Friday, October 26, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #10

“I am never drinking again.”

“Is that right? And how many times have you said that before?”

“Twenty-five. But I mean it this time.”

Cate laughed and went back to making her lunch. Max shrugged and returned to preparing his breakfast.

“Have you seen Kisho today?” he asked over his shoulder. They had the kitchen to themselves and the only other person he had seen since he crawled out of bed was Cindy as she was heading out for groceries.

“Yeah, I saw him this morning,” Cate replied while dicing a tomato for the chicken salad she was putting together. “Him and his wife – what’s her name again? Saya I think. Anyway, they went for a hike after breakfast, they should be back soon.”

“Oh,” Max managed to reply. What he really wanted to say was “What a bloody show off.”

“Don’t feel bad,” Cate chided him as she came over to rinse off her knife. She gave him another one of her wicked grins before continuing. “Drinking to excess is a young man’s game and Kish’s got you by a few years I reckon.”

“Twenty-eight is not old!” Max shot back.

“True, but I believe he’s twenty-two. But you did well to keep up with him!”

“He passed out first, thanks very much.” But Max knew this was a conversation he was not going to win, so he decided to steer it in another direction. “So how was Thelma and Louise last night?”

“Thelm – we did not watch that you cheeky old man!” Cate exclaimed indignantly. Max would have been hurt by the ‘old man’ comment had he not known (thanks to viewing her passport during check-in) she was only one year his junior.

“No? Romeo and Juliet was it?” he returned with his sweetest smile.

In reply she snorted in very unladylike fashion and flicked tap water in his face. Max grunted menacingly and shook his wooden cooking spoon at her.

“Are you cooking eggs?” Cate asked in surprise. “I thought you were vegetarian.”

“I’m not that vegetarian,” he replied haughtily. “I eat eggs and fish and I’ll have a bit of chicken now and then. Red meat, on the other hand, is just… yuck.”

“I know what you mean,” she told him, crinkling up her nose in an attempt to signify her distaste. Max just thought it made her look cute, but he quickly shoved that thought away as she carried on. “I love chicken though, could eat it every day. Doesn’t make much sense does it?”

“If you drink enough, anything can make sense,” Max shrugged. “But I’ll need some food in me before I can answer that in a vaguely respectable manner. And maybe a nap.”

“Did you –“ Cate began before being drowned out by a loud rumbling emanating from outside. They both went into the TV room and looked out the window facing the street.

“Well,” Max said after they had been looking for a few moments, “am I the only one hallucinating or do you see this too?”

“What I see,” Cate responded slowly while fighting back laughter, “are two very, very interesting looking cars pulled up outside the hostel.”

“Good, at least we’re in this together.”

The car in front looked like it might have been red all over at one time. Now, however, the red only showed in a few spots on the side and at the corners of the hood. The remaining surfaces were covered with paintings that appeared to be done by hand: a massive yellow and black sun on the hood; a moon and flowers on the side; and what appeared to be a beach scene on the roof.

The second car paled in comparison, but to be fair the Batmobile would not have fared much better had it been parked next to the first ride. The car in back was black but was covered with silver hand writing. The silence that followed their motors being turned off was deafening.

“I need to get a closer look,” Max stated firmly.

“Are you going to let them stay?” Cate asked as she followed him to the door. She had seen him turn four more people away since she had begun working with him. Thankfully for Max, she had agreed with him on each occasion.

“We’ll see,” he answered noncommittally.

The two drivers climbed out of their vehicles as they approached. Disarmingly, they both looked quite normal.

“Hello!” The closer one called out to them. He had short blonde hair, a golden tan and wore sunglasses, which he removed as he strode over with his hand outstretched for handshakes. “Are you the couple that runs this place?”

Max had now completely lost his bearings. He had to fight off a sudden urge to go back to bed.

“Ah, not exactly,” Cate replied as she shook his hand. “I’m Caitlin, this is Max. We just look after things when Mossy isn’t around.”

“Cool, nice to meet you both. I’m Jay and this here is Diego,” he said, indicating his traveling companion who had just joined them by the hood of the painted car. He had shoulder length dark hair and a few days worth of growth on his face.

“Good to meet you both,” Max told them as he began to regain his footing. He then glanced down and immediately lost it again. “Is… is that a flower pot on your hood?”

“Yeah, but people keep picking it whenever it blooms,” Jay explained.

