Marni’s Story


Thom Cantrall


The sun was breaking, blood-red, over the high mountain peaks that surrounded their haven. It was one of those perfect, blue-sky mornings known only to those who have been high in the Rocky Mountains in the middle of summer… the air crystal clear and just crisp, not cold…the waters of the cirque lake shimmering in the early light as she rolled over and looked for the man with whom she’d shared such a wonderful evening…

Not here? Where is he?? Oh…. there he is…by the lake washing up… As she watched him, her mind remembered the recent thoughts she shared with him…and she shivered involuntarily….and sighed softly…..and from such an incongruous source…How could a man twenty years her senior evoke such feelings in her…True, he was a careful and considerate of her, but it was more, and less. There was a special feeling there; a feeling that ran deeper than she had felt for anyone, man or woman, who she’d known so short a time…And it started so innocently…

“Join me for dinner,” he asked? “I’ve a special evening planned…if you’re up for it. You know I’d never want to be improper with you…or too forward, but if you’d join me, I think I can promise you an interesting evening.”


She hesitated, not sure if she should accept. After all, she didn’t really know him, this friend of her friend, but she felt strangely drawn to him. Not by beauty certainly, for he is not a bit of that, and not by youth and zeal, for he has none of the former and little of the latter, in his middle years, but by his presence, his love of life and woman, his willingness to please. These intangibles that make one appealing to another, sometimes beyond reason or rational thinking….

Finally, after careful consideration, she said “Yes, Mark, I’ll join you for dinner, but remember…I’m very nervous about this as I’ve not met many people face to face who I’ve only talked to on the ‘net”….and, even as she was saying this, her doubts assailed her…causing her to tremble a little…in fear, perhaps, but also, a little in anticipation.  As she smiled softly, she wondered what this very tall, large man would do on this evening to which she had committed herself.

“What do you have planned?” she asked shyly…. “Where are we going?”

“You’ll find out in due time, Dear One,” he answered with a mischievous smile…”Just be ready at 4:30 on Friday evening. Dress casual, but chic; if you would…I’ll call for you then…” And with a wink, he was gone, the Messenger screen almost an accusing thing.

In the intervening week, she reconsidered her decision many times….wanting mightily to call and cancel, but knowing full well she could not do this as she had made a commitment and she was not one to renege on her word. Also, her curiosity was piqued and she really did wonder just what he had in mind. So, trusting to her inner sense of well-being she felt when she thought of this strange man she had never actually met, she decided she would go through with it. After all, it was just a dinner, right? What can happen in a public restaurant, with all those people around? Surely he would not do anything to embarrass her, and if he did, so be it…she would just leave.  She had certainly been embarrassed before in her life and she’d survived, after all.


She was a bit surprised when, promptly at 4:30 on Friday afternoon, a white Limo arrived at her home. The driver held the door as a tall, somewhat handsome man, clad in twice-washed Levis and a western shirt and boots, emerged…and walked purposefully to her door. As he rang her doorbell, she felt her heart catch just a bit as she realized that this was the man she had been talking to all this time and that he was actually here, this huge, teddy bear of a man…and in a strange and unique style…as she was to learn, as is his wont. Opening the door slowly, dressed in a very stylish, western cut blouse and the nicest pair of jeans she could find, she smiled and offered her hand…. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Marni, I’m happy to finally meet you.”

Leaning close, he kissed her lightly on the cheek while shaking her hand softly. “Hi Marni, I’m Mark. I can’t tell you how much I’ve looked forward to meeting you…. Julie has told me so much about you and I can’t wait to see if she’s exaggerating,” he said while grinning impishly.

“Well,” she said quietly, “I’m not sure I can live up to Julie’s creation. She has such a lively imagination, I’m almost afraid of what she may have told you. You do know, don’t you, that we have never actually met?”

“Yes, she’s told me that, but she is very vivid in her regard for you, so that is why I’m here tonight, are you ready?” he asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose,” she said with a grin.  “Where are you taking me?”

