Friday night, just before midnight. Hill’s cell phone rang many times. It rang and rang until voicemail had picked up.
“Yo! You have NOT reached Hill.” Uncontrolled laughter escaped past the next few words awaiting their cue within the prepared voicemail greeting. Regaining some composure. He finished recording. “Leave me a message, and maybe I’ll call you back.” Beep!
Listening to Hill’s voicemail greeting for the eleventh time in a row, Jeb knew that reaching him at this point would be a miracle. Rolling his eyes, he thought, “Dipshit is probably asleep.” Yet, his voice was full of concern and confusion as he left a recorded message. “Dude! What the hell? Supervisor Miller sought me out just to tell me that if I have been around you within the last 48 hours outside of work, I was to go home immediately. You infected with something serious? CALL ME BACK!”
* * * * * *
The sun began its journey on Sunday, earlier than Hill would have liked. Exhausted from the events of a long Saturday, he was looking forward to sleeping in until at least 8 o’clock when his cat, Catrina, mostly referred to as Cat, would scratch at his bedroom door wanting food before her thunderous belly shook her insides.
Barely visible above the horizon, the sun stealthily made its way through the open spaces of the thick, black curtains in Hill’s bedroom. Gradually rising higher and higher into the sky, painting the inside of his room in various levels of shadows and brightness. A small ray of light nestled into the bony cups of his face, laying perfectly across his eyelids. Irritated, he shook his head back and forth. Unaware of what was attempting to disrupt his sleep. Both eyes blinked profusely to shew away the irritating disturbance. His attempt was pointless. The sun is a powerful, selfless entity. Supplying warmth and light to everything it touches. It definitely wasn’t going to back down now just because Hill wanted to sleep past sunrise.
He turned his head to face the disturbance. The bright light buried itself back into the bony cups of his eyes. Instantly, his eyes closed. He could see the brightness on the inside of his eyelids. He finally understood that the annoying disturbance was the sun demanding attention. Cautiously, he opened his eyes once again, and scanned the room looking for the weakened areas in his curtain. He chuckled briefly, “I could make some unimpressive shadow puppets, instead of retreating under my covers.” His witticism unfailingly brought a sideways grin to his lips.
He yanked the curtains closed and then stuffed the edges of material inside itself, securing a strong barrier against the sun. Or so he thought. Apparently, the sun was on a mission to force him out of bed. The curtains collapsed under the sun’s forceful rays. The streams of light surged back into the openings. Quietly, he rolled away from his window, hoping that it wouldn’t disturb the rays of light. He did not wish for them to become more forceful than they already were. Pulling his covers up the side of his face, he kept his nose and mouth uncovered. He couldn’t stand breathing in hot, stale air, even if it was his own. He was able to block out most of the light invading his room.
Positioning his body deeper into his pillow and mattress. His thoughts enunciated “ahhhhhhh” as he drifted off into an altered state of consciousness.
Rapid pounding startled him awake. Grabbing his comforter as if he was hanging on the edge of a cliff. It took a few moments before he realized where he was and where that overpowering sound was coming from. “I could have sworn I was falling to my death.” He clutched his chest.
The pounding continued getting louder as he became more awake. “Seriously. This early on a Sunday morning?” Hill glanced at the calendar hanging near his door, reassuring himself that it was in fact Sunday. He sighed as he pulled on a tank top and a pair of shorts. Sauntering towards the front door, he hollered, “Who the hell wants their ass kicked this early on the Lord’s Day?”
The reply on the outside of the door echoed with concern and anger, “Dude! Its Jeb. Open the damn door.” He pounded a couple more times just to irritate him.
Desiring to give back the same irritating behavior. Hill refused to unlatch the chain as he cracked open the door. “Seriously? Hill, are you infected with something contagious?” Jeb took one step back and tried to peer through the crack of the door.
“Hell No!” He laughed as he closed the door to release the chain.
“What the hell is going on? I called eleven times Friday night. I left you a message to call me back.” Each word expressed with a little more anger than the previous word.
He couldn’t help but to hang on to the door knob to keep himself from falling to the hardwood floor in laughter. Opening the door once more, Jeb could see his eyes were full of tears.
“You’re such an asshole, Hill!” Jeb pushed passed him with such force to let himself in, that Hill stumbled backwards.
Freeing the rest of his laughter, Hill retorted, “Damn Dude, I almost stepped on Cat.”
