Captain Clark stood with his companion on the precipice overlooking a small, roughly diamond-shaped valley – more a raised cleft in the otherwise smooth landscape – which broadened significantly at the centre and was punctuated by a single round protuberance of pink sandstone which rose, half hooded by a thin lip of shale, at the northernmost point, where the ridges converged.
The floor appeared unabashedly damp, consisting entirely of wetlands and exited by several light milky streams, while the autumn sumac which grew wild along the rim spread outwards in a triangular patch of the immediate vicinity, cloaking the cleft in a mound of radiant auburn.
“I have named it on our maps, Julia’s Blossom,” Clark said.
Lewis maintained his gaze, but with the expression of having sat in something wet, and discretely peered at Clark from the sides of slitted eyes before proffering a modicum of lickspittle praise.
“Never have the eyes of man settled on a more comely gash in the earth.”
“Isn’t it just?” Clark replied with unmatched enthusiasm, raising a hand as if to make brushstrokes on canvas.
“That carpet of crimson brings tears to the eye…”
Lewis rolled his eyes in silence.
“…..She’s a redhead, you know.”
“I gathered!” Lewis snapped.
After a few moments of irritated silence and a relenting sigh, he attempted an apologetic accolade.
“Should we live to the age of a hundred-and-three, brother, I am certain that neither of us shall behold a more fittingly feminine tribute to your betrothed.”
“I agree, my friend,” Clark mused, “though I suspect that I shall die of sixty-nine.”
Meriwether Lewis turned again slowly to regard his co-captain with a troubled look, his lips frozen in contorted confusion, wanting desperately to correct Clark, to state, “At, not of”, but doing his damnedest to refrain.
Instead he stared at Clark for an interminable span, hoping he might turn to meet his gaze, and bearing only a painfully befuddled expression, his eyes searching about in Clark’s vicinity, as though looking for the best place to set down his hat amidst a moving herd of bison.
Finally, in exasperation, he sighed and turned back to squint at the columns of steam rising from the depths of Julia’s Blossom. A hint of movement in the periphery tugged at his attention and he turned slightly to see William Clark’s wild eyes peering at him from the side of a crumbling stoic façade, his chin wobbling uncontrollably and tugging imperceptibly at the corners of his mouth.
Lewis’s eyes flared and with the sudden severity of a crack of thunder, Clark snorted and burst out laughing, that broad, warm smile Lewis had come to rely on spreading across his face once more.
“You are an insufferable ass, William,” Lewis stated, shaking his head and trying to keep a straight face.
Clark’s ruddy face and green eyes flashed before him and he slapped Lewis on one ass cheek as he turned, grabbing him and sweeping him in closer, captive, and looked directly into his eyes in that way Clark was ever fond of doing.
“York is roasting a goat. You’re going to dine with me tonight.”
He stated it with unremitting confidence, as if it were a universally agreed upon fact, about which there was no debate. There wasn’t any debate when Clark stated one of his facts. He may as well have told Lewis that the sky was blue or that snow was cold. No one argued with the elemental William Clark. No one turned down those eyes.
“If I must,” Meri said, looking away and trying to look unenthused, though his heart was pounding and – had he just licked his lips?
“Let us enjoy each other’s company while we can,” Clark said, “before we return to the world of women and politics.”
Meriwether flinched momentarily at the dark thought, but only for a moment, then dashed it from his mind. He could still do that, then. It wasn’t always easy. He peeled William’s massive freckled hand off of his ass, stepping back and realizing only then that it had shoved him up against Clark’s leg – and that he was quite hard.
He pulled his uniform jacket down in a halfassed attempt to camouflage his erection. (Clark made no such effort.) He stood sidelong to his co-captain and looked out over the precipice for a brief moment and then turned to look shyly at him once more.
“As long as we don’t die of sixty-nine.”
Clark laughed again – an almost sinister chuckle – as he started back down the rocky trail to camp.
“What’s life without a little risk of choking?”
Meri turned once more to look out at the flocks of waterfowl splashing around down in the furthest recesses of Julia’s Blossom and called out,
“Can’t we just call it Julia’s Gap??”
“No!” came the reply from the bushes down the slope, “She’s quite sensitive about her teeth.”
“Sensitive about her teeth!? How’s she going to feel about her 300 acre vagina?!”