Copyright 1999 by

 The Pond


	Birds of prey fly south for the summer; snakes
 shed their skins; even sharks migrate with the seasons.
 So it also is with overworked lawyers.  Eventually we
 reach a point where the pursuit of glory and riches
 takes more out of us than it gives back.  Most of us
 labor on; a few jettison the daily grind for a life in
 the woods with a computer.  Out goes the tedious burden
 of composing for others; in comes the tedious luxury of
 composing for oneself.
	I began my legal career as a means of enabling
 my writing, and I left it for the same reason. I
 reached this epiphany relatively early in my career,
 having escaped at the ripe age of thirty-two.  I left
 Wall Street and Manhattan for a cabin in small town in
 the Sierra Nevadas.  The cabin came with twenty-four
 acres of virgin yellow pine, all of it at least six
 thousand feet above sea level.  I had a small but
 modern kitchen, a single bedroom, a spare room I con-
 verted into a writing room, and a deck that looked out
 over my forest.  The house had previously been a summer
 home for another lawyer in San Francisco, who had
 hardly used it.  He told me there was a small pond
 somewhere on the property, and I figured to explore it
 eventually.  The town was about fifteen minutes down
 the state highway at the end of my road, and consisted
 largely of a gas station, a supermarket, and a small
 bar and grill.
	I spent a glorious week absolutely alone in the
 woods, with the phone unplugged and no one to bother
 me.  In that time, I was able to write a total of four
	I soon discovered that the nights in the moun-
 tains were another attraction of my new house.  When
 the moon was absent, the night was the darkest thing I
 had ever experienced.  Even with the starlight, it took
 long minutes before I could see anything around me.
 The moonlight, when it was present, was often so bright
 I could almost read on my deck.
	On a whim, I ordered an expensive telescope over
 the Internet, paying extra to get it there via Federal
 Express.  I now had a new distraction from my writing,
 and would soon discover another.


