Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Aqua Mustang 81 – OUT OF NOWHERE

It was all too easy to see something happening suddenly that would ruin everything. Gaga joked about alcoholic danger. A very light drinker himself, as opposed to his brothers-in-law and his children, and soon me though not Peter, Gaga thought it was the funniest thing in the world that the driver of a car hurtling down three-mile hill from Franconia Notch down to Franconia Village and Sugar Hill, this drunk driver turned to the drunk passenger beside him and said, “But I thought you were the one who was driving."

And it was no joke that at a curve in the road halfway down three-mile hill there was a high pile of big rocks put in place by a man whose house sat there, and before the pile there had been occasions when a car would crash right onto his porch, sometimes right into his living room. And afterwards there had been fatalities with cars crashing into the rocks rather than into his house behind the rocks.

On the trails up the higher mountains, trails that crossed great avalanche scars, there were crosses where hikers had been killed by hurtling rocks or sudden winter storms which here could come out of nowhere even in midsummer.

All of our houses had plenty of lightning rods, and there were plenty of stories about people being struck dead by lightning. There was a recurring story of something that happened at White Pines with lightning that would have been amusing if not for the lightning deaths that were always on the horizon. One evening a ball of lightning had come down the chimney at the living room end of the great main room and had shot the length of that room, which in my mind was at least 100 feet, and had then gone up the opposite chimney in the fireplace at the dining room end.

It was common, they said, for boys to cut themselves on rusty nails and get blood poisoning. Often when that happened they died. My father’s best boyhood had died that way. My father himself did not die when he cut himself on a rusty nail, but he was an invalid for a couple of years afterwards, taken away by a family friend to recuperate in Atlantic City, which in these circles was a staid winter resort, not a raucous summer resort. And he still had a slight limp, and it was enough to keep him out of the draft when the war started and millions were getting killed.

And oh yes, the bears. The mother bears. You would probably want to go up and pat a cute little baby bear if you saw one, and if you did the mama bear would claw you to death. Everyone knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone, who had been clawed to death here in the White Mountains. These fatal things would come from nowhere and, no matter how carefully you had planned, destroy everything in blood and pain.

And now there was something else coming from nowhere that was just as mysterious and just as shocking. Suddenly to be taken out of myself by these summer girls and the summer boys, who never caught on to what I had been in school.

Something from nowhere, my sudden popularity.

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