By Robert A. Vella
At the edge of town, a nondescript highway stretches out along the Columbia River towards the Pacific Ocean. The area is mostly residential with few commercial properties. There are a couple of small restaurants, a smattering of small businesses including a minimart, a gas station, a fresh produce stand, a Pentecostal church, and some moving & storage enterprises. This part of the municipality is several miles removed from the city center. It’s very quiet, and generally devoid of the hubbub, weirdness, and interesting things one can typically experience in any urban setting.
When something or someone extraordinary does stray out this far, local residents are quick to notice. It’s a strange quirk of human nature, I suppose. People get familiar and comfortable with their immediate surroundings, and noticeably curious about anything that seems out of place. Maybe that’s why small town folks have the reputation of being rubes or nosy busybodies.
I regularly walk this stretch of highway for exercise since being forcibly evicted from my preferred route through an industrial park by an aggressive nesting pair of golden eagles (believe me, you don’t want to mess around with these large raptors!). The only pedestrians I frequently encounter are other walkers, joggers, cyclists, and local residents doing mundane chores. Their attire is casual and drab; old, worn-out sweatpants and hoodies are common.
The other day, a young lady was strolling down the sidewalk in the opposite direction as I was traveling. She was well-dressed and quite stunning. Wearing a light ruffled red blouse, a smart black waistcoat, pleated formfitting black slacks, and black high-heel shoes, her long auburn hair swung rhythmically from side to side. As we approached, I caught a glimpse of her voluptuously sturdy frame. She was tall, curvaceous, and elegant. She had legs that rose up into the sky like the Seattle Space Needle. What a sight! I was captivated.
She did not appear to be headed for any particular destination as would be expected. The lady was just walking, but her outfit and especially her dress shoes made me wonder why. Just ahead of me, she stopped a young man on a bicycle. They spoke briefly before moving on. When we converged, she stopped me.
“Do you have a cigarette?” the lady asked as she put two fingers to her pursed red lips.
“Sorry, I don’t smoke,” I replied.
She glanced down, turned slightly to her right, then looked at me with those big green eyes.
“Can you give me directions to Willow Grove Park?”
Willow Grove Park! That must be six miles away, I thought. Surely she wasn’t planning to walk there in high-heels!
“Well…” I began to answer as my testosterone levels shot through the roof and beads of perspiration formed on my brow. Old men like myself should not allow themselves to be toyed with.
“… continue down the highway for about two more miles.”
She perked up, moved closer, and rolled her shoulders back. My heart started pounding. Calm down! You’re gonna give yourself a heart attack, I scolded myself.
“Uh… then turn left on the connection road. It’s route 432, I think.”
She smiled, and I began dancing about like a nervous bridegroom at the altar.
“When you get to the river, it’s about… it’s about a mile or so, turn right on uh… Willow Grove Road. Yes, that’s the name.”
“That will take me to the park?” she grinned.
“Yeah,” I said.
“How far?” she inquired while flinging her hair backwards.
“Oh, maybe uh… maybe three or four miles, I’d say.”
I was a quivering mass of goo.
“Great, thanks!” the lady gestured with a cupped hand.
I nodded, muttered something unintelligible, and stumbled away.
Later, it took three martinis to get me through the evening. Dancing with an Imperial Walker will do that to a guy, especially one as foolish as myself.