Marni walked out the front screen door of the lodge with her morning cup of coffee. Her binoculars were in her other hand. Von Sydow followed her outside and took up a sentinel position to her one side. She sat down in the weathered wicker chair. It was the lone piece of furniture on the porch except for its matching companion table. She sipped that first hot kiss of the morning beverage and surveyed her domain.
She squirmed in the seat and thought, “This chair is one of the first things to go.” Marni inherited the hunting lodge from her Dad last year. At first she thought to sell it, convert his legacy to cash and move on. Her spring visit to check on how the lodge held up through the winter changed her mind and changed her, too. Childhood memories flooded back recalling the happier times spent up here. She now wanted to determine if she could make a successful business out of the place.
She scanned the thick tree line with her field glasses. Marni was looking for the common native bird species her Dad taught her about so many years ago. He would point out the common varieties found in these Pocono Mountains. The glimpse of a rarer species excited them both. Hawks, owls and migratory game species of ducks and geese would show up on occasion. The sun glinted off of something down by the stream where it came up along the access road to this place. It caught Marni’s eye, and she trained her gaze in that direction. She focused on the source and spotted an older, beat-up camper back pickup truck parked off to the side of the road.
“Looks like we’ve got a visitor,” she began her running monologue to her canine companion. “I hope it not poachers. They warned me about them the last time I was in town. Let’s see if I can spot the owner or occupants.”
She spotted boots and some clothing on the bank of the creek. Her gaze followed the waterway in both directions until she hit a target. A man with his back to her stood waist deep out in the middle of the slow moving water. He was lathering his well-defined upper body and hair. He squatted low and dunked as much of his body as he could under the water as she watched. He splashed extra handfuls of water where needed to rinse off the remaining soap. The man stood up and turned to head back to the bank by his clothes and truck. The Adonis-like physique of this trespasser surprised Marni. His biceps and forearms rippled as he used the edge of his hand to squeegee the excess water off of his body. He sported the classic six-pack abs. Yet, it was his all-American facial features that completed the look in her estimation.
“My, my,” she commented to Von Sydow, “He’s not a poacher or homeless.” When he stepped up on the rocks to exit the water, Marni exclaimed, “My, oh, my! That mountain stream must not be as cold as I thought it was. There is no sign of a shrinkage factor there.” She pulled the glasses away, embarrassed by her chance voyeurism. “Well, no matter what his story is, we can’t have trespassers camping out on my property,” she said. “We should hike down there and make sure he leaves.” At the sound of the word hike, the dog bounded from his on guard position on the porch. He ran out into the gravel parking area and took up a position looking back at her as if to confirm he agreed with her. Marni walked back inside and came out strapping on what she called her utility belt. It held her hiking essentials, sidearm, a hunting knife and bear spray. An attached fanny-pack held other items needed in the woods.
“Let’s go,” she directed and her dog was off. He scouted down the well-worn narrow path for about twenty yards checking to make sure it was clear. He looped back until he caught sight of his charge. This confirmed he didn’t need to provide a rear-guarding action of any kind. He then bounded ahead and continued to repeat this sequence. Finally, he took up a position right before the trail opened to the stream by the parked truck. Marni whispered in the dog’s ear and gave him a subtle hand sign. She stepped out into the opening and walked toward where the man was kneeling, packing up his gear. She spoke up to distract him as Von Sydow made his way around the far side of the vehicle unseen.
“Good Morning, stranger, do you realize you are trespassing on my property?” she both asked and stated. The man looked at her and stood up but didn’t seem startled by her. He had dressed, but left his denim shirt unbuttoned. It framed his well-defined pecs and abs. He didn’t act surprised. He was more captivated by this vision of loveliness confronting him. He shaded his eyes with one hand to get a better look. With the sun framing her from behind, he noted the stance she took. The statuesque woman had her shapely legs spread apart, hand at the ready on her sidearm. She wore hiking boots and cut-off jeans. The white linen shirt tied up under her breasts revealed her tight, flat abdomen. Her face was strikingly familiar, from what he could see, model-quality in his mind.
