Chapter 1

Copyright© 2015 by Levi Charon

Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Before he heads off to college, Curtis' grandfather coerces him into spending a month in an isolated mountain cabin. The object? To develop some maturity. He's not excited about the prospect, but decides to make the best of the situation. Meeting a forest ranger makes his adventure far more interesting than he could ever have imagined.

Caution: This Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Consensual   Romantic  

I guess my granddad is about the smartest ... rather, the wisest person I know. There's a difference, you know - between smart and wise. I can say that with some authority now, because I always thought I was pretty damned smart, but I sure as hell wasn't what you'd call wise. For a long time, I couldn't see the distinction. As far as I was concerned, you either knew stuff or you didn't. I'm not saying I'm all that wise now, but I'm a lot wiser in the ways of the world than I was then.

This evolution came about the summer after I graduated from high school. Granddad and I were sitting in the back yard just talking about things in general, and he says to me, he says, "Curtis, do you really think you're ready to head off to college on your own?"

"Um, sure! I mean I graduated with honors, didn't I? I got a decent scholarship, almost a full ride. Why are you asking if I'm ready?"

He knitted his brow and said, "I don't mean like that. I know you're academically ready. You always got good grades and you were always near the top of your class, but that's not what I'm talking about. You're about to embark on a relatively independent lifestyle, and I wonder how much you truly know about life and living, being self-reliant. What do you know about what makes people tick? Hell, for that matter, how much do you know about yourself?"

It sounded like he was getting into lecture mode again. "I'm not following, Granddad. I guess I know myself better than anybody else does."

He pursed his lips and shook his head. "No, you don't. I know you far better than you do. I see in you everything that I was sixty years ago. Look, Curtis, ever since your mom's and dad's untimely death twelve years ago, I've watched you grow up day by day. I know what you like and what you don't like. I can see the kinds of things that get you excited and I can see the kinds of things that piss you off. Sometimes, I know what's about to come out of your mouth before you even say it. And overall, I've seen pretty much normal development for a young man. What I'm not seeing is a lot of depth, a lot of maturity underneath the surface."

Well that sounded kind of insulting to me, and I was starting to get a little bit irritated with the old guy. "What? Are you saying that I'm shallow, that I'm still just a kid?"

He thought about it for a few seconds and agreed, "Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying. Jesus, boy, you're barely eighteen years old, you grew up in upper middle class suburbia, and so far, your whole life has been handed to you on a platter. You've never had to really fight for anything major in your life. How mature could you be under those circumstances? When I look at you, I see a vast lake covering a lot of territory, but the lake is only a couple of inches deep. That's what you need, Curtis. You need depth.

"You're about to go out into the world on your own and I wonder if you're ready for it. Oh, I'm sure you'll probably muddle through, you'll do as well as the other kids. You'll study and you'll party and you'll get drunk and have hangovers, you'll get laid and feel like you're the gods' gift to women, all that stuff. But that's all superficial, just fluff. You need to seriously explore your mind and get to know what you're really made of, and you're never going to do that walking around a manicured college campus."

Now I was getting ticked! "Oh yeah?" I snapped with all the maturity I could muster, "Well if I'm so damned shallow, why does a super-brain like you even bother to waste your time talking to me?"

I stood up to go inside. At least Grandma appreciated me.

"Curtis!" Granddad said loud enough to stop me in my tracks, "Sit down and stop acting like the child I just described! I'm about to suggest a way for you to get a jump on the maturation process; a way for you to gain some of that missing depth we've been talking about."

Well, when Granddad spoke in that tone, I listened. In all the years I'd been living with my grandparents, from when I was six, neither had ever laid a hand on me in anger, but both had the ability to bring me down and put me in my place me with a few words or a look. I sat back down and grumbled, "So tell me then. I'm all ears."

"Don't be a smart ass, Curtis. See, that's exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. You feel a little bit insulted and your response is to walk away and not deal with it. Hardly a solution, is it?"

I was all out of smart-ass comebacks, so I just shrugged my shoulders.

Granddad, leaned back in his Adirondack chair and asked, "I wonder if you've ever spent any serious time alone thinking about things like this?"

"Of course I have!" But then I wasn't so sure. "Well, what do you mean by serious time?"

