Page 64 - WTP Vol. IX #7
P. 64

The Lookout (continued from preceding page) dew with the sun beaming on his face.
Movement was painful but necessary. He clumped up the stairs, retrieved Star’s sleeping bag, staggered down the steps holding on to the rail so he didn’t pitch over. Shaking out the bag, he placed it over Star’s body and headed back up the tower.
Holt stood with the radio microphone in his hand try- ing to figure out what he was going to say. The last thing he wanted to do was talk. He put the mic up to his mouth and his arm dropped to his side, the mic dangling by its pigtail cord down by his knee. At an- other time he might be embarrassed or ashamed for letting Star stay with him when she wasn’t supposed to be there, but none of those feelings mattered now. The glare from the sun shifted, illuminating Holt on the glass in front of him. A beleaguered, expression- less ghost stared back. Numb, depleted, a carcass picked clean. He picked up the mic again and pressed the button to talk.
An hour later, a helicopter’s rotors reverberated off the walls of the mountains, and it rose towards
the lookout like a hawk riding a thermal. It landed fifty yards from the lookout, the pilot shut down
the engine, and Holt saw three people climb out: a state trooper in uniform with the dark piping on his trousers clearly visible, the district ranger, and a third person he didn’t recognize. Holt sat at the base of the lookout, not far from Star’s body.
The district ranger was thin and weathered as a lodgepole fence rail with gray, close-cropped hair, and skin creased by years in the field. “You okay, son?”
Holt turned a red face streaked by tears to the ranger and answered, “No, no I’m not okay.”
The trooper started taking pictures from different vantage points while the other man pulled the sleep- ing bag off Star’s body and examined the marks on her neck. The trooper referred to the man as ‘Doc,’ so Holt figured he must be a physician.
“Why don’t we go in the lookout and catch up while these folks get on with their business,” the ranger said, tilting his head towards Doc and the trooper.
It was an effort to stand up. His body was one im- mense sandbag. The climb up the lookout seemed to take an hour, and at one point, Holt braced himself against a railing before moving on. At the lookout,
he fell onto his bed, staring up at the roof while the ranger unfolded the chair. Fifteen minutes later, the trooper and doctor climbed the stairs and were in the lookout, which suddenly was crowded and suf- focatingly hot. Everyone else was warm too because the ranger got up and opened two windows. Revived enough, Holt’s story unspooled while the trooper scribbled notes on a small pad, clicking his pen when another question came to him.
“I’ll stay here with the body and the chopper can return for us later.” The trooper put the pen and pad in his shirt chest pocket and snapped the flap.
The body. It all sounded so detached. This was no body; it was Star. She was a living, breathing person a few hours ago.
Holt buckled his seat belt and they flew from the lookout in the helicopter. As they coasted down the valley, Holt replayed the last few weeks over in his mind, frame-by-frame, like an old movie reel. He hoped to see some tell-tale hint of why Star killed herself or why she needed a mountain top to do it. It didn’t make sense—nothing made sense anymore. If Star planned this whole thing, he was as much a vic- tim as anyone else. He was the one who cut her body down, poured every drop of sweat inside him into CPR, and held her lifeless body in his arms.
Holt sat at an office desk and completed his termina- tion paperwork. Fired. Kaput. It seemed only yester- day he got hired, filled with the anticipation of spend- ing a summer in the woods to help blot his grief.
The ranger stepped into the room, coffee cup in

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