“I apologize,” he said. “It was late last night, and I thought I was still on state game lands. I got sleepy and didn’t think I could make it to town. I’m harmless. You can relax that grip on your pistol. You got the drop on me and not too many people do.” She laughed at his comments and his mind reeled. He compared it to the sound of crystal wind chimes drifting on the breeze.
“Oh, this isn’t for you,” she admitted, “Like they say in the commercials, I don’t leave home without it. The bear population is up on this mountain and the surrounding game lands. There are also rattlesnakes and coyotes to watch for. I also wanted to make sure you didn’t start a campfire. No open flames allowed until we get rain. You didn’t sleep on the ground, did you? Watch out for the deer ticks with Lyme disease.” This wood nymph standing before him captivated his attention. Allowing him to be in her presence was a blessing to him.
“Thanks for your concern,” he said. “I sleep in the camper-back. I have to say, though, that’s one big U-turn there, ma’am. One minute you’re the sheriff running me off your property. The next minute you’re the welcome wagon, warning me of the perils of camping out, which I’ve been doing my whole life.”
“You’re only about ten to fifteen minutes outside town,” Marni said. “Oh, and this will be the best welcome you can expect. In town they will give you the stare and ask what business do you have in these parts, flat-lander? I’ve been coming here for years and I still get it.”
He laughed at her joke and responded with, “I’d tell them the truth. My name’s Augie and I’m no flatlander. I’m one of you guys. I’m a Down Easter and I’m looking for work. There’s a building boom going on in these parts. I figured it would be easy for a handyman general contractor to land steady work. Will they tell the outlander to move on, nothing for me here?” The down home, earthy honesty of this guy made an impression on Marni. She couldn’t believe this stroke of luck. She had to hire a handyman for the work needed at the lodge. Then this Chippensdales type contractor plops down in her lap? Was this divine providence, divine intervention? He looked divine in her estimation.
“So you’re from Maine,” she said. “You’re a long way from home, big guy.”
“Yeah, I worked hard to lose the accent,” he agreed with her, “And you go where work is available.”
“This could be both our lucky day,” she said as she flashed a movie starlet smile at him. “I have to hire a contractor to work at my place. Come up and scope the job out. I’ll fix you a cup of coffee and who knows, some breakfast, too. If you pass my body guard’s muster, we could strike a deal.” He felt a flutter in his heart as that smile disarmed every defense he had. He only hoped he hadn’t blushed, too.
“I’ll pass any once over your family gives me,” he stated with confidence. That brought another round of her wind chime laughter to his ears. His mind went out of his head as he thought, “What is it about her that is so familiar? That feeling haunts me. I don’t let women affect me this way right from the get go!”
“The fact you aren’t already bloody attests to my partner’s tacit approval,” she responded. She looked past him and gave a low whistle. Von Sydow came trotting around from the back of the truck. He moved in a menacing manner as his tongue lolled to one side of his open mouth. He displayed the full complement of his bear trap-like teeth as he moved forward. Augie turned to look where she was glancing. He pressed himself back against the truck as he caught sight of the dog’s approach. He knew enough to not show fear. She was right. If this woman or animal had perceived him as a threat, he would not be standing in one piece.
“Whoa! What a beast!” Augie exclaimed. “Is this a Doberman on steroids?” He turned and looked at her since animals perceive eye contact as a threatening gesture. Von Sydow was a rare mixed breed of Rottweiler and Doberman. The best of both blood lines were visible, including his black and brown colors. He had the body of a Doberman but it was more muscular. His head had the blocky Rottweiler shape. Yet it was ever so narrower, sleeker, and slimmed down. He had a docked, stubby tail and natural, floppy ears. The dog stopped in front of Augie and both sniffed and panted on him. He issued a low growl that increased in volume.
“Stop, that’s enough alpha male posturing, Von Sydow,” she commanded. He immediately ceased and plodded over to her and took up a position in front of her, facing Augie. “He is an incredible dog, if you get to know him. If he lets you get to know him. He understands everything I say, sometimes even before I say it.”
