The bus bounced lightly, but did not disturb the frantic pace of my pen. Facing deadlines on the Academy southbound is not the most conducive atmosphere for inspired writing, but with a five-month-old at home it is the only one I can get, outside of putting a muzzle on the child. The muzzle tends to give the baby a rash and so my wife no longer permits it.
As my mind raced with the subtleties of prose, a young man with a backpack sat down beside me. I did not let this tangle my thoughts since they are a sneaky lot and apt to run off when given the chance. I kept my mind focused on them.
Somewhere in the midst of a brilliant reflection on the social rewards of bathing with soap, I was interrupted by the young stranger. He said that he was sorry to disturb me, but it appeared to him that I looked to be a man experienced in the exigencies of mountain hiking. He added that he was new to the area, but had done a little hiking elsewhere.
Although I wished that he would disturb someone else on the bus, I did not want to appear ignorant of the local terrain. “Yes,” I said, “go on.”
“Have you hiked Pikes Peak many times?”
Here I was forced to lie in order to keep appearances and so replied in an offhand way, “Yes, many times. In fact I climbed it five times last Sunday.”
The stranger gave me an inquiring glance, but I remained steady. If I was to make an error in my deception, I was determined not to let him know it by my expressions. After a moment, he seemed to accept this and looked fairly impressed.
“Well,” he said, “It seems I have asked the right person.”
He proceeded to ask my advice on proper footwear and water supply. I replied that footwear was most important and that he should purchase for himself the finest pair of spiked shoes of the sort that golfer’s wear in order to get maximum traction. As for water, I told him that a five-gallon supply ought to hold him until he reached the first stream.
The stranger sat back and seemed to be contemplating my advice. I decided that having good shoes and a sufficient water was all one could possibly need on such a hike, so I proceeded to pursue my previous thoughts.
The bus passed three blocks before I rediscovered my brilliant idea on the subject of bathing. It had shrewdly hidden behind my financial woes and took some coercing to force it out. Once again my pen began to race with insights on soap and deodorant. The young stranger’s own apparent lack of these articles made the topic seem all the more urgent.
I had forged no more than a paragraph when the stranger interrupted me once again. My first impulse was to ignore this intrusion into my genius driven inspiration, but the weight of paternal responsibility called me away.
“What, may I ask, could you possibly need to know further?” I began to show some irritation in hopes that he would leave me to my writing.
He seemed not to notice my agitated state and continued with his questioning. His inquiry had something to do with protection from the sun. I assured him that as far as I knew the sun was a benevolent object not known to assault people, but if it truly worried him, he could bring a dog for protection.
The stranger would not let it be and persisted with a question about food supply. Patiently, I replied that it was best not to weigh oneself down with food. A prudent act would be to call for pizza when a phone is handy.
Finally, I thought that the man’s curiosity had been satisfied. Once again I set out in search of my previous fire. Five blocks later I was convinced that my inspiration had escaped into the id and was now thinking about sex. A great struggle ensued and it took two more blocks to retrieve it from there.
At last I was back on track and sentences poured onto the page in such brilliance that a Nobel Prize was not out of the question.
It was inconceivable that the stranger would dare to interrupt me again, such was my countenance full of concentration. Nevertheless, this is exactly what he did. He apologized for his further intrusion and promised not to bother me again if I would only clear up the last of his concerns.
I held my rage in check and with a sigh, watched as my inspiration headed straight to the limbic system. I resolved to answer his final questions and be done with the man.
His queries involved pacing and dangerous animals. I advised him that pacing, while useful in hospitals and other places of general worry, was unlikely to be of any help to him as he would never reach the summit that way.
Wild animals, on the other hand, were a more delicate matter. Having lived in cities all my life, I knew that animals could indeed pose a serious threat. I told him to watch out for squirrels in the wild because they hunt in packs and have even been known to take down some of the local elephants.
He thanked me for my advice and apologized profusely for his disturbing what he could tell was important work. He told me that he would never have known what to expect, and that in all probability I had saved his life.
When at last I was rid of this irritant, the bus was approaching my stop. I exited the bus and glanced toward the mountains. Perhaps one day I will hike Pikes Peak myself. After all, I already own the golf shoes.
Copyright © 1993 by David A. Kilman