Current Issue : web
 Current Issue : PDF
  70 Years of Sun,
 Snow and Stories
 The Essential
 White Clouds
 Sun Valley Guides
 50 Years of Family
 Real Estate:
 Changing the landscape
 A Tandem
 Telemark Tryst
 On the Trail of Vamps
 What's a Flying Squirrel
 got to do with it
 Off the walls
 Lost in a Good History
 Van Gordon Sauter
 Silent Highway
 Art of Bread
 Chef's Speciality
 Valley View
 Valley Interview
 Winter 2007
 Outfitters & Equipmen
 Dining Map
 Gallery Map
the guide
 Last Fall
 Last Summer
 Editorial Submission
 Calendar Submission
 Advertising Submission
 Advertising Rates
 About Us

Copyright © 2006
Express Publishing Inc
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is strictly prohibited. 

Contact Us

The Sun Valley Guide magazine is distributed free three times a year to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area communities.

Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper will receive the Sun Valley Guide with their subscription.


Silent Highway
Life is a highway weaving through the magnificent and varied panoramas of the West. In this short story, Greg Stahl explores a slice of highway striped with the staggered staccato of uncertain love. Photo by Greg Stahl.

He squinted through the dusty front window, choking back tears, and watched as the Smoky Mountains grew with the miles. His reply was delayed and, when it came, deliberate. He would not reveal his feelings. He had known her for a very short time, and he considered the unexpected burst of emotion premature.

When he looked at her to answer the question, hoping his glistening eyes didn’t show, he analyzed his response for clarity and meaning. As the answers came, he understood the tears. They were thoughts he couldn’t share with her. To tell her would be too much. She couldn’t possibly understand how thoughts like these could emerge from such a brief slice of such a long life.

He looked to the highway tumbling out before them, and she put her hand on his leg. He covered it with his own. He could see in her eyes she had been touched by his answer. Perhaps she heard what he hadn’t said. She had an uncanny brain and a logically intuitive sense about things. It’s one of the qualities he loved most about her.

“The same could be said about you,” she replied.
It was an appropriately diplomatic response, but the words he uttered fit her far better than he. Though their miles and hours traveling together were filled with far-reaching ideas and many words, they drove on in silence for a while. His mind worked.

Like a man who wants flight, he could not have her, for the very object of desire was the obstacle to its realization. He mused that he was a tree who wanted to grow at the summit of a great mountain with views spreading to the horizons. He would be the first to see the sun rise and the last to see the moon set. But trees don’t grow on the tops of mountains for a reason.

In life, it is often the thing a person cannot have that a person wants the most. That is how he distilled a rainbow of growing sensation into shades of gray. It was a fatalistic exercise precipitated by his awe and respect for her.

That admiration was the fuel for their brief but intimate conversation as the Smoky Mountains grew on the horizon in the late-day sun of the Snake River Plain. His mind returned to the question that prompted the unexpected tears.

“What are your expectations of me?” she had asked.

He contemplated the question before the weight of his answer settled on him.

“I expect you to use your powers for good, not evil,” he answered, the idea solidifying in his mind.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”
That’s when he stared out the side window and watched through bleary eyes as the desert flew by. He could not immediately answer. He could not let her know how much the answer hurt him.

“I think you are an incredibly gifted person,” he said. “I expect you to put your gifts to good use.”

In that, he realized, he would push her away for the very reason he loved her. He viewed himself as a diversion to her eventual greatness.

Their conversations had begun simply enough. She was bright, and she wanted people to know it. Despite her hubris, he liked her and found her easy to talk with. On their third encounter they lay awake on a cabin floor in front of a dying fire as the stars spun overhead. He wanted to kiss her, but he did not, and he supposed those events would dictate the extent of their relationship. He was moving to a town across the barren, windswept desert. It was not the time to make new friends.

Life didn’t agree.

When he looked across a crowded patio the following evening and saw her beaming at him from a corner where she sat alone, he was surprised at his excitement. Their conversation later that night dug beneath the surface, and he shed a bit of the shell he used to protect himself. Later, as they lay awake together, he told her how he had wanted to hold her in front of the dying fire on the cabin floor.

“I think you think too much,” she told him, and her kiss was full of feeling.

In that moment, he lost a friend.

During the ensuing week, they laid plans to travel across the vast expanse of the varied western landscape. He thought it was funny when she asked if he was worried she might be a schizophrenic whose alter ego could kick in somewhere on the long, lonesome road. They talked about traveling companions they had known. They worried that, somewhere between the Colorado Plateau and the granite ramparts of Central Idaho, they might run out of things to talk about. They thought the vast landscape might swallow their thoughts and ideas. It wasn’t so. They hardly noticed the power of the western desert as they drove into each other’s thoughts and feelings.

He took a glance in the rear view mirror and saw the empty highway unfolding behind them. Seeing where they had been only moments before, he thought about the lives they had not yet lived in the context of how they would view them from times yet to pass. He answered the question for himself.

The life he had yet to live would look good so long as he had a positive effect on a few people, made a difference every now and then. His deathbed memories would be happy as long as they flashed across his mind like a slide show of smiling faces, people he cared about and people who cared in return. All the rest—ledger sheets, awards, resumes, accomplishments—was all filler, the nine-to-five hours of a life that included so much more. He turned the thought to his companion.

“At the end of your life, when you’re looking back, what do you want to see?”

Moments of silence ensued as he pondered his infraction and she considered the question.

“Maybe I’ll see this trip,” she smirked.

Maybe, he thought, her sarcasm weighing on him.

Days later, he was surprised by the abrupt way their courses diverged. She had become an easy fit in that short period of his life, and it didn’t seem natural that something so easy would have an end. Even as he drove her to the place they would part, he felt invigorated by her, and her company gave him strength he didn’t know he possessed. She asked if he wanted to ask a question he had, days earlier, declined to risk. The time was right, but he decided the answer would come with time. With that, they bid farewell.

But his question would be answered. Several months and many trials later, it was.

And the lonely Idaho mountains consumed him.