FOREWORD

Ooh get me, going all fancy with a foreword! It’s intended more as an explanation than anything else. What follows, the ‘something big’ I alluded to last time, is a short story in a ‘rom-com’ style that I wrote some time in the late 1980s. It was originally written in different coloured ink from paragraph to paragraph, but I only have a black and white photocopied version now. I also suspect that the last page may be missing, either that or it ended rather abruptly, but I’ve taken the liberty of filling out the end a little, as well as doing some tidying up along the way. So it’s not quite the original manuscript, but close enough. Be warned, it’s long, far longer than I remember it being, and far longer than anything else I’ve put on this blog. I’ve taken the liberty of splitting it into two parts, to make it hopefully more digestible (as in less boring) so if you do manage to get all the way to the end, congratulations!

Best if you don’t wonder exactly WHY I wrote this, that’s another story altogether…

*  *  * * * *

LOVE ON THE ROCKIES, part one

“It shall never do,” muttered Stanley with a solemn face. “We can no longer afford to finance your existence Crystella.”

“Indeed it is true, dear daughter.” Confirmed Maureen with equal solemnity. “Our paths must now split, for our destinies are predetermined, even though fate appears to take such a labyrinthine path.”

“But Mummy… Daddy… How can you…?” Pleaded Crystella, anxiously looking from one of her parents to the other. Yet no reply came.

Standing together at the centre of the small bridge which hung perilously across a deep gorge and directly over a fiercely roiling mountain stream, Stanley pulled the hessian sack up over Crystella’s small, charming head and secured it firmly with rope. With the aid of Maureen he lifted his only daughter’s youthful, lithe frame to the edge of the handrail, and with a tear welling in his eye tipped her over and down into the furious torrent below. The sack tumbled end over end in the air, Crystella’s anguished cries swallowed up by the booming cacophony of the crashing cataract before the water swallowed her limp body.

So many memories… The sack containing the figure of a nineteen year old girl plunged into the waves. Upon resurfacing, it was tossed and juggled from breaker to eddy as the relentless river surged onward through the grandiose mountain surroundings. Somewhere above, two remorseful figures shuffled away from the bridge, returned to their estate car and drove back to the concrete jungle which was their home.

Elsewhere in the vast, majestic mountain range known as The Rockies, a lone figure sat upon a log by a gently flowing river, puffing contentedly on a pipe while contemplating the eagles and other miscellaneous birds of prey which hung way above him in the clear, late spring skies, wheeling lazily on the currents and occasionally banking off to one side or the other with easy grace. This was Roger Longhorn, or to those who knew him well, Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies.

It was while Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies was inhaling a particularly satisfying puff upon his pipe that he chanced to spy a curious form bobbing up and down in the river before him. Standing up, he shielded his eyes and realised that the object in the river was a sack, and that something was moving, faintly, inside it. Curiosity suitably aroused, he tore off his rangers’ jacket and boots with theatrical gusto and ran to the bank of the river before diving in without a second thought, swimming athletically toward the sack. In next to no time, he returned to the shore and soon had the mysterious bundle back on dry ground.

Congratulating himself on his particularly heroic deed, Roger busied himself with opening the sack which he had plucked from the river. Despite the wet condition of the rope, his nimble fingers soon loosened the knot. Like a small boy witnessing a mound of gifts before the tree on Christmas morning, Roger’s eyes widened with awe as he beheld what lay before him… The most slender, youthful, attractive and well crafted female he had ever had the fortune of encountering.

If Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies had marveled at this seeming heaven-sent spectacle a moment longer, all would have been too late, and this story would have ended somewhat prematurely, but no… His rangerly instincts kicked in and told him that the kiss of life was in order, and in this case it was a prospect which he particularly relished. Leaning manfully over her, he pressed his lips to hers and began the process of  revival, and seeing the situation as it was , took the opportunity of massaging her chest, purely for the purpose of rousing her lungs back into action of course.

With a splutter and a cough, Roger’s patient slowly began to return to consciousness. Crystella opened her eyes and saw all about her panoramic mountains and fir trees which stretched up into the cloudless azure sky. Was she in heaven? Then her gaze fell upon what she thought must be an angel, such a handsome fellow with caring blue eyes, a perfectly straight and well proportioned nose with glittering white teeth framed by a square, masculine jaw. Then with a combination of fatigue and the overwhelming sight of this stranger she slumped back into her unconscious state.

