Night and Day

The moon was obese, its light billowing down on the salt flats to the east toward Death Valley, illuminating the mountains to the west like wolves’ teeth. Ahead, the center yellow line crawling unblinkingly up to the night blue horizon. In my rear view mirror, the same desolate gray slinking back to Los Angeles, the lights from the newly built tract housing on the outskirts of Ridgecrest humming orange just below the horizon.

Bernay

My high beams swept upon the small green sign that had been growing out of the brush at the side of the road; the only object that we had seen since the last commercial break on the Christian country channel. We slowed and turned, felt the gravel of the country road beneath the small city-car tires.

Earlier that day the sun had peeked over the top of the mountains just enough to melt the few fat flakes that had drifted their way onto the three feet of snow already there. It had then dipped again behind the jagged mountains tips and the melt had bolted back to frozen.

Bernay

We slowed to look at the depth of ice and snow on the first turn-off to the cabin. A wind had blown an impenetrable bank across the track, thick like a warm, fat duvet.

The second road was a little further up the hill and nestled in trees. As we turned off the lane, the creaking of compressed snow crunched under the tires like Styrofoam. We slid a little onto the ridges of someone’s tracks, locking us into the road like a train.

Bernay

The headlights turned each sagebrush and pinion pine into cardboard cutouts. Like painted scenery in a play, the stage sloping down to us sitting like an eager audience in the front row. “Oohs” and “aahs” and held breath as we slipped and skidded and bounded our way. We scavenged our way through the shafts of dappled moonlight on the forest floor toward the little cabin in the trees.

The heat of the Sunday sun prickled my cheeks and warmed my rock; its glair was burning my eyes. The south face, moistened by the melt, was brimming with life. The ground was muddy; the air hummed with flies. The tiniest of flowers, still wrapped up in their buds, were wriggling their way out to find the spring. Summer followed the night; the meadows are cut in two.

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