“On safari,” he answered….and would say no more…but escorted her to the Limo and, holding her arm while the driver opened the door for them, he helped her in then followed her…”Isn’t this lovely?” He asked. “And stocked with some very fine wines, if you’d like…” Taking a bottle of the deep red nectar from a small rack built into the Limo for just this purpose and, using the available corkscrew, he opened it and poured her a glass….

“Ummm…” she sighed, “this is divine! What is it? And why are you not having any?”


“Well, someone has to be the designated driver, doesn’t he? Besides, I don’t drink at all, but I thought you’d enjoy a nice red on our way to our destination…”

The combination of the wine, the soft music and pleasant conversation had her well relaxed by the time the Limo pulled to a stop in a remote parking area…. where waited two saddled horses, standing three legged at a hitch rack, lazily swatting the flies with their long, flaxen tails…

Leaving the Limo, he walked to the horses and tightened the cinches… returned for her and prepared to help her to her mount… She was more than a little astonished at this point, and perhaps even a bit frightened. Not of the horses, certainly, or of the impending ride, but it seemed the situation was more than she had bargained for. As she started to protest, she looked up into that grin he gets when issuing a challenge and she knew she’d do this thing!

“Don’t worry, Marni,” he said quietly, you’re totally safe and it’s not a long ride…only about a mile and I know you’ll love it there!”

His quiet demeanor reassured her and she smiled up at him…then down as he boosted her to her saddle. He quickly went to his own mount, put a foot into the stirrup and swung aboard. “Follow me,” he said and turned his horse’s nose up the trail and she felt compelled to follow…not knowing to what or to where.

“Oh my gosh Mark, it’s BEAUTIFUL,” she exclaimed reverently as they rode out of the timber and into the ancient glacial cirque. She moved her horse up beside his and, stirrup to stirrup, they rode down into the sylvan glade to the site prepared there beside the cold mountain lake… She could not believe what she was seeing here. Several tents…and tent flies… and a cook, hard at work over a firepit, preparing who-knows-what, but she did recognize the Dutch Oven in the coals.


“The large tent there is a dressing room, if you’d care to freshen up after your ride…Sorry I forgot to tell you that mile was straight up and that we’d have to travel five to cover it!” He laughed freely as he remembered her consternation at the steepness of the ascent… “When you’re done, I’ll show you around while dinner is being prepared…”

After a short walk, hand in hand around the lake shore, she felt so warmly attracted to this gentle giant of a man…and wondered what had transpired in his mind to ever concoct a scene such as this.  Soon, holding hands was not enough and, as she snuggled closer, she slipped her tiny arm around his large body…and reveled in the warmth he cast over her.

Just as she was beginning feel pangs of hunger building in her, she heard a gong sound….

“Come, It’s time for dinner.  Are you hungry?” he asked as he looked down into her sparkling eyes. Seeing there pure contentment and joy.

“I’m ravenous,” she exclaimed. “What’s for dinner?”

She was surprised to find a table set up under the dining fly, with white linen tablecloth and napkins, a silver service set, crystal goblets filled with a deep red liquid and soup bowls steaming deliciously…and a waiter standing, waiting for her to be seated on one side of the table…This was all so incongruous and out of place, but she was thrilled to be a part of it.

Mark escorted Marni to her seat, a beautifully ornate period piece worth more, she thought, than she earned in a week.  Marni was simply spellbound by the scene set before her.


Here they dined, deep in the high Rocky Mountains, in a most beautiful, small, circular valley, once the fount of a powerful, landscape-changing glacier that had carved the long, broad river valley that was Marni’s home. A mighty river now wended its way through that valley, providing such excellent fishing and water sports that it was, for much of the year, the mainstay of the area’s economy.

As Marni’s mind absently nibbled on these vagrant thoughts, a white coated waiter, looking all for the world like he had just stepped out of the finest restaurant west of the Mississippi, served her the most unusual, and most delicious soup she had ever had occasion to enjoy. “What is this wonderful concoction,” she asked in a hushed voice, almost stilled in awe.

