Who is Noah?

Noah no longer lifted weights to become stronger. Although he did not lift as a religion, he lifted religiously. As he neared forty years old, maintaining rather than gaining strength and increasing endurance had become his mantra. His friends called him obsessive. He’d reply, “I simply like to argue with gravity.” That’s how he defended his daily hour of squats, presses, pulls, crunches — and his daily run, which he hated. But he ran. If he couldn’t become stronger, he could always endure.

Noah was five feet, nine inches tall. A modest height, but Noah impressed people by being as wide as most doorways. He had stopped growing upward in the tenth grade. Like so many gangling, awkward teens, he turned to the levitation of iron to produce, through sweat and the discipline of thousands of repetitions, what nature would not. He left high school for Colorado State as a squat, 240-pound fullback who had no need for outside speed in setting WAC rushing records. Now he weighed 210. He had let go the thirty pounds that had made the difference between being tackled by a cornerback and scoring a touchdown. While doing his master’s at Colorado School of Mines, he chose to carry thirty pounds of field gear rather than those same thirty around his midsection.

He yawned. He put down the two dumbbells he’d been using for curls. He was tired. He hadn’t slept well. He had dreamed, and he rarely dreamed. He thought about it, sitting on a cottonwood stump next to his outdoor gym. It sat outside a decade-old, thirty-two-foot travel trailer that had only traveled from a used car lot to his land west of state Route 24. The gym sat behind a post-and-beam hangar covered with corrugated aluminum. He built it for his stable of ultralight aircraft and the parts of several more. He made a modest living, though he didn’t need to, as the owner-operator of a charter air service housed at Green River Municipal Airport. He preferred his ultralights to his Cessnas, a Skylane and a twin-engine Skymaster, when flying in the backcountry. Low and slow. That’s how he liked it. The big birds just ferried people and things from Point A to Point B. Where’s the fun in that?

This morning, he’d flown back from Moab in his Skymaster after ferrying two lawyers from Price to a court date there. He’d followed Route 191 north. He had plenty of altitude. The rare calm air made the flight uneventful. He’d banked west where 191 ended at I-70 at Thompson Springs. On a whim — he’d thought it was a whim until he began having that damned dream — he had flown west past Green River. At 5,000 feet above ground level, he’d seen a line of thunderstorms looming well beyond the Swell but headed for the Fishlake National Forest. Lightning stitched the earth in the distance as if targeting its strikes. He’d turned, landed, and trundled home in his decades-old Land Cruiser, an FJ55, the long-bodied wagon. He had a premonition that something was wrong somewhere for someone. He’d gone to his gym. There he could think.
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The bad guy’s henchmen

Noah and Kara walked into Ray’s Tavern. Her arm rested easily in the crook of his elbow. “Table or booth?” he asked.

“Booth,” she said, walking to a corner under pictures and posters on the wall near the back pool room. She waited so he could choose where to sit. He appreciated that. Like Wyatt Earp did once too often, he sat with his back to the door. Kara, a semi-committed vegetarian in a cheeseburger bar, ordered a cheese omelet with bean sprouts. The waitress, a woman in her 40s with leathery skin and a slight stoop, stared at Kara blankly. No bean sprouts, Kara was told.

“Really?” she said.

“Kara,” whispered Noah, “this isn’t Seattle.”

“Whoa. I’ll say,” she muttered.

Noah asked for a cheeseburger. Kara complained her plain cheese omelet was too well done; Noah just ate without comment. Apple pie followed for both.

“Do you bitch about everything?” Noah asked.

“I only bitch when things aren’t right.”
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Noah, airborne and dodging bullets

The ultralight, despite Noah’s many attempts at muffling the big Rotax engine’s whine, usually announced itself a few seconds before it would rise from its furtive, belly-to-the-ground approach. It was his favorite tactic. The rock crawlers liked plateaus and ridges for thematic scenery. They thought the high ground would allow them to see him first. But he found arroyos and gullies and fins to hide in as he approached.

The yellow Drifter, his favorite, sped through a narrow canyon in the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area, west of Capitol Reef. Noah knew this old river channel intimately, so, despite the apparent danger of wingtips striking sedimentary walls, it seemed just another routine, quick in-and-out. He knew that on the plateau above the western wall, six powerful off-road vehicles were racing, one at a time, up a slickrock slope. Where the slope broke, cameras were set up — one to catch the undercarriage as it rose into view, huge wheels off the ground, and two on either side. The thin man’s clients favored this place. The middle camera would catch the snow-capped Henry Mountains to the east; then, suddenly, their big rock crawlers would rise up from seemingly nowhere, blotting out the Henrys. Rich men conquering nature, captured on DVD, sold well here, he thought.
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