From this part of the mountain, they had an excellent view of the canyon beneath them. Upon looking down, they could easily see the snaking break in the mountains
glistened with long, green trees, some more obvious than the others, the others resembling huddled masses bowing to the peak. Tom hung back and removed his water bottle from his backpack,
letting a small group of hikers walk past them. He gulped the last mouthful before returning to the footpath of jagged rocks.
John brushed his long, golden hair out of his face. “What are you doing?” He called back.
“Nothing, just thirsty.”
“You wanna take a break?”
“No, no, we don’t have to.”
John nodded and peeled his shirt over his head. He grabbed onto a tangent shrub and pulled himself up onto the next large rock, gripping his shirt in his hand like a sponge, wiping his brow and continuing to climb.
Tom followed, grabbing the same shrub before pulling his thick body up the rock with all limbs, like a spider climbing on crooked ground. He ran his hand across his scalp, brushing his thin, fragile hair, and continued.
“You never did tell me,” John spoke, “How was that party?”
“The one I went to with Victoria?”
“Terrible. She was all over everyone else the second we arrived.”
“That sucks, bro. I don’t know why you hang out with her.”
“Me neither. She’s bad for me.”
The canyon echoed with the sound of flowing water, and John kept inspecting the gully below, trying to get a view of the ocean.
“Can you see any waves?” Tom called from behind him.
“No, not till we get to the top.”
“I just wanna see the ocean already, its such a nice view.”
John sighed and climbed up another rock. He glanced back down and then looked up at the peak, ready to keep ascending.
“I haven’t been surfing in forever!”
“Me neither, but I don’t surf anymore.”
“Yeah, now I do this thing called kite-boarding. You attach your board to a kite and just let the wind take you.”
Tom nodded. “I’m gonna miss coming here.”
“Shit man, I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for four years.”
“I know man, college flew by.”
Tom nodded again, pulling a loose stone off the path with his foot.
“I wish I lived closer.”
“Me too, its like, now that we’re graduating and all we won’t have time to come back here.”
“Yeah, thats assuming we get jobs.”
“We’ll get jobs!” Tom jeered.
“Come on, with the economy the way it is? Even Borroughs said he can’t hire both of us-And that’s assuming he can even hire one of us.”
“Hey man, I’m not worried about that shit. The country has been through worse recessions.”
“Yeah and last time around it led to The Great Depression, and if we go into another depression, we sure as hell ain’t getting jobs.”
“John, it is physically impossible for us to go into another depression. This whole recession and economy thing is all bullshit. Every thing’s gonna be fine.”
John wiped his hair out of his face again and navigated his way onto another large rock.
“You know how many recessions this country has been through? Hundreds, hundreds of recessions and we recovered from all of them! I am not concerned.”
“Yeah well, I may wanna go back to Stanford, you know, for grad-school or something, this way when I finally get into the real world there will be more jobs.”
Tom shook his head navigating the large rock. He let out a large exhale and brushed the sweat off his face again. Out of breath, he scurried to the clearing off the path.
“You wanna take a break?”
Tom nodded and removed his backpack.
John walked over and took a seat on a rock in the clearing, wiping his face with his shirt again.
“This fucking backpack, its so heavy.”
“You should know by now to travel light.”
“I know, but I need my cellphone and I got water in there, and my wallet.”
John smiled and stared down at the canyon.
“You see water?” Tom asked with sudden surprise.
“I don’t know, I see something off in the distance.”
Tom rose and peered off the cliff. “I think I see the bridge.”
“Yeah, and the bridge is right by the water.”
John took a step back and looked up the mountain. “We’ll definitely see it once we get to the top.”
“Give me my water.”
Tom reached into his backpack and removed John’s water. He threw him the bottle and then removed his empty bottle and unscrewed the cap.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you think?” Tom answered while removing a small round tin.
“Are you really dipping? Come on man, we’re in the most beautiful part of the country, and you gotta pack a lip of tobacco.”
“It helps me relax.”
John sighed and took a sip of water, looking back up at the mountain’s peak.
The two sat in the clearing for a couple of minutes, by this point, Tom had filled his empty water-bottle up with a few mouthfuls of brown tobacco spit. John walked over to hand him his bottle and grimaced at the spit.
“That is disgusting,” he said.
“Then don’t look at it.”
“-Come on, lets get to the top already.”
Tom nodded and replaced his backpack before following John back to the jagged footpath.
As they approached the path, a young female climber was making her way past the clearing. The two soon-to-be graduates watched her walk past as she smiled at them, Tom hiding his water-bottle behind his back.
“She’s cute,” John insisted.
“Come on, lets see if she wants someone to hike with.”
John hastily marched to the foot path. Tom held back, spitting the last of his tobacco into the bottle and throwing it back into his backpack.
The girl had made it to the next big rock when the boys came up behind her. John paused, letting Tom catch up, and watched her try to pull herself onto the rock. Just then, she lost her grip. Both boys ran up right behind her to grab her from the back, making sure she does not fall.
“You okay?” John asked.
“Yeah,” she answered, “Just lost my footing.”
“You gotta be careful, we’re pretty far up, you don’t wanna fall.”
“Thanks,” she said with a smile, and lifted herself up onto the rock as John followed.
John took the lead of the group as Tom came up behind the girl, staring up at John as he navigated upwards, almost at a right-angle.
“So you always hike by yourself out here?” Tom asked.
“Well no, I was with friends but they went ahead. They said they’d meet me at the top.”
“So your friends ditched you?” John asked back, “That’s not very nice.”
“No, I told them to, I was tired.”
“Well, I’m Tom.”
“Hi, I’m Cecily,” She answered offering a hand-shake.
