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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young man, legally separated from his wife and children, hopes to find direction and redemption among the tallest peaks of the Himalayas.

Submitted: March 12, 2016

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Submitted: March 12, 2016




A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Two

And then we have Dr. J; what a great guy; my favorite male on this Hell March.

I call him Dr. J., in a playful way, even though he knows zip about basketball. I wonder why I do that; am I dissing him in some way?

Well, I certainly hope not; I wouldn’t want him to think I’m using a chance to one-up him, as it were . . .  even playfully.

Man; I still seem to be stuck in prick-mode. But I press on.


Dr. James Rightway is in the hierarchy of the some well-right-of-center group out of Boston.

As noted, he’s a hell of a nice guy; well travelled and a marvelous story teller, but he is obsessed with the belief that ‘The Market’ is an omniscient ‘thing.’ Almost human. All seeing, all knowing . . . all perfect.

‘The Market will take care of us; The Market decides; just let it be, and the natural processes of economic forces and enlightened self-interest will identify, correct and resolve the situation.’

About the third day out, I caught him alone.

Jesus, Dr. J.,” I say, without fear of reproach from Bishop Love, (who is busy slurping some Yak-butter swill) “you have really been sold a bill of goods here . . . let me tell you—or rather, ask you: where do all the homosexuals gravitate to?”  His bright black eyes widened somewhat. I said—not that quickly: “Scout troops, Sunday Schools, boys’ sports, the priesthood; surprised? . . . hell no.”

His eyes resumed their natural size. “So now Dr., ask yourself; or rather think: Who were the most greedy, predatory, ambitious, amoral sons-of-bitches from your graduating high school class?” I gave him a few moments to make his mental list. Oh, how his eyes sparkled.

“Now, I ask you Dr., where do you think they’re all going to gravitate to?” I waited and watched, and heard the wheels turning. “Right,” I nodded, “to Wall Street; to game the system; to make obscene amounts of money at the expense of other people or cities or governments . . . even countries,”pausing, “you know full well that they don’t give a good goddamn.

“Then they want more, right? . . .  and even more.

Dr. J. shifted his shoulder under his Anorak and large clouds of thin air rushed from his mouth and his nostrils.

“See Dr., in their way, they’re just like homosexuals.” His dark orbs widened yet again. “Can they help themselves? . . . no; they are just wired ‘like that’. Human nature; pure and simple—ever heard of Sammy Glick or Sidney Falco?” He nodded in the negative.

I got up to leave. “And so Dr. J., you can have—and there probably aregood guys on Wall Street . . . maybe ninety-eight . . .  even ninety-nine percent. But; that one percent is always going to ‘game’ the market, ‘game’ the system . . . hell, ‘game’ Adam Smith . . . unless you stop them—before the fact that is—or put out their fires really quickly. 

 Dr. J. looked at me for a few moments; and then I left.

 Now I felt like I was stuck in prick-gear; and that I may have lost a friend.

 And so who am to make all these judgments and come off like an arrogant butthead? 

Well, I’m me; but I’m trying to change. I work as a currency trader; which is to say, I don’t do anything at all; I just shuffle stuff around. And run. So I guess I’m a runner who moves money.

I’m not  just playing with Monopoly money; but it’s not building bridges or laying pipelines; or even real ‘work’; which is why I took this trek.

I thought I might find some inspiration.

Or better yet, some life-direction—or even better yet—a life-correction from the air of the Himalayas; without really having to climb them; sort of like a life-experience masturbation, rather than a full, all-stops-out love affair with the big peaks, like the kings of these mountains have had for decades, beginning with Mallory.

So I think I know what a shallow guy I am, but I’m always willing to take a few chances to look for some kind of path that isn’t too bloody steep . . . or too slippery.

* * *

We had one of the REI Washington brigade slip into the river yesterday, despite his four hundred dollar Vibram-soled Lowa Tibet ProGTXs. No one laughed—out loud that is; but it was good entertainment.

That whole contingent has been close to insufferable from day one.

Oh, they’re polite enough, but actually, their condescension is barely masked, mostly because we’re always looking at their backs, they being the leaders; the gung ho ‘follow-me’ types that people the REIstores up and down the Coast from Berkeley through Portland to Seattle and Vancouver.

Ah well, I guess I’m coming off as even more of a prick then usual; compensating? envious? . . .  I wish it were that simple; maybe I’m just irresponsible. Yeah, maybe that’s it. Maybe what I need is a good dose of ‘responsibility.’

 * * *

 Teresita ‘Terri’ Chee; what a woman—the Filipina widow of a Hong Kong media mogul.

She and I hit it off from the first mile. I think I noticed her eyes first—wide set and a deep blue, almost black. Tall, but not really thin, Terry was a ‘presence’, or is the correct term, a ‘presentation?’ 

However, whichever; whenever she was within my sight, either bobbing along the trail in front of me or walking beside me, the rest of the expedition receded to the periphery.

Several layers of shirts and sweaters could not hide her figure and her long arms and legs gave her a floating quality when she was dressed entirely in black and outlined against the blinding white of the sun-struck snow.