Rolling his eyes, he crouched to the floor. Jeb reached out his hand. Cat smelled his hand and arched her back to enjoy the gentle and apologetic strokes on her backside. “Alright man, your cat has accepted my apology. Now spill it. Why weren’t you at work on Friday?”
“Last minute decision. I packed, and drove to Moab. Adventure was calling my name.” A mysterious grin stretched across his face.
“Shut up! What really happened? You slept instead, didn’t you?” Glaring at him.
Alarmed by another bout of laughter, Jeb slightly flailed his arms. “Dude, you are going to get punched in the face. Are you high?”
“My sides are splitting. You are acting like a damn woman.” He toned his boisterous laughter down to a chuckle, hoping that Jeb would take a breath and calm down. “No, I am not high. I had an itch for an adventure. I chose Moab. I packed my shit as quickly as I could, and left.”
Astonished, both jaws fell open. Jeb seemed just as surprised as Hill when he hollered, “What the hell, Dude? Why’d you hit me?!”
“Because you’re a dick!” The concern that he had for Hill had completely dissipated. “Quit jerking me around. Tell me what happened?” With each spoken word his voice progressively became louder.
“Calm down, Jeb. It’s too early for your womanly outbursts.” It was extremely difficult to keep his laughter at bay. “I’ll grab us some coffee. Why don’t you chill out in the living room.”
Cat followed Hill into the kitchen. She rubbed her body up against his legs. Wrapped her body in between them almost tripping him with every step. Her meowing echoed off of the walls. “Cat!” Hill shouted to get her attention. She instantly froze. “You’re not starving. I will feed you. Be quiet. Please.”
Patiently, she waited in the very spot that she had been frozen in. She watched him meander around the kitchen as he filled the K-Cup coffee maker with water. Opened up the holder, inserted a K-Cup, placed a coffee mug under the spout, and then she jumped into the air. She landed with her claws out, back arched, and hair standing on end.
Laughter blurted from his mouth. “You’re such a scaredy-cat, Cat. It’s just the coffee maker sputtering and spitting. It won’t hurt you.”
He walked towards her, animating the steps in his sneaky walk. He pet her head gently letting her know that she was safe. Then reached for the container of cat food. The smell of her dry food drove her to insanity. She was hungry and couldn’t wait any longer. She began meowing as if possessed. He wasn’t moving quick enough for her, she reached up, grabbed his hand, and sunk her teeth in, but not deep enough to draw blood. “Damn, Cat!” Hill snapped and backhanded her body, pushing her backwards a smidge.
With remorse, she instantly laid on the floor curled in a fetal position, watching him intently. She was wondering if she would get fed after that ridiculous display of insanity. She sat up straight with perfect form, like she was the focal point in a drawing class. She purred lightly, but her patience and respectful nature was wearing thin. The hazel in her eyes turned black as her patience diminished. The tip of her tail softly thumped rhythmically on the ceramic tile. Her ears perked and moved towards the sound of her food being scooped into the coated steel food scoop. Her heart beating quicker with each passing second. Just when she thought that she couldn’t contain herself any longer, she had released herself from the torture. The final cling of cat food landing in her metal food dish, had done her in. She darted to her dish and begun eating before Hill had placed the scoop back into the food container.
Wondering if Cat was going to jump again, he watched her, as he finished making the second cup of coffee. “You’re still a scaredy-cat, Cat.” He chuckled as he pet her with the bottom of his foot.
“Are you calm now?” He asked as he carefully handed Jeb a hot cup of coffee, and sat on the opposite end of the couch.
“At the moment, but that could change very quickly. It depends on the level of bullshit that comes out of your mouth.”
“Shut up and drink your coffee.” A Cheshire cat grin emerged from behind his coffee cup.
With an annoyed smirk, he replied, “Dude, it’s true that owners look like their pets.”
For the most part, Hill’s words were inconspicuous, hiding the level of his annoyance. But his actions were blatant. Before he continued the conversation, he smelled his coffee, carefully swirled it around his cup, tasting it with the tip of his tongue before taking an elegant sip.
“Hill!” The level of his voice increased. “You aren’t sophisticated, and you aren’t drinking wine. Get on with it.”
Hill couldn’t help but laugh, yet again.
