Chapter 1 BIRTHDAY
Your 16th birthday is a huge, huge event. At least, that’s how I looked at it. All kinds of things changed. You go from being a little kid to being a man! You can (start to) drive. You can even go out on dates! (I know, that’s my parents’ rule – everybody else is already way ahead of me.) Of course, they did allow me to have friends – that’s how Julie comes into the picture.
So when the bright sunshine started to invade my room, it was with a feeling of glee and adventure that I ripped the blankets off my bed and ran to get my clothes on. I almost made it out the back door before the border patrol grabbed me and sternly asked me where I was going.
I looked my Mom in the eye and said, “Julie and I are going to take the horses out for some exercise! Come on, we’ve got to go!”
“Not until you have your breakfast, young man. And Happy Birthday, my Big Little Man!” She followed that with an overly wet kiss and a hug that knocked the wind out of me… Yecchhh!!!
My Dad was already at the table. “Don’t forget to be back no later than 3:00 – we’ve got great plans today!”
“I know, I know – I won’t forget!!! We’ve gone over this a million times. And thanks, I guess, whatever we’re doing….”
So then I was out the door, running to the barn, sure that I was going to be hours late for Julie. But as I neared it, I spied her running just as fast from the other direction.
Julie: How do I describe the most incredible creature on two legs? She was slender, athletic – could run circles around me, that was for sure. Her long blond hair flowed around her fresh, smiling face to her shoulders. I was just dying to be able to kiss her lush full lips. And every time I saw her, my soul got lost in the depths of her warm blue eyes.
Still fifteen, she had a brilliant mind and a wicked sense of humor. I just loved it when she laughed! And when she giggled, I just went all limp inside.
We stopped at the entrance to the stalls, and caught our breath. “Sorry,” she said, “my parents wouldn’t let me go without a million questions.”
“That’s OK,” I replied, “Mine wouldn’t let me go either. So let’s get to it and get the horses ready!” She just stuck her tongue out and raced me into the barn.
Soon we had them all groomed and set to go. We mounted, and off we went. At a gallop to start.
We were headed up to Outlook Peak. Really high up the mountain overlooking this huge dam we had up river a few miles.
After about a mile we slowed down to a walk. We were in the middle of the forest at this point, and the going was getting a bit steep. So we needed to let the horses have a slower pace.
Suddenly we heard a big bang! The horses spooked for a moment, but then settled down. “What was that?” Julie asked, looking around with a concerned look.
“Haven’t you heard that kind of thing before?” I asked. “They’re working on a new industrial park over the other side of the river. Not only do they have to get the land ready, but they’re also having to put a new turbine into the dam itself, or at least connected pretty close to it.
“My Dad says that this is going to bring a thousand jobs to the valley! Not to mention a new shopping mall, super highways, rail lines, schools and hospitals. Pretty neat!”
“I forgot about the blasting. I did hear that a few times before. Guess I just wasn’t that close to it.
“It does sound pretty awesome! All the great new things they’re going to make happen around here. It’s been kind of dead, you know.
“Did you hear they’re actually planning a huge entertainment complex with a skating rink, bowling alley, mega-cinema theatres, and all kinds of other stuff? I’ve even heard a rumor that a minor league hockey team is exploring the possibility of moving here!”
“Gee, I hadn’t heard about any of that! Can’t wait for them to have everything finished. It’s going to be so cool!
“Especially since I can actually start dating now!!!” And I followed that with a wink – to which she just stuck out her tongue.
“Yeah,” she dryly replied. “All the kids are just drooling with anticipation! – for the entertainment center, that is!”
That didn’t go so well… Breathing came pretty short – not so cool when you’re riding a tough trail.
Feeling a bit like I had stuck my foot into something smelly, I just looked ahead and urged my horse on. Soon the way leveled off, and we went even faster.
Several more loud booms – getting bigger each time.
It seemed like hours, but suddenly we emerged into a clearing overlooking a wide expanse of the river, the dam, and the huge new lake behind it. Wow! Gorgeous!!
Julie caught her breath. “I never will get used to how phenomenal it is up here. Just so out of this world!”
We jumped off our horses, walked them a while to cool them off, and then tied them to nearby trees. Then we sat down to a light lunch Julie had packed. She had made it lighter than normal ’cause we didn’t know what might be planned a couple hours later.
As I reached over for my sandwich, she grabbed my hand, pulled me close, and kissed me nice and firm – but way too brief! She smiled, “Happy Birthday, Ralphy!”
I turned beet red, and was torn between diving into her arms and total paralysis. I opted for paralysis – decided the safest course was to leave the pace to her. So I just replied, “Thanks!” (How totally inane!)
What a moment!!! Torn between total elation and a huge pit in my stomach – that was the moment destiny chose to unleash the most violent chaos we had ever witnessed!
Copyright © 2011 Donald P.Gage, DMn.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American