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?”

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