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Friday, June 11, 2010

Max’s map irregularities – Chapter 17

I slept a bit uneasy after setting off the car alarm, right when the time seemed perfect for Amy and me to share our first sweet kiss by the romantic sage grouse lek setting. The next morning we awoke to a warm sun at the Trapezoid Lake campsite and when I glanced over at Amy, for a fleeting moment I saw a million stars still reflecting in her twinkling eyes. Then, as we watched the remaining grouse fly off in pairs to a northern place of wisdom; one of the students remarked it didn’t look as if they soared very high and wondered how the new adjacent airport would affect this magnificent bird migration. Our own decampment would be a short one too, and after dousing the smoldering fire, Amy helped me hitch our camp gear up to the silver pantechnicon. Then we navigated along with the children in the school bus, up the isolated desert road, over to nearby Chalk Cave.

☼☼

We pulled through an ancient wooden arch, to a clearing in the tall sage, and came to a loud popping halt. A sharp obsidian spear point sticking out of the gravel had punctured one of the dually van’s rear tires; but at least it was at the same spot where we wanted to park. We would deal with the flat later, for now we were at today’s destination. And although we were within 50 feet of the cave, it took several minutes before any of the students noticed the jagged mouth opening. Behind the schoolchildren, I squeezed Amy’s hand tight as we clambered down past a juvenile owl pecking at a pile of brown rattlesnake eggs in the hot rocks. After cautiously passing the guardians, we felt a cool breeze emerging from the tiny lava stone entrance. This desert quietude held a dissimilar vibe than the Wood River Valley and as we listened closely, it sounded uncannily as if the cave mouth was whispering a message for greater mankind. It was almost celestial noon and though our shadows were small, the barely detectable voice singing from somewhere in the cave depths had everyone’s hair on edge.

☼☼☼

Two of our tech students set up an elaborate portable antenna they had invented, and spiked it into the rough terrain above the cave. This newfangled device would enable us better communications throughout the cavern and not only that, but it also had a recording mechanism attached. Then, the same young braves volunteered to spelunk headfirst into the darkness. Meanwhile, since Amy had been observing our schoolchildren through rosy Holden Caulfield filtered glasses lately, I wondered how she would react when she discovered that Lana and I had previously stashed a mile within the lava tube, a rare copy of Salinger’s Ocean Full of Bowling Balls. Although this great unpublished work is not supposed to be released until fifty years after Salinger’s death; the preceding year I had visited Princeton’s tightly controlled Firestone Library where the only public copy available is kept; and then through several fortnights of burning the midnight ethanol; I rigorously committed the fine work to memory; before meticulously hand scribing a second copy. This uncommon duplicate now laid in a wooden box eight furlongs deep within the climate-preserving walls of Chalk Cave. And as an added bonus; within this good medicine box, laid a series of parchments – several official maps that indicated some unclaimed land, somehow overlooked all these years by various government agencies. Moreover this unspoken-for tract of free land lay smack-dab between Chalk Cave and the proposed airport taxiway’s south perimeter!

About the author: After mostly conquering his claustrophobia, Jim Banholzer has shyly spurlunkered in several Virginia and Idaho caves. Only once has a Guardian rattler struck at him, but its wicked bite merely pierced the jeans and not the flesh. Someday he would be curious to peep through the wormhole of a mysterious ancient desert arch.

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