Monday after a rainy Sunday. A drippy morning, skies clearing slowly. Most people went off to work but JJ commuted up his road and hiked the mountain in the mud.
He and Lila binge-watched The Walking Dead yesterday and now he imagines if he would survive the zombie apocalypse and all the damaged humans left behind. All that roaming and desperation. Would he be hard enough? Could he and Lila survive? And, what about Carl? Carl would no doubt be that obnoxious philosopher dude, the one with the camper and the scruples. He would stay aloof, floating above the fray, until a dead hand from some leaf pile or gaping manhole reached up to show him it didn’t pay to think so much. Or, maybe some “friend” would just shoot him in the back.
A stick cracked and JJ turned to see the Mountain Dude walking down the hill, off-trail, coming right towards him. No lurching zombie, the Mountain Dude. He came straight down, nice and smooth, absorbing the terrain, taking what he was given.
“It’s been awhile,” JJ said.
“But I’ve seen you all winter and spring,” the Dude said. “From a distance and up close. You almost stepped on me once.”
“Um, ok. So why’re you approaching me now.”
“This is where I cross the trail. You’re in my way.”
JJ looked up and down the trail, level and straight in this little valley. Lots of trees, no landmarks, no other trails. “You cross right here?”
“Today I cross here. Yesterday I crossed there.” The Dude pointed to a spot ten feet back down the trail. “Tomorrow I cross there.” He pointed to a spot ten feet up the trail.
They were quiet. Then the Mountain Dude moved on, passing very close to JJ as he crossed the trail to start up the other side of the little valley. As he brushed past, JJ smelled moist forest, all wet sticks and ferns.
“So,” JJ said. “Why?”
The Dude stopped but did not face JJ. “Concentric circles from the summit of the mountain. Ten feet out each time.”
“A journey in place. I want to walk all the ground on this mountain. And I want to expand outward from the center.”
“What about the ridges? And the swamps?”
“Sometimes you scramble. Sometimes you slog. I’ll get through.”
“So, that’s life?”
“That’s nature. We’re all just animals who think too much. Maybe you should consider a purposeful journey.”
And now he moved off up the hill, curving slightly to hug the mountain, picking his way with grace and flow.
“The Mountain Dude would survive the zombies,” JJ thought. “I would have to be the tagalong who slowly grows on him. Or gets left behind.”
The idea of a purposeful journey, though. That sounded about right.