Upon seeing this Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies massaged Crystella’s chest again, just to ensure that she was breathing comfortably. He then picked her up tenderly and headed back toward his log cabin, quietly cursing the fact that he had dived into the river with his pipe in his pocket and would have to wait until he got back home to have another smoke.

* * *

The mists parted and slowly Crystella Sweetlake returned to consciousness. She was in a warm bed and judging from her surroundings what appeared to be to be a log cabin. In one corner of the cabin she saw a large chair covered with a bearskin, and in that chair a ranger, seemingly asleep. Then her memory returned, of how her parents had tied her in the sack, the fall into the river, and then the vision of the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger who had appeared as a face in the darkness of her slumber, then vanished into the darkness again.

Inspecting more of the room, Crystella spotted her clothes hanging up on a rack near a crackling open fire. She was naked!  Realising this, she tensed up, but soon succumbed to the comfort of the crisp, cool cotton as it caressed her smooth skin. She wondered if the ranger in the seat had undressed her and thrilled at the thought of his strong, masculine hands slipping her clothes from her body then… Putting her to bed.

As Crystella continued to muse at the thought of some of the other things the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger may have done with her as she slept, she became aware of a pair of eyes watching her.

“So, you’re awake at last, eh?” Observed Roger, sitting forward in his seat and putting his pipe to his lips. “Permit me to introduce myself… My name is Roger Longhorn, known to my friends as Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies. Now tell me, what is your name?”

“Crystella… Sweet… Lake,” replied Crystella weakly “How long have I been asleep?”

“Almost two weeks now,” Roger informed her as he rose from his seat, lit his pipe and began pacing about the room. “That was a pretty foolish stunt you know. You were lucky to survive.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose!” Exclaimed Crystella, and beckoning Roger to sit at the edge of the bed, she started her story…

“My name is Crystella Sweetlake and I come from Seattle, Washington. My parents originally hailed from England, which explains my social grace, but of late we fell on hard times financially and became impoverished. Our family just got poorer and poorer, until eventually my Father decided that one of us had to go, and I drew the short straw. That’s why I’m here now.”

“Well,” mused Roger. “That’s quite an anecdote young lady, but what are we going to do with you now?”

The mighty heroic ranger stood up from the bed and walked across the room surrounded by a wreath of pungent pipe smoke. Crystella coughed politely.

Then he turned to her with a broad smile on his face and said “I’m sure I’ll be eligible to claim ‘Rescued Party Allowance’ on my rangers’ wages, so you’re welcome to stay here… If you want to.”

“If I want to?” Cried Crystella, sitting bolt upright in the bed then lying back down again quickly as she remembered she was ill, and naked. “Of course I want to, I’d love to, I’d…”

“There is one condition,” interrupted Roger with a smile. “You have to learn to become a ranger yourself!”

“Oh!” Crystella said with surprise, and after a moments thought added “Yes, of course. I like a bit of hard work.”

Strangely enough, Crystella had not done a days work in her life (which was the reason she ended up with the short straw from her parents) but the prospect of living with Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies was more than any woman who possessed eyes and a heart could refuse.

As Crystella began to daydream about a life in the mountains with Roger, she was disturbed by a deep rumbling sound growing outside the cabin. As the rumbling grew closer, Crystella wondered if it could be an earthquake, and soon every log and beam of the cabin was rattling and creaking as the room shook. It sounded as if it was approaching the front door of the cabin, like some impossibly giant bear stamping toward them. Booming echoes clattered through the peaks of the range. Calmly, Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies went to the front door and opened it.

“Hullo Roger!” Exclaimed a deep, bellowing voice outside the door before a massive slab of hand came crashing down onto the dashing ranger’s shoulder.

“Ah, come in Bertha, I thought it was you,” welcomed Roger. “My guest has awoken.”

“Oh really” Muttered the deep voice and forcing her way through the door frame, the huge musclebound female lumbered in to the room.

