This is the short story I found in my file. It was the only copy, the original must have been lost on my old computer. I hope it makes you smile.
He must have been out of his fucking mind. Mason figured that was the only rationale for why he was sitting in his car on the side of a country road. It was his own fault; he had forgotten his number one cardinal rule, never volunteer.
Hoping to gain Brownie points with the boss, who had been less than impressed with his job performance thus far, Mason had ‘agreed’ to deliver some legal papers to an out of town client. Muttering to himself, he climbed out of his pride and joy, his baby, his boy toy, and surveyed the driveway ahead of him.
“No way, no how,” he said. This went into the above and beyond category he was thinking, and gave the rutted and overgrown drive a quick perusal. He was not going to drive his low profile Camaro up that lane, it would be suspension suicide.
. Maybe, he had made a mistake. Maybe, this wasn’t the client’s house after all and he could return to the city, admit he’d gotten lost and make his apologies to the boss. Mason stood at the foot of the lane and looked around, catching sight of a battered mailbox sitting atop a crooked post to his left and knew he was out of excuses. The client’s name was boldly displayed in black stick-on letters on the metal mailbox.
It was a decisive moment. He could drive up the neglected lane to the house and chance damaging his car, or he could abandon his responsibility to the client along with the hope of any job advancement. Or…he could suck it up and walk to the house, deliver the papers as he’d agreed. It was going to have to be door number three, he decided.
Mason returned to his car, grabbed the thick white manila envelope from the passenger seat and stuffed it in his jacket pocket. He pushed the lock button on his key and locked the door. He didn’t figure he was leaving it in a high risk area for carjacking, as he hadn’t seen another car since he’d left the concession road, but better safe than sorry.
He began to walk along the road, placing his feet carefully to prevent tripping in the ruts hidden beneath the thick and overgrown weeds. Hiking boots would have been more in order, but the kind of boot that could traverse this drive was not to be found in his shoe collection. He was more the loafer, or desert boot type.
As he made his way he cursed that he was wearing his best suit, that he hadn’t left his jacket in the car. Despite the shade offered by the wooded area to each side of the road, it was hot in the woods. He reached up and loosened his tie, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. He found no beauty in nature; rather found it strange and foreign territory. Still, he plodded on.
“Ouch,” he said, feeling a sudden prickling sensation in his leg. Snake bite, was his immediate thought, and he jumped back in fear of further attack by some slithery creature hiding in the long grass. His left foot landed on the edge of a deep rut, and he turned his ankle, felt an intense and immediate pain. With arms waving like a windmill he tried to maintain his balance. But, it was a lost cause. In what seemed to be slow motion, he felt himself start to fall, took one small staggering step back on his right foot to catch himself, and another landing heavily on his injured ankle. The pain was horrendous, and his knees buckled. Falling to the ground, he threw his hands out in front of him to cushion the impact and the momentum carried him off the side of the road and into the ditch.
Sharp, pin prick sensations felt over his entire body had him scrambling to his knees and climbing back to the road, trying to escape the nest of vipers he was sure he’d fallen into. When he felt he was safely away, he glanced back, but could see nothing, no snakes, no movement in the grass. The prickly feeling did not go away, but worsened when he ran his hand down his leg. His skin felt like it was on fire, and he saw a number of bristles deeply embedded in his palm.
Burrs. He had fallen into a patch of burrs. With a lot of moaning and cursing he struggled to his feet, or foot as it was. Standing on his uninjured right foot, he barely touched the other to the ground, only enough to maintain balance, not enough to test if it would hold his weight.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he said. His teeth clenched tight, hunched over with one hand resting on his thigh, his body wavered to remain vertical. “At least it wasn’t snakes. I hate snakes.”
Reptiles aside, he took inventory of his status, and saw he was completely covered in burrs, their sharp bristles embedded in his clothing, some having worked through the fabric to prick his skin.
“See,” he informed the world around him. “See where volunteering gets you. It gets you stranded on some god damn isolated road in the middle of fucking nowhere, covered in fucking burrs and suffering the pain of a thousand pricks. Fuck.”
He was a city boy. Not used to walking in the countryside, and he was at a loss as to how to proceed. As long as he stood still, the constant jabbing from the burrs in his clothing eased, a bit, somewhat, not really. It was the ones stuck in his hand that caused him the most distress, other than the ankle of course. One by one he pulled the barbs from his palm, a slow and tedious task.
Now what, he thought. He couldn’t see his car through the trees, and figured since he must be closer to the client’s house than he was the car, he should journey on. It only took one step on his ankle to make him reconsider, but unless he was willing to stay in the woods for the night, he had to move, one direction or the other. All the worst case scenarios entered his head, what if his client wasn’t home, what if he met a bear in the woods, what if he fell down and…ha ha, couldn’t get up.
He could call 9-1-1. Considering how foolish he would appear, it had to be the last resort. But, just in case, he pulled his phone from his jacket pocket, and was immediately alarmed when he realized that was not an option…no signal.
He noticed a long branch at the side of the road, and remembered all the movies where the hero made himself a makeshift crutch out of a tree branch. Keeping his injured leg elevated, he leaned over and slowly edged the tree limb closer and closer until he could grab hold and drag it close.It took some awkward finagling but he finally found a rhythm with a hop-step gait, and leaning heavily on the tree branch, he made his way up the lane toward the house.