“I am impressed by him,” he said, “And you, I mean by your control over him. I guess I passed muster.”
Marni gave a giggle and responded with, “Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, Augie. You be careful to not make any quick movements. Is Augie your nickname?”
“My given name is August,” he said. “Everyone else calls me Augie, and it’s not a name you hear all that often. I like it, it’s unique.”
“I like it, too, Augie,” she said as she flashed those pearly whites. “It fits you. Follow the road up and we’ll see you there.” She turned and started back towards the path. Augie followed her heavenly body, moving with the grace and poise of a runway model. Her ass and legs working in unison like a well-oiled machine. She stopped and looked back at him over her shoulder. He thought it was a sexy pose regardless of whether she intended it that way. “I’m Marni,” she announced and waved to him. “See you up there.”
As she disappeared into the tree line, he called out, “Marni, that’s a beautiful name. I like it.” He then added under his breath, “Of course it is. It’s you, the beautiful name of the beautiful woman of my dreams.” The named stirred something inside him when she said it. He could hear the melodious laughter of her response as she moved off. Augie looked down and realized that Von Sydow had not moved. The dog looked over his shoulder to see that Marni was out of sight up the trail. He turned his head back to Augie and raised his right upper lip revealing his canine incisors as he growled. Augie responded with, “Geh irh nach, Von Sydow.” The dog stopped growling, dropped his lip and tilted his head as if confused. Augie followed up with, “Mach schnell!” Von Sydow took off running up the trail also like the well-oiled machine his breeding had created. Augie shook his head and laughed as he finished grabbing his gear.
The drive up the road was easy. It was the surprise waiting around the last turn that caught and captivated his gaze. Her place or camp as he referred to it earlier in down-easter parlance was much more. It was a full-blown hunting lodge with a robust and well thought out design. The single sloped skillion roof had adequate pitch for this area. It would prevent excessive snow build up during the winter months. It also added an architectural touch to the look of the place. The front porch and outside facing wall was a hewn plank design with a single window to either side of the door. There was also a single window on the wall up at the highest part of the roof. All three had their shutters opened and secured with wrought iron keepers. The sign above the door announced the name of the place as “Rustica” and Augie agreed. It had a rustic, unpretentious look. The other item caught his eye, besides Von Sydow sitting on the porch in his rigid watchdog stance. It was a powder blue late model Mercedes convertible parked off to the side.
“Yeah, that car fits her,” Augie thought. “I can see her tooling down the highway, wind blowing her hair as the radio cranks out a rock-and-roll driving song.” Marni appeared in the doorway calling his name and it brought him back to reality.
“Augie, I wondered what took you so long,” she said. “I was hoping my canine companion hadn’t scared you off. Walk right past him like you belong. I already told him you are our guest. Like I said before, no quick movements,” and she laughed after making that last comment. His mind shot off in another direction as her laugh lulled him into a daydream. She stood behind the screen door, framed in the opening and he compared the sight to a matte finish art print. The mesh muted but could not mask her natural sultry beauty and overt sexuality.
“I was admiring the design and construction of your place,” he responded. He walked with a purpose towards the door. The guard dog watched him, turning his head as he followed his path from the truck to the porch. Marni disappeared inside and Augie pushed on the swinging screen door. A brown and black mass of sinewy muscles banked off his leg making sure he got inside first. No interloper was getting between him and his master.
“Wow!” Augie exclaimed. “What a move, like a hockey hip check, only lower. He has impressive speed and is as graceful as a C-A-T. I spelled it so he doesn’t take offense at the comparison.” Marni was watching everything from behind the breakfast bar, smiling at him.
“Yeah, that’s his move,” she admitted, giggling some. “He even does it with me. Sometimes the only thing missing is him saying ‘first!’ after he does it, like a little kid. I can’t fault the action, though. That is why I have him. So I have regular and hazelnut coffee. Which one would you like?” she asked holding up one of the single serve brew canisters in each hand.