“This is Bertha Rock,” said Roger, nursing his shoulder from the blow he had received. “Known to her friends as Bess, the biggest, boldest, bravest ranger of them all.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said Crystella tentatively as the massive figured loomed at the foot of her bed like a tombstone.

Bess, the biggest, boldest, bravest ranger off them all merely grunted in reply and stamped over to the nearby fridge (Crystella was pleased to note that the log cabin had electricity) from which she took four cans of strong lager before crashing down into the bearskin chair, already nearly draining the first can.

Crystella was feeling fatigued again, and after Roger had soothed her back into a comfortable slumber he went to sit beside Bess and recounted the hard luck story he had heard earlier. After much contemplation, and after finishing the last can of beer, Bess gave her verdict.

“Alright then Roger,” said Bess, belching and blowing over a vase on the windowsill. “But I’ll have to trust you not to get up to any jiggery-pokery with this girl while I’m not around.”

With that, she planted a vast, slobbering kiss on Roger’s rugged (yet clean shaven) cheek and left the cabin, taking another four cans of lager with her for the journey.

* * *

Some time later, Crystella was awake again and sipping from a steaming hot bowl of mulligatawny soup.

“So who was that again?” she asked inquisitively whilst Roger was sweeping up fragments of the broken vase beneath the window.

“That was Bess, like I told you,” he said, still rubbing his damaged shoulder. “She’s known throughout the mountain range for her strength and bravery, and I’m proud to be engaged to her.”

“Engaged!?” Spat Crystella into her soup and immediately regretted it as the steaming broth splashed back into her face. Trying to hide her dismay and disappointment she added “That must be… Nice for you.”

Crystella wiped her face clean and stared despondently into her soup, contemplating the tiny morsels of food as they traversed the thick, flavoursome liquid like languid koi in an ornamental pond. Bertha was a hurdle (and a considerable one at that) that Crystella hadn’t reckoned with in her pursuit of Roger’s affections.

“Well then,” said Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies, interrupting Crystella’s thoughts. “Another week in bed and you should be ready to start learning the skills of a ranger.”

“I’ll tell you a secret too,” he added, walking across to the bed. He leaned over her, pressing the cotton sheets tighter against her still naked body and she grew tense once more as his tender lips moved toward her small, dainty ear. Every inch closer that Roger moved Crystella’s desire grew greater. Her heart pounded in her bosom, she could barely keep herself from leaping from the bed and throwing herself on him, submitting herself to the joys of his sinewy torso, delighting in the fruits of his masculinity, and many other things of a similar nature which are very enjoyable, but unrepeatable, though I’m sure you can imagine. As Roger’s lips brushed against the soft down of Crystella’s ear lobe, and a tingle of lust blossomed in her body, he divulged his secret. “It’s hard being a ranger.”

* * *

So eventually, young Crystella Sweetlake was fit and strong enough to get out of bed and learn to become a ranger. Before hitting the range, she had daily lessons with Roger on maps of the area, use of the radio, and other aspects of health and safety. At last, she was prepared to go out and face the mountains.

“Nervous?” Inquired Roger as he proudly polished his rifle, before adding a quick shine to the one he had given Crystella to use. “It’s a tall order, learning to be a guardian and protector of this landscape, and with the West Coast vacation due to start in two months you’ll have to learn quickly.”

Crystella nodded in reply as she pulled on her trainee rangers boots. You could tell they were trainee boots as they had a large ‘T’ emblazoned on the side. She ran her hands over the rough material of  the trainee rangers uniform which she had been provided with. It was too large for her, and unflattering, as rangers did not usually possess a slim, attractive frame such as hers. It ha d a large ‘T’ emblazoned on the back. Soon she would be out in the wilds, learning an enviable trade of outdoor life and adventure… With Roger.

“Come along then and stop day-dreaming,” said Roger, putting his hand reassuringly across Crystella’s shoulders. She trembled as his hand lay upon her and hoped he hadn’t noticed, but he looked at her with a deep intensity, his eyes like bottomless azure pools stretching down to his heart, where the most brilliant white light shone, casting streams of luminescence through the subterranean depths of his soul. She knew he had noticed something but just hoped he didn’t yet suspect her affection for him. There was a time and a place for that.

