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Instant recap: En route to a secluded spot for a tryst, Venus confided to Marcus that Philip had taken her to a high-end sex club in San Francisco, where she had practiced the kinky versions of the erotic arts. She learned the skills of a dominatrix, and it carried over to an assertive sexual attitude in real life.

11. The Mystery of Manhood

“I call it the Shakti Tree,” said Marcus, “for the Hindu Goddess and her special role in the affairs of men."

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     “Here we are,” said Marcus as he pulled the Rover into a small unpaved lot by a scenic overlook with a low stone wall.

     They got out, and Venus said, “It doesn’t look very private.”

     “We have a short ways to go on foot.  And I brought some provisions.” From the back seat he procured a knapsack and two wooden walking sticks.

     Marcus led the way around the side of the wall where there was a path going down the embankment. It must have been little used, for it was crossed by a lot of brush. Marcus showed Venus how to use the stick to push it out of the way, but she was vulnerable to scratches on her bare legs. The slope got steeper, and they had to hold onto branches to maintain their balance. The path disappeared, and they were clambering down rocks and turf. “Lucky I wore flats,” said Venus.

     “Yeah, spike-heeled boots wouldn’t work very well here.”

     She laughed, and added: “But my skirt is too tight for this. I can’t take broad enough steps climbing down.”

     “Just hike it up. No one will see you here.”

     “Except you!”

     He chuckled, then saw that there was a serious vein to her remark. “You don’t have to worry,” he said. “My amorous assault at the creek was plotted in advance. Then when you flashed me, it was just the signal to move in.”

     “Okay, I can see it ~ and you sure had impeccable control before that.” She pulled up the hem of her skirt and tucked it into her waistband, freeing her legs for full mobility and flashing her panties every step of the way. Marcus grinned, but made no advances.

     They finally set foot on a flat piece of turf; the embankment was an almost sheer wall on one side, with trees on the other. “Is this the spot?” said Venus.

     “No, this is just the vestibule. Did you notice this rock?” He put his hand on a large flat piece of stone leaning against the cliff, about six feet in diameter.

     “It sure is big.”

     “Try to move it.”

     “Are you kidding? It must weigh a couple of tons.”

     “Just give it a shot.”

     She put her hands on various parts of the rim of the rock and tugged with all her might, but it was thoroughly immobile. “Now watch,” said Marcus. Venus stepped aside, and he put his hands on a low edge of the rock and strained until it moved slightly and made a “chink” sound. “It’s in the groove now,” he said; “try it again. Just give a yank there on the left edge.”

     She obeyed skeptically, and was surprised when the stone pulled outward, pivoting from the opposite edge. Behind it was the black mouth of a cave, from which there issued a cold draft. “Wow,” she said, “it’s a secret doorway! How did it get here?”

     “I set it up with a couple of friends a few months ago, after I made the discovery.”

     “Of what, that cave?”

     “Of what’s on the far side. It’s actually a tunnel.” He pulled a flashlight from his knapsack, shone the light into the opening, and beckoned for her to step into it with him.

     “Looks pretty scary,” she said. “What about snakes and bats and stuff?”

     “The floor is packed clay, and there aren’t any convenient roosts on the ceiling. Are you with me?”

     She took his hand and they entered the chasm. They had to stoop only slightly, and after turning two bends they saw light ahead of them. In a few moments they emerged into a glade resplendent with wildflowers and sunlight. It was obviously on a ledge of the slope, for on the far side could be seen the neighboring forested ridge. No houses or other human intrusions were visible in this small patch of wilderness.

     Venus followed Marcus into the glade, and the first thing that caught her eye was the trunk of a redwood that had clearly lain upon the ground for a long time. It had a curious shape, and after looking it over she said, “It’s a woman’s body!”

     “Ah! You saw it immediately. Not everybody does.” The ends of the broken roots had rotted away in a bifurcated shape with a hole in the trunk at their juncture, giving the impression of thighs and a yoni. On the other end the trunk split into two massive branches, also eroded by time into stumps. No trace of the upper trunk remained beyond these arms, but in its place had been set a rounded boulder with some sort of coronet on top; this was the head. “I call it the Shakti Tree,” said Marcus.

     “For the Hindu Goddess?”

     “And for her special role in the affairs of men, which I believe was enacted right here by the Ohlone Indians.”

