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Zanadura - 2 Leagues
Alone at an unplanned destination....
An emergency landing, a long hike, and a single candle....
The sign said “Zanadura - 2 Leagues”
I wondered at that, but I was so tired that 6 miles would be about the limit of how much further I could walk, and by then it would be dusk with moonless dark close behind.
I trudged on, wishing I had picked a banana from the bunch of bananas I had seen earlier on a banana tree near the trail.
There had been no vehicles, and stranger still no people for all these miles, and I suddenly realized that I had seen and heard no birds, seen no butterflies, not even a grasshopper.
I stopped and looked down to where my feet rested on the grassy trail.
There were no ants either. No bugs at all!
The late afternoon air was comfortable and there were fragrances from the flowers growing profusely on both sides of the trail.
What a strange place.
My journey had started routinely enough, if you consider that I had been traveling by hot air balloon. A sudden cold front had swept in and carried me far off my planned course, and then the supposedly full propane tank had a hollow ring to it when the desired burst of flame failed and all was silence except for that hollow ring which meant I would soon be going down far off my planned course.
The descent was smooth enough and carried my deflating balloon into a narrow valley of green with steep slopes on either side and a small stream winding lazily at the bottom.
I chose to walk with the sun at my back following the path that generally followed the stream.
I had taken almost nothing with me except a warm jacket, some identification, and a good pocket knife.
The trip was not intended to be more than long enough to decide whether or not to buy the balloon and its ground gear…and then the weather front, the wind, and the too empty propane tank.
I suppose I could have stayed by the downed balloon, and sooner or later someone would spot it and alert someone that I was stranded. Being proactive, however, I had decided to follow the stream and the trail knowing that such a well defined trail must be leading from some Point A to some Point B and a phone and some food.
Now I wasn’t quite as sure.
I guess I would have gone back at that point, if I hadn’t already walked so far; and after all “Zanadura - 2 Leagues” had inspired my legs to keep going. So on I went.
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Gradually the trail widened somewhat and a single candle glowed in the distance as night had almost settled in.
I wondered what the candle’s owners would think of my knock at the door at this time of night…or anytime for that matter.
I was too tired and spent to worry about what hadn’t happened yet. I could only hope for some accommodation to my needs and some degree of hospitality.
The dwelling I was approaching was neither large nor grand; two floors, no transportation in sight, no outbuildings, and no sounds of animals or humans. If the occupant had a phone, it must be a cell phone for I had seen no phone lines, and I saw none now. With the disappearing afterglow of a sun now set, I made out no other buildings at the end of my “2 Leagues” and some hike.
I knocked on the rough wooden door, and the candle went out.
Surely the building was solidly built, for I heard no footsteps before the door silently opened.
Before me stood a woman, the very epitome of the woman I had always dreamed of meeting! Dark hair, athletic figure that might excite any man married or not. Her eyebrows seemed natural, un-plucked. Without makeup she was so gorgeous she took my breath away and I found it difficult to get my composure and find the words my startled brain was trying to have me speak
She had said nothing. She did nothing but smile. I felt as if I was being welcomed by a goddess as she smoothly moved to the side of the doorway in such a way as to invite me in without asking or inviting.
"I saw the sign....Zanadura - 2 Leagues. My hot air balloon ran out of gas and let me down near the stream. I followed the path to your house. Now the moonlight has replaced the sunshine, and I confess I am tired, hungry, and in need of a phone, and even a place to stay until someone can come to get me.'
The words were like smooth syrup from her mouth when she said "I'm sorry this is not much of a house. My name is Estella. I had seen part of your journeying and I have made a small supper for the two of us. You are welcome to stay. I have no phone and there are no other places within walking distance, so I hope you will accept my invitation to stay."
Pleased as I was with this surprising encounter, and with this extraordinary woman and the chance to stay, eat, and rest, I was startled when the once snuffed candle suddenly lit with no other person present in the room, and as several other candles did also.
The portion of the house I could see was comfortably furnished, and though the outdoors I had just left was cooling to the dew point the interior was warm and pleasant. I could smell our dinner and was again surprised as she led the way to a small table that was already set for the two of us with a three-candle candelabra now lit at the side of the table, and a small dish of gorgeous flowers at the center.
Estella motioned for me to be seated on one of the two chairs and walked several steps to a wood stove where she opened the oven, withdrew four biscuits on a cookie sheet, placed them in a small basket prepared with a colorful wrap, took some butter in a butter safe and placed both near me on the table. Then watching me from the corner of her eye, she returned to the stove and came back with a covered dish which she opened as she sat down opposite me. The candlelight revealed her flawless complexion, black hair and black eyebrows. A small dimple rested in each cheek, and her eyes caught and absorbed the candlelight.
The dish she had prepared was one with two Cornish game hens, onion pearls, carrots, green beans, spring potatoes, and with cucumber chunks cooked in a light sauce with lemon peels and fragrant seasonings.
I suddenly realized I had not even introduced myself.
"My name is Edward Stanton, I'm from Fairfield. I apologize for not introducing myself. How did you ever have time to prepare such a fantastic meal?"
She looked back at me as she served my plate, and I sensed a knowing smile as she said, "It's not often I have a visitor from Fairfield. Will your balloon be all right where it came to rest back there?"
I really don't recall the rest of that supper conversation, perhaps my mind was so busy trying to comprehend my good fortune, or perhaps I was too tired from the long hike, the frustrations of the balloon's descent, and imagining what the next day might be like.
I did have the good sense to ask when her husband might return and if I could possibly be eating food she had prepared for him.
"No, I have no husband, and the food is food I prepared for you for tonight."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(To be continued.)
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