Augie responded with, “Whatever you have the most of. I’m not particular. I’m used to truck-stop, cheap restaurant and fast food coffee.” He made his way to the breakfast bar, pulled out a stool and hopped on. “So what’s on the menu for breakfast?” he asked like he was a customer. He sat with an elbow on the countertop supporting his chin as he watched her move around.
“I said coffee and the possibility of breakfast, buddy,” she shot back with. “Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is bare. I haven’t gone grocery shopping yet. I got up here yesterday. I brought the coffee, eggs, frozen waffles and bagels from home.”
Augie laughed and joked, “Yeah, but I’ll bet there is a massive supply of dog food around here someplace. I know you wouldn’t leave the big guy high and dry.” He got off the stool and made his way around the opposite end of the breakfast bar. He wanted to stay away from where Von Sydow posted himself. He took the carton of eggs and moved over to the countertop between the range and the sink. “You’re handling the coffee. I’ll make us some scrambled eggs. I worked as a short-order cook before.” Marni watched him with amazement. He acted natural, almost right at home.
“I don’t have milk” she admitted. “Hell, we’re lucky we have creamer.” She placed it on the breakfast bar behind him and put his coffee next to the stove. She pulled out a medium size non-stick skillet and a small glass bowl from the top cabinet. She tried to squeeze past him to get to the sink. She placed her free hand on the small of his back and pushed him forward. She rubbed her entire body against him in passing.
Augie’s brain screamed in his head, “Oh, my God! Did she realize how hot that was? I felt everything including the firmness of her breasts and nipples. Calm down now, Augie. Tell her a story.”
“I watched a Julia Child cooking show,” he told her as she washed the fry pan and bowl. She took no notice of how she ground up against him. “She explained how Americans use milk in their scrambled eggs and omelets. Europeans use water. The milk makes the eggs set up firmer, but the water makes them fluffier.” She put the washed items in the drainer and went to repeat her action to get past him again. This time, he had turned to reach for the creamer and they ended up pressed up against each other. His outstretched arm blocked her passage. They stood there sandwiched together in close quarters, face to face. Augie could still detect the faint aroma of whatever perfume she had last put on.
“Well, this is awkward,” she declared in a lower and sexier voice. She stared right into his dark green eyes and she could feel the firmness of his chest and arm muscles. He grabbed the creamer to him and she pushed past him. She chuckled and said, “Fancy running into you here.” Augie could feel his pants tightening. The blood rushed south in response to the sexual reaction of intimate contact. Embarrassed and hoping she wouldn’t notice, he turned and began cracking the eggs into the bowl.
“Wait one minute!” she yelled. “Hold on there, mister. Did I see that?” She came up next to him and crushed her full body against him. She reached her right arm across his back and around his upper body. She grabbed his right wrist and turned it upward for a better look. “I did see that,” she exclaimed. “You are breaking eggs with one hand? Where did you learn to do that? I’ve seen it done before but I never expected to see a hammer mechanic do that. I’m impressed.” That statement relieved Augie. She was talking about that and not his expanding manhood. Now he was becoming even more uncomfortable with the expansion. This hug was raising his temperature. Marni looked in his eyes as he turned his face to hers and she realized that she was crushing herself into him.
“I’m sorry,” she breathed out onto his neck. “Sometimes I get carried away and I forget myself.” She planted a small kiss on his shoulder as she released her grip and stepped back. “I’m sorry about that. Do you want waffles or a bagel?”
Augie immediately said, “Nothing to be sorry about. I’m glad that impressed you. I’ll have whatever you’re having.” He kept his lower body pressed against the cabinets to hide his arousal until it passed. “I learned that technique from a different cooking show.” He added a small amount of water to the bowl of eggs, moved to the stove and turned a burner on. He placed the fry pan there to preheat it. Augie then turned his attention to the bowl. He whipped the contents with a practiced rotary motion. He glanced at Marni and she was watching him with intense concentration. Augie continued to give the eggs another few seconds of mixing. He folded the mixture into the pan with a responding sizzle from the now hot surface. He stirred the mixture with the spatula.