“Who did all these paintings?” Cate asked as she moved around the car. Max could now see that the side facing away from the hostel was decorated with portraits of Jay, Diego and two girls.

“Oh, just various people we’ve met at hostels,” Jay replied with a smile, then pointed at the portraits. “That’s the most recent. An old Irish guy took a week to do that, he even got our girlfriends on there from a couple pictures we have with us.”

“Yeah, now it’s like they’re here with us, it’s pretty sweet,” Diego chipped in.

“That’s incredible,” Max said, a bit awestruck. He crouched down to get a closer look. They were very well done, both drivers immediately recognizable. He could only imagine the kind of reception they got in most towns they stopped in. “And all that writing?”

“Just messages from friends we’ve made along the way,” Diego replied, looking for all the world as if this was completely normal behavior. Max thought he spotted an email address at the end of one scrawled message.

From across the painted car Cate looked at him with a single raised eyebrow. Max made his decision almost instantly.

“So how long will you be joining us here at Mossy’s?”

Friday, October 19, 2007

Some news

Hi all, just wanted to pass something along right quick:

So I entered a short story into a contest that was happening here in Vancouver by the 100 mile diet people - the idea was to share your experiences with eating a local, or mostly local diet. Seeing as Katherine and I have been doing that for most of this year, she managed to convince me to enter.

Well, turns out my (our, really, but Kat keeps insisting 'you wrote it!', so whatever) story won second place. So as soon as it arrives in the mail, Kat and I will be heading over to Capers to spend a nice little gift certificate there. I'm not sure if they'll be publishing the story on their website or not, but if they do I'll toss up a link here.

I'm taking it as a good sign that in the first thing I officially entered I managed to win something. It wasn't fiction, but hey, I'll take it!

Anyway, back to the usual update - the latest installment in the story of Max can be found below. Enjoy!

Mossy's Backpackers #9


“Hey Max! Isn’t this club grand? Not too shabby for such a small town!”

“Greg, stop that.” Max placed his hand on the top of Greg’s head to stop him from nodding his head in time with the incessant beat. “Listen, I don’t think I should’ve had that last shot.”

“Nonsense mate!” He tugged ineffectively at Max’s hand then gave up with a small shrug and began tapping his foot instead.

“What time is it anyway?” Max asked while staring at Greg’s foot. He was trying to decide if he should just give up or stomp on it.

“Just about one, which means it’s about time for the foam!” Greg laughed madly and started back towards the dance floor. Max followed, his hand still firmly on the Englishman’s head.

“Brilliant. And everyone is still here?”

“I think so. Though now that you mention it, I haven’t seen Tobias for a while now.”

“Last time I saw him he was trying to get that waitress to dance with him.”

“Bloody hell,” Greg exclaimed and stopped abruptly. Max, his reflexes utterly shot as of two drinks ago, slammed into his back at full speed. “Ow, you dumb wanker! Anyway, it looks like our Swedish friend has succeeded.”

Max followed Greg’s gaze and soon spotted Tobias dancing energetically with the red haired waitress he had last seen him with. She was still wearing her uniform.

“How the…” Max began but then got sidetracked by something Greg had said earlier. “Hold on, what do you mean it’s about time for the foam?”

“What?” Greg stared at him blankly for a moment before he was able to remember his own comment. “Oh, that. Have you never been to a club that does foam?”

“I don’t really go to clubs much.”


Max raised his voice to be heard over the music and repeated himself. He studiously ignored the glances this earned him from the clubbers around them.

“Oh mate, you’re gonna love it, come on!” Greg assured him, then led the way out into the middle of the dance floor. “And take your bloody hand off me head already!”

Max did so with as much grace as he could. Just as he began to repeat his question about the foam, the music was interrupted by the DJ. He was on the mic shouting something completely indecipherable to Max, but when he was finished everyone else on the floor began cheering wildly.

“Greg, what the –" Max began but stopped short again. The three blue contraptions which had been hanging ominously over the dance floor all night had just sprung into action. As the music began blaring again, the machines started spewing forth foam. Lots and lots of it.

“You have got to be joking mate,” Max told Greg, who was already half covered in suds.

“Just dance, it’s brilliant fun!” Greg responded as he began to whirl his arms furiously. Max shrugged and joined in. Just as he was starting to enjoy himself he slipped on the wet floor and went down hard.

