and forms; but being face-down and bare-assed with one leg still attached to a clinging pair of blue jeans and one rapidly waning dickybird--still somewhat attached to a clinging, trembling woman--even if she's your wife-especially if she's your wife--has got to be the worst! My face was directly above hers and her arms were wrapped around my neck. My arms were under her back and my hands gripped her shoulders. I remember how we both flinched and grabbed tighter to each other when we heard the dry leaves crackle again-crushed under monster feet which moved closer and closer. The terrifying sound of the leaves pierced our ears and we both opened our eyes and held them open wide; we were too afraid to move otherwise. My field of vision included her terrified face-not more than four inches from my own-which also showed terror-and I could see the base of the huge tree when I moved my eyes upward; to the sides, I could see only leaves on the ground. I imagined that her peripheral vision might offer a glimpse of our murderer but her eyes remained frozen in a terrified stare which shot directly back at mine. The leaves crackled again, closer than ever. Perhaps not wanting to die without knowing the cause of her death, Toni squeezed her arms tightly around my neck and lifted her head up, forcing her cheek close to mine and offering herself a view of whomever it was who stood behind us eagerly awaiting the chance to carve two, fresh notches in his belt; my field of vision was reduced to that of blonde hair. I imagined her face to be panic stricken as she watched the killer, who now knew he'd been seen, move in and take aim at us; at me! Time froze as she held her position there against my cheek. The silence was intolerable and I waited for her blood-curdling scream and imagined that we'd break apart and roll away from one another and take off a-hopping in opposite directions, dragging behind us the jeans which still clung to our ankles.

The long silence, along with my demonic vision with comedic overtones, was suddenly shattered when Toni let out a horrific laugh, the likes of which I'd heard many times. To that particular laugh, I could easily affix a picture of her face, all squinty-eyed and open mouthed, and I felt the blood return, once again, to my extremities--to some of them, at least. I felt her body relax--then tense again--and she gave a great heave and I flew off and came to rest on my backside, supporting myself with my elbows. She rose to a sitting position and together we looked in awe at the improbable sight before us: there, not ten feet away, stood no less than a dozen enormous, black and white cows! They stood perfectly motionless, staring down at us with deep, serious cow-eyes. Their animal curiosity, we imagined later , must have been peeked by the strange sounds--and perhaps the strange smells, those fertile aromas--which had emanated from the commotion which had been occurring up-wind, under the huge oak tree in their pasture, and they had just come, as animals do, to investigate. In the distance, other heifers approached; they walked slowly, deliberately, silently--some side by side--over the soft, yellow grasses of the pasture; it was easy to see how, in our lost moments of agitated and heated ecstasy, a whole goddamn herd could have easily congregated.

We sat there, just as we were, for a few moments, and we let our laughter subside. We sat like that until we became, once again, contented with things--at least as contented as were our bovine fans.

And being in our twenties--she, twenty five-ish, I, twenty four-ish--we lay back down and finished what we had started.... right there in front of the cows... mooing and snorting our own sighs of the Zodiac.... barnyard exhibitionists to the end, we were. High in the hills, high above the Sonoma County coast, we'd finally done it "till the cows came home."


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