“I’m thrilled that I amuse you. Maybe we’ll talk later. You had me worried. Glad you are alive and well.” He set his coffee cup on the corner of the end table before he stood.
“Come on, Jeb. Lighten up. Sit down. Finish your coffee.” He smiled apologetically.
Reluctant, he plopped down before picking up his coffee cup. Almost causing Hill’s coffee to splash out of his cup. Jeb chuckled, “Now that was funny.”
Eyes wide. Hill quickly decided that a verbal response was not needed. Instead he rolled his eyes and inhaled an extended breath. He was feeling tired and annoyed. “I put the key into the ignition. Ready for work. I was aiming to hear the purr of my engine, but just couldn’t bring myself to start it. My soul taunted by adventure. I willingly gave into temptation by calling in sick to work. I called Supervisor Miller, explained that I had the flu, and wouldn’t be able to make it to work.”
As Hill began to tell his story, Jeb relaxed. He turned his body to face Hill, crossing his legs Indian style. Leaving a perfect nestling area for Cat. He did not necessarily want her curled up in his legs. But he wasn’t trying to prevent her from nuzzling him either. Hands rested in his lap. He held his coffee cup with both hands, as if he was trying to warm them up. He lifted the cup to his lips. Tested the temperature by pushing his lips to the cup. He took an oversized sip and swallowed hard. GULP! The sound penetrated the air. Hill retorted with a what the hell glare. Jeb, purposefully ignored him, and said, “Supervisor Miller made it sound worse than it obviously was.”
“Well, I was more dramatic and detailed when I called him.” He chuckled. “I packed my medium-sized hiking pack with essentials. I threw my pack into my truck. Loaded my mountain bike on to the bike rack. And waited to hear the purr of my engine. She sounded excited. I wrapped my fingers around the wheel and whispered to my Tacoma, let the adventure begin.” His eyes brightened while his cheeks turned a nice color of pink.
Jeb cocked his head just slightly, but not enough for Hill to really notice the positional change. “He’s lying. His facial expressions are completely giving him away.” His thoughts spoke loud and clear. His eyes widened. “I hope he can’t hear my thoughts.” His eyes looked straight up as if he was trying to look at his mind for holes that his thoughts may seep out of.
Hill had already resumed his story, when he had noticed Jeb looking upwards. He paused his story and waited for Jeb to make eye contact again. That let Hill know that Jeb was offering his attention once more. Hill retraced his words that were already spoken as if this was the first time that he had spoken them. It certainly was the first time that Jeb had heard them. He repositioned his body, drank the last swallow of his coffee, but continued to hold on to the empty cup. “I left my place around 12:30 am. I promise, I won’t bore you with the details of my 4 hour drive. I arrived in Moab ten minutes to five, and decided that I should probably sleep for an hour.”
“It’s insane how you can sleep anywhere, and basically at anytime.” Jeb interrupted with an inflection in his voice that mirrored his amazement.
Hill made eye contact, raised one eyebrow, and continued with his story. “I spent the day in Arches National Park. I parked my Tacoma at the visitors center. It didn’t take long, maybe 20 minutes or so, before I was ready to begin the grueling ascent of pedaling up the mountain side.” He looked up and to the left. An embellished comment was brewing in his mind. He grinned. “As I unloaded my mountain bike, I noticed a group of girls staring at me. I had to impress them. I flexed my muscles and hoisted my bike above my head before setting the tires on the asphalt. Their eyes glazed over as the perspiration began to bead up on my biceps and shoulders. I returned a sexy wink before pulling on my hiking pack.” He squared his shoulders, and slightly turned his head to the right showing off his strong jaw line.
Laughter exploded from deep within Jeb’s gut.
Hill scowled at Jeb as he had never scowled before. Threatening the space between them. Jeb has always been the more courteous one out of the two of them. He was able to slow his explosion of laughter down to a snicker, until he barely had a grin remaining on his face.
Feeling powerful as he had won the power struggle between them. Hill sat back, sinking back into the couch. “I felt full of energy. Ready to conquer the world. I started pedaling. My thighs thirsting for more. My breathing never labored. Arches Scenic Drive was properly named. It is definitely scenic. The incline to the first hiking trail was monstrous, but my speed remained steady, passing other cyclists as they struggled with the elevation gain, and almost keeping up with the vehicles in front of me. I didn’t stop at the first trail. I didn’t need to rest.”
