Excerpts from chapters of Whitewater Opera
from Rigoletto and Rigatoni
No one moved. The fire crackled. Sparks snapped from the small pine branches Jason had thrown on top of the dry kai that formed the bulk of their night fire. Angelo breathed deeply and slowly. It was not Venice, not Florence. They were not elderly couples alternating sips of espresso and Sambuca. But it was his dream of sorts. He had filled the air with magic, a magic and beauty of his own creation, and shared with an audience he had grown to love. A rarity, Butch was actually speechless, as were the women. They were all caught up in a moment of sheer poetry and perfection.
On the horizon, first heat lightning and then deep searing flashes - jagged bolts and booming thunder - filled the very edge of the landscape, miles away. Then a voice, less loud, began another nighttime harmony like two lovers talking alone – one almost whispering to the other. A thin, mysterious tremolo from one dark form echoed across the lake, followed soon by the soft, sad, delicate reply of its mate. Back and forth they danced their songs from one canyon wall to the other. When the pain of the loons’ song was almost too great for him to bear, O’Casey reached back and touched two fingers to Ellen’s extended hand. Her heart stirred at the touch. She moved closer and felt O’Casey lean back and shift some of his weight against her. The loons sang again and again as the storm slid slowly by them to the north.
With the crackling of the fire, the rumble of the thunder, and the deep, almost heavy breathing of the tribal family lost in their own thoughts and images, none could hear first the grunt and the almost imperceptible growl of a hungry bear moving quietly toward camp.
from Whitewater White Death
Just as Jason drew even with the bank outcropping, the women swung their end of the dead fir tree around. The thin brown branches swung just a few inches from Jason’s head. He, too, knew this was his only chance. He could barely raise his exhausted arms out of the water, but somehow managed to get first one hand and then the other onto the life-saving branches. His significant weight and the force of the current almost pulled the three women into the river. They were all flat on their stomachs now, trying to anchor the fir tree to the outcropping of ledge. They were holding onto each other and the tree at the same time.
“Hang on! Hang on, Jay!” Tiffany pleaded. “Butch is coming. Hang on!”
The women were literally at eyeball level with Jason, staring, in effect, into the eyes of a ghost. His face was more pale and gray than the sweatshirt that now covered much of his head. His eyes, in particular, signaled his desperation and despair. He tried to get a better hold on the branch, but his hands, which had been so skilled as a youth playing football and basketball, no longer responded to his commands. His left hand slipped off the branch, and for a few seconds, he held on with just his right. Then, as if in slow motion, he lost his grip or simply let go.
His eyes were the eyes of terror mixed with acceptance. He looked directly at the women and tried to say something. Then his head was gone.