He lay there for a moment, his clothes getting thoroughly soaked, contemplating the value of a quick nap. Before he could reach a decision, Greg hauled him back to his feet.

“Watch yourself there! You’ll get yourself trampled if you keep that up!” Greg yelled, then went back to doing his impression of a windmill.


“What now?” Max squinted at the foam covered face before him for a moment. “Oh, Kisho! What’s up my good old Japanese buddy old pal?”

“I think washing machine overflow!” Kisho yelled, looking a little panicked and a lot drunk. Max briefly considered setting him straight. But then he remembered he was in a club too far from home, covered in too much foam and full of too much booze to ignore this sort of opportunity.

“Yes! Yes, Kisho. I’m glad you found me, there isn’t much time! Here’s what you need to do: get outside as fast as you can, don’t even stop to clean up. Just get out there and tell the first cop you find what’s happening in here. Go!”

Kisho nodded, turned and stormed through the crowd. He somehow managed to not fall down, despite two very close calls. Max was wondering if he should go after him when he was distracted again.

“Greg!” He yelled, just as there was a break between songs, “I think someone just grabbed my arse!”

The dancers surrounding them erupted in cheers and cat calls. Max looked around for a moment, then thrust both arms above his head.

“Thank you!” He yelled. “And a quick follow up: to the five or six people who just grabbed it again – how would you rate it, on a scale of one to ten? One being Rosie O’Donnel, ten being Brad Pitt.”

The general consensus seemed to be an eight or nine before the next song began. Suddenly Greg grabbed him by the arm and started leading him away from the dance floor.

“I think I heard a guy give me a ten!” He told him as they reached their table.

“Yeah, you did,” Greg informed him. “He also winked at you. So maybe it’s time to get back to the hostel.”

“He what? No. No way. Really? No. You’re joking. No. Really?”

“Yes, really. Now shut up, we need to get everyone outside and call a cab.”

“Well, Kisho should be out there already,” Max laughed. “Well, unless he’s been arrested.”

Greg’s eyes widened slightly.

“Why would he be arrested?”

Max told him.

“I guess you were right after all,” Greg told him seriously. “You shouldn’t have had that last shot. Come on, maybe it’s not too late.”

They emerged from the club to find Kisho passed out on the sidewalk. Passer-bys were giving his foam-covered body a wide berth.

“I knew I should have brought my camera,” Max said mournfully.

They each grabbed him under an arm, dragged him over to the wall and sat him against it. Max lowered himself to the ground next to him.

“Go back in and get the others,” he told Greg. “I’ll keep him company.”

Greg stared at him for a moment, trying to come up with a better alternative.

“Alright, just… don’t do anything stupid. I’ll be right back out.”

“We’re just gonna sit here and chat!” Max responded as Kisho began to snore loudly. Max looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. “I agree mate, the lumber industry has gotten out of hand, clear cutting has got to be stopped.” He then promptly passed out.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #8

“This was a brilliant idea Mossy,” Greg called from the other end of the table.

Sitting to Max’s left, Mossy leaned forward to catch Greg’s eye, gave him a wink and a nod, then settled back into his chair. As he did so, Nigel’s perplexed face came back into view.

“Aw’right Max,” he began. “Wot the bloody ‘ell is going on?”

“Guys night out, girls night in,” Mossy boomed with a touch of pride. The big man was obviously pleased with how well his idea had gone over.

“I don’t know if I can add much to Mossy’s wonderful explanation,” Max told him dryly, “but I’ll try. Basically, we’ve rounded up all of the guys staying at the hostel for a night on the town – this dinner being the first stage.”

Max paused for the waiter to clear off his dirty dishes, declining his offer of another beer. The explanation was necessary because the poor Brit had arrived just as the guys were walking out the door. Nigel barely had time to unload his pack before getting stuffed in the back of the hostel’s van.

“We’ve left the hostel to the girls tonight,” he continued, “and next Friday night we’ll do the opposite.”

“Girls night out, guys night in!” Mossy chipped in helpfully.

“Yeah, thanks for that Mossy.” Max rolled his eyes at his boss before returning to Nigel. “So while we’re out dining, shooting pool and whatever else we get up to, the girls have rented a hideous collection of chick-flicks and are doing up a potluck dinner.”