“That’s John, we do this hike at the end of every school-year.”
“Oh, you guys go to school here?”
“Yeah, at Stanford.”
“That’s nice, so do I!”
“Yeah? What year are you?”
“I’m gonna be a senior next year, what are you guys?”
“We graduate tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, so you’ve been doing this for a while.”
“Yeah, we were, we were talking about coming out to Big Sur every year, even after we graduate, its just so nice out here.”
“The view of the Pacific, once you reach the top, is amazing,” John called back.
“So I’ve heard,”
Tom brushed his scalp again and resumed his position in the back of the group as John pulled himself up another large rock. Cecily looked back to Tom before climbing, making sure she doesn’t lose her footing again.
“So what are you studying?” Tom asked.
“English! I wanna be a teacher. What did you guys study?”
“Athletic Training,” John answered, “I think I’m gonna do grad-school though, its gonna be impossible to find a job.”
“Yeah I know, well the world will always need teachers.”
Tom laughed. “Yeah but if you don’t get a teaching job, you’re fucked.”
“That’s not true! There’s a lot of things to do with an English degree! If I don’t get a job teaching, I’ll just write something and be published for it, then they’d have to hire me.”
Tom laughed again. “You’re crazy.”
“Oh, are you one of those scientific people who can’t grasp how important literature really is?”
“No, no, I can grasp it, its not very important.”
“Then you haven’t been reading the right things.”
“Yeah? And what’s the right things?”
“You like nature? You like hiking in Big Sur, right? I’d assume you do because you said you do it every year, but I doubt you even know who William Wordsworth is.”
“I don’t know, some dead guy?”
“Well, besides that! He lived in Northern England where there’s nothing but nature, its called the Lake District, and he used to just climb mountains and stare off into the wildlife, and write his poetry.”
“Hate to break it to you, Cecily, but anyone who is making a career out of poetry is probably not in the right physical shape to be climbing mountains.”
She smiled and followed John up the path. “I knew it, you’re a science person.”
Tom shrugged his shoulders and pulled himself up the path again, grabbing a near-by metal rod sticking out of the ground for support.
“How do you know where to go?” She asked John.
“Just keep going up,” he answered, “You’re bound to reach the top eventually.”
She smiled and hung back, waiting for Tom to come up behind her again before navigating the large rock.
Soon the path of crags was replaced with a grey concrete foot-trail that led seamlessly to the pinnacle of the mountain. John, walking upright, ran his fingers through his long hair and started to the top, with the other two behind him.
The continued their climb, and once the foot-trail ended, they found there was nowhere else to go. John finally looked down and spotted the bridge connecting the two distant mountains, the gaps in the metal filled in by the calm, Pacific Ocean, endless blue that synched up to the sky behind it as the audible waves hit the shore.
“Its beautiful,” she said.
John nodded and throw his shirt onto the ground. He laid down, using his shirt as a pillow, and stared out into the view.
Tom came up behind them, dropping his backpack in victory before taking a seat closer to the peak. He stared down at the water indifferent, staring closer at the metal structure between the mountains.
“You know,” Cecily spoke sitting beside him, “Jack Kerouac came here, to Bixby Canyon, and he claimed to have lost sight of his dreams while looking at this view.”
“I don’t even know who that is.”
She laughed. “Of course, you wouldn’t.”
The two stared down at the canyon as Cecily’s eyes traced the perfectly carved interior.
“I really like that view though,” Tom said, “The bridge over the water like that.”
“You like the bridge?”
“Yeah, its so sturdy and strong, you know? Its like, its an engineering marvel.”
She sighed. “Well, if you look around the bridge at the trees, the ones right beside it, what do you see?”
“What do I see?” Tom answered condescendingly.
“You see how they’re dying right? You know why they’re dying? Because they thought it would be smart to build a bridge there.”
“Survival of the fittest.”
“Yeah, but we need nature to be fit. We’re not in a race with it!”
Tom smiled and brushed the last of the sweat off his scalp.
“If you read Wordsworth you’ll see how he was concerned for the environment, he wasn’t just some guy writing about what he saw in nature, he wanted nature to stay the way it is.”
Tom stared off into the trees. He glared at the ones still standing, noting the differences in their appearance as his eyes drew further away from the bridge. “Maybe you’re right.”
“You see,” She answered, putting her hand on the small of his back, “They wrote to discuss the importance of nature, and the importance of our health! That’s why literature is important.”
Tom nodded and looked back at John. “Yeah but, it still won’t guarantee you a job!”
She smiled and rested her head on his shoulder. “Well, that doesn’t really matter.”
Tom looked down at the canyon, then back at her. “You know, we should come back here.”
“Yeah, like next week or something, I mean, I gotta stay in shape and all, and this is a pretty rewarding view.”
“I just gotta take a much lighter backpack next time.”
“Is it really that heavy?”
“Well assuming you fall again, it would be much easier if I have to carry you.”
She laughed. “I won’t fall, don’t worry. Plus, I don’t weigh that much!”
“Yeah? We’ll see about that.”
Tom rose, grabbing Cecily by the waist. She laughed wildly, playfully smacking his shoulders and asking to be put down, as he threw her onto his back and walked towards the foot-trail.
“You’re about the same weight,” he answered.
She smiled and looked down at the canyon, the huddled masses of trees bent upon each other in praise. Her eyes then drew closer towards Tom, as she brushed her hand against the top of his head.
“Tom?” She asked.
“...Are you losing your hair?”
Tom paused. He put the girl back onto her feet and looked around the summit. Silently, he returned his backpack to his back and started his decent.
© Copyright 2016 Mike Florio. All rights reserved.
Book / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
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