He chuckled and went on, "That was a rhetorical question. I'm sure you haven't. Not the kind of time I'm talking about anyway. I'm thinking more like spending a month by yourself; nobody else around, nobody to cater to your needs, nobody serving as a buffer between you and the world around you."

"OK, Granddad, I'm not getting it. What are you talking about?"

"Have you ever heard of a thing called a walkabout?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Well, a walkabout is a thing young aboriginal Australians do as they're entering adulthood. They go out into the wild on their own and spend several days living in the old traditional ways. They do that to get close to nature, to gain some self-confidence and to contemplate their existence. Ever since I read about it, I've always thought it was something all kids should do; kind of a rite of passage."

"Well did you ever do that? Go on something like a walkabout?"

"Not specifically, but I did spend fifteen months in combat in Viet Nam. If there's anything that will get you contemplating your existence, it's the knowledge that at any moment, yours may come to an abrupt end."

"Yeah, I see your point."

He took a sip of his beer and asked, "Curtis, what would you think about spending a month in a cabin in the mountains? I'm talking about a place so isolated you wouldn't even know how to find your way out. You'd have food and shelter of course, a few basic tools, but no modern conveniences."

"Um, wouldn't I have my iPhone and my laptop, or at least my iPad?"

He looked at me like I was some kind of idiot. "Hell no! That'd be counter to the whole idea! Now, there would be a bail-out mechanism if it all proved too much for you; you know, if you decided you couldn't hack it."

I saw him checking me out from the corner of his eye, to see if I'd react. Well, I can tell you the mere thought of that kind of isolation had my stomach turning flip-flops, but Granddad was laying down the gauntlet, and I wasn't about to concede the field without putting up a fight. "You don't think I can handle it, do you?"

He raised an eyebrow in that meaningful way. "Mmm, I'm just saying it would take a mature mind and some serious guts to walk away from all the things that make your present life a relative walk in the park. It would take a person with some depth to tackle something like this."

OK, it was finally soaking in that the old boy was actually serious about this thing. "Well, um, where is this place, anyhow?"

"It's about half a day's drive from here."

"Yeah, but where exactly?"

"All I'm going to tell you is that it's up in the mountains. See, anything more specific would give a bright kid like yourself something to use to find your way back to civilization. No, you'd be in a dry, comfortable cabin deep in the forest. You'd have food, a rifle for self-protection and to hunt game, some basic gear to catch some trout, an axe to chop firewood, a box of tools to do whatever."

"Um, so what's this bail-out thing you mentioned?"

"It's a fully charged two-way radio tuned to the Forest Ranger's frequency. But you'd only use it in the event of a dire emergency ... or because you decided to chicken out."

"And you're betting I'll do just that, aren't you? That I'll chicken out and call for somebody to come and rescue me?"

"I'm not betting on anything. I have no idea whether or not you've got what it takes, but I guess there's only one way to find out, isn't there?"

Shit! I thought, he has me in a corner and he knows it! It's embarrassing how he can manipulate me so easily.

"Well, but when would this month start? I mean, it would take some planning and I'd have to pack and all."

"Pack what?" he asked, "I told you what you'd have by way of resources, and most of that's already there. The rest wouldn't take but about five minutes to gather up. Do you think you're going to take thirty days worth of clothing and bring it all back for your grandmother to wash? As for the when, I was thinking tomorrow."

"Tomorrow! Jeez, Granddad, I've got things I need to do! I'd have to call my friends and let 'em know I'd be gone and stuff. I can't do it tomorrow!"

He sipped his beer again and sighed, "Yeah, well I figured you'd try to weasel out of it as soon as it became the least bit inconvenient. Never mind, then. Forget I even mentioned it."

"Come on, Granddad! That's not fair!"

"Isn't it? The moment you run up against a complication, you backpedal. This is the way life works, Curtis: You see a problem or an issue, you face it, you deal with it, then you move on. You don't solve problems by putting them off or looking for ways around them."

Damn! He's got me! "Alright, alright! Tomorrow! Are you gonna at least tell me what I need to take?"

"I've already told you. We'll leave at five in the morning. That'll give you time after we get there to get settled in before dark."

"So are you gonna help me do that? Get settled in, I mean?"

"Nope! I'm going to show you around a little bit, then I'm going to drive away. Thirty days later, I'll go back and pick you up. That's the deal. In or out?"

Zero options without looking like the world's biggest wuss!


