Below is a story I'm bringing out into the light. I will post parts each week. I would love to know what you think. I really like it but not sure what to do with it.
Part 1: Arrivals
Once upon a time sounded good. Like the sound of the church bells vibrating into the big blue sky, distant, out of reach. Or maybe it was more like the approaching of thunder, rattling the windows before the lightning strike. In either case, both would be welcome. It was a horrible place to be for anyone not interested in conquering the highest peak.
All day long Amanda poured coffee into the white ceramic cups of men’s ambitions. Hers was the last stop of sanity on the road to the conquest of the tallest peak in region. Anything higher required an airline ticket. Once you got into your car and started up that long, twisted road there was only one destination. Can you call yourself a man, or at least a true mountaineer, if you turned back before even stepping onto the trail? For six months you’ve trained, running up and down the stairs in your apartment building with weights strapped to your legs and four 2-litre bottles in your backpack. You’ve had a picture of the snow- encrusted pinnacle on your computer desktop at work for weeks. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on the kick ass gear: crampons, base layers, top of the line mountaineer boots, ice poles, an ice axe, down jacket, heavy duty bivey, cold weather sleeping bag liner, dehydrated foods, and gloves so thick you can barely bend your fingers around the pole grips. How could you ever face your buddies again without even have tried? Be it courage or stupidity, this was the point of no return.
The Top of the World Café catered the last meal to this exclusive group of individuals. The omelets and hash browns served up would be their last real food for at least the next three to five days. For some it was their last real food ever. The mountain had taken many lives over the years. It wasn’t always blind ambition either. Even those well-equipped and fully trained could be taken by surprise in a sudden storm. Gales of cold windblasts of eighty miles per hour upwards to one hundred plus were common. Snowstorms were known to happen every month of the year. Least of all was the frequent cloud cover that would completely swallow the mountain whole and leave you clothed in the amorphous shroud of white moisture. Any turn could be your last when you had no idea where you were going.
The interior of Top of the World Café was like many of the eateries in the area; rustic and cozy, like your living room. In the comfort of a real fire crackling from the depths of an oversized fireplace pieced together with large river rock, worn smooth by years of the flow of the water before it ended up here. Maybe not so much in the summer, but guests were always great admirers of the monster mantel. The greeters and servers wore their own clothes, casual but clean. The only thing that distinguished them from the customers were the black aprons they wore around their waists and the pot of coffee they usually carried around with them.
Amanda had lived most of her life in the shadow of the peak. In what she still considered to be a rash decision, sudden in its execution, her parents had moved from beautiful Fresno, California, poetry capital of the Golden State. She did not understand it then and she had yet to understand now. Well, of course she knew why or at least was told why. Her dad worked for Search and Rescue and there was an opening. They wanted a change. A fresh start, or something, they had not bothered getting her opinion on the matter. She had been four at the time and she still had not let them forget how she felt about it. She remembered the day they left. sitting on her sky blue Charlie Brown trunk in the middle of her empty room. Her parents took turns trying to reason with her. They promised great adventures with new friends, a new school, and a bigger house. What was wrong with the friends she had now, day care was not school, and she liked the trailer park they had been living in. They would have to go on without her, she had decided.
Years of experience with children of all ages through her middle and high school years had taught her many things, the first of which was that you cannot reason with a four year old, nor should you even try. Eventually her parents gave up on their postmodern parenting technique and did what was needed. With piercing shrieks, she kicked and bit all the way to the car, her father paying dearly for his determination. Buckled in the child safety seat against her will she watched with blurred vision as her old neighborhood slipped by and into the realms of a few vague memories and some fading photos in the family album. She pulled on the shoulder restraints, she knew the big red button in the middle was the key but really, what would that accomplish? Finally she cried herself to sleep in her car seat and dreamed about her new friends, new school, and bigger house.
She still lived in that bigger house with her parents. She, Rebecca, and Bobby daydreamed often about moving out of their parent’s homes to find a place for themselves but there were not any apartments to speak of. The town existed for one reason alone. They knew of a few families that had made small rooms in their garages to rent out and there were several hotels around but that was it. Their only real option was to leave, go to a real city with apartments and while they would list all the things they would do once in that new city with all the malls and multiplex movie theaters they could ever dream of none of them managed to do anything different than what they always did.
Day in and day out Amanda served food to the determined. Their pent up energy came out in friendly chatter about the weather and had she ever tried the climb herself. She would politely respond “no” and wish them luck. She had never been interested in going to the top or even approaching the bottom for that matter. It was an endeavor she did not understand. What was the point? You were not the first to do it; you would not be the last. There was no prize money, just a metal plated book at the top to sign your name in, why put yourself through such hardship just for bragging rights? It was stupid.
