They said he was the killer, that he cooked his own girlfriend. Skinned alive, and quartered! I think differently. Yet, I never told the full story.
Theirs was a love of rabbit stew, marinating high in the mountains for years in a rich mustard sauce of affection, braised over thyme with mutual adoration, and served on a communal bed of sautéed cabbage. I should know, because I had the pleasure of spending a weekend at their cabin last winter.
We took early morning walks, identifying silent tracks of racoons, coyote, snowshoe hares. He pointed out sitzmarks, imprints left in the snow by animals falling from above. I hoped to see grizzly tracks, but I was told they no longer lived in the Sierra.
“Last one killed in ’22,” she said with a grin. I felt vulnerable. I felt a fool.
“But it’s on your state flag,” I argued. She just hunched her shoulders and closed her eyes.
Later, we snowshoed the Rubicon trail. It was steep and unnerving. He took the lead, pointing out Slide Mountain, Spooner Summit, Lake Tahoe below. I braced myself. I didn’t want to look down, but he shamed me. Don’t be a chicken, Ted. Drink it in. You’ll never see anything like it. So I did. And it was true—the cobalt waters were stunning. “A ferocious beauty,” I declared. I could see down into her soul, where wide boulders of truth lay at the heart of it all. They were solid and unmoving, bearing witness to eons of geologic turmoil. Later I thought to myself, he could have thrown me over, but he didn’t.
Over dinner, we watched evening fall into night. Just as quickly as the winter sky faded from the Carson Range, the lake had left us completely alone. We looked into the darkness and cheered our good fortune. He grabbed her, and together they stood on his chair, arm in arm, looking out to where the lake once lay moments before.
“I’m in live!” he yelled. I thought he meant to say “in love,” but he didn’t. He was in live, and I had never seen anybody more so.
There were toasts of red wine and an unabashed zesting of lust. Right there at the table. It was unmistakable. While others hibernated during the long winter months, those two snowshoe hares were quite active. They screwed, well, like rabbits. All night. And like I said, right there at the table. It was a thing of beauty. They left undeniable sitzmarks throughout the cabin, and when I walked back to the car the next morning, I found them everywhere. Alive and deeply imbedded in the new layer of snow that fell overnight.
So to all those who shake their boorish fingers declaring he did it, I say everybody should be so lucky. Lucky to simmer for hours, if not years, to their Crock-Potted deaths in the arms of such a brazen lover high above the dark, still waters of that inimitable lake.