As Granddad said, we left the house a little after five AM. Aside from the clothes I was wearing, I had a gym bag with two pairs of jeans, two shirts, a light jacket and two changes of socks and underwear. There was a hand-tooled leather case with his Henry .30/30 and some basic fishing gear. He let me choose three books to bring along to entertain myself with. Oh, and a shaving kit with my toiletries. No electric toothbrush.

He was right that it was half a day's drive, and we didn't get there until a little after eleven in the morning. I didn't see the last few miles because he stopped before turning off the main highway and made me put on a blindfold. We went along the highway for a few more minutes before turning off onto a dirt road. We must have been on it for a good half hour, and the road got rougher and rougher until I thought from all the bouncing around, it must have disappeared altogether.

"OK," he finally said, "You can look now."

When I took off the blindfold, all I could see was trees.

"This is it? You're gonna drop me off in the middle of the damned forest?"

He just laughed and said, "Not quite. Grab your stuff out of the back and I'll take you to the cabin."

It took another twenty minutes of walking up the mountain to get to it. I have to admit, it was kind of pretty. When we stepped out of the trees, we were in a clearing with this small, one-room cabin sitting next to a wooden tower, maybe thirty feet high. A few yards away, there was what pretty much had to be an outhouse. Oh, fun! Everything else was forest for as far as you could see.

As we walked up to the cabin door, I saw it was padlocked. There was a moment of hope that the lock would cancel the plans, but he pulled a key out of his pocket and unlocked it. Damn!

"Who does this cabin belong to, and how come you have a key?"

"It belongs to the U.S. Forestry Service, and I have the key because they gave it to me. This used to be a fire watch location, but they stopped using it a few years ago. They still maintain it for training purposes, but they don't have anything scheduled for a couple of months. They do rent it out, though, and that's what I've done. You'll see a list of rules posted on the inside of the door. There's one rule above all; leave it like you found it!"

We stepped inside and looked around. There wasn't much in the way of furnishings; just an old metal-frame single bed with a rolled up mattress against one wall, a rough table and two chairs, a three-drawer bureau, a sink with a hand-operated water pump and a tall cabinet for storage. The drainage system for the sink was a bucket sitting underneath it. Next to the sink was an old cast-iron wood-burning stove. Forget about microwaves; no electricity.

"Not exactly the Holiday Inn, is it?" I asked, only half joking.

He didn't laugh at my half joke. "Curtis, are you aware that a good portion of the world's population doesn't have it this good?"

I kept my mouth shut, figuring he'd just asked another one of those rhetorical questions. I walked over to the cabinet and opened the door. There wasn't much food on the shelves other than a few cans; some Chef Boyardee ravioli, some pork and beans and two boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese. On the next shelf down, there were a few mismatched dishes and glasses. On the bottom shelf, there were a couple of aluminum pots and an old, black cast-iron skillet. In a tray next to them were some forks, spoons, knives and a spatula with a broken handle.

I got this sinking feeling in my chest and asked, "Granddad, uh, this food won't last me for three days! Am I supposed to go out and start killing things right off?"

He laughed, "Don't panic, boy! It's downstairs."

"Downstairs?" I looked around and saw nothing to indicate another level.

He walked over to the corner of the room and kicked an old braided rug to the side, revealing a metal ring set in the floor. He grabbed it and lifted a trap door.

He pointed past me and said, "Light that lantern on the table and let's go see what we've got."

I looked at the lantern and asked, "With what? And how?"

He shook his head at my apparent helplessness and walked over to the table, pulled a small drawer from the side and took out a box of matches. He shook the lantern to check that there was fuel in it, then he pumped a plunger on the side of the lantern a few times, raised the glass flue and lit the wick.

"Come along," he said, and carried the lantern over to the hole in the floor. There were some steep steps leading down to a storage space. Its contents gave me some hope because there were rows and stacks of canned goods, pasta, some powdered milk, a bag of brown rice and a couple of boxes of oatmeal. Along another wall, there was a toolbox, a couple of shovels and a mattox tool leaning against the wall.

He looked at me in the dim lamplight and asked, "Will this do?"

"Um, yeah, I guess. Thanks."

A few minutes later, standing outside the cabin door, he laid his hammy old hand on my shoulder and asked, "Are you sure you're up for this, Curtis? Once I walk away, you may not see another soul for thirty days."

