Big Baby Moses
I’m sprawled on a red air mattress in the middle of the Centennial Apartments pool, reading a book through my sunglasses. Sue Henry is sunbathing in a blue bikini next to Angie Dundas, who’s wearing a pink bikini. They’re about fifteen yards from my left ear. It must be true what they say about noise traveling across water cuz I can hear everything they’re saying. I’m secretly crazy about Angie, but she’s seventeen and I’m twenty, though Rick Day sez she likes older guys so you never know. Rick’s my roommate and he’s Angie’s boyfriend, but he’s down at Lake Powell jumping off cliffs in his Reeboks so his feet don’t split open on impact with the water. I’m just happy to be floating in the pool. My book’s about the Bermuda Triangle and Easter Island Statues and all this other supernatural stuff. Rick sez Angie’s into spirituality so I figure this might give me an in.
She’s over there talking to Sue when this full sentence sort of flies into my head and prints itself across my brain. I’ve gotta do something with my life—when my Mom was my age she had three kids! Maybe it’s two sentences. I dunno. I keep reading but it’s like the words on the page are Angie’s. I suddenly feel like I understand how she sees the world. Sue’s telling her she should have some fun before she settles down. Party in Springville. Ride the Heber Creeper. Camp out on Antelope Island. Go water skiing in Flaming Gorge. Get one a them smoothies up in Bear Lake. Go down to Four Corners. See a bit of the world. Start thinking about marriage when she’s eighteen.
After a bit Angie asks me what I’m reading over there on my little floating island. I tell her about Toltec brain surgeons. Undertones in the Sea of Okhotsk. The Mystery of the Silver Horn. She thinks this stuff is cool. Apparently I look very peaceful on the water turning the pages, my toes trailing bubbles. Like a big baby, Sue sez. Angie agrees. With my dark curly hair I look like Big Baby Moses. All I’m missing is the bushes, I say.
Everything seems amusing.
The heat is luxurious and the air is dry.
A helicopter flies over Squaw Peak and we watch it jitter on by. I say it’s probably Intermountain Rescue evacuating someone who got ate by a cougar. Angie sez getting eaten by a cougar sounds pretty good. She flashes me this wicked smile and raises an eyebrow. Sue gives her this surprised look but doesn’t say anything. Back in high school I was a wide receiver for the Waterton Cougars. Prided myself on never missing a pass. Sue and Angie both saw me play. And like we used to say—Once a Coog, always a Coog! My book seems to be doing its job. I reckon it must’ve given me some sort of psychic powers cuz the whole time I’m yakking with Sue and Angie I keep seeing this mental image of Rick plunging head first through the air, limbs flailing. It’s like a pictograph at the end of every sentence.
I rack my brains for weird stuff around here I can tell Angie about. Finally I remember Haunted Hoodoos. It’s up Provo Canyon near Cascade Springs. You can only see the ghosts in the middle of the night. Cowboys with their ears shot off. Old prospectors with beards and hollow eyes. Ute warriors with bloody tomahawks. Porter Rockwell with a bowie knife in his teeth. Dead babies from the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Stuff like that. Most people are too freaked to go up there past midnight. If the ghosts don’t get them, the rattlers will. Or the cougars. Then there’s the brush fires. Angie sez she’s always wanted to check it out, and I’m like, I could take ya up there in the Camaro sometime. A few weeks before, I’d overheard her say Camaros were her favorite car. Turns out it’s my lucky day. We end up deciding to go to Haunted Hoodoos together later that night. Sue’s surprised by how quick we set it all up. She has a hot date in Spanish Fork. Tells us us kids’ll be on our own tonight. I say I’ve got a tent. Angie sez if I bring the tent she’ll bring the gun. It’s a done deal. Angie tells me to pick her up at seven. They take off to get peppermint malts from Snelgrove’s.
Which gives me plenty of time. I don’t see any reason to move from that pool. While I’m floating there I get to thinking about Rick down at Lake Powell. With my mind’s eye I watch him bash his brains out on the orange rocks. I always thought he had a death wish. Truth is, I don’t think he’s worthy of Angie. I just happen to know he’s unfaithful to her on a regular basis. There’s some Kaylee he’s seeing down there in Page. Probly already checked into Bashful Bob’s Motel with her. Or maybe they’re bungee jumping off the Glen Canyon Bridge. Maybe they’ve made a suicide pact—throwing themselves off the dam. Going out with a squelch. How would I know? My book hasn’t made me telepathic. Just telepathic enough to connect with Angie. I’m licking my chops at the thought of our little camping trip. In my mind I start seeing another picture. A big cat springing onto a beautiful bird. But all’s fair in love and war as my Mom used to say before she stuck her head in the gas oven. Rick’s only getting what he deserves. What goes around comes around. I might be a Cougar but he’s the real predator. I just keep floating on my island. Easing the pictures from my mind. Reading about the moon and the tides.
Mark Crimmins received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Toronto and has been teaching Contemporary Fiction at U of T since 1999. His fiction has been published in Happy, Confrontation, theNewerYork, White Rabbit, Flash Frontier, Columbia online, Cha, Tampa Review Online, Eunoia Review, and Pif Magazine. He is currently completing two books of short fiction, Intersections and Characters Madmen Alone Can Read.