The Soupster encounters and old friend.
Submitted by Lois Verbaan
The Soupster panted as he climbed the stairway up the mountain. Beads of sweat formed on his brow. Apart from a squirrel which scampered up a tree, he was alone. Or so he thought. But, as he climbed the last flight of stairs, a person came into view, leaning on the guard rail and gazing into the distance.
“Rusty?? Is that you??” the Soupster asked, suddenly remembering his missed eye doctor appointment.
“‘Fraid so,” the old fisher replied, as she stared at the islands. “Seen a lot in my day,” she sighed. “Wispy clouds in a blue morning sky, a troller plying a glassy sea, a hazy horizon blurring snow-capped mountains, wind chopping up dark water, a cat streaking across the road to take refuge in shadows.”
“Rusty! What on earth??” the Soupster said. “You okay?”
“Sure,” she said, “just contemplating the passing of time. When you gotta turn back at the lookout, you realize you aren’t a spring Bambi anymore,” she admitted, rubbing her knees. “To tell the truth, summer’s taking its toll. Too much daylight and too much to do.”
“Aah, friend,” Rusty continued. “‘How small the boat for each life, how vast the ocean and its storms; May sunlight touch the waves, may strong wind take your sails…’ Know any ‘a those, Soupster?”
“Can’t say I do,” the Soupster mumbled, munching a handful of trail mix.
“Well, probably ‘cause I made ‘em all up,” Rusty laughed. “Anyway, how’s your summer going?”
“Productive,” the Soupster said. “I’m getting through my ‘Indoor To-Do List.’ Last week I sorted my garage cabinets into cutting things, hitting things and measuring things.”
“Wow, impressive!” Rusty said. “I count myself lucky if I can find anything clean on the boat to put on every morning. Anyhow, we have different priorities. Dry and warm is good enough for me.”
“Soupster, what I really want to know is how far we’ve hiked from the trailhead to here,” she said.
Pulling out his phone, the Soupster declared, “Siri! Pythagorean Theorem!”
“The square root of A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared, Soupstah,” she replied.
“Australian accent,” the Soupster whispered to Rusty. “But that’s another story.”
“Impressive, Soupster, but you’re hurting my head – too early for this kind of mathematical genius.”
“That’s okay, Rusty, you’re good at other things. Take these, for example,” the Soupster said, examining her well-worn hiking poles, with glints of shiny metal between the mud. “These babies prove you’re a hardcore Alaska outdoorsperson.”
“Dunno,” Rusty said. “Always thought it was the shorts.”
“Got a point there, Rust,” the Soupster admitted. “Pretty hardcore how you wear shorts year-round. How do we know when the temperature has hit 40? When ol’ Rusty emerges from hibernation with shorts on.” Rusty chuckled.
A freezing gust of wind hit the hikers, bringing the first drops of that distant storm, and sending a shiver up Rusty’s legs. The two friends put on an extra layer, cinched up their backpacks and headed down the mountain.