I squinted at Mysterious’ face for a second, until I remembered that I didn’t have X-ray vision and couldn’t see through his sunglasses to really tell if he was still joking around. After a minute, I turned back to the window and tried to convince myself that I had heard the phrase differently than he had meant it. A second later, he let out a huge bray of fake laughter that sounded uglier than the silence that had preceded it.
“You are such a choad! You can’t think that I’m actually for real about that? I’ve been saying that shit for years! I can’t believe you actually got all – what would you fancy private school boys say – got all pensive about it! I didn’t bring the rope because I hear the rangers here chase climbers off because there’s a breeding colony of peregrine falcons here, and if they saw us with rope, well, do the math, smart guy.”
“And clearly the best way to avoid the Rangers is to park right next to the Visitor Center.” I noted dryly. “Anyhow, if they are really breeding birds here, I don’t want to climb because aren’t they endangered?”
“Who cares about that crap.” He said eloquently. “Bird crap is what you would need to worry about! Besides, I’ve never even seen one of the birds, and we’re not even climbing in the area we need to stay out of. Come on, lardo, up the trail. We’ve got to hike to get there!”
“So why not bring the rope…” I muttered under my breath as I took off after his speed walking.
Just as I reached his back, and the natural silence was about to soak into my soul, Mysterious started talking. His jaunty words bounced hollowly off of trees and rocks. Each word seemed to start with an “I”. The stories weren’t eloquent. And sometimes, they weren’t pretty. By the time he uttered his third peal of laughter, I despised his company. It seemed like the easy-going, somewhat flakey person I had known was gone, washed away in a panoply of inane risks and jumbled innuendoes that made me somewhat uncomfortable.
I wondered: Is this what I sound like to others? It was an upsetting thought that my brain digested uneasily. For a moment, I told myself that perhaps I should flat-out stop talking about myself; rein my ego in; and stop sending out stupid self-congratulatory e-mails, unless I wanted to be exactly like Mysterious. And as my body quailed at that abhorrent fate, I stomped through the last of the brush we had been cutting across and into Mysterious. After I brushed myself off, I looked up and gaped at the heavy rock face that we had been hiking toward. I realized that resolving any potential character flaws would have to wait until after I had survived the climb.