By Wil Forbis
I cracked another pistachio out of its shell and popped it into my mouth. It was crunchy and salty --- maybe too salty for some people but perfect for me. I eat pistachios a lot when I'm nervous. And boy was I nervous.
Michelle and I had just started walking up the path to Pine Overlook. It'd been my suggestion that we take a casual Sunday afternoon hike and get a look at the area. She had no idea what my real plan was.
My stomach was in knots. The pistachios helped a bit, but they couldn't tame that churning. I always get the butterflies when I'm anxious. And here I was about to ask the woman I loved to marry me.
"You doing all right, sweetie?" Michelle asked. "You look a little pooped already."
"Don't worry about me, honey," I replied. "I'm just getting started." I took her hand in mine.
She knew something was up, she must have, but I don't think she saw a proposal coming. I think she thought of me as someone who was a bit too intimidated by life to consider a big step like this after only a couple years of dating. But this was something I wanted to do. Something I had to do.
Michelle started talking about the foliage we passed, naming some of the vibrant flowers that bordered the trail. I mumbled the occasional note of agreement and let my mind drift.
I was never one of those guys who was really successful with the ladies. I'd like to be, but I guess I've always known women like tall guys, and I top off at just under 5'7. This didn't mean I never dated. I had a steady girlfriend in high school, and a couple in college. Since I graduated, I've had some on and off relationships. But before Michelle, these were never girls I could really get excited about. They were nice, sometimes plain, sometimes cute, but I never felt like there was a real magic spark going on. It was like two people dating each other because each thought the other was about the best they could do.
When I met Michelle through some friends, it was different. For one thing, she was not just cute, but pretty. And though while at first she didn't seem too interested in me, with a little persistence on my part I won her over. We had a great time together. She was, like... a girlfriend who was also my best friend.
"Look!" Michelle said, interrupting my reverie. "I've never seen that before." She was pointing to a power line running up the mountain, about 20 feet to the left of the path we were walking on.
"Sure," I said. "You know there's that weird power generator building pretty close to the overlook, right? Those lines go up to it. I think it has something to do with the astronomical observatories around here."
Michelle flashed me a momentarily angry look. She hated it when I knew more about something that she did.
My guts moved a bit. I was, frankly, getting a little... uhhh, gassy. Yeah, that's just what I needed when I'm about to propose to the love of my life. I popped open my second bag of pistachios and started cracking shells.
"I don't know why you love those things so much," Michelle said. "Walnuts are so much better."
"What? Walnuts are better than pistachios? You're crazy. Pistachios are the king of nuts."
Michelle laughed. "You would know. Because, you know, if pistachios are the king of nuts, then you're one of the... what's the word... subjects. Because, you know, you're a nut."
"Yeah, I got it, babe. You don't have to spell it out. Anyway, you're the only nut around here."
"No, you're the nut!"
"No, you are."
"Okay," Michelle relented. "I'm the nut. But you're my little pookie bear." She leaned in to kiss me on the cheek.
I put on my best "angry little boy" face and wiped away her kiss. "Girls! Gross!"
"You know you like it," Michelle said, skipping ahead a few steps. And she was right.
We were now about halfway to the top. The trail hit a Y. One path took a steep climb up the mountain, the other was a more leisurely series of switchbacks. We opted for the easy route.
My stomach was still grumbling. These damn nerves. Why was I so worried? Michelle was certain to say yes, wasn't she? She had to feel the same way about me as I did about her... or else she was a hell of an actress. But why would she pretend? Was she waiting around for another guy? A taller guy?
Dammit! Why did I always let those doubts creep in? That little voice in my head always trying to second-guess me. I crammed my hand to my left pocket. I could feel the ring case. It was a beautiful diamond studded 24 karat gold band --- my sister had helped me pick it out. There wasn't a woman alive who could resist it.
We rounded several curves on the path and slowly made our way closer to the top. Michelle was talking about some of her girlfriends from work and their various soap opera lives. To be honest I wasn't paying much attention but I don't think she caught on to my worries.
Finally we hit level ground, the top of the overlook. We had a clear view in every direction. Miles south, to the left, we could see the buildings of downtown, though they were a little obscured by the power generator. Turning right we could make out the highway off in the distance, meandering its way along the coast. And behind us were the mountains of the East.
There were few other people around --- a couple other couples, and a few solo hikers and bicyclists. Some of them were coagulating near the main Vista area, a series of hard rock slabs that offered a beautiful view. I wasn't quite sure how to play this. This was where I wanted to make the proposal, but I didn't want an audience. Maybe I could just push everyone over the edge of the cliff, and then Michelle and I would be alone? Something told me that might take some of the romance of the situation.
As it was, the problem started to resolve itself. Both of the couples hoarding the overlook drifted off. That left a sweaty middle-aged bicyclist. He took several swigs from his canteen while bobbing his head in time with whatever classic rock BS was playing on his iPod. He wouldn't be there forever. My guts were still growling though. I poured a couple more pistachios into my palm and proceeded to crack them out of their shells. I popped two in my mouth, and then, just for kicks, broke one between my fingers. And that's when I saw it. Inside the nut was something moving. It was a bug... something with wings. A moth. Inside the shell was a damn moth! What the hell? I poured several more shells into my hand and cracked them open. Again, I pinched the nut in two. Another moth, this one also alive. I crushed another nut, cutting its inhabitant in half and causing green muck to spill out of its burst stomach. I repeated the process four more times. Each nut contained a single live moth. And I'd just eaten two and a half bags of them. I'd been eating live bugs!