	Several days after my telescope arrived, I was
 eating lunch on my deck when I thought to inspect the
 area around the house.  For a few minutes, I gazed out
 through the scope at the mountain peaks in the area and
 the nearly unbroken carpet of evergreens.
	I realized as I examined the area closer to the
 house that I could make out the pond the former owner
 had mentioned.  I looked up away from the telescope,
 and could now just barely see it.  I hadn't noticed it
 before; it was at least a ten-minute hike down the hill.
	A bit of zooming in and focusing brought it more
 clearly into view.  A stream came down through the
 trees to the left, flowing from somewhere further up
 the mountain.  It fell into a hollow created by a large
 jumble of rocks, creating a pond perhaps fifty feet
 long and twenty feet wide.  The water looked clear and
 cold, and tumbled down the hill to my right, over the
 rocks at the opposite end of the pond.  I wondered if
 there were any fish in the stream; it certainly looked
 inviting enough.
	As I examined the pond, something caught my eye.
 At first, it was nothing but a spot of inappropriate
 color, red in a view where I expected only greens and
 browns.  I thought, in a flash of disappointment and
 anger, that it was some piece of trash. Then I realized
 it was someone coming down the far hillside through the
	I zoomed in further and saw that it was a woman.
 She looked to be in her twenties, short dark brown
 hair, long legs, athletic build.  She carried a towel
 and a small bag, and I realized what she was planning
 on doing.  She was quite attractive, so my initial
 resentment at discovering a trespasser was blunted by
 my interest in watching her.
	She laid her towel down on one of the larger
 rocks, and then looked around as if checking for anyone
 watching.  For a split-second, I was filled with fear
 and embarrassment, but she didn't appear to see me.
 Then she began to undress.
	The hiking boots came off, as did the red T-
 shirt and denim shorts.  I thought she was wearing an
 odd-looking bikini under her clothes, but I realized
 as she continued undressing that she didn't-she
 intended to sunbathe nude.
	I pondered whether I really wanted to continue
 spying on her, but was unable to tear myself away from
 the scene.  She sat down on the towel, and commencing
 rubbing suntan oil over her body.  She had a good tan
 already and no visible tan lines-no doubt this wasn't
 her first visit to my pond.
	I felt a familiar itch in my pants as I watched
 her slowly rubbing suntan oil over her firm breasts.
 I adjusted the telescope to the strongest magnification
 I could manage while still getting a clear view, and
 was treated to a wavering image of her upper body. She
 oiled the rest of her, abdomen, legs, feet, even rub-
 bing some oil between her legs.  Then she set up a
 radio next to her and lay down in the sun.
	Guilt battled desire as I looked at her.  She
 had one of the best bodies I'd seen in quite a while-
 long, lean, and firm.  But after a few minutes, the
 novelty of it wore off.  She simply lay there, and the
 view didn't change.  I finally looked up and squinted
 down toward the pond.  I couldn't see much more than
 the sun glinting off the water, and most likely she
 couldn't see up here either.  I wondered if she even
 knew the house was here.
	I cleaned up my lunch and went back into the
 house.  I brought my laptop out to the deck and tried
 to restart the novel I was working on.
	When I checked the telescope about ten minutes
 later, the woman had rolled over.  I spent a minute or
 two examining her tight buttocks before returning to
 my book.  My discovery of this intriguing trespasser
 had sparked something in my head, and I found that I
 was able to write for a change.
	It was close to an hour later before I thought
 to look back through the telescope.  The woman was
 still there, on her back again.  She had one arm over
 her face, while the other moved slowly over her body.
 With a new shock, I realized she was pleasuring her-
 self.  Her fingers moved lightly over her breasts,
 teasing her nipples into erection.  Her skin still
 glistened with suntan oil, the coppery tones coming
 close to hiding her deep pink nipples.  
	As I watched, she played with her nipples for
 several minutes.  She hung her hand above her left
 breast, tracing her fingertips around her areola, then
 the nipple itself.  She tweaked the nipple a few times,
 then moved to the other side.
	Soon the hand strayed downward.  She teased her
 stomach briefly before moving between her legs. Diz-
 ziness swept over me for a moment, but I kept my gaze
 on her.  The fingers stroked lightly, up and down in
 a slow rhythm.  The dark hair between her thighs hid
 what she was touching, but the movement of her fingers
 was clear.  
	The fingers began a more deliberate and circular
 movement now, digging deeper.  Her other arm remained
 across her face, and her back seemed to arch slightly.
 The fingers sped their attack.  I was too far away to
 read much of her reactions, but I could imagine enough
 of it. For a minute or so, the fingers circled rapidly.
 Then, finally, their movements became spasmodic, her
 legs came together, and she convulsed several times on
 her towel.
	I let out a long breath and watched as she
 relaxed, spreading herself again for the sun.  The
 hand moved up her body, rubbing her breasts a few
 times, before returning to her side.  Then she rolled
 over and laid her head on her arms.
	I realized I had an erection.  For a moment, I
 sported with the idea of masturbating as I looked at
 her, but discarded it.  The experience seemed too
 secret and painterly to sully it in such a fashion.
	I went into the house for a beer and returned
 to my book.  When I looked for the woman again, she
 was gone.


	The woman returned the next afternoon, and I
 wondered what she kind of job she had to allow all
 this free time to sunbathe.  As before, she stripped
 completely out of her clothes and oiled herself up.
 I kept a close watch on her this time, and sure enough,
 she began to masturbate again after half an hour or
 so.  Her method was the same: one arm over her face,
 the other working lightly over her body.  Breasts and
 nipples first, then down south, first lightly, then
 with more urgency.  When she was done, she rolled over
 and went to sleep.