Roger released his grip on Crystella and stepped over to the door of the cabin. Swinging it open on its large, sturdy hinges, he slipped his pipe into the corner of his mouth and beckoned the trainee ranger to step outside.

Shielding her eyes from the brilliant sunlight which seeped into the room, she stepped outside.

Radiant shafts of light filtered between the dominating coniferous trees which blanketed the jagged scenery. Bright shards fell upon small patches of attractive blossoms which played host to innumerable fragile, dainty butterflies which flitted around merrily in the gentle breeze. Small birds chirped all about, cheerily catching insects to feast on in the joyous spring sky.

The path from the log cabin lead down to a crude wooden bridge which traversed a gently babbling brook glittering and chuckling in the warm sunlight, casting up tiny rainbows into the air. A number of small birds bathed joyfully in a small backwater of the brook, singing to each other as they splashed the crystal clear mountain water around them. The stream ran on into a pool, so serene and calm that it reflected the majesty of the mountains like a looking glass. An occasional silver fish tossed itself into the air for an insect, momentarily breaking the perfectly mirrored portrait before returning to the depths where the sun barely reached, to leave the magnificent reflection once again on the surface.

Commanding pine and fir trees stretched away and upward in all directions, playing host to many more forest birds and creatures, some of whom slept during the daylight hours, and others which frolicked and foraged amongst the carpet of needles, engrossed in their own little worlds. High up in one tree, a spider was busying itself with the task of repairing its meticulous web. As it completed the work, an unsuspecting fly flew into the trap and the hard-working arachnid celebrated its good fortune. Evidently this was a day when the insects should have stayed at home.

As Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies and Crystella strolled down the path they marveled at the wonders of nature which milled around them in perfect harmony. On the far side of the glade, across the bridge, the couple got into Roger’s Range Rover and set off along a dirt track which disappeared from view between the trees. As they left, a small, spectral cloud of carbon monoxide crept out from the exhaust, intent on polluting the atmosphere. Fortunately, some of the small birds had spotted this unwelcome intruder and flapped their wings furiously in its direction, dispersing the evil fumes up into the ozone layer and returning the balance of nature to the glade.

Roger drove confidently upon the crude mountain roads as Crystella bounced and juddered in the seat beside him feeling like she was in a washing machine. He cornered with ease and cruised at a healthy pace, neither reckless or pedestrian. Along the way many small insects fell foul of the vehicle’s windscreen, and as their tiny souls were splattered throughout the realms of the universe their last thoughts hung in the air: The fact that this would have been a good day to stay at home, or at the very least looked for a level crossing.

Eventually, after traversing the tough terrain, the Range Rover and its occupants came into view of the monumental Rangers’ Lodge which stood proudly at the zenith of Mount Batten. In front of the lodge there stood a colossal statue of a ranger in full uniform, standing proudly and looking over the mountains before him. Beneath the statue was a plaque engraved with the rangers’ motto: “I WILL DO IT TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY”.

* * *

“My, it possesses a greater, more magnificent awesome omnipotence than I could have imagined from your description,” remarked Crystella, her eyes widening as they got out of Roger’s Range Rover, and approached the iconic structure.

“Are you insulting my vocabulary or complimenting the building?” Roger joked, knowing full well the effect the Rangers’ Lodge had on newcomers. “Would you like to take a look around?”

This was an offer Crystella couldn’t refuse as she had long been an architecture enthusiast. Leaving the Range Rover in the car park, they both walked toward the lodge and Crystella was breathtaken by the vast scale of the ranger statue, which seemed to reach up to the sky.

Roger and Crystella were greeted at the main entrance of the lodge by a very elderly ranger indeed. Their host’s face was furrowed and worn after many decades of faithful service to his calling. Two tiny piercing eyes glistened within the wrinkled features suggesting great knowledge and wisdom. The arched back and knobbly walking stick hinted at a ranger who did not employ the use of modern creations such as motor vehicles, rather one who had spent upward of fifty years traversing the perilous paths and peaks by foot in all weathers.

“Greetings,” said the aged ranger. “My name is Algis Roadgen, and I am privileged to be the head ranger of this magnificent scenic range which swathes us in its geological majesty.”

