Sam’s earnest pronouncement threw both Wood and me.
Wood: “The Pink Lady? Is Rizzo going to pop out of the trees and show us the worst thing she could do?”
Sam (perplexed): “What’s a Rizzo?”
It took a beat for Sam’s question to sink in.
Me (my coffee forgotten in my hand, disbelief coloring my words): “John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, the best high school musical of all time?”
Sam (still confused): “No…Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens were in High School Musical.”
Me (somewhere the chat circuits must have gotten crossed): “What?”
Did the Squirrels spike the coffee before the adults made it downstairs? Or did Sam turn into a conversational wizard overnight?
Wood (cocking his head): “Sandy, Danny Zuko, Kenickie, Frenchy? Grease is the word. The movie Grease. You’ve never seen it? The Pink Ladies are a clique of girls who rule Rydell High, Rizzo is their tough but tender leader. Sound familiar?”
Sam (shaking his head): “Never heard of it, is it new?”
Me (trying hard not to hit my head against something really hard): “No, it came out around nineteen-seventy-seven or seventy-eight? Somewhere in there.”
Sam (face lighting up, doing fast math): “Oh, that’s why I haven’t heard of it!… It came out eighteen years before I was born. So I should see it?”
Wood and I shared a look. Unlike Sam, we couldn’t make that claim, we might have only been six months old at the time – but it still counted.
Me (muttering): “What do they teach in schools now?”
Wood (with a sigh): “Yes, you need to watch it.”
Me (shaking my head, trying to clear this conversation out): “So if the Pink Lady you’re talking about isn’t Rizzo, then who’s yours?”
Sam (who looked like he finally found a piece of solid ground – glanced around and lowered his voice): “The Pink Lady comes down Pumpkin Mountain on foggy days searching for hikers she can lure astray. Once you’re off the trail, she runs ahead and then calls out for you to follow her voice. When you are well and truly lost she vanishes into the mist, leaving you to the elements. My friend’s, cousin’s best friend swears he met her once!”
This story doesn’t sound fishy at all.
Wood (trying hard not to laugh): “How did your friend’s, cousin’s best friend get away?”
Sam (earnestness painting his features): “Sat down in the middle of the trail and refused to budge an inch.”
Wood (clearly enjoying the story): “Did she still try to lure him off the trail?”
Sam (his mouth turning up on one side while he spun his yarn): “Sure did! Promised to show him something special, something secret – all he had to do was follow her. He said ‘No thank you, ma’am.’ And waited three and a half hours for the fog to lift then ran down the mountain. Said the whole time he sat there it felt like she was watching him.”
Staring off into space I kept half an ear on the exchange; something felt familiar here, but I could almost grasp it.
Me (the niggling suspicion closer now): “All of her victims are male, right? They hope the ‘something special’ might require nudity?”
Sam (trying to keep his smile under control): “How did you guess? My friends and I think she must have coaxed those two guys from our high school over the cliff – they knew the area to well to walk over it accidentally. That’s why my friend’s cousin’s bestie didn’t follow her. He remembered the stories. Then about four years ago The Pink Lady upped her game – persuaded three brothers, hikers, to chase after her. The rangers found them a few days later at the base of the same cliff. That’s when people around here stopped hiking Pumpkin Mountain, and Hilltop instituted a new safety policy.”
Wood (looking incredulous): “Seriously? Safety first? That’s the moral of your story?”
Sam (ears turning pink and a corporate demeanor descending over his countenance): “Hilltop Hotel will not be renting any boats today. The weather will likely worsen which may lead to disorientation on unfamiliar terrain. So we advise, for the safety of our guests, that they follow the well-marked paths within the vicinity of Hilltop. We are sorry for any inconvenience this causes, blah, blah, blah. The official spiel is boring!”
Wood (smiling): “I agree. But why do they call her The Pink Lady?”
Sam (still smiling): “My friend’s cousin’s bestie says she wore a bright pink shirt when she tried to tempt him.”
Definitely, my Stalker, Tiffany Grindle but whatever else felt familiar about Sam’s story darted just out of my grasp. It reminded me of that annoying sensation when a word is on the tip of your tongue, (or hippocampus in this case) but refuses recollection.
(This is utterly not my photo from Grease – here’s where it came from.)