“I had that dream again.”
Martin lay in bed, trying to focus his eyes in the dim light. Was that spot on the ceiling moving?
Judith didn’t answer. He wondered if she was sleeping or ignoring him.
“The one with the snow on the mountain, and the river that looks like it’s on fire,” he prompted. Judith made a sound in the back of her throat like a cat purring.
After a pause, she spoke without opening her eyes. “Do you want to go to the mountains?”
“It will take us hours…” he said, hope rising.
She rolled onto her side and opened one eye. “Am I going to have to avoid serving mashed potatoes?”
Martin didn’t know what disturbed him more, the allusion to his having a “Close Encounters” midlife crisis, or the realization that mashed potatoes would be perfect for the snowy peaks he was seeing.
“It’s just, it’s so vivid,” he said. “Do you think my dad’s trying to send me a message?”
“Your dad is surely somewhere warmer than that.”
He looked at her sharply and she laughed. “I mean warm like an island, not in Hell. But that’s funny. He would have liked that one.”
Martin relaxed. “We could go next weekend,” he said. “We could leave Friday at noon and come back Monday. Can you get out of work?”
Judith was quiet a moment. “What about Yosemite? That’s closer and we’d be there before dark.”
“That’s my girl.” He reached a hand to stroke her cheek and accidentally poked a thumb in her eye.
“Ow,” she said mildly. Maybe your dad was listening. Sorry, Artie.”
They arrived before nightfall in Martin’s car, which was stuffed with a pup tent, zero degree sleeping bags and enough blow-up mattresses to keep them well off the chilly ground. The drive had lasted five hours, but Martin barely noticed it. The dream was coming to him now in waking moments. Any time his thoughts wandered, he found his inner mind on the hill, looking up at the snowy summit, the river of fire glowing and pulsing.
They set up camp in a walk-in site, built a fire and roasted hotdogs. Judith opened the bottle of Russian River Pinot Noir they’d bought that winter and they drank straight from the bottle. She poured a little on the ground, saying “for Artie,” and he kissed her, tasting the wine in her mouth. As they made love, the fiery vision in his mind blended into his body’s sensation of icy ground and the one-sided heat of the campfire.
The next morning they set off without a map. Judith wanted to consult one, but Martin felt drawn forward in a mesmerizing but reassuring certainty. He led the way in the predawn light. The ground was frosty for the first hour, then it turned to crunchy snow as the ascent sharpened. Martin quickened his step. He could hear Judith behind him, breathing heavily, but soon became oblivious to everything but the pull of the vision.
He blinked. This was it. He pointed. “Do you see it? Why, it’s only the sunrise!” He cried out, delight and relief warring within him.
She came to his side and they admired the spectacle of the rays reflecting off a frozen stream of ice that had once cascaded down the cliff side.
Behind them, a flash of white blocked out the sky. It was almost a full minute before the fiery blast shook the ground and the mushroom cloud bloomed in the distance.