To be honest, I didn't feel at all like I was up for it, but my ego or my macho pride or whatever hormone my balls were pumping out wouldn't let me admit it. "Sure, Granddad, I'll be fine. See ya in thirty days, OK?"

"Oh, one last thing," he said pointing toward the tree line, "See that metal rod sticking up out of that high spot over there? That's a lightning rod. I wouldn't want to be too close to it during a thunderstorm."

He patted me twice on the shoulder and walked away, disappearing into the trees. I just stood there looking around me and thought, Curtis, you moron, what the fuck have you got yourself into now?

It was several minutes later when I remembered about the radio. Shit! He didn't even mention it! Unable to suppress the panic welling up in my chest, I ran toward the trees calling out, "GRANDDAD! GRANDDAD!" But there was no answer. He was long gone.

After I calmed down, I walked around inside the cabin, just touching things, trying to get a feel for the place. The primitive ambiance was totally alien to me. I tried the hand pump next to the sink and almost convinced myself it wasn't working when a splash of ice-cold water spat out onto my hand and drained into the bucket below.

OK, Curtis my boy, just suck it up and make it work. It's way too early to go off the deep end.

I hadn't eaten since we stopped at McDonald's and picked up some sausage biscuits with egg and some hash browns on our way out of town. I found a can opener in the tray of utensils and opened a can of ravioli, pouring it into one of the aluminum pots. Heat! I needed heat to warm the ravioli.

There was a box of kindling and a stack of old newspapers next to the stove, so I opened the door on the front and built a little pyramid to start a fire. Before I lit it, I went outside and grabbed a few chunks of wood from the stack under a tarp.

I soon learned my first lesson about cooking on a wood stove. It helps to have the flue open when you light the fire. The paper and the kindling burned beautifully, making a cloud of white smoke that came billowing out to fill the room before I figured out that the metal thing sticking out of the side of the stovepipe was the flue valve. Once I opened it up, the smoke went up the stovepipe the way it was supposed to. I had to open the door and both windows to clear the room of smoke.

It took a while before the fire had heated the top of the stove enough to actually cook on it. By that time, I figured as long as I'd already gone to so much trouble, I'd just have two cans of ravioli. Comfort food.

After the meal, and after the room was cleared of smoke (if not the smell), I went about unpacking and getting settled, if feeling settled was even possible. I unrolled the thin mattress on the metal bed frame and made it up with the sheets and blankets I found in the trunk at the foot. There was a pillow there too, so, wow! All the comforts of home.

That done, I ran out of things to occupy my brain and started fretting over the radio again. What the hell would I do if there was a bear sniffing around outside or if I tripped and broke my arm or something. I'd just be up shit creek, that's what!

Bears! Crap, I bet there are bears in these mountains! Maybe pumas too!

That thought motivated me to take the .30/30 out of its case and check it over. I'm no expert with firearms, but Granddad taught me how to shoot and how to take care of the weapon. I checked out the action and saw that it was pretty clean. I took it outside into the sunlight and sighted down the barrel. That was clean too, so I guess it was ready for use if I needed it. I loaded four cartridges into the magazine. Some small comfort.

I eyed the tower standing next to the cabin and decided that needed to be explored. After sticking the rifle back in its case (it was Granddad's pride and joy), I started up the steep steps that wound around the outside of the tower frame. At the top, there was a three-foot wide walkway around a small room with windows all around, giving a great view of the surrounding territory. Jeez, it was beautiful! I bet I could see for fifty miles. Fifty miles of forest. Not a town or highway in sight.

When I stepped inside, my heart leapt as I saw something that made my day; the only piece of electronic technology on the mountain. On a table in the center of the room, there was a two-way radio in a charger. The light on the charger was green, and it was plugged into a power converter connected to a storage battery that had a wire coming out of it and running up through the roof. I stepped out onto the walkway and stood with my back against the outside rail to look over the eave. Aha! A solar panel, the power source for the storage battery. Hallelujah! I guess I wasn't totally abandoned after all.

I grabbed the radio and turned it on, immediately hearing some static and then some chatter, presumably among the rangers. That was all the reassurance I needed, so I put it back into the charger. I could relax now that I had my lifeline.

