The path through the brush-thick meadow disappeared into a tangle of alder and willow. Jupiter was a growing pinpoint in a fading northern evening; the Madison River clamored unseen down its stony bed only a few yards away.
Tom was tired after a day on that river. Fishing well demands concentration, forcing out of mind workaday problems, stifling distractions, recollections, ruminations. This was where he had waited, four decades ago, for a bride-to-be who never came. He had managed not to think of her all day.
This evening, ambivalent about poking up the embers of memory, he had almost stayed at the camper. Perhaps should have. He was about to give up for the day when the park ranger materialized, beckoning from a dark patch in the thicket. “Can I help you, mister?”
The khaki shirt and slacks hardly hid a well-sculpted figure, although she seemed young. Her face in the waning light, punctuated by emphatic dark eyebrows, looked almost ivory, framed by thick ebony hair pulled back into a ponytail or braid behind the hat. He looked over his shoulder, thinking she must mean someone behind him.
“I’ll show you the trail.”
“Hello! That’s kind of you.” He worked his way through the brush.
“Where are you headed?
“Hoped to get a glimpse of the landslide.”