Nibbling minnows

Editor’s note: BVD is on vacation. Here’s a classic Bruce Van Dyke column that ran March 16, 1994, in the Nevada Weekly.

Space. The available frontier, at least to us Nevadans. But if we don’t take advantage of it, we may as well live in Amsterdam. So me and an associate recently spent a Sunday afternoon out in space—beautiful, wide, completely spread-out Great Basin space. The kind of space where you know you’re the only humans for miles in any direction. The kind of space that would drive neurotic Woody Allen apewire in about 22 seconds. The kind of space that brings to mind flicks like The Hills Have Eyes, where that bald psycho is up in a cave waiting for the next Blazer full of Swedish swimmers to blow a fan belt.

Our mission: the super-deluxe, Nevada-style, ultra-relaxation Sunday afternoon. To do it properly, you have to get out of town—no jet noise, please—and find a solitary hot spring. Having some wild hot water provides a goal, getting there gives you a tiny sense of achievement, and it’s widely accepted that to waste away a day with style sitting in water is much preferred to sitting in dirt. Our target selected, we head up north to a scrabbly little oasis with an oval pool bubbling up in an area marked by six adult cottonwoods. With supplies laid out for easy access (sandwiches, oranges, overpriced fizzy water, cookies, Sambuca), we strip, wade, sit and say, “Ahhhhh.” At first glance, the nirvana potential of this particular pool didn’t look too promising. Too many minnows dartin’ around, which indicates warm water instead of hot. Fish don’t live in those bun-bakin’ springs. But as it turned out, this water was just warm enough to keep us sufficiently comfortable for a couple of hours.

With minimum preparation and effort, we had landed directly in the Peace and Quiet Zone. Immersed to the chin, feeling blatantly amphibian and watching the day drift on through, we punctuated our spurts of laconic conversation with easy-goin’ spells of appreciative silence. This spring turned out to be predictably people-free and also, birdless, cowless and antless. Only the minnows of the pool were there to provide action, which they did in their bold, little way. As soon as a body would settle into position and sit still, the inch-long fish would flock on over and start picking air bubbles, salt and old chili stains off your skin. When you have five or seven of them hitting you simultaneously, you pretty much had the sensory thrill of the day right there.

So it’s just you and your favorite lust object, alone at simple, humble Warm Spring. You notice the minnows in the water, and you know they’re always ready to graze upon human skin with their hungry, fishy lips. Instantly the flash bulb of an idea fires off. The two of you strip and arrange a well-cushioned blanket on the edge of the pool. Then you both get into grappling position, one that allows both of you to dangle your feet in the water while the wand of light searches for the valley of bliss. Keeping your feet relatively still as you begin the desert swoon dance, you forget about them, until the minnows, feeling brave and trusting, start to hit your toes, arches and heels with dozens of soft little fish kisses, and as a result … what? Ultimate orgasm? Or major gross out? It’s up to you, of course, but it’s got to be worth a shot. Much more creative that some plastic buzzy thing out of the Xandria catalogue.