Hanging from a nail in the center post was a pair of binoculars. I adjusted the lenses and did a three-sixty, taking in the beautiful scenery surrounding me. On the table next to the charger was an aerial map. Presumably, it showed the area around the tower for about forty miles, indicating mountains by their names and their distance. I guessed that was how they'd pinpoint sightings of any smoke or flames. As I studied the map closely, I saw there was what looked like a decent sized town about twenty-six miles away.

I didn't actually sleep all that well my first night alone. You'd think with all that peace and quiet, I'd sleep like a log, but it was too quiet! I guess my brain was used to the constant background noise of the city.

When it got dark, probably around nine (Granddad said a watch was just an unnecessary distraction and served no real purpose), I lit the lantern and heated up some water for tea. I found a box of Lipton's tea bags and some herbal stuff on the top shelf and decided to go with the herbal since I was about to turn in. I tried reading for a while, but I couldn't concentrate, thinking about what kind of critters might be prowling around outside. Twice, I got up and rechecked the locks on the door and the windows.

I finally gave up trying to read. I finished my tea, turned off the lantern and crawled under the covers. It gets cool fast that high up in the mountains after the sun sets, even in the middle of June, so as the night progressed, I wound up using three blankets.

But tired as I was, it took me a long time to drop off to sleep. I lay there on my back listening for any tiny sound that might indicate company. Several times, I thought I heard something, but it was probably my imagination. One thing I could clearly hear was my heart beating. That's strange. I mean, it's so profoundly quite, you can hear the blood rushing past your eardrums.

Then, just as I was about to drift off, I heard some scratching and some rustling noises outside. Of course I imagined it was all sorts of terrible things as I cowered under the blankets, but in the cold light of morning, after I woke up, I was sure it was nothing more than mice or maybe a raccoon. Well, because of those noises, I was wide-awake again. What finally put me to sleep was a good, long jerk off session. I had to imagine the naked women because I'd neglected to smuggle some of my stash of porn. It was pretty meager anyhow, since I usually had access to unlimited porn on the Internet.

Like I said, in the morning light, all my fretting and worrying seemed kind of silly.

I woke up at daybreak, and after I got the fire in the stove started again (I'd need to keep an eye on that to keep it from going all the way out), I cooked up some oatmeal and ate that along with a can of peaches. My first attempt at boiling some coffee in an ancient enameled pot produced some pretty bitter stuff, but it was drinkable after I cut it with some water and added lots of sugar to my cup. No creamer.

Grandma's training held true, and I washed up everything and made my bed before I went exploring around the mountaintop. I didn't have the jitters like I did during the night, but I took the .30/30 with me anyhow.

I walked about fifty yards to the tree line and just wandered around the perimeter for a while, taking in the aromas of fresh, mountain air and pine trees. On the south side, I could hear rushing water and headed down the mountain to see if it was a fishable stream. I guess sound carries really well because it seemed like I went a really long way before I found the little stream. I think it was too small to have any fish in it, but I figured if I followed it far enough down the mountain, it'd probably join with another stream or two to make a nice size creek. I'd definitely have to check it out in the next few days.

On the way back up the mountain, I caught sight of a deer maybe fifty feet off to my left. We just stood there looking at each other for a while before she raised her nose to sniff the air and casually walked away. I had the .30/30 with me, but it never occurred to me to shoot her. What the hell would I do with a whole deer? Beside, I don't get all that excited about the idea of killing things. Especially pretty things.

I spent the rest of the morning up in the tower. I took one of the chairs up with me and read for a couple of hours until I got hungry and decided to check out what was for lunch. By that time, I was beginning to think my little sabbatical wasn't so bad after all. I was beginning to enjoyed - or at least get used to - the solitude.

That first week was a real education. Granddad and I had gone camping a few times, so I was vaguely familiar with the basics, but I was a kid then and mostly did what he told me to do. Now I was making the decisions, and everything seemed a lot more complicated.

For instance, waste elimination. I'd heard stories about people getting spider bites on their ass (or worse) when they used outhouses. When I couldn't hold it in any longer, I grabbed a couple of sheets of newspaper and rolled them up. The john was a one-holer. I lit the end of the rolled up newspaper and moved the flame around and underneath the seat, hoping to burn away any unwanted company. I don't know if I got anything, but it made me feel a little less vulnerable when I finally dropped my pants and assumed the throne to relieved the pressure. Yeah, there was a roll of toilet paper.