“The second secret to the best scrambled eggs,” he revealed, “Is to always stir the mixture. Let me show you.” Augie stepped aside, and he positioned Marni in front of the stove. He put her left hand on the handle of the skillet and held on to it. He placed the spatula in her right hand, held it with his hand as he guided it into the mixture. The sides of their bodies were in full contact as his muscular arms encircled her. As they stirred, he told her, “Most people allow the eggs to set up, then they fold them and break them up with the spatula. See how the stirring action aerates the eggs.” Marni turned and looked at his face and noted their closeness.
She answered, “Yes,” in a weak voice. His masculine embrace and take charge mannerisms were making her weak in the knees. This time, it was her brain that screamed, “Oh, my God! Does he know what he’s doing to me? I don’t let myself get this way, especially with a guy I met a little while ago.” She snapped out of her faraway musing as he took his hand off of her stirring hand and turned the stove burner off. She thought he wasn’t the least bit aware of the effect he was having on her.
He placed a quick peck of a kiss on her shoulder, saying, “After you gave me one, I felt I owed you one and I always repay my debts.” He took the skillet from her as she continued to stare at this mystery man. He plated their food as Marni retrieved the bagel from the toaster and put a half on each plate. The third member of their threesome issued a brief, sharp bark and Augie asked, “Oh, I take it he’d like some, too?”
She laughed and said, “He not only wants some, he expects some. He sees you only have two plates. Feeding him will go a long way towards winning him over.”
Augie grabbed a third plate and put a part of the scrambled eggs on it saying, “Von Sydow, willst du eier, mein freund?” The dog tilted his head to one side and let loose a short retort that was an unmistakable yes.
“Hold up, there!” Marni exclaimed, “Did you speak German to my dog? Are you trying to impress me or him or both of us, mister?”
Augie laughed and remarked, “I thought this was still a job interview. I’m trying to showcase my skills. Impressing your dog guarantees my safety and you already said I impressed you.” He thought the friendly banter between them was going in the right direction.
“OK, I’ll admit that you got me there,” she said. “The continental cooking technique and lesson was impressive, I’ll give you that. Impressing Von Sydow will be another matter altogether. Would you like to take our meal outside?”
“Yes, that would be perfect,” Augie replied. “Breakfast on the promenade, it is.” He carried the three plates towards the front door, the dog behind him. Marni brought the coffee and silverware. Von Sydow picked up his pace and executed his signature move. He headed out the front door first and was sitting a distance off the porch, waiting as they came out behind him.
Marni laughed and recalled, “I told you that was his move. He has to be first. It’s definitely part of his training.” Augie thought he could listen to her laugh all day and he could get lost and drift away in it.
“I appreciate his vigilance and commitment to duty,” Augie commented. “There could have been a surly squirrel waiting out here to relieve us of our hard earned meal. One of those masked bandits from the raccoon gang could be out there, waiting to mug us. Oh, wait, I forgot I’m with the pistol packing sheriff of Rustica Mountain. Ain’t no varmints gettin’ the best of us. I’ll run them critters plumb offa this here property. Stand down, Von Sydow, at ease. We’re covered.” Marni almost spit out her sip of coffee. She took it before he launched into that abbreviated humorous monologue. She slapped at his shoulder in response to it.
“Now you’re doing stand-up comedy,” she giggled, “And at my expense? I haven’t even heckled you yet. At least you didn’t make a buck-toothed face when you were doing the talking for me. It was timely and funny. That was good.” She speared a forkful of the scrambled eggs, blew across them and popped them in her mouth. “Mmmmmmm, almost as good at these eggs,” she declared.
“Remember, Marni,” he added, “You had a hand in how these eggs came out. Also, if you will excuse the pun, look how your dog wolfed his down and is begging for seconds.” Von Sydow’s plate was clean, and he sat looking at them with one paw raised off the ground. “Besides, you toast a mean frozen bagel, lady!” he joked. He scraped most of his remaining eggs on the half bagel and put the rest on the dog’s empty plate. The dog inhaled the second helping. She laughed at his last jest and they enjoyed what remained of their breakfast. You should always start your day with a good breakfast and this was a fine beginning.