	After the woman left, I hiked down the hill to
 the pond.  It took about ten minutes, but there was a
 serviceable path through the trees.  I circled around
 the water and found the woman's rock.  I saw a few
 traces of suntan oil, but nothing else.
	The pond itself seemed to be a deep crack in
 the bedrock of the hillside, about as deep as it was
 wide.  I could see sand and rocks at the bottom, but
 no fish.  The cascade at the far side looked too steep
 to allow anything to swim over it.
	I looked back up toward my cabin, and couldn't
 see it right away.  I finally found it, just barely,
 behind a pair of trees.  It was impossible to make out
 much more than the A-frame roof, and I could only do
 that because I knew it was there.  Otherwise, it looked
 like just another cluster of trees.
	I tested the water and found it icy cold, though
 it was mid-July and in the 90's.  The stream was almost
 certainly meltwater from the surrounding peaks and
 tasted crisp and clean.
	I hadn't brought my suit with me, but figuring
 it was my pond and my land, I stripped out of my
 clothes and climbed into the water.  The initial shock
 wore off in a minute or so, and I was able to swim
 around easily.  I dove to the bottom, finding nothing
 of interest, then surfaced.  I looked around and tried
 to figure out where the woman had come from.  I wasn't
 sure what was on this side of my land, but she must
 have come from some other road than the one I normally
 went to town on.
	I swam for a few more minutes before getting
 too cold.  I climbed out and let the sun warm me up
 and dry me off.  For a moment, I flirted with mastur-
 bating as the woman had, but I was too chilled from
 the water to muster much enthusiasm for the idea.  I
 finally dressed and returned to my house.

	Whether the woman was the reason or not, my
 writing was suddenly invigorated.  The pages flowed
 from my fingers; my narrative was clear, the plot
 unfolding masterfully.  I wrote long into that night.
 After midnight, as the story shifted gears after a
 lengthy introductory section, I realized I needed a
 new supporting character for one of my intended
 subplots.  It needed to be someone mysterious, whose
 motivations would become clear only later in the book.
 I had been writing about this character for about ten
 minutes before I realized it was the woman. The
 realization didn't chill my fugue, but it gave it a
 strange cast.  Who was she?  The reader would want to
 know now, and certainly I did myself.  I didn't go to
 bed until dawn, by which time I knew little more about
 my new character than I did about the woman.


	I didn't see the woman the next day, but she
 returned the day after that, and nearly every day for
 the next week.  Every time she came, she masturbated,
 and every time she did, I watched through my telescope.
 By now, the book was practically writing itself, but
 the mysterious character I had created remained just
 that.  I could see I was heading for a collision some-
 where down the path I had created.  I either had to
 let the character evolve on her own, or find out more
 about my pretty visitor.  
	I went into town for food that weekend, stocking
 up on things that would allow me to remain closeted
 away for another few weeks.  I bought in bulk and froze
 what I wouldn't need immediately.
	But that night, I had a sudden craving for some
 human contact.  I decided to drive back to town and
 have dinner
	The bar and grill sat a little ways down from
 the supermarket, a single-story wooden building with
 neon beer logos in the windows and a large propane
 tank around the side.  A few pick-up trucks parked out
 front, competing for space with a pair of battered
 muscle cars.  I found a table near the bar and examined
 the menu.  The offerings were as simple as the restau-
 rant itself-burgers, steaks, fried chicken, and the
	"Hi.  Can I get you something to drink?"
	In the dim light of the bar, it was a second or
 two before I realized who it was.  She wore a tight
 green T-shirt, a denim skirt, and an apron tonight, but
 there was no mistaking the body, or the face.  I could
 see now she had green eyes, and a prettier face than
 I'd realized.  A nametag on her left breast said,
	If she noticed me appraising her, she didn't
 seem to think much of it.  No doubt, the look on my
 face was little different from what she often got in
 a place like this.  
	"Um, what kind of beer do you have?"
	"Bud and Bud Lite on tap, Miller Genuine Draft,
 Heineken, and Sierra Nevada in bottles."
	"I'll have a Sierra Nevada."
	"Cool.  Be right back."
	She brought my beer a minute later.
	"Up here on vacation?"
	"No, I just bought a place down the road.  I'm
 a writer."
	"Oh.  Well, welcome to Medford."
	"You like it here?"
	"I love it up here.  I hate the city.  Too
 crowded and noisy for me."
	She took my order for a cheeseburger, medium
 rare, and left.   Well, this explained how she had
 time for so much sunbathing.  She hadn't seemed to
 connect my mention of moving up here to the sale of my
 property, so I figured my secret was safe.  


	A few days later, when Heather hadn't appeared
 by three o'clock (she usually sunbathed for an hour or
 two around noon), I went down to my pond for a swim.
 Since it appeared to be the thing around here, I did
 it nude.  The water was cold, so I warmed myself in
 the sun for about ten minutes afterward before return-
 ing home.

