Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mossy's Backpackers #20

“Okay so that makes Cate, Greg, Cindy, Tim and myself,” Max said. “Anyone else want in?”

“What’s going on?” Tobias asked as he returned from the kitchen carrying three bottles of beer.

“We’re going to the beach to build a bonfire and stay up to see the first sunrise of the year,” Max replied, gratefully accepting one of the ice cold bottles from Tobias. “Interested in joining us?”

“You’re all off your rockers,” Tobias laughed. “No way. I plan on being passed out on this couch by 2 am at the latest.”

“Aw, come on Toby! It’s going to be an experience you’ll never forget!” Cate begged.

“The amount of alcohol required for me to stay up that long pretty much ensures that I would forget it immediately,” he replied. “How are you guys getting there anyway? You’re not walking are you?”

“Oh hell no! Max is gonna piggy back me there,” she answered as she hopped onto Max’s back and wrapped her arms and legs around him.

Max took a swig form his bottle and contemplated the pros and cons of accepting this proposal.


“If she gets a free ride,” Cindy announced, “then I better…”

“No,” Greg cut in firmly.

“You’re all bonkers,” Tobias said, shaking his head. “What time are you heading out?”

“Whenever my lady digs her spurs into me,” Max replied.

“I was thinking one or two, depending on what time things quiet down here,” Cate said as she rested her chin on his head.

“Alright, well ask me again when you’re packing up to go, I might change my mind by then,” Tobias allowed.

“Sounds good! Any other takers?” Max asked, doing his best to act as though having Cate perched on his back was the most normal thing in the world.

“Yeah, why not – we’ll go too,” Diego said from the far end of the couch where Jay and he had been talking it over.

“Excellent! This is going to be brilliant.”

“Ah, the persuasive power of alcohol,” Tim mused before taking a liberal sip of his rum and coke.

“Speaking of which – that doesn’t look like a Texan’s drink,” Diego said. “I thought you guys only drank beer and cow blood.”

“I prefer beer,” Tim replied, “but the coke will help me stay awake until the sun shows up.”

“That is a damn fine point,” Greg said. “As a result of this new information I think I shall switch to vodka and Red Bull. Can I mix one for anyone else?”

“Oh God,” Max answered immediately. “Absolutely not.”

“Haha, bad experience mate?”

“You could say that. The first time I got drunk was in Ireland – we had vodka and Red Bull at the hostel then went out for a couple pints of Guinness. I have never been so sick in my entire life.”

“Nasty,” Cate said as she slid off his back. “That would put me off it too.”

“Well, I’ll drink either on their own – just no more mixing!” Max laughed. “And it didn’t help that I had to hitch hike the next morning.”

This revelation was met with groans of understanding all around; almost all of them had been stuck thumbing with a hangover at some point in their travels. Although they had probably been wise enough not to do it in a country with roads as winding as Ireland’s.

“Hey, it’s almost midnight! Does everyone have a drink?” Cindy asked.

“A drink? A drink?” Greg winced. “It’s the start of a new year! Not just any drink will do. I’ll get the tequila.”

Despite several voices rising in disagreement Greg marched into the kitchen. Before long he returned with a bottle of Jose Cuervo and an armful of shot glasses. He moved around the room as everyone picked a glass from its precarious perch – some more enthusiastically than others.

“Alright,” Greg announced once everyone had their glass, “hold out your glass and I’ll fill ya up.”

“This is such a bad idea,” Tobias muttered as he eyed the amber liquid in his glass warily.

“Thanks,” Max told Greg after his glass was filled. “I think.”

“Hey, just be glad I didn’t grab the Fireball,” Greg warned him.

“Oh, I love that stuff!” Cate exclaimed. “It tastes like cinnamon – I want that instead.”

“No way, everybody has to drink the Cuervo,” Greg said firmly.

“Fine – then I want a shot of Fireball to go with it,” she shot back. Greg started to protest before realizing he had no ground to fight on. He gave in with a shrug and returned to the kitchen.

“Thank you very much,” Cate told him sweetly as she accepted the second shot.

“Whatever, ya nutter,” Greg replied with a shake of his head.

“Let’s count it down!” Tim called out. “Everybody up!”

Everyone not already standing scrambled to their feet with varying degrees of spillage. Greg eyeballed a few that looked rather intentional but was met with innocent faces.

“Ten!” Tim boomed out on his own before being joined loudly for the “Nine!”

Are you going to do it?

Do what?