A thought bubble popped above Jeb’s head as he rolled his eyes, “taaaaall taaaaalesssss, tall tales.”
“Tall tales, huh?” He obviously was able to see the thought bubble above his head to read Jeb’s thoughts. “Hum.” Hill looked up and to the left once again.
Jeb returned a look of confusion. “Are you seriously trying to tell me that you did not struggle biking up 452’ of elevation in 2.5 miles, when your breathing is typically labored biking on flat ground?”
Hill took in a breath, and without acknowledging the look on Jeb’s face or his question, he resumed his story. “My destination was Delicate Arch. No doubt, the road from the visitors center to Delicate Arch seemed long.”
Jeb interrupted, “Well, yeah, it’s 13.2 miles. You think riding a bike for 5 miles is too long.”
Completely, ignoring the comments that Jeb just made, he jumped right back into his story. “But even with the sun beating down on me, and cycling at a quick speed, I made great time. I thought I would be winded, but clearly my heart is in fantastic condition. There ain’t no cardio that can defeat me.”
“Bullshit!” Jeb blurted. “Dude, cardio is NOT your thing! I’m always worried that you are going to have a heart attack or something when we hike or play racquetball. Why you trying to play me like a fool?” The volume in his voice increased once again, as the muscles in his entire body tightened.
“I suppose you truly are not interested in hearing my story. Why are you here wasting my time?” Hill retorted in hurtful anger.
“I thought you were seriously ill. I was really concerned.” His face hung low. Feeling that it probably wouldn’t be beneficial if he stayed, he stood to let himself out.
“Please stay, Jeb.” He solemnly stated.
Reluctantly he sat, but remained on the edge of the couch. Ready to exit his residence if things went sideways again. Jeb blankly stared at Hill, waiting for him to continue his story.
Hill fidgeted with his fingers for a moment before he continued. “Where was I? Oh, yes, the bike ride. It was pleasant. The road kept me pretty entertained, and on my toes. Watching every move of the nearby drivers. I don’t trust drivers, and for good reason, too. I was near Balanced Rock when one vehicle veered over the yellow line and headed right for me. I had to jump off my bike before he hit me. Only scraping up my left elbow as I somersaulted a few times before my momentum had stopped.”
“Holy shit!” Jeb gasped. Eyes almost bulging out of his head.
“I’m fine. My bike was not harmed either. I snapped an awesome photo of Balanced Rock before continuing my ride. It only took an hour to arrive at the Delicate Arch Trailhead. The mishap in front of Balanced Rock delayed me about 15 minutes. I still was not winded, or even exhausted in the slightest. I chained up my bike, and was ready to tackle the hike to the arch. Of course, not without relieving myself first.”
“Dude, I hope you were courteous enough to use a restroom.” Jeb folded his arms, and glared.
“Of course I did. This trail is like walking around a park. There are people everywhere.” He chuckled a half chuckle, and without hesitation, he rolled right back into his story. “The sun grew higher in the sky producing a stifling heat. Sweat dripped from my face. Often seeping into my eyes. That salty tasting liquid pooled in my eyes, burning them, and making it difficult to see. With the back of my hand, I’d wipe the sweat from eyes, then my brow, as I kept moving closer and closer to my destination. I do have to admit that I had tunnel vision, completely focused on how quickly I could reach the arch. Weaving in and out of people as I walked past them. Leaving them in a gust of wind and a cloud of dust. I brought my wrist up to eye level just as I came into view of the 60-foot arch, quickly noticing that it had only been 30 minutes since I had begun the hike. I shockingly sat on the highest ledge of what looked like a sandstone amphitheater for what seemed like minutes, but had turned into hours.“
“Sounds unbelievably,” Jeb paused, looking up and to the left for a word that would suffice — “nice.” He said a bit smug.
Once again, he rolled over Jeb’s comment, as if he had paused to take in a deep breath, and Jeb had said nothing at all. “My naked skin was beginning to feel torched under the heat of the sun’s rays.”
“Hum, your skin doesn’t look sunburnt, or even a light color of pink. Didn’t you say that you were wearing a tank top?” Jeb questioned.
“Yes, I was wearing a tank top. I had put on sunblock before my departure. I apologize that I failed to share that particular bit of information.” Hill said curtly as he exhaled a gigantic aggravated sigh. The room fell silent for a moment. Hill knew that Jeb was waiting to hear the rest of his story so that he could get on with his day. Hill, being the jerk that he is to Jeb at times, he purposely kept him waiting.