After her eyes, I noticed her smile; it was always ready, and when it flashed in my direction, I forgot pain and gasping—just about everything.

Somewhere along the trail, she dropped the number forty when talking about her life since losing her husband to brain cancer; I still can’t believe she meant her age.

Her husband was five years older than she was when they met. He was a media baron—that’s just the next step below a mogul—and she was visiting Hong Kong as part of a student delegation from the University of Manila, where she was a senior in Political Science and Art.

Art was sculpture.

She told me she did her best ‘chipping’ after reading some outrageous crap published not only by her own government but also by governments around the world. She was very catholic in her choices for her political black-list.

Luckily, her husband wasn’t a politician.

He was not really a trader either—rather, a kid who liked to own radios; then a teenager who wanted to own ‘devices’—you see where I’m going—and so when Teresita met him, Albert owned most of the civilian communications in Hong Kong.

By the time we reached 13,000 feet we were very good friends but whether it was just plain fatigue or oxygen deprivation; or because I felt very sad for her, sex never really surfaced as an activity.

Oh, it was always there—at least on my part—but probably just as possible as me becoming a Mormon so I could fit her into my albeit fractured family; and convincing Andrea that it was definitely God’s will.

So I just looked. And looked. And she just smiled and laughed with her head tossed to one side so that her long black hair covered one eye. A Filipina Veronica Lake.

After 14,000 feet, even the idea of sex went on life support.

* * **

The weather had turned bad on us yesterday and now we’ve been holed up in this small way-station waiting for the snow to stop and to acclimate. The altitude is beginning to affect all of us including the REIcontingent.

I don’t know if different mountain ranges have different altitudes for doling out altitude sickness or what, but we are all sucking for air at this altitude, for whatever reason. The wind has been picking up too, and the visibility is down to about ten feet.


It’s around this time that we’re all beginning to wonder if doing this hike on YouTube wasn’t a better idea all around.

 Surprisingly, Bev is the least affected by it all and of course Steve, the most affected.

Happy couple.

 Phoebe is barely affected, whereas the five REI robots have all been flattened.


 * * * *

Just about now, all things considered, I’m beginning to think that I reallywould rather be in Peoria.

My head, like most of the others’, is not responding to normal medicine. 

My gut isn’t too fine either, and a few of the ‘guests’ are a  little green as well . . . do you call people ‘guests’ when they unwittingly sign up for a Bataan Death March up a mountain; or are they just one of the millions that P.T. opined were born every minute?

I guess some sense of advertising veritas creeps in here at some point, but had I been ‘fooled’ into parting with twenty-seven hundred dollars, verbally sucker punched; kicked in the cajones by a false advertisement?

Maybe it was only because I was 15,000 feet up in the Himalayas; God knows how many miles from a decent meal—let alone a decent toilet; freezing just about everything off; sick, ticked ; and now some guy wants me to do him a huge favor?


It’s just past one in the morning in whatever Rod Serling zone we’re stuck in here, and my left shoulder is being jerked up and down like a chicken wing by someone in the dark.

A light comes on and there is Tashi, one of the guys who runs this temporary shelter from the visitations of the Third Ring of Hell, and he is trying to get my attention over the sound of the wind, which isn’t howling so much as it is so bloody loud you can’t hear squat.

He puts his mouth closer to my ear and tells me that I must come with him; for about five hours; very important.

Jeeee-zus . . . I guess I can’t just tell him to bugger off and let me die—or sleep—whichever comes first.

So, I dress; sort of; and still hitching my pants around my sorry waist, I follow him with my sorry butt down two flights and around three or four corners until he opens a door to a rather large room that is barely lit, but a hell of a lot warmer than mine . . . but it smells a ton worse.

Mixtures of incense and tobacco; sweat and the rancid smell of Yak.

Those buggers are everywhere—in your yard and then in your kitchen; then in your tea; in your butter; and finally in your nostrils . . . and that’s where the Yak stench stays; in your nostrils; like they’ve rented the lining of your nose for eternity, and all the oceans of Afrin will never clear them out.

My sight is trying to cut through the incensey-tobaccoy-Yaky-stinking haze to find why the hell I’m here.

Is there something I need to see; and why for five hours?

Tashi has now directed my body left, toward an alcove where, upon a raised dais, sits a large rectangular structure, which I can now see, is—well I’ll be damned.—bed.

Moreover, there is someone lying on it; under what looks like all the blankets east of Katmandu, plus a comforter and a parka or two.

Flanking the head of the figure on the bed, are two huge silver candlesticks holding tall thick yellow candles with long wicks that wave backward and forward with the shifting air currents that are slipping into the room under every door and through every invisible orifice.

Flickering flames cast soft shadows on the whitewashed walls and through an open door at the other end of the room, a spectral dimness is gathering around the embrasure of a large window that frames Everest in a cocoon of icy moonlight.

Outlines of the Lhotse Face and Fantasy Ridge seem magnified by the celestial illumination and the magic of the jet black star-studded backdrop.

I had never seen anything in nature more beautiful.



End of Chapter Two

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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