“So there I was,” says Joan, “way up in the sky, flat on my stomach, hugging the boulder and screaming ‘NO!’”
We are having tea at my house. Joan is my friend and also the most successful Realtor in town.
We’re discussing phobias, and she says she can beat mine.
Which I doubt.
But, when you deal with lots of raw land like Joan does here in my town, you get some big adventures.
I pour some more hot tea into our cups.
“OK,” Joan says, “it was a beautiful day and I had to take an engineer out to walk a big ranch. He had to measure things. It was going to take a lot of climbing and walking and I was prepared. I do this all the time.
“We drove out there in the man’s jeep, hopped out and started walking. It’s a big ranch with lots of boulders, snakes, and oak trees.
“Off in the distance we see a tall…very tall…long hill covered with boulders. The engineer man says, ‘We need to go up to the top there. I need to measure and stick a flag up.’
“He says, ‘Are you up for this?’ and I say, ‘Hell, yes. I do this all the time.’
“So Venus,” Joan says, “we started climbing that big thing, winding our way along side the huge rocks, the poison oak, the rabbits…well, you know how it is, you used to sell real estate here in town.”
“More tea?” I ask.
“So, we get to the top of that mountain. Let’s call it a mountain because hell, it was one. The man grabs a chunk of the biggest boulder there and shimmies up it like it’s greased. He stands up on the top of that thing and shouts, ‘Come on up here, I need you to hold some equipment for me.’”
“No problem,” I say.
“I clamber up that enormous boulder and reach the top. I stand up straight and then I remember something important.
“I remember that I am terrified of being on top of boulders! I scream and drop flat on my stomach, scratching my nails into the rock. I keep screaming and the man asks me what’s wrong. I can’t make any sense of it myself, so how can I tell him?
“He spends a lot of time talking to me about how it’s perfectly safe and just hold onto this red flag here so he can line it up with something or other.
“I just moan.
“Finally, the guy realizes it’s time for us to climb down, and he realizes that I can’t climb down. I have to hold on to this boulder. He tries everything, Venus. He talks reasonably to me, he promises me I’m safe, he says he will steady me if I will just stand up.
“I can’t do it. Here I am, I just got another Award for Top Realtor of the Year with my huge nation-wide franchised company and I am flat on my gut on top of a boulder, clinging to it and sweating and I will be staying here for the rest of my life.
“The engineer says fire trucks can’t make it back to where we are, that I have to pull myself together. He says if I don’t get down right now a helicopter will have to come get me and it will make all the papers and the TV news.
“I don’t care.
“The man says he’s going to climb down and see if he can find someone on the ranch to help get me down.
“I wait a long time with the side of my face on the hot rock. I’m busy snuffling up dirt, little tiny pebbles, and ants.
“Finally, the engineer comes back with some man he’s found. This guy spends a lot of time trying to talk me down. It doesn’t work. They both make an attempt to drag me off the rock but I scream murder and they desist.
“The sun is hanging low in the sky.
“Finally, I say, ‘Go get my husband.’
“So, they do.
“My husband is twenty miles away, but they get him in a hurry.
“My husband has the same trouble convincing me to get on down that the two men did, but he is more forceful. He talks about my being on the boulder after dark with all the mountain lions and coyotes. He says they will have to leave me there while they go and get some big help.”
“So, how did you get down?” I ask. “You obviously did.”
“My husband pretty much dragged me down with the help of those two men. I am so mortified, Venus. But, you know how it is in this business. I’m on this kind of land all the time and eventually I’m gonna’ do the same thing, again. A client will scramble up on a big rock and call to me, “Get on up here and see this fantastic view!” and I will and then, bang, I’ll remember I have a phobia of big boulders…but it will be too late! What am I going to do, Venus?”
I think a minute.
“I have some vodka in the cupboard,” I say. “Would you like a shot?”