Of course, peeing wasn't a problem. I just stepped outside the door and let fly. As I was doing just that on my second morning, I thought about a book I read where this tribe of mutant men would pee all around their campsite to keep other animals from coming inside the circle. I didn't know if that was really true, but it made sense, since animals go to the trouble to mark their territory that way.

So on the eighth morning of my stay, I was doing just that, marking my territory for the third time. I'd walk backward as I moved around the cabin and aim my stream out in front of me. It took me about five or six pees to make a complete circuit, and once around would have probably been enough, but my thinking was the more, the better. I started at the rear corner where I left off the last time, peeing a nice strong stream as I backed around the corner of the building. I'd just let out a relieved 'Aahhh', when a voice behind me said, "You know, that probably actually works."

JESUS CHRIST! I jerked around, trying to stuff my dick into my jeans at the same time and pissed all over myself because I couldn't cut off the stream fast enough.

There stood a woman, a ranger, judging by her uniform. When she saw my predicament, she busted out laughing!

I didn't think it was all that funny. "Damn, lady, you scared the shit out of me!"

Through her laughter, she choked out, "More like I scared the pee out of you."

"Well I hope you're enjoying it!"

She finally got some control of herself and apologized, "I'm sorry, Curtis, I shouldn't have snuck up on you like that. It was just too good to pass up."

I wasn't in a forgiving mood. "Well I hope it was everything you expected it to be!" Then it soaked in that she called me by name. "Hey! How'd you know who I am?"

"We try to always know who's staying here. Your grandfather registered you at our office a couple of weeks ago. He also asked us to keep an eye on you and listen in for any panic calls on the radio. Since we hadn't heard any of those, I decided to drop by and check to make sure you were OK. I see you are. Well, except for peeing your pants." Then she started laughing all over again.

Well, it was kinda funny when you thought about it, so I started laughing too.

After we settled down, I asked, "So you came all the way up here just to check on me? I guess I should say 'thanks'."

"It's not all that far, and besides, it's on my regular rounds." she said, pointing toward the tree line. "My truck's just over the hill there."

"What? There's a road over there?"

"Yeah, about seventy yards down the mountain. You didn't know that?"

"Why that dirty old guy! Granddad had me believing it would take me weeks to walk back to civilization if I decided I couldn't take it anymore. He lied to me!"

She looked amused by my outrage. "Yeah? So how have you done so far?"

"I've done just fine, thank you! Boy, he's gonna hear it when I get home!"

She walked over and put her arm over my shoulder and said, "Maybe you should be a little more forgiving. Obviously, his intention was for you to grow a pair and show some self-reliance. Looks to me like you're doing just that, so I'd say his plan was a good one, wouldn't you?"

I knew she was right, but I was still miffed. "I suppose, but he didn't have to lie to me."

She shifted the conversation. "Got any coffee or tea made? I could go for a cuppa right about now."

"Um, there's still some coffee, but I don't know if you'd like it. I have to cut it with water and a lot of sugar."

"Sounds perfect! I like my coffee black as tar and almost as thick."

We sat across from each other at the table and sipped the muddy brew. I told her about what I'd been doing to pass the time. Well, not all of it. I said I'd seen a lot of deer, or maybe the same one several times, but that I hadn't shot anything yet.

She looked interested and asked, "You're planning to shoot something?"

"Well, maybe a rabbit. There's hardly any meat at all in the canned goods, except for a little bit in the ravioli and the tamales. I was thinking maybe a rabbit stew might be good."

"Yeah, it probably would," she agreed. "Can I see your small game license?"

"My what?"

"If you're gonna take the life of one of our denizens of the forest, you need a license. Otherwise it gets pretty expensive."

"Oh. Um, I guess I don't have one. Good thing I haven't killed anything yet, huh?"

"Yeah, good thing. If you want, I can bring up a license the next time I come by. You just need to give me all the info and six bucks."

"Well, uh, I don't have any money 'cause Granddad said I wouldn't need any."

"That's OK. I can spot you six bucks and you can send it to me in the mail when you get back home. I mean if you're really bent on killing something."

Her tone told me she thought any such deed was morally reprehensible, so I begged off. "Yeah, well thanks but I suppose I can handle being a vegetarian for three more weeks."

"Suit yourself. Or I could drive you down to town and you could fill up on hamburgers. It's only a few miles down the road."