I spit the half eaten pistachios out of my mouth. "Jesus..." I exclaimed.
Michelle looked at me, concerned. "What's wrong, honey?" she asked.
I was about to show her the wriggling, squirming translucent winged creatures in my hand. I was about to announce to her that I'd spent the past 20 minutes getting my protein in one of the most unorthodox ways imaginable. But something caught me. What was the plan here? Explain to my girlfriend that I've been eating bugs and then say, hey, how about getting married? That wasn't gonna fly. I dusted the contents of my hands onto the dirt. "Uh, nothing. Just a bad batch, I guess. Let's take a look at the view."
The geezer biker had moved on. We walked to the overlook. The view was beautiful. I stepped out towards the rocky edge, just a couple feet from the steep drop into the forest. "Careful, honey," Michelle scolded.
"It's just so beautiful," I said. I turned to her. "Just like you."
"Oh gawd," Michelle said, a smile crossing her face. "Who writes your material?"
I didn't mind the jab. That smile told me everything I needed to know. She was going to say yes. Despite the fact that my stomach still felt like it was running a conveyor belt, I was confident. I stepped towards her.
The look in my eyes must've told her something was up. "What's going on, honey?"
I dropped down to one knee. I had to steady my trembling hand as I reached into my pocket and removed the ring case. These damn nerves weren't going to stop me.
"Ohmigod..." Michelle said. She knew what was happening.
If only my guts weren't percolating like a damn coffeemaker. I could feel them moving in every damn direction. And that's when it hit me. It wasn't nerves I was feeling in my stomach. It wasn't anxiety. It was...
"Buuuuggggggsssss!"I could actually feel the words coming out of my throat, or so I thought. It was actually vomit. Vomit released by the realization that dozens of living cylindrical creatures were crawling within me. My body had to do everything possible to expunge them. Bitter bile churned in my throat, forcing me to double over and vomit it onto the rocky ground. My eyes teared. Waves of snot suffocated my nose. Diarrhea leaked from my anus. Suddenly everything inside my body had to escape --- rats deserting a sinking ship. These horrible undulations commanded my attention, but somewhere in the nooks and crannies of my consciousness I was aware of Michelle screaming, then crying, and then silence. I could only imagine what she was thinking seeing her boyfriend dripping in foul liquids.
Finally, the waves of nausea subsided. I felt wrecked, as if the fluids that had left my body had taken all my energy with them. The afternoon certainly hadn't worked out as planned; this had to be the worst marriage proposal in history. Frankly, I wouldn't blame Michelle for just leaving the right then and there.
When I got the courage to look up, it appeared that was exactly what happened. I was alone on the overlook. Michelle was nowhere to be seen. But that didn't make any sense. I'd only been convulsing a dozen seconds at most. How could she have disappeared so quickly?
With a wave of dread, it hit me. I looked at where she'd been standing, mere feet from the edge of the world. I couldn't stand, I had to crawl my way to the edge of the precipice. Finally I was able to drag my head over to get a few below. And I saw her. Her body was 20 feet down, dangling from the power lines which ran down the mountain. Her leg was making contact with the earth and thus conducting electricity through her body. She was jerking and spasming and I could see dark smoke coming off her clothes. I passed out.
I woke up to paramedics loading me into helicopter. I was still woozy, but I could feel them slip an IV into my arm and an oxygen mask over my face. The copter blades pounded with a violent whooshing sound. But I could still hear the EMTs talking. One of them talked about how, by the time they had found the girl, part of her had been eaten by local wildlife. He joked that he hoped they liked their meat "extra crispy."
I was in the hospital for a week and a half. The doctors asked me where I got pistachios from. They said they had contained Cydia pomonella, a common variety of moth. They had no idea how they had gotten into the nuts.
About halfway through my stay in the hospital, a lawyer came and visited me. He said I had legal grounds for a lawsuit. So we sued the pistachio company. They settled out of court, my lawyer got 3 million, and I got a little nest egg of 7 million. For pain and suffering and "emotional aggravation."
While I was waiting for the results of the lawsuit, I went back to work. I started to notice that one of the receptionists was giving me looks whenever I walked past her desk. I had no problem returning her glances; she was beautiful! It turned out her name was Lucinda and she was from back east. Once my settlement came in, we started dating
and wouldn't you know it, within about nine months we were married. We both quit our jobs and have settled into a nice house that overlooks the valley. I'm doing a little Internet investing. It's a good life.
It was a shame, of course, to lose Michelle. But to be honest, in a lot of ways Lucinda is a much better fit for me. For one thing, whereas Michelle was certainly pretty, Lucinda is hot! And Michelle was, frankly, a bit of a dud in the bedroom (she was one of these "no way, no how" chicks when it came to anything oral.) Lucinda, on the other hand, is a total freak. Anything, and I mean anything, goes.
So, at the end of the day, everything worked out all right.