“I gotcha now mate, tanks.” Nigel grinned and went back to stabbing and hacking at his rare hunk of steak. Max looked away before the sight made him ill – as the only vegetarian at the table he had been keeping his eyes on his veggie stir-fry ever since the food had arrived. He did not object to others eating meat, he just preferred not to have to watch it.

“So what happens if a guest shows up right now?” Tim the Texan (as Max had recently dubbed him) asked Mossy from across the table.

“If it’s a guy?” Tobias shot back. “He would think he had just walked into the best hostel on Earth!”

All twelve of the guys wedged around the table burst out laughing, nodding happily and winking at each other.

“And if it’s a girl?” Tim followed up once the table had returned to some semblance of quiet. His question was greeted with sideways glances and silence. Eventually Max broke the quiet.

“She would think, I reckon, that she had just walked into the best hostel on Earth.”

His theory was met with less vigorous nods and rueful agreement.

“We are so bloody unnecessary,” Greg sighed.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Tobias replied, gazing thoughtfully at his empty beer mug. “But I will say that we need them a lot more than they need us.”

“Sperm banks will be the end of us,” Tim announced only half-jokingly. “Once they have enough saved up that’s when they’ll off the whole lot of us!”

“Yeah, I thought I saw a can of Man Be Gone in Cindy’s pants drawer back home,” Greg quipped. “I reckon there’s some secret website they all go to that’ll announce when it’s time for men to go.”

“Alright, that’s enough of that you nitwits,” Mossy laughed. “Settle up your bills and I’ll shuttle you over to the pool hall. I’ve reserved four tables from nine to eleven tonight - after that you lot are on your own. Just remember that the girls have the hostel until one a.m.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a reverse curfew before,” Max responded. “I think I might try that with my kids one day – ‘Alright, go have fun with your friends at the playground and I better not see your cute little face until at least midnight!’ Parent of the year award written all over me I reckon.”

“Oh shut it,” Mossy told him with a wink. The big man finished off his glass of water and fished a few bills out of the front pocket of his blue jeans. “Caitlin has my number and I told her to ring me up if she sees any of your ugly mugs before the ‘reverse curfew’ is up. You do not want that to happen gentlemen – I do not appreciate having my sleep disturbed.”

“Sir! Yes sir!” Greg stood up and gave Mossy a crisp salute – the effect of which he promptly ruined by belching grandly.

“Let’s get out of here before they kick us out,” Mossy muttered to Max. Max gave him a quick nod, dumped some cash on the table to cover his portion of the bill and began herding the guys towards the door. Once everyone was outside he noticed Mossy relax his shoulders and take a deep breath.

“Alright mate?” he asked as they fell into step behind the group.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Mossy replied. “Danny did me a big favor giving us the best table in the house and a nice discount to boot. I just didn’t want to repay him with a scene.”

“Gotcha,” Max told him quietly as they rounded the corner and the hostel’s van came into view. The old blue beast was a bit beat up but still ran like it was brand new. “Don’t worry, we have a good group here. I’ll keep an eye on them after you leave, so don’t give us a second thought.”

“Aw Max, I want you to have a good time too! Don’t spend the whole night babysitting them.”

“Oh I won’t big man. Besides there’s only one of me and ten of them! The best I can promise you is that if anything happens, I’ll do my best to keep your name out of the morning papers.”

Mossy unlocked the side door for the guys and shooed them in. Once everyone was squeezed in, he turned and gave Max a hard look.

“I wish I could say that I know you’re only joking.”

“Me too mate,” Max winked at him and climbed into the passenger seat. “Me too.”

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #7

Max sighed and rubbed his temples again. Why was math so much harder on Monday mornings?

Maybe it’s just all those beers you had with Mossy last night, a little voice suggested helpfully.

No, he replied, it’s just always this bad on Mondays. Even when you’re traveling Monday mornings are best when slept through.

He flipped back a couple of pages in the hostel’s reservation book and started over one more time.

“Hey Max, whatcha up to?” Caitlin asked as she poked her head around the corner.

And why, oh why, are decisions made after too many beers so hard to follow through with once you’re sober?

Max gave the voice a little kick as he looked up to reply.

“Heya Caitlin, I’m just…”

“You can call me Cate, ya know,” she said with the slightest hint of a smile playing across her lips.

Well. Cate. That’s an encouraging sign, ain’t it?

Max was too busy fumbling for a reply to deal with the voice this time.

“Oh, sure. I can do that.”

Smooth. Real smooth.