Mason wasn’t sure how much time passed, his concentration was on moving forward, beating back the pain so he could continue on. When he reached the clearing, and saw his client’s house, he almost cried with relief. It was more a cabin than a house, constructed of hewn logs with a large covered porch across the front. There were flowers in pots in pots at each side of the door and in the gardens on either side of the centre set of steps. Not a touch he’d expect from a minimalist woodsman.
Best approach with some caution, Mason thought. With no sounds of a car to announce his arrival, he didn’t know how the client would react to the surprise visit of a stranger.
“Mr. Lewis,” he called. “Mr. Sydney Lewis? It’s Mason Hamlin from the law office. Mr. St. James sent me to deliver some papers.”
There was no immediate response from the cabin, and feeling weak from the effort of walking, he dared to approach, wanting to sit and rest his battered body. He called out again as he staggered to the stairs and collapsed in a heap on the second step. The relief he felt at being off his feet was incredible. Leaning back on his elbows, he rested his head on the top step and closed his eyes.
He heard a woman’s voice singing and thought he must be dreaing, but as he was awake it had to be a hallucination, brought on by the stress of the afternoon’s events. Maybe he was in shock. Maybe there had been a snake and he was delirious and dying from some poisonous venom.
“Fuck me,” he said. This was not exactly a dignified death, covered in burrs, bruises and with a broken ankle. What an ignominious end.
“That’s rushing things a bit don’t you think?” the woman asked. “I like to at least the man’s name before enjoying the kind of intimacy.”
Mason opened his eyes and saw a nymph standing before him, a glorious spirit of nature. Her long hair, the color of autumn leaves tumbled in a mass of curls over her shoulders. She wore some kind of light robe, like a beach cover-up, that left her long and very shapely legs exposed. Her face was beautiful, eyes a bright and twinkling blue, her mouth smiling.
“Did I die and go to heaven?” he asked.
He heard her laugh, or thought he did, and had to wonder if it was his imagination, if the woods were playing tricks with his mind.
“Since you’ve been dispatched by my attorney, I think you can be assured you’re alive. And as I can see you’re hurt, this is a bit more hell than heaven for you.”
“Where did you come from?” Mason asked.
“I live here,” she answered with a smile. “I’m Sydney Lewis.”
“Fuck me sideways,” he murmured, dropping his head back to the step, closing his eyes.
“You are determined to have your way with me, aren’t you? But first things first. Let’s get you inside and get your clothes off.”
“What did you say?” Mason asked, jolting to a sitting position with her statement.
Her eyes, a pale crystal blue, watched him as she waited for him to stand. “We need to get these clothes off; the burrs poking through the fabric must be a constant irritation.”
“For sure,” Mason said, suddenly very amenable to her plan. “They hurt and itch something fierce,” he agreed.
He moved his foot and didn’t have to fake the grimace of pain that came with his action. She was immediately concerned when she looked at his ankle, now swollen to twice its usual size.
“Oh dear, you’re hurt. Let me help you.”
It took some manoeuvering, and a lot of close personal contact, but eventually she was able to assist Mason up the stairs, into the cabin and onto the sofa. The effort was physically draining after his walk from the car, so needing her help to shed his clothing was not entirely feigned. She gave him a throw to cover himself, but otherwise didn’t seem to be fazed by his being naked. From the glimpses he’d caught of nothing but skin under her robe, she was close to naked herself.
She carefully gathered his clothes and left the room, stating she was going to toss everything in the wash, to get rid of the burrs.
Mason settled back in the corner of the sofa, and elevated his foot on the arm at the other end. After his battle to get there, he had to think he was being rewarded for his perseverance. Sydney Lewis, he thought, was a beautiful woman, and not the rough and gruff outdoorsman he’d expected. Finally something was going right with his day.
“Sydney,” he called. “The papers I was to deliver are in my coat pocket.”
He heard her enter the room, but didn’t open his eyes, his day having taken its toll.
“Mr. St. James wanted them delivered personally. He said you didn’t leave the cabin if you didn’t have to, so I figured they must be important.”
“It’s the final paperwork for my new venture. I’m starting a sort of…camp, for nature enthusiasts.”
“What…like bird watchers?” he asked.
“As I have the papers, it’s official. Do you want to be my first client?”
“I have to be honest, Sydney. I’m not much into birds.” He continued to rest, not giving their conversation his full attention.
“Mason,” she said. “It’s more of a back to ‘au naturel’ than a ‘back to nature’ camp.”
Mason thought about what she ha said and opened his eyes. “Oh,” he said on seeing his nymph standing naked in front of him. “Au naturel.”
Mason deliberated for maybe a millisecond before giving her his response. “After all it took to get those papers in your hand; I don’t see how I can refuse such a generous offer. I must warn you though; with my sprained ankle I’m not going to be much help.”
“I’m sure we’ll manage,” she said. “I intend to take very good care of you.”
Mason patted his chest over the spot where his heart was beating at a rapid rate. “Be still my heart,” he whispered. He didn’t care right at that moment if he’d died and gone to heaven, or if this was his reward on earth. He was living every young man’s fantasy, alone in an isolated cabin with a gorgeous and naked woman.
It was definitely giving him a different attitude about volunteering. Maybe, he laughed, doing a good deed brought about its own reward.