In the desert, among strangers, a vision arrives 

The perils of Narleen

In the desert, among strangers, a vision arrives

The oven-like heat of the Nevada desert melted the lead weighing down Narleen's heart, and the wind blasting in the driver's window gave her a rush of freedom as she wheeled off Interstate 80 onto Highway 93 at Wells.

She was inexplicably drawn to the Old West Tavern where she and Motorhead had once found Guacamoto returning from a vision quest to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

As she stood on the sidewalk and stared off into space, her mind raced. Why was she plunging herself into this gloom? Perhaps Guac was right in wanting to keep their relationship "loose," as he said, and not make any hard and fast commitments.

He was willing to commit to friendship. He proved that with the beautiful antler ring he'd presented her at their last meeting. But the way he had stressed the word "friendship" had torn off a corner of her heart. Somehow she needed more of a promise from him.

She'd felt the ache behind her solar plexus as she, without a word, strode out of the bistro and left him at the table. Her lizard-skin boots survived the ordeal more easily than she did. Maybe he was right, maybe she shouldn't be so eager to be bound to someone she didn't know that well. He might have a girlfriend, a wife back in Jamaica, or even a boyfriend.

Narleen felt relieved as she piled into Ruby, her immaculately restored Hudson Commodore Custom 8, motored back onto Highway 93 and headed for Las Vegas. She needed the obscurity of a crowded casino. Maybe she'd get lucky and win enough to pay for her trip.

As the sun retreated behind the hills, Narleen pulled into the Cathedral Gorge State Park campground, found a site, pitched her small tent and was asleep almost instantly.

In the morning she sat at the picnic table and surveyed the exquisitely eroded formations a quarter-mile in the distance. She felt uplifted and in a heightened state of awareness. A slight movement in the rocks grabbed her attention, and she was transported along the lines of her vision to an ancient Paiute encampment.

Half-a-dozen clan members milled around a fire ring and the largest male, a fine blend of Guacamoto and Tonto, offered her a steaming earthen mug. As the vapors caressed her olfactory nerves, she sighed, "Ah, freshly brewed Colombian coffee."

The chieftain's face transmogrified into that of a typical American tourist and it said, "Excuse us, Miss, but we thought you might enjoy a cup of coffee." Beyond him, his mate fidgeted shyly. "We also wondered if we might borrow a pair of pliers."

Narleen, slow to digest the request, at last said, "Sure, I've got tools and I know a bit about cars. What's the problem?"

"It's our motorhome," he began. "The engine starts and runs, but we can't get any electricity to the living quarters. Suddenly all the lights went out, and the pump stopped before we could get our showers."

Narleen thought of her own grungy body and felt a sudden urgency. "I'll grab my bag o'tools and let's go check the beast out."

Narleen followed the travelers to their campsite. The motorhome looked like a Ford Econoline van with a trailer house grafted on its back. She snapped open the hood, took one look at the nasty corrosion on the batteries, and knew she had found the problem. The terminal supplying juice to the living area was particularly trashed and she said, "You got any 409 spray cleanser?"

The befuddled tourist popped inside and produced a fresh jug. "What do you need 409 for?"

"It's the best thing to clean all this green gluck off the battery terminals," she replied as she attacked the battery cables with a small wire brush. "You should clean these guys once in a while or you'll have this problem again."

She finished scrubbing the terminal surfaces, then removed the cables and scoured the insides and the battery posts. "All this contact area must be perfectly clean or you may lose power. Try it now."

Narl's eyes rolled back when he entered the home on wheels and she heard a television begin its inane blather. After a marvelous shower and breakfast at the couple's insistence, she packed up her camp and continued her journey to Las Vegas.

As she cruised the seemingly endless road to the City of Sin, she realized that her relationship with Guac was like those corroded battery cables and that every minute spent with him, every interaction was like another wire brush stroke.

Ultimately the terminals of their relationship would be so squeaky clean, so perfect and pure that the electricity of their love would flow unabated. Perhaps then they could consider something more long term. Guacamoto was right. Again.

She was floating above the hot sidewalk when she walked into the air-conditioned comfort of the Luxor Casino. She checked in, dragged her bag to her ninth floor room, gawked over the rail into the hollowed-out pyramid and thought, "Whoa, not unlike the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco."

Her mood was joyous as she made her way down the elevator, found a quiet bar and while she sipped a gin and tonic, scribbled a post card to Guacamoto and Motorhead. Then she moseyed toward the nickel slot machines to try her luck.

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