Mmm! Hamburgers! My mouth was watering and my first inclination was to jump on her invitation. My second was to take a pass. "Thanks for the offer, Ma'am, but the deal with Granddad was that I'd stay here and make it on my own for thirty days, so I guess I better not."

"Good for you, Curtis! That's what I hoped you'd say. And by the way, my name's Rhonda, so you can skip the Ma'am thing, although I appreciate your good manners."

"OK, sure Rhonda. And thanks."

We chatted for maybe an hour and I was beginning to take a shine to the lady. She was really pleasant and she obviously had a sense of humor. Not bad looking, either, for an older woman. Well maybe not all that old, probably in her mid-thirties. She was really fit. I could see that because her uniform shirt and pants were snug in all the right places. She had an athletes body and I didn't doubt she worked hard to keep it looking as good as it did.

She was kind of plain in the face, though. Not that she was ugly. She wasn't. Maybe it was just that she didn't wear any makeup, none that I could see, anyway. I guess she didn't really need any because her cheeks were rosy and her skin was healthy-looking, not a blemish visible. She had auburn hair cut short, and the greenest eyes I've ever seen.

On second thought, she was actually kinda pretty in a natural, unadorned way. I sure as hell wouldn't say 'no' if she threw herself at me. Ha! As if that was ever gonna happen.

After a second cup of coffee, she got up to leave. "It's good to see you're doing OK, kid. I'll drop by in a few days and check in again."

"Thanks, but you don't really need to do that. I'll be OK, and I've got that radio up in the tower if I need anything real bad. I appreciate you guys leaving that for me, by the way. I probably won't ever use it, but it's comforting to know it's there. And the binoculars, too."

"Oh, none of that's ours. Your grandfather owns that stuff. In fact, he had that radio recrystalled to include our channel before he brought it up here. All we supplied was the solar panel and the storage battery."

"I'll be damned! So he had me covered all the way, didn't he?"

She chuckled and said, "He didn't plan to throw you to the wolves, that's for sure. Anyhow, enjoy your stay and I'll be back around in a few days. See ya, kid!"

"Um, yeah, bye! It was really nice to meet you, Rhonda."

I followed her out the door and watched her until she disappeared into the trees. I was wishing she'd stick around a little longer. It was nice having someone to talk to.

Half an hour after she was gone, I grabbed my primitive fishing gear and followed in her footsteps. I figured the road would lead me to any fishable streams faster than the little rill running down the other side of the mountain. I didn't have a fishing license, but I had the feeling she'd forgive me a small indiscretion like that.

The road she mentioned was just barely a road. It was more like a path with weeds growing up between the bare tire tracks. I followed it for probably a mile before I came to a rough wooden bridge across a nice creek, maybe six feet wide and moving pretty fast. I was sure there'd be rainbows and brookies in it.

My short fishing rod wasn't built for fly-casting, but I figured that shouldn't make any difference in a creek that small. I tied a fly on the black line and tossed it out to where it would float past a likely looking pool at a bend in the stream.

I've never been any great shakes as a fisherman, but this time my instincts were right on! Within half an hour, I'd pulled three rainbows from the same spot, averaging maybe ten inches in length. I was gonna have a nice supper. I gutted them, washed them off and stuck them in a net bag.

When I got back to the cabin, I decided to cook them right away, rather than take the chance they might spoil before suppertime. I found a bottle of cooking oil in the basement and fried them up in the cast iron skillet. Damn, they tasted good, even without lemon juice!

I thought I'd spend the rest of the day reading and sunning myself up on the walkway around the tower. I took a blanket up with me, looked around to make sure I was alone, and stripped naked, thinking it was the perfect opportunity to get a little tan over my whole body. I was wishing I'd brought some sunscreen, but it was kind of cloudy, so I figured I probably wouldn't get all that much sun if I paid attention to the time.

The problem is that time slips by pretty fast when your mind is occupied. The book I was reading, "The Temporal Void" by Peter Hamilton, is the kind of story you can get lost in pretty quickly, so I wasn't really paying too much attention to the time. I kept shifting from my back to my belly to get even exposure. Eventually, I fell asleep on my belly and regretted it.

I woke up feeling uncomfortable and recognized that I was getting burned, I got dressed and retreated to the cabin to spend the rest of the day. Two hours later, every place my clothes touched my body felt like I was on fire, and I hadn't brought a single thing to give myself any relief. All I had was a little plastic spray bottle of insect repellant, and I figured that wasn't going to be any help.