“You’ve never had peanut soup?” asked Mark with a slight, lopsided grin, belying the note of incredulity he was attempting to interject into it. “It’s a delicacy in many parts of the world, you know?”  Though he thought he would be at a loss if asked to name exactly what part that would be.

As the sun sank slowly towards the western rim, automatically dimming the lights for the couple, making the candles burning warmly on the table appear to be totally at home there, Mark and Marni enjoyed a repast fit for Royalty in the Splendor of God’s Creation… A divine salad, a steak to die for, sweet, succulent and very, very rare, served with sautéed Morel Mushrooms and a red wine such as only the gods enjoy.

Conversation was as light as the alpine air, with soft smiles and easy laughter reflecting gaily off the ancient massif about them. To Marni, it was beyond belief that this was happening to her…that someone would actually plan and execute such a dinner such as this just for HER was mind-boggling.


As dinner ended with the lightest of desserts and a lighter kiss on Marni’s slightly trembling hand, Mark stood, offered a hand and said “come with me, please, Marni, we’ve tickets for the Symphony and it’s about to begin.”  Marni gripped his hand a bit firmer as she stood to follow him, not having the faintest idea what this “concert” was, but knowing that there was no way she was going to miss it, or even be late for its opening. By this time, she would not have been a bit surprised to see the entire Boston Pops here in their mountain wilderness aerie.

Mark led Marni to a small copse near the wall of the cirque, to a place where the water poured from a huge crack at least a hundred feet above her spinning head; falling with a silvery shimmer in the rapidly fading light into the small lake set in the back of the cirque. “Sit here, Honey,” Mark whispered gently into her ear as though the very sound of his voice might shatter the magic of the moment. “Listen carefully now to the music God has prepared just for you this evening.”

Marni was in absolute awe of the utter beauty of the song of the waterfall, with the night birds singing a soft descant to its subliminal message of peace and calm. The mist of the falls providing the most brilliant light show she had ever had the pleasure to witness caused Marni to gasp in wonder and clutch at Mark’s hand, holding him as close to her as possible. It was like they had become one with eternity, these two mortals, at once so different, but yet so similar. Now, just when she was sure she had absorbed everything her mind could process and there could be no more surprises, a warm, golden glow began to suffuse the darkness of the eastern rim. Slowly, it grew, spreading softly down the west wall like a silent cat stalking an ethereal mouse. Then, suddenly it seemed, a bright yellow-orange-red crescent began to appear above the rim…growing larger and flooding the now heavenly cirque with the ample light of a too large, too full moon, casting the entire area in stark relief and bathing the couple with the ancient light of mystery. Marni nearly fainted when, bathed in this surreal glow, Mark knelt before her and kissed her…


Oh, such a wondrous kiss it was. Soft, gentle to begin, then more insistent; his lips rolling sensuously against hers, his lips parted as where hers, his tongue probing, searching, tasting as were hers…

She couldn’t believe it when the kiss ended… or did it end? She could still feel Mark’s lips on hers, could feel her breast rising and falling as her breath came in short gasps. Marni’s arms leapt around Mark, pulling him closer, not wanting to ever be apart from him ever again. She could not imagine that this man, this OLD man, had aroused her in such a complete and utter fashion as she had never been aroused in her life. She was HIS, totally, to do with as he pleased and she knew this feeling had never, ever happened before, to anyone, anywhere, anywhen… not the feeling she had now, not HER feeling, not this feeling she never wanted to end… she willed it to never end. Not EVER…

As the moon rose more fully in the sky, the shimmer on the tarn deepened, putting the whole area into relief as the magic orchestra played on.

Together, they lay back on the green carpet beside the small tarn and enjoyed just being here, together, as one.  The stars followed their inexorable path across the heavens, followed by the now smaller moon and the couple found what Creation was all about… together….

The night seemed to last forever, but somewhere, when the moon was nearing the western rim, they slept…together…at last….



“Seventy Years on the Mountain”
By Thom Cantrall