“It’s really an honour to meet you, sir.” Said Crystella, somewhat bemused by this quizzical old character. She extended a delicate hand and shook the head ranger’s hand enthusiastically.

“You shake hands like a woman,” observed Algis, crushing Crystella’s slim fingers in his firm grip. “That is not good for a ranger.”

“I apologise most profusely for my gender, ” apologised Crystella profusely. “I will try my utmost to acquire all the masculine traits required for this sort of work.”

“Pleased to hear it! You must be Miss Sweetlake. Roger has spoken glowingly of you, so I am optimistic that you will become a successful ranger.”

While Crystella attempted to hide her blushes, Algis ushered her and Roger into the lodge. The vast meeting place of the rangers accommodated every conceivable device that a ranger could ever need, and the walls of the main meeting hall proudly displayed many portraits and photographs of rangers through the ages, posing handsomely before their cabins or surrounded by tall, snow-capped pinnacles.

Roger and Crystella followed Algis as he gave a brief history of the building, and he showed the fresh-faced girl meeting rooms, a sick bay, storage rooms and all the other areas that were encapsulated within the lodge. She showed an especial interest in the tree surgeon’s room, wondering at the curious tools that adorned the walls.

This truly was the rangers’ mecca, the centre of their universe, a focal point for the performance of their good deeds, the pinnacle of woodland heroism, of course epitomised by their magnificent motto; ‘I WILL DO IT TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY’.

After the tour, the threesome sat down in the dining hall and tucked into some corned beef with hearty, rangerly gusto. Roger, the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies explained to Crystella that corned beef was the staple diet of any ranger who had ambition.

Finishing their meals, Algis bid farewell to the ranging couple as they walked back to the Range Rover. They would spend the afternoon doing some basic tree and lichen identification. Crystella looked forward to her first experience of being a ranger.

* * *

“Fungi sterocious spuriatum!” Exclaimed Roger, unable to suppress his enthusiasm. “It’s not often you come across this down amongst the firs.”

“Really?” Replied Crystella, unable to suppress her boredom. “What do you normally come across round here?”

“Fungi nickulatum partious,” said Roger, who was now blossoming with the joys of lichen research amongst the forest floor.

Time passed, as it often does, and Crystella was introduced to a multitude of curious plant life and unusual insects. Still smiling through the tedium, she spent more time staring longingly at Roger than the lichen which he was enthusing over. After a few hours, Crystella declared that her appetite had got the better of her and she was ready for dinner, so they returned to the log cabin.

Stifling a yawn, Crystella forced down another fork full of corned beef. The fire crackled at her back, spritely tongues of flame cavorting and dancing in the grate. She felt weary and dirty after a long afternoon in the park, and the part of her that wasn’t longing for Roger was longing for a hot bath and some serious pampering.

After the meal, Crystella offered to wash up down at the pool which was fed by the brook while Roger the rugged (yet clean shaven) ranger of The Rockies reclined in his bearskin chair engrossed in a large engineering manual.

A moment after Crystella had left with the crockery in a basket, a scrawny, ill-kempt individual appeared at the front door and slipped inside. It was Doctor Forrest, internationally acclaimed tree surgeon, and engineer in his spare time.

“Ah, you’re reading that manual eh?” Observed the Doctor, peering over Roger’s shoulder and squinting. “It’s a fine tome indeed, I’m so jealous.”

“I know you are… You’re green with envy, John.” Chuckled Roger, turning to greet the newcomer.

Doctor Forrest took a seat and the two of them chatted genially about engineering until they were interrupted by the return of Crystella. She was formally introduced to the Doctor. After a couple of minutes of listening to their conversation, she was anticipating another dose of boredom, so Crystella excused herself, declaring that she would go for a walk around the glade before the sun went down.

“Be careful dear,” warned Roger, furrowing his brow. “The weather can be most unpredictable at this time of year, and I wouldn’t want you getting caught out in a storm.”

“Of course dear.” She replied, and plucking a sensible anorak from the coat stand, she headed out of the cabin for an evening stroll.

* * * * * *

Next time… A talking squirrel, angry Bess, naked Roger, onion juggling and much more…