	My book had taken a new twist.  The mysterious
 woman was a waitress; I called her Hannah.  She was
 hiding out from the villain in the story in a small
 town.  The few details I knew about Heather meshed
 well enough with what I had already written, and the
 story took another leap forward.  The main character
 met Hannah accidentally and discovered her relationship
 with his foe.  Hannah's role grew, and she seemed to
 be becoming the love interest I hadn't intended to
 include in the story.  Hannah and the main character
 were probably going to sleep together if things kept
 going in the direction I had sent them, and I wasn't
 sure if that was a good idea.

	Heather returned the next day.  When I saw her,
 she was standing, still clothed, on her rock, looking
 around intently at the surrounding forest, hand shading
 her eyes.  She put her hands on her hips and looked
 around some more.  Whatever she had been looking for,
 she hadn't seemed to find it.
	I wondered if she was looking for me.  Maybe
 she had seen the sun flash off my telescope; maybe she
 had remembered my remark about buying this place and
 wondered if I was the new owner of her secret spot.
 Whatever it was, it didn't seem to be enough to deter
 her.  She finally began undressing and lay down on her
	But she didn't masturbate today.  About the time
 I expected her to do it-she always seemed to wait until
 she got hot and sweaty in the sun-she sat up and looked
 around again. Something had spooked her, and she didn't
 seem comfortable enough for her usual routine.
	Instead, she got up and stepped down into the
 water.  She swam in the pond now and then, but always
 just before she went home.  Today, she floated around,
 continuing to search the forest for something she
 couldn't seem to see.
	She got out a few minutes later and left.

	I went back to Heather's bar that night, wanting
 to see her again up close. When she saw me at my table,
 her smile was a mixture of embarrassment and amusement.
	"Hi.  Sierra Nevada, right?"
	"You said you bought a place down the road?"
	"How far?"
	"A couple of miles.  It's about twenty-five
 acres, give or take.  Just one little cabin.  I like
	"Um, I think there's a creek that runs through
 that area.  Is that your place?"
	I tried not to betray my thoughts.
	"Yeah.  There's a creek at the bottom of the
 hill, and a little pond.  It's pretty nice."
	"Oh.  I bet you go swimming down there a lot."
	"A couple of times."
	She looked at me for a moment, trying to read
 my reaction, then seemed to relax.
	"Okay, well I'll let you decide and come back
 in a minute."
	She didn't say much else to me the rest of the
 night, though I caught her looking at me a few times.
 I left her a big tip and went home around ten.


	I hadn't expected to see Heather at the pond
 again, but she showed up right on schedule the next
 day.  Again, she spent a few minutes gazing around at
 the hillside above her.  Then she stripped and lay
 down to sunbathe.  I watched her for a little while
 and then returned to the computer.

	The book moved along rapidly, but I needed more
 from Heather.  Hannah was still too much of a cipher
 and was in danger of becoming two-dimensional.  I
 thought about returning to the bar, but that wasn't
 where the energy was coming from.  I had to talk to
 her down at the pond.
	Going down while she was there was too
 dangerous.  It might tell her that I had been watching
 her, and at the very least would probably surprise her
 and maybe scare her off.  I had to make it seem more
	Just before noon the next day, I hiked down to
 the pond.  I thought about sitting and waiting, but
 that felt too artificial.  Besides which, the hike
 down the hill had heated me up, so I took off my
 clothes and jumped in the water.

