It took Kyle half a second to catch the lack of animosity in Sumuru’s brusque greeting. The eff bomb had not been lobbed as a weapon, it was part of who she was––he could imagine her holding her own in a rough-and-tumble household, among brothers and stray dogs. He gave a self-effacing smile, conveying what he hoped was the right amount of apology for their presence on what could easily be sacred ground. “I’m Kyle, this is Dylan. A couple weary travelers on our way to Sin City.” When there was no immediate response, he shaded his eyes with his hand, giving a sidelong squint. “We’re from Australia. We come in peace.”
As the women silently conferred, Kyle anchored himself, as he did at the poker table in situations where something was not quite right––typically a bluffing situation, less often collusion. He imagined each woman paddling out into the water, past the drop-off point at which surfers in his part of Australia were given the unfortunate moniker ‘shark biscuits.’ Taking them out of their element, if only in his imagination, gave him a way of accessing their characters from a different perspective from that which they were trying to project.
Surprisingly, he could imagine all three chasing down gnarly waves––despite their diversity, there was an inner steel, a resilience. He could visualize these women fighting their way through heavy surf, feet and arms flailing into the unknown.
As a favorable consensus seemed to take hold, Kyle expelled breath he had not realized he was holding. Two of the three women set down their buckets and flashed smiles, while the Latina with the dragon-like tattoos readjusted her frown. Despite this thaw, there was no letup in intensity––if anything, their attention on him was heightened.
Sumuru finally broke rank, stepping in front of her still watchful companions,“I am assuming you two drove here and wandered off from your car, just stumbled upon this spring?” Despite the ludicrousness of her assertion, her voice was lacking an accompanying rhetorical flourish. She challenged them in a calm, articulate way, like a school teacher looking for a specific answer. Kyle moved his lips to speak and then stopped––something he could not quite fathom seemed to hinge on his reply.
Filling the void, Dylan offered “An old Native American pointed us the way––we met him at the diner last night, somewhere down the highway.” He waved his hand in a random direction and gave a broad smile, mimicking a drag on a joint. “The old man said Cowachunga would be a cosmic experience… and what do you know, it was. Where are you gals from? Camping as well?”
Sumuru pursed her lips and looked toward her friends, as if unsure how to respond. The blonde woman, a little older than the other two, took the lead and spoke, a Canadian lilt to her voice, “We are part of a woman’s group, on a retreat. We organize these gatherings every so often to reconnect with the Earth. The Native American elder you mentioned, the one you met at the diner… we know him––actually, he is the one who introduced us to this place.” She shrugged. “That he directed you here, to what we collectively consider a wellspring, a place of rebirth…. She shrugged, “This is not a place he just shares with anyone. He must have thought you two had something to learn. Vibrations to take with you, wherever you are going….”
Kyle nodded, understanding clearly what she was trying to convey, despite the fuzzy lingo. There had been a transference of energy last night. From the cosmos––
“I’m burning to a crisp here,” Dylan asserted. “I reckon you’re going to fill up your buckets from that handy cold water tap we discovered down the cliffside? If it’s ok, we’ll accompany you to your well-shaded campsite, continue the conversation there.”
The women glanced at one another, a certain coolness returning to their gazes.
Kyle felt he had to say something, anything, to soften the assumptive weight of Dylan’s words. “Don’t mind my friend. We’re heading back to the car now––should’ve been on the road hours ago.”
“Hold on,” Dylan said, his voice taking on a stubborn fastness. “I’m sure that it will be ok, as fellow travelers, cosmic wanderers––“
The Latina woman’s eyes locked onto Dylan’s with surprising force, the tattoos seeming to crawl up and down her arms. Dylan had the presence of mind––just––to back down. “I was just thinking out loud.… after all our traveling, to meet like this… transcendence, karma, and––what d’ya call it, sheer luck.”
Sumuru stepped forward, “I applaud the sentiment, but that is not how we roll. This is a retreat, a journey, an awakening among those we trust. You’d better head on….”
Dylan gave a shrug and took a long swig of water. “Have it your way… come on, Kyle, that’s our cue.” The sense of betrayal in his voice was evident as he did an about-face, leaving Kyle to muster a sheepish goodbye. The blond woman waved and the other two stood without expression, watching to make sure they were really heading down.
“Well that was something,” Dylan muttered as they popped out of the narrow passageway and started a sun-drenched scramble toward the dirt road. “Never know how things will go with women. Reckon they were lesbian?”
“Beautiful, whatever they were,” Kyle sighed.They really had been goddesses. If they had had any chance with them, Dylan had, uncharacteristically, fucked it up. “I reckon those gals were on their own trip, not looking to hook up with a couple vagabond travelers. What was that suggestion of yours about? The line you tried wouldn’t even fly on wet t-shirt night down at the Rooster in Woolaburton. The road beckons, mate, at the end of the day we’ll have better luck finding friends in Vegas….”
Dylan screwed his face into an expression of unfathomable annoyance, “Ah fuck you and the horse you came in on.