     “They were the tribe who lived here?”

     “And all the way down both sides of the Bay. They were a mighty people in that indigenous world. And this spot was obviously sacred to them.”

     They went around the trunk to the boulder, and Venus examined the headdress. “Gold nuggets!” she said, touching them in disbelief.

     “A crown fit for a Goddess.”

     “And the stone has been carved a little ~ it gives the impression of eyes, a nose, and just a touch of a mouth.”

     “They might have felt it wasn’t necessary to embellish the natural objects too much. But there’s more artistry there.” He swept out his hand, and Venus looked about her. She noticed a circle of small stones encompassing the Shakti Tree and continuing around the circumference of the glade. They walked along and took a closer look.

     The stones were interspersed with artifacts at four places in the circle. The first was a rock carving only slightly more detailed than Shakti’s head; it looked like a seated man. The next one caused Venus to gasp at the contrast: it was a finely carved figurine of a ram. “How beautiful!” she said, touching its horns. “I wonder how it got here ~ it’s at such a higher level of culture than the rest. Do you think white people might have brought it?”

     “If any whites had found this spot before me, there wouldn’t be much left of it ~ especially the gold.”

     “That’s right! Oh, and now I see why you went to such trouble to conceal it.”

     The third piece reverted back to the crude style, but the last was another masterpiece, a perfect rendering of a bull bison. Venus said, “What kind of symbolism do you suppose was behind the ram and the bull? It must have been something special, since they’re the only lifelike images.”

     “I researched the Ohlone culture, but unfortunately most of the primary sources were lost or destroyed by the pious padres and Spanish military. So except for universal archetypes, it seems impossible to put the idols into any relevant context.”

     They strolled to the center of the circle; it was a bed of grass which Venus was surprised to find soft underfoot. Marcus said, “I believe this is where the main part of the ritual took place.”

     “What kind of rite do you think it was?”

     “The very same kind that we’re going to do.”

     “Really?” she said, putting an arm around his waist. “What makes you think that?”

     “The tree is the real giveaway, but this grass we’re standing on is not native to the area. Notice how different it is from the thorny wild grass that grows everywhere else in the hard soil of the hills. It must’ve been specially imported to keep the ground soft and be comfortable to lie on.”

     “So it really is a bed! Do you think the Ohlones did fertility rites here? Something that gave a religious significance to making love?”

     “That’s a good way to put it. And there’s more to the tree. Here, let me show you.”  They went back to the ancient tree trunk, and Marcus shone his flashlight into the yoni-hole. “No scorpions or spiders,” he said, then reached into it, his arm going down to the elbow. He gripped something, struggled to loosen it, then pulled it out.

     “Wow, what a huge arrowhead!” said Venus. “Or I guess it would be… a spearhead.”

     “Right. Now what do you suppose it would be doing deep in the ritual vagina?”

     “I can’t imagine. Can you?”

   “As a matter of fact I can, because my imagination is informed by my war experience.” She looked puzzled; he continued: “I went berserk on the battlefield after the Vietcong killed my best buddy. I mean literally, just like the Vikings: I got totally overwhelmed by primal rage and fought like a wild beast. Later a strange thing happened: I got an erection every time I went into battle.”

     She was agog. “Whoa, I’ve never heard anything like that! I’ve known some war vets and study history, including lots about wars, but… well, it just seems bizarre.”

     “What was the battle uniform of the ancient Greeks?”

     She thought for a moment, then her eyes widened. “They fought naked!”

     “Now you know why. They didn’t want any encumbrances when they raised their weapons.”

     “Wait, you lost me again. You mean their phalluses were… weapons?”

     “I had the instinctive sensation was that I was killing the enemy with mine. Of course it had to be backed up with the heavy hardware, but it was an absolute primal reality.”

     She shook herself slightly at this arcane revelation, and said, “So the implications are that there’s a subliminal connection between fighting and sex, at least for men.” He nodded. “And so you think that the Ohlone men symbolically performed intercourse on the tree ~ with their spears?”

     “More likely the boys in a puberty rite.”

     “Boys? Why?”

     “The men already knew the mystery from experience, so they used the symbolism to teach it to the boys.”

     “And the mystery is…?”

     “That the primal core of male potency is the instinctive sense that fucking and killing are the same thing.”