I heard last month that my story in The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Volume 8 was being used by a teacher in York Region to demonstrate how to write a good hook. Then yesterday I was told by a teacher that he has been using my story to instruct his creative writing students on using the senses. Here’s the hook and a whiff of my story:
Mare’s Milk, Mountain Bikes, Meteors & Mammaries: a nipply night in nomad’s land
by Kirsten Koza
“Oh, no, Kirsten!”
My Kyrgyzstani guide’s warning came too late, and stepping in poo had never felt so good. My cycling shoe sunk into the dreadful yet luxurious warmth of fresh animal dung. I was chilled to the point where I was actually lingering ankle-deep in feces, by choice.
Yena shone the light of her cell phone, its only feature that was still working, onto the molten mound enveloping the bare skin of my lower leg. The droppings looked like something a brontosaurus might have deposited. A meteorite seared across the night sky, so close that you could actually hear it crackle as it hissed down the vertical gorge to the Chong-Kemin valley.
The point of light from Yena’s phone caught me in the eyes. When I’d first met her, yesterday, after traveling thirty-six hours from Canada, I’d told her that I had two irrational phobias. The first one—fear of the dark—I fabricated as an excuse for not wanting to climb the unlit, steep, winding stairs of an eleventh-century minaret. I wasn’t worried about the lack of lighting; I was being lazy. The second phobia—which I’d added to brighten the mood after she looked disappointed that I didn’t want to go up the tower—was real: I was terrified of meteorites. I was seriously scared of being struck by a shooting star. I’d lie in bed at night imagining them out there in space.
Now here we were on a mountain, in the dark, unable to make it across the pass with our bikes because a fresh rockslide had strewn unstable boulders and scree for several kilometers in every direction, including on the slope directly above us. We’d had to turn back and were descending on foot from an altitude of four thousand oxygen-deficient meters above sea level, as night smothered Chok-Tal Mountain. The blinding dark was being shredded by the Perseid meteor shower – shooting stars so close it seemed I could even smell their trails of smelting iron and sulfur. I snuggled into the poop.
“Yena, why did the old Kyrgyz nomad ask me if I was afraid of wolves?”
“I no know why he ask dis. Is very strange.”
It was weird. It was the only thing he’d communicated, as we’d left his family’s yurt in the afternoon to head up over the mountain chain. He had a wind-whipped and sun-lashed face, a riding crop, a long white moustache, and a traditional white felt hat which made him look like he was wearing a small yurt on his head.
“I’m not scared of wolves,” I said to Yena as she skidded away down the rocky trail beside her bike.
“I know, you say dis already.” Just a few feet ahead of me, and she was invisible.
Suddenly, she shrieked. A clatter of falling rocks started above us and immediately bounced and slid past on all sides. Stone and shale tumbled over the sheer precipice…