Winter’s Coming

This is the seventeenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


Cast out. Admittedly deserved. Sven drove me all the way down the canyon so I didn’t have to hitchhike, thereby depriving me of an angry aggrieved retreat and leaving me in his debt forever. The conniving bastard.

“I know this was bad,” he said as I got out in a supermarket parking lot. “But I wish I could’ve got to know you.”

“Please,” I said. “Let me walk away without a hug.”

“Just so you know. I do love her.”

“Well, good luck.”

It was cold as I shouldered my pack and headed into the market to get some supplies. After the rain it turned clear and dry and cold. My plan was to head west and south. Southwest. To the canyon country.

Maybe I could even shake off pursuit. Like a desperado.

In the store, I located the granola and dried apricots and almonds and jerky. My traveling food. I grabbed a fat bottle of red PowerAde because the color made my mouth water. I felt mean and wretched. It came to me then, a voice in my head. From God? My mother?

“Stop being a dick,” the voice said.

And I realized again why I live the way I do. That two nights at Kat’s cabin with her and Sven? That’s how it always goes when I get too close. I become a dick. The Dick. It just floweth from me, the dickishness. As long as I can remember. I want what I want when I want it. I expect things to be a certain way. They never are. Never. So I act out, trying to leave a mark. The ESP doesn’t help. The people I can’t read, like Kat, I pursue and cling to until they tell me to go the fuck away. I run them to ground. Then they turn and fight me off. The ones I can read, they’re easy. I can avoid or engage or provoke or comfort so easily. It’s the ones I can’t read that give me all the trouble. This ESP, this dubious power. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

This cycle of thinking is running through my head for the thousandth, ten thousandth, hundred thousandth time.

And, “Stop being a dick!” from somewhere higher and deeper then the thoughts in my head. “Just stop!”

“Can I help you?” the cashier asked. She was a short lovely blonde, just plain and plumpish and lovely and sad, in her early twenties. I approached and got a big blast of a disappointed life, images of a college quad with hurrying students, a beaten-down car driving away, and an overweight mother in a trailer who forgot how to smile.

“Listen,” I said. “I know you think you’re helping. But it’s out of your hands. You’re powerless. Please go and live your life.”

She stared at me and the tears welled. “I can’t,” she whispered. “She won’t let me.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “You can’t go anywhere and I can’t stay anywhere. I guess just do the best you can.”

She sniffled and started scanning my items. “Isn’t that what we all do.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But it never feels like enough.”