	I don't know how long she was standing there,
 but I hadn't seen her right away.  She was up the hill
 a ways, leaning against a tree.  I didn't have to act
 startled, because I was.
	"Hi.  Do you mind if I come down?"
	"Be my guest.  How did you find me?"
	She started down the hill.
	"Um, I didn't.  I've been coming down here to
 sunbathe for a couple of years.  I didn't know anyone
 lived over here.  I guess the last guy who owned your
 place didn't use it."
	"I don't think so."
	She got down to her rock.
	"Um, I don't have a suit."
	"Neither do I."
	"I noticed.  Are you into nudism or did you
 just decide to jump in?"
	"I just decided to jump in.  But I haven't been
 using a suit when I come down here."
	"Well, neither do I.  Do you think you can deal
 with it?  I never sunbathe with a suit on."
	I wondered how she expected me to react to that
	"Go right ahead."
	Quite nonchalantly, she undressed and lay down
 on her towel.  In exchange for her casual attitude
 about it, I tried to keep my cool.  
	"Does anyone else know about this spot?"
	"Nope.  It's been my little secret.  But it's
	She looked up the hill toward my house.
	"I don't see your place.  Can you see it from
	"Not really.  Maybe the roof."
	I tried to point it out for her.
	"I don't see it."
	"It's hard to make out."
	I got out of the water and dried off. My clothes
 were a few yards from hers on another rock, so that was
 where I sat down.  I wanted to get dressed, but figured
 the mood of this encounter dictated nudism.  I scooted
 into the shade to keep from getting sunburned in an
 inconvenient spot.
	"So what do you write about?"
	"I'm writing a book.  It's not done yet."
	"What's it about?"
	"I'd rather not say.  At least not until it's
	"Oh.  Well, what else have you written?"
	"Nothing, really.  I used to be a lawyer in New
 York City.  I quit and moved out here.  I couldn't deal
 with it anymore."
	"Oh, wow.  That's a big change.  I've lived
 around here my whole life just about."
	"Where do you live?"
	"About ten miles down the road, with my mom."
	"How did you find this place?"
	"I like to hike a lot.  I just found it one
	Neither of us said much after that.  There were
 more things I wanted to ask her, but I wasn't used to
 conducting my cross-examination in the buff.

	"Have you eaten lunch yet?"
	"No.  I came over here right after I got up.  I
 keep late hours because of my job."
	"Feel like coming back up the hill for a sand-
 wich or something?"
	We hiked back up to my house after getting
 dressed.  I went into the kitchen to see what I could
 throw together.  Too late, I saw her wandering out
 onto the deck.  I walked out there in time to see her
 looking through the lens.  I steeled myself for the
 tirade I was about to get.
	She turned around, an embarrassed flush spread-
 ing over her face.  But she had her hand over her mouth
 trying to stop from smiling.
	"Um, this is pointed at the pond."
	"You've been watching me?"
	"I, uh, I got the telescope to look at the
 stars.  I just happened to see you down there one day."

	"About a week ago."
	"Oh, God.  So you saw me?"
	"Um.  Yeah."
	She looked away from me, trying to compose her-
	"You didn't follow me to the bar?"
	"No.  I had no idea you worked there.  I just
 wanted dinner."
	She laughed nervously.
	"And here I was feeling guilty for watching
	"What do you mean?"
	"A couple of times this week I came down there
 and saw you swimming.  Today was the first time I was
 brave enough to talk to you."
	"I'm sorry.  I won't do it again."
	"No.  No.  This is your land.  I'm the one who
 shouldn't be doing this."
	"It's okay.  It's not like anyone else was using
 the pond."
	"All right.  It's no big deal.  I shouldn't have
 been . . . you know . . . down there anyway."
	I let out a breath.
	"So.  Are we still on for lunch?"
	I made a couple of sandwiches and opened a pair
 of beers, and we ate out on the deck.


	"So what made you pick Medford over New York?"
 	"It's about as big a difference as I could find.
  It's very hard to be alone in New York City."
	"It's very easy up here."
	"Did you get divorced or something?"
	"No.  Just job burnout.  Frankly, I was sick of
 dating other lawyers anyway."
	"I want you to understand something," she said
 as we finished.
	"This little thing of mine, what I've been
 doing, it's not like I just come out here to get off.
 I could do that at home."
	"You don't have to explain yourself."
	"No, I just don't want you to get the wrong
	"I really am into the nudist ideal, you know,
 getting in touch with nature, becoming part of the
 ecosystem.  Being nude, and . . . doing all that . . .
 is how I do it.  It's not really about sex."
	"I understand.  I kind of got that feeling,
	"You looked like you were . . . I don't know,
 maybe this is going too far."
	"No, tell me.  I'm hard to offend."
	"Like you were trying to make love to the sun."
	She laughed.
	"That's exactly what I think of.  The sun on my
 body turns me on."
	"Well, I'll put up the telescope.  You can do
 what you want."
	"I don't know if it would be the same now."
	"I'm sorry."
	"Don't apologize.  It's your pond."
	"I feel bad about having disrupted this nature
 ritual of yours."
	"Don't worry about it."

