<By Christine Kilmer>
Christine brings us part two of her adventure in Joshua Tree. Be sure to read The Land Before Time: Part One.
Two hours later. It was hot. Roasting. Thanksgiving Turkey. Baking. Hot.
I opened my eyes. The land that was dark a few hours before had transformed into a blanket of golden saffron. The sun was barely peeking over the hills before us and was already flexing his mid-summer muscles. In vain, I opened the windows hoping for ventilation. There was no escape. Hannah stirred beside me.
“It’s hot,” she murmured.
We decided to get back the main road until we found a cool place to eat breakfast and fuel up on caffeine. We discovered Crossroads Café, a charming and rustic bohemian establishment with whimsical clouds painted on the sky-blue ceiling, and a vast array of organic and vegan menu items. We ordered our food and coffee and perched ourselves at the counter.
As nomads in an unknown terrain, Hannah and I didn’t have any ideas of what there was to do in Joshua Tree. We had heard about infamous alien landing sights and tales of hallucinogenic experiences, but that was about it. From the outside, it seemed to be just your typical California desert town. Aside from sleeping under the stars and eating breakfast at a charming café, what else were we supposed to do in the little gem of Joshua Tree?
“I don’t know about any alien landing sights, but there’s always the National Park,” suggested the guy behind the counter.
The Joshua Tree National Park! Of course! Over breakfast, Hannah and I gabbed happily about what treasures we might find in the Land Before Time. The Guy Behind the Counter gave us directions and two glasses of ice water, then sent us on our way.
We arrived at the Park Entrance, paid the twenty-dollar entrance fee and were given a shiny brochure of what to do in the Park. We perused it’s contents—shiny pictures and shiny words and shiny maps—all of which were too difficult to translate in the desert heat so Hannah and I just decided to hike the first trail we saw. We did our business in the desert bathroom before setting off on our pilgrimage. I headed towards the car to collect all the water bottles I could carry. Hannah was pacing.
“Dude,” she announced, “the car is locked. We’re locked out.”
Oh, I thought. Well, we’ll be okay. The car will eventually unlock, it always does.
The thing with Hybrids—or at least Hannah’s Hybrid—is that even if you leave your keys inside the car and the car is locked, the minute you put your fingertips to the handle, the doors magically unlock. Only this time, they magically didn’t. The typical human response might be to panic at the thought that you were to be the next cherry on top of a desert-baked dessert, but Hannah and I had had two hours of sleep, so we found the situation rather amusing. Also, there was an assembly of nature reserve workers with neon yellow mesh vests just a stone’s throw away who quashed our concerns. We approached them for help. As we animatedly recounted our plight, the emblazoned heroes stared at us with such intense apprehension, it was as if they needed only to speak their concern through their eyes, and nothing actually needed to be said.
“The key…in the car…we’re locked out of it…”
It soon became as clear as the sky above us: these neon-clad warriors were actually mentally challenged volunteers. Our nonchalance about our situation soon turned into surprise and concern. The heat of the day became even more apparent, weighing down on our sun-dappled shoulders. The air became thicker. Vultures circled above us as if they sensed our impending doom. But before our consternation turned into pure panic, the man in charge shuffled out from behind the big white van they called “camp.” He asked us what the trouble was and, after hearing our quandary, offered to call the Lone Cowboy of the arid landscape–the Desert Ranger.
The members of the Special Forces offered us water and stories about stuff. They waited with us for a while, but eventually found more exciting business to attend to, and left us alone.
To pass the time, Hannah and I explored the territory. We slithered over and under ivory boulders, conversed with our echoes, and for the first time really enjoyed the beauty before us: grand pyramids of stone as white as snow, the silence, and the otherworldly Joshua Trees—Martian ginger root sculptures peppered throughout the desert landscape. An hour and a half later, the Desert Ranger finally materialized like a mirage from the midday heat. Tall, sun-kissed, aviators, beige ranger shirt, a silver badge, olive green wool pants, nice ass—he was your typical Hollywood Porno ranger.
“Hi, Ladies. I’m Ranger Dylan.”
Hannah and I looked from him and his ass to each other, both of us struggling to suppress sly smirks.
“What seems to be the trouble?” asked Ranger Dylan.
We informed him of our dire dilemma.
“Don’t worry, I get cases like this all the time,” he informed us with a smile. He disappeared into his truck for a moment before reemerging with his tools: a rubber isosceles triangle called a “wedge” and a long sliver of a metal rod with a hook on the end. He jimmied the wedge into where the top of the door meets the roof of the car, giving himself about a half an inch of wiggle room. Ranger Dylan then proceeded to insert his rod into the slot. In vain, he tried from all angles to unlock the car from the inside using the switch on the side of the door. Even when he did manage to press and pull the switch, the car still wouldn’t unlock.
“If we get the key close enough to the door and it should unlock,” Hannah put forth.
Ranger Dylan looked at her earnestly, ready for a new approach.
“It’s in my purse.”
The corners of my mouth twitched. The purse in question was a faux-leather black hole of a bag. Things went into that purse that never came back out. It was it’s own dimension and now it was up to the innocent Ranger Dylan to go where no man had gone before and retrieve the dreaded key. The Purse lay defiantly on the passenger seat glowering at its challenger. Ranger Dylan solemnly removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“You can do it,” I urged.
He nodded. He put on his hat ceremoniously, took a deep breath and then, after a moment of reflection, went in for the kill. The Purse gaped menacingly, baring its fangs. Ranger Dylan fought heroically: stabbing, digging, parrying—his rod flashing in the desert sun—until at last, the Purse lay face down, surrounded by it’s innards. And there it was: the Key—not yet digested by the beast. An exhausted Ranger Dylan flexed his muscles once more and, finally, unlocked his biggest challenge yet. Hannah and I thanked him profusely for his efforts. Sweat dripped sensually down his rugged face as he nodded graciously. Then, with a smile Ranger Dylan retired to his car and drove off into the desert for more adventures, but not before pointing us in the direction for our own.
Christine “Beanie” Kilmer is an acting student at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California. She studied Photography at Columbia College Chicago. When it comes to writing, she is inspired most by her big sister, Robin.
Thanks Beanie. That means a lot.
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