“William and Dodger on the Mountain”
As William made preparations to write Dodgers story, Dodger had the chance to look around the room. The light coming in through a small break in the curtains had the effect of looking through a lens with a soft light filter; nothing had sharp focus. Dodger relaxed a little. He had been friends with William for as long as he could remember, but this was different.
William: Okay, all set.
William: I’m ready. You can start any time.
Dodger took a deep breath and started to collect his thoughts. Let’s see now, he thought, where to begin?
Dodger: You’re asking me to tell a story that you know as much about as I do.
William: Yes, but I want you to tell it from your perspective.
Dodger harrumphed and continued gathering his thoughts. After a few more moments, he broke his silence.
Dodger: Okay … you and me were just kids then …
William: Tell me my name. You’re introducing us as characters in a story; talk to me like you’re telling the story to a stranger.
Dodger: Yeah, yeah, okay! … William and me were just kids back then.
William: Good. Keep going.
Dodger: Danger wasn’t in our vocabulary. We didn’t see any problems with climbing the Peace Sign. William started first …
William: Tell me more about the Peace Sign. What was it?
Dodger: Huh? Oh. All right.
Dodger tried to clear the nerves out of his throat with another harumph.
Dodger: The Peace Sign was painted on a sheer cliff face on the side of small mountain. The face was ‘bout, oh, 5 stories high; about 50 feet. We believed it had been painted by some looney Hippy’s in the 60’s, but nobody seemed to remember who did it for real. William and many of his friends, myself included, thought of climbing it as a right-of-passage, or something.
Dodger paused as he thought about what to say next.
William: Just keep talking, we’ll fix it in editing.
Dodger: Okay … William started first. For some reason, I held back. As he progressed, hand and foot holds became harder to find. We were only 13, and evidently the folks that painted it were older and had longer arms. He hesitated at one point about a third of the way up. I could see the sweat running down his face. He looked more and more worried as he realized the handholds became even more scarce on the way up. “William” I shouted, “what’s wrong?” “Nothing”, he returned. “If it’s too difficult, just come back down.” “I don’t think I can find the cracks going backwards. I have to keep going up. At least I can see those cracks.”
Dodger again paused to think what to say next. He was now in deep thought, trying to remember the correct series of the event. William took advantage of the moment to swig from his water bottle.
Dodger: William continued climbing, taking longer, and longer to choose handholds. Now about half-way, he seemed to pause for longer than normal. “You okay William?” He continued looking left and right, and yelled back “The crack is too far away. I’m going to have to jump up to it.” “ Are you crazy, Will? It’s a sheer cliff. You can’t jump on a sheer cliff! Just come back down.” Now I had sweat dripping down my face, and I knew why I had hesitated: I was afraid!
Dodger took a breath as if he was still on that mountainside.
William: You okay, Dodge?
Dodger: Yeah … yeah, just give me a moment to catch my breath.
He continued —
I held my breath as I saw William prepare for the jump. Then the jump!
Dodger held his breath in the room with William, just as he had that day.
Dodger: Williams’ fingertips grasped at the handhold. At first, it seemed he was going to lose it and end up in space! But, he found a foothold just in time and was able to make a stronger grasp with his hand. I just sighed. By this time I was reasonably sure I wasn’t going to follow. William struggled with a few more jumps, but as he neared the top, the handholds seemed to be easier to reach. Just before reaching the top he shouted: “I’m going to make it, Dodge. I’m going to make it!” The smile on his face seemed to make the sweat disappear. There was a difficult pass up the side of the sheer, so I made my way to the top. It was pretty slippery, with a lot of loose ground, but it was still safer than the cliff. As William beamed at the top of the sheer, I realized that for the rest of our lives, William will have the bragging rights that I didn’t earn.