	"I meant to ask you, how do you get down there?"
	"From the 255.  I park up the hill and hike
 down.  It's about a twenty minute hike."
	"Further than coming from this direction.  If
 you want to start coming down this way, you can."
	"Really?  You don't mind?"
	"As long as it's just you.  I might feel di-
 fferently if it was a bunch of high school kids."
	"Oh yeah.  I always go down there by myself."
	"Well, feel free then."
	"Thanks.  I really appreciate that."

	She left for work a little while later, and I
 went back to my book.  Hannah the free spirit, the
 nature sprite.  I played with the idea for a few
 minutes, and discovered that it worked.  The main
 character, who in large part resembled me (no surprise,
 right?), would like that.  I was a long way from being
 done, but I had a firm grip now on where I was going.


	Heather appeared at noon the next day, knocking
 on the front door.
	"Hi.  You want to come down with me?"
	"No, I'm working.  Go on ahead."
	I watched her descend the hill and went back to
 work.  I had promised her that I would stop watching
 her through the telescope, and I meant to stick to that
 promise, but it was hard.  

	She came back up the hill about an hour later.
	"Hi," she yelled up.  "Are you busy?  Do you
 mind if I come in?"
	"No, come on up."
	She emerged on the deck a few moments later. I
 saw her glance at the telescope, and her face seemed
 to drop when she saw it was pointed up toward the sky.  I couldn't help smiling.
	"I told you I'd stop watching you."
	"Okay.  But like I said, it's no big deal."
	She sat down in one of the deck chairs.
	"Is that your book?"
	"I'd like to read it, when you get done."
	"When it's ready to be read."
	"You won't tell me what it's about?"
	"It's about a lawyer who gets caught up in a
 conspiracy to assassinate the governor of New York."
	"Oh.  Does he meet a waitress who likes to
 sunbathe nude?"
	"He meets a girl who's a waitress.  But she's a
 lot more than that."
	She smiled.
	"So what happens?"
	"I haven't gotten that far yet."
	She looked at me for a moment, smiling, then
 got up.  She walked over to the telescope, and looked
 around the area for a minute or so, finally looking
 back down toward the pond.
	"I have to go run some errands.  I'll see you
 tomorrow, maybe."

	The next day, she showed up as usual.  Rather
 than knocking on the door, she just walked around
 below the deck.
	"Hi.  Gonna come down?"
	"Maybe in a little while."
	After she had been gone about twenty minutes, I
 looked up at the telescope.  It was where she had left
 it the previous day, pointed down at the pond. I stared
 at it for a moment.  She had tried to act casual about
 it the day before, but . . .
	I got up and looked through the viewpiece.  It
 was focused on the rock, where Heather was now naked
 and shiny with suntan oil.  She was looking up toward
 the house, occasionally shading her eyes with her hand.
 Finally she lay back on the rock.
	Her right hand came up and began idly playing
 with her nipples.  Tweak and stroke, stroke and tweak.
 She let her fingertips drift back and forth over the
 glistening flesh of her breasts.  She kept it up for a
 good five minutes, once or twice reaching down to brush
 her fingers over her pubic mound.
	She stopped, and looked back up toward me.  She
 waved, smiling, but then sighed and looked down.  She
 looked around idly at the pond before laying back on
 her rock.
	The hands returned to work, and I pondered what
 to do.  Whether she knew I was watching-and it didn't
 seem that she did-she had intended me to do so.  I
 thought about going down there, but from the looks of
 things, she was going to finish before I could get down
 to the pond.  I watched a little bit longer, and she
 did.  After that, I went back to work.  Before I did,
 though, I readjusted the telescope to point it back
 toward the sky.
	She returned to the house about half an hour
	"You should have come down.  It's a really nice
	I saw her glance at the telescope and suppress
 a smile.
	"Okay.  Cya."