Sometimes, most times, at the Top of the World Café she got to serve the first taste of triumph. For better or for worse they returned bloodied and frost bitten the victorious would eat double than when they had gone up. Despite their deep exhaustion and injuries they had indeed accomplished something unique, something mighty, something less than ten percent of anyone else ever does. And man did it feel good. Or so she was told. Climbers of all shapes and sizes would slouch in the booth, faces sun and wind burned but beaming, retelling of their exploits to each other and laughing more than called for in their delirium. It was in those moments when a thought would pass through her mind that maybe, possibly there was something to it. The price might be worth paying. Or maybe she was just letting herself get duped into the delusions of grandeur of the oxygen deprived.
While it was true that the lifeblood of the town was fueled by these kinds of adrenaline junkies there were also the town’s people themselves that would come and feast at their fine dining establishment. Even in the digital age gas stations needed attendants, hotels did not clean themselves, and someone had to sell overpriced last minute supplies to the adventurers. For the local that did not want to do it themselves their choices consisted of the Burger Loft, a throwback to the age of drive-ins, their servers still wore roller-skates. Backyard BBQ served only lunch and dinner for obvious reasons, who had heard of barbeque for breakfast? In the interest of neighborly competition they didn’t serve hamburgers. And finally, for something really different, the Davidson family ran the taqueria, Los Locos Hacienda, neither of which made sense. For Davidson family was not Latino and to anyone’s recollection had ever been to Mexico. Nobody talked about the Italian Food.
As far as the locals were concerned there were very few people coming and even fewer going. It was like living with a large extended family. You knew whose car was whose. Dogs and cats might as well be community pets and nothing was a secret or sacred. And it was a very boring place so absolutely any disturbance of the most trivial sort was the subject over dinner tables everywhere and at checkout stands. One time she had held Bobby’s hand, at least that is what people were saying. What they had not seen was him yelping in pain like a little girl as she squeezed his hand as hard as she could for implying that she should date Brandon Jacobs. Stuff like that.
There was one person above all the others that everyone loved to talk about. Loved to share and compare every scrap of information that could be discovered and passed on. Each tidbit was prized and devoured like the last morsel of rations in the Donner Party. If you had something no one had heard of, which was rare, you were the hero of the day. All would seek your first-hand account to be sure that the facts were straight. Most of the time your revelation was really a variation on something already known. Shedding any degree of light on the mystery and enigma that was Jonathan Moore was always a welcome subject no matter where you were.
Amanda had seen him twice before, once was at a stoplight. He was driving a silver Lamborghini. It was in the middle of the day and no one else was around. They lived in the middle of national forest land it was quiet. The engine hummed softly with its flawless Italian engineering. She was on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street. She tried not to stare, it was rude, she knew that. Muffled music blared from inside the vehicle. He had come to the light just in time for her to cross. Fixing her gaze on the icon of the walking man she stepped into the street. As she did so she could see the silver shining vehicle in her periphery. Slipping past her with each step. This had never happened to her and who could say it would happen again. Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look. Why was she holding her breath? This was ridiculous.
So she did what she should not have done, swiveling her head she looked. Jonathan Moore stared right back at her. This was no mere catching of the eye. She turned her gaze toward him to find he was already looking at her. She stopped walking. He had to have been watching her the whole time. She stood frozen in the middle of the street staring at the man everyone knew about but no one really knew. She had seen photos of him, his dark brown hair was always the same length and parted to the left. He was never seen wearing anything other than a suit and even then it was always with the jacket. She wasn’t sure he knew the meaning of the word casual. There were people in town who had met him on the rare occasion he came in, but all that was known was hearsay and rumor. He smiled at her, hands at ten and two o’clock position on the steering wheel, his blue eyes never wavering from her.
A car horn burped. Amanda jumped. A blue and white Chevy pick-up waited behind him. It was Tommy Brooks, they had been in the same class all through school. He gave her the evil eye for holding up traffic. Looking above her she could see the light was green and across to the red hand that held steadily. She quickly dashed out of the way, pivoting on her heel to watch him pull away. The car moved forward at a leisurely pace. As it passed by her Jonathan Moore smiled and nodded. He was heading in the direction of his private residence, an ostentatious estate deep in the forest accessible only by a gated, private road. She shook it off if only to get to the other side of the street. By the time she had met up with Rebecca and Bobby later that day she was asked about how she narrowly cheated death at the hands of that man, who did he think he was anyways.