I knew I was going to be in pain for the next three or four days if I didn't come up with something, so I came up with something.

I climbed back up the tower and called the ranger station on the radio. "Hello! Hello! Is this the ranger station?"

It was Rhonda who answered. "This is Officer Yancey, ranger station four. Over!"

"Rhonda? Is that you?"

"Curtis? What's up kid? Miss me already?"

"Um, I'm sort of embarrassed to say, but I've gone and got myself sunburned pretty badly and I don't have anything to put on it. I was wondering if you had something there that might help. I mean it's OK if you don't. I can handle the pain if I have to. I just thought maybe..."

"Well your timing is perfect, Curtis. I was just heading out the door to go home. Yeah, I've got some lotion that ought to help, and I'll bring along a bottle of Tylenol as well. How's that?"

"That'd be great, Rhonda. I really hate to be such a bother, but I really didn't plan on cooking myself like this. I was reading up on the walkway and lost track of time." I was too embarrassed to tell her I fell asleep.

"Right, well you gotta be careful in this thin air, 'cause the rays get pretty intense. Just hang loose and I'll be up there in about a half hour or so."

"Thanks a lot, Rhonda. I really owe you one!"

"Yes, you certainly do. See ya shortly."

When she got there after what felt like hours, but was probably closer to the half hour she promised, I was standing there in my T-shirt and boxers. Even that was more than I wanted to be wearing because my skin was bright red and throbbing with hurt. I couldn't sit or lie down because it was just too uncomfortable.

When she knocked on the door, I hollered, "It's open!"

She came in carrying a little bag. And a little smirk on her face.

"OK," she said as she set the bag on the table and moved around behind me, "Let's take a look at this."

She lifted my T-shirt and sighed, "Oh my, you really have done it haven't you? Well, at least you didn't blister, so it should be OK in a day or two. In the meantime, this stuff will help. Raise your arms so I can get this shirt off."

She took a tube of some kind of cream from the bag and said, "Lie on you belly over there on your bed."

I eased myself onto the bed facedown, flinching at every point of contact with my skin. I felt the cool lotion dribbling onto my back, then her cool hands spreading it around. It was pure heaven! After she ministered to my back and the backs of my legs, she asked, "Did you sunbathe naked?"

"Um, yeah, afraid so."

"Well then lift your hips so I can get some of this stuff on your butt."

"Oh, that's OK, I can do that part."

"Nonsense! Lift up!" It wasn't a request.

I did as she said and she pulled my boxers down to my legs. If I hadn't already been the color of a cooked lobster, she'd have seen how embarrassed I was.

I felt even more flushed when she said, "Nice butt!" before she spread the soothing lotion over both cheeks and even into the crack. In spite of my discomfort, I felt a little stirring in my crotch.

"Now ease over onto your back and we'll do the rest."

As I rolled gently away from her onto my back, I grabbed hold of my boxers and pulled them up at the same time. She didn't say anything but she had kind of a mischievous grin on her face. I could tell she enjoyed teasing me.

She slathered the stuff on my arms, my chest, my belly and the front of my legs. When she reached for the waistband of my boxers, I grabbed ahold of them and said, "I'll get that part!"

She laughed, "Good idea! So take a couple of Tylenol now and two more when you go to bed. You should probably have another application of lotion then, but I'm afraid I won't be able to help you with that. You can get all of your front and most of your back, depending on how flexible you are. If you want, I'll stop by in the morning and see how you're doing."

"I hate to put you to all that trouble, but I'd sure appreciate it if you would. Look, Rhonda, I don't know how to thank you for doing this for me. I feel really stupid, letting this happen."

"Stuff happens, kid! Don't sweat it, OK? Now I need to get home."

"Yeah. Family waiting, I guess."

"Nope. I'm soloing for a few days. Got no man in my life and my kid's at camp for the next six weeks. I'm just enjoying the wonderful peace and quiet while it lasts. Tonight, I'm having dinner with a friend and her latest beau."

"Sounds like a nice time. How old is your kid?"

"Jeremy just turned twelve. It's his first time away from home."

"Yeah? Well I bet you've already taught him everything he needs to know."

"I try." She got up and headed toward the door. "Now take it easy and don't overdo it on that Tylenol. Not good for the liver. See ya in the morning, OK?"

"Great! Thanks again, Rhonda!"

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