“So whatcha doing behind the desk? I never see you there unless you’re checking someone in.”

“Oh, right.” Max had briefly forgotten he was doing anything at all before Caitl – Cate had appeared. This was going fantastically. “I’m just going through the book to check who’s leaving this week to see how many beds we’ll need to fill. And to figure out if and how much they still owe. Plus, with the way things go here, I like to double check with people…”

“To see if they’re still leaving when they said they would?” Cate broke in.

“Right. Yeah, exactly.” Max realized he had been rambling. He never rambled.

Just go on and tell her already, you stupid fool!

Well, either now or never, he decided.

“Speaking of which,” she began slowly, “remember how I booked in ‘till this Saturday when I rucked up?”

“Yeah, of course.”

He had totally forgotten.

Now what the hell are you gonna do? She’s gone at the end of the week!

“Well, I could only stay the two weeks because I had to be back home for the first week of December. And, you know, there is still heaps I want to see here.”

“Yeah, me too. I just kinda got stuck here.”

Nice! Plant the seed, well done. Now you just need an excuse to go with her.

That wasn’t what I was doing, Max thought. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, actually.

“So what’s happening back home that requires your presence? The only thing that could cut my trip short is a funeral.”

“Close. My little bro was getting married.”

“Oh, sweet as! Is he… wait. Was?”

“Was.” Cate suddenly looked as though she might start crying at any moment.

Oh sh-

“What happened?”

“Well,” she took a deep, steadying breath. “The bride to be, just yesterday in fact, called it off. Apparently she’s run off with one of the groomsmen.”

“Bloody hell. I’m sorry.” Max slid a box of tissues over to her – he didn’t know what else to do. “Are you okay? How is he holding up?”

“He’s my little brother, ya know?” Cate sniffed a little and grabbed a tissue. “And I’m way the hell over here. I called him last night, he’s pretty torn up. Didn’t see it coming at all, he was so happy with her. Not much ya can do over the phone, you know?”

“Yeah, that’s hard,” Max told her wisely. He was not giving her much comfort and he was painfully aware of it. He stood up, needing to do something, anything. The movement must have rattled something loose.

“God, where are my manners? Here, sit down. Can I get you anything? Tea? Tequila?”

“The tequila is tempting,” she said, slumping gratefully into his chair. “But I reckon some tea would be best. This morning anyway. Ask me again tonight.”

“Will do. I’ve got some chamomile in my box, that alright?”

Cate nodded while dabbing at her eyes and Max hustled over to the kitchen to put some water on. While it heated up he grabbed his food box off the bottom shelf of the wooden stand at the far end of the kitchen. After a few moments of rustling around he found the tea box and tossed it on the counter behind him. Just before putting his bin back he decided to take the honey out as well.

Good call. Honey cures all.

He grabbed the hostel’s two biggest mugs and placed a tea bag in each, trying to collect his thoughts.

Now doesn’t seem like the best possible time to tell her how you feel about her.

“Thanks, Sherlock,” Max muttered under his breath. As soon as the water was hot enough he filled the two mugs and brought them back to the check-in desk.

“Thanks very much Max.” Cate had managed to collect herself a bit and no longer looked to be on the verge of breaking down. “I’m sorry to dump on you, I hadn’t meant to. I just wanted to adjust my booking.”

“Don’t apologize, it’s no problem. Let me know if I can do anything else,” he reassured her. “So I… I guess you’ll be leaving us a bit sooner now?”

“No,” she sighed and rolled her eyes. “Stu, my brother, insisted that I don’t cut my trip short. Says he’d feel even worse. And seeing as the reason I had to be home early has suddenly vanished, he rather strongly suggested I extend my whole trip. Wants some good to come of it I guess.”

“So, ah… what are you going to do?” Max had to fight to keep his tone neutral.

“I love Stu and I want to be there for him. But he meant it and deep down I know he’s right.” Cate took a sip of her tea and looked up at him. “So is it okay if I stay on a bit longer? Is there room for me?”

“Of course.” Max tried to keep his smile small but he could feel his face ignoring him. He took a sip from his own mug to try to hide it. “How long are you thinking?”

“Right now? Indefinitely, I guess. This place just… feels like a second home. Weird how quickly that happens, isn’t it?”

“Welcome to Mossy’s Backpackers,” he told her, letting loose his smile this time. He leaned down and clinked his mug against hers. “Stay as long as you like.”