“Ahem — ahem.” Jeb cleared his throat to show the level of his irritation.
Grinning, Hill resumed his tale. “The wind began to blow. As it picked up speed, I climbed to the highest point that I could get to. Put my jacket on, opened up my arms, and allowed the wind to take hold of me like a bird. I hovered for a minute before touching back down.”
“What the . . .” Hill spoke over the top of Jeb, cutting his comment short.
“I was getting hungry and craving a greasy burger.”
“Of course you were. You always ruin a great workout with greasy food.” Jeb stared at him with a bit of disgust.
Hill chuckled for a moment, “I still had to hike and bike back to my truck. I knew if I didn’t get going, I probably wouldn’t want to. But, I was not ready to spend an entire night outside. Although, the descent was quick, and I didn’t run into any issues, I felt more relaxed as I took the time to notice my surroundings. There wasn’t blurs of red, brown, and green anymore. I was able to snap some amazing pictures.”
“I would like to see your pictures.” He said as he raised one eyebrow.
As if Hill was the only person in the room who was doing any talking, he disregarded Jeb’s comment again. It seemed that this was the theme of the morning.
Quite smug, he resumed his lengthy story. “The sun was beginning to set behind the red rock mountains. I wasn’t far from my truck. I knew I would make it before the sun completely set. One of the most exciting parts of my return trip was coasting at lightning speeds as I traveled down the mountainside, careful not to crash into any vehicles. There were a few close calls, but I didn’t feel like a trip to the emergency room was in my best interest. I reached my truck not exhausted from the days activities, but tired from lack of sleep. I got home, unloaded my belongings, and crashed, until someone decided to pound on my front door early this morning. I won’t name names, but I will point fingers.” Hill pointed his right pointer finger straight at Jeb, and laughed.
Jeb opened his mouth to speak, but instead Hill’s phone rang. Hill looked at the caller ID, glanced at Jeb with an I’m caught look on his face, and darted into the kitchen as he said hello. From the living room, even though Hill was trying to whisper, Jeb was able to hear his side of the phone conversation. “He’s so busted.” He thought. “Was that your mom?” Jeb asked in a firm tone before Hill sat down on the couch.
“Yes, it was my mom. So what?”
“Dude, I know you are lying about your trip to Moab. What really happened?” His facial expressions went from a look of anger to a look of sadness and concern within a matter of a few seconds.
“Fine.” He sadly replied, his eyes filled with tears. “My grandma fell. An ambulance took her to the nearest emergency room. They put her on oxygen because she couldn’t breathe well. Her heart rate had dropped, the medical team thought that she was having a stroke, but the fall had just shook her up a bit. She broke her left hip and left ankle. She will be in the hospital for a while. She’s not doing to well now. She’s in a lot of pain, but she’s expected to heal. It will probably take about six months or so because her bones are so fragile. I didn’t tell you the truth, because sadness is not my thing, and I definitely didn’t want to tear up. My grandma is getting old, and soon she will pass away. The thought of not seeing her almost everyday saddens me. The thought of her being in pain, saddens me even more. My grandma is a terrific woman. I love her so much.” As he spoke a tear trickled down his face.
Jeb knew that he had to quickly change the tone of the conversation.
“Dude, I could tell that you were telling tall tales. Most of what you said was quite unbelievable.” He said with a smile.
“I guess I shouldn’t have embellished so much.” Hill laughed.
Jeb rolled his eyes again, and said as laughter escaped his lips, “Dude, it’s a good thing that I already know you and like you. Otherwise,” There was a long pause. Hill waited to hear the rest of the sentence.
He couldn’t take the silence. “Otherwise, what?”
“Otherwise, I’d have to hurt you.” Jeb laughed so hard that his abdominal muscles tightened and began to hurt.
“Funny, Jeb. Very funny. I am truly exhausted from being at the hospital all day yesterday. Please leave so that I can get some sleep.” He said while yawning.
Instantly, Jeb stood. “I’m sorry to hear about your grandma, but I am happy to hear that you are well. I’ll let myself out.” He smiled a relieved smile, and exited Hill’s residence.
– Anneberly Andrews –
Check out this travel blog about Moab, Utah: Vivacity Travel – Moab, Utah