You’re hopeless.

Oh. That.

“Two! One… happy new year!”

As one they raised their glasses in salute then downed their shot. Beside him Cate chased the tequila with the whisky before thumping the empty glasses on the table and turning to face him.

She looks um… determined.

Before he could react she rose up on her toes and kissed him firmly on the lips. She lingered briefly before sinking back down onto her heels.

“Happy new year, Max,” she whispered, smiling up at him.

“Happy new year, Cate,” he murmured back, his lips tasting pleasantly of cinnamon.

“I’d like to propose a toast!” Greg announced, then quickly added, “Of the non-tequila variety.”

Everyone gathered up their previous drink before giving him their full attention. Well, besides Max, who gave him about a quarter of his attention.

“To butcher an old saying: let new friends never be forgotten and may they often be brought to mind!”

“I’ll drink to that,” Max said as he raised his bottle, clinked it against Cate’s and took a good, long swig.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mossy's Backpackers #19

“… in a one horse open sleigh!”

“Okay, I need a break,” Greg announced as the music faded out. “I’m going to lose my voice.”

“That’s a bad thing?” Cindy asked as she hit the pause button on the stereo.

Before Greg could manage a snappy response the phone rang yet again. Max sighed and went to answer it, grumbling every step of the way.

“Hello and merry Christmas!” he said into the phone for the tenth time that day. He glanced over to see Cate stifling a laugh; he really needed to get better at cards. “Jay, it’s your mom.”

Jay smiled sheepishly as he came over to take the phone, then took it as far into the corner as the cord would allow before beginning to speak. Max laughed and left him to it.

“Want me to get the next one?” Cate offered.

“It’s okay, I think that is just about everyone anyway,” he replied as he threw himself down onto the couch beside her.

“God did me mum give me an earful this morning,” Greg said with a wince.

“Aw, she just misses her baby!” Cate told him.

“Ha! Hardly,” he replied. “She reamed me out for keeping Cindy away from home during the holidays – like this is all my idea!”

“That’s just her way of saying she wants you home too,” Cindy reminded him.

“Well that’s a whole lot more subtle than my mom was,” Tim said. “My Christmas present from her was a plane ticket home!”

“Seriously?” Cindy and Cate exclaimed together.

“Haha, I’m surprised my mom didn’t resort to that,” Max said. “So when do you have to go back?”

“Well the ticket says February 1st but I’m going to see how much it costs to extend it until March.”

The girls did not seem to think much of this idea but the boys were in agreement that it was a brilliant maneuver.

“What did you get from home?” Max asked Cate to avoid any arguments that might develop.

“Oh, a few clothes and things,” she answered with a look that indicated she knew exactly what he was doing. “But the main thing was an extra memory card for my camera.”

“Wow,” Greg said. “Don’t they know that’ll only encourage you to keep traveling?”

“Nah, they know I’ll be back within a couple months at most,” she replied.

“Why’s that?” Cindy asked a little too casually for Max’s liking. It seemed like she already knew the reason, but maybe he was just being paranoid.

“Oh, it’ll just be time by then,” Cate replied without looking up from her drink. Max wasn’t liking this at all. He looked over at Cindy as she deliberately checked the time on the clock on the wall.

“Well Gregory, my darling,” she said, standing up slowly. “I do believe it’s time to give you the rest of your present.”

“You mean I get more than that new day pack?” Greg asked, looking totally confused.

“Mmmhm,” Cindy answered as she left the room swaying her hips suggestively. “You also get what’s inside the bag.”

“Oh,” he said, understanding dawning on his face. “Um, you guys will have to excuse me.”

“Too much information!” Max yelled as Greg left the room at top speed.

“I could use a present like that,” Diego muttered to himself.

“Well I can’t offer you that,” Jay said as he returned to the group, “but I did get you a little something.”

“Aw, thanks man!” Diego said as he accepted the wrapped box.

“That reminds me,” Max told Cate, “I’ve got something for you too.”

“Oh, you didn’t have to do that!”

“Come on, I left it in the office.”

Max lead the way, trying to keep his gait normal; this of course only made his feet feel like two piles of bricks. Once in the office he pulled a tin from the bottom drawer of the desk and passed it to Cate.

“Oh my… did you bake me cookies?! Are these chocolate chip?

“Mint chocolate chip, actually. Try one.”

Cate laughed and grabbed the top cookie, which revealed the hand written note tucked underneath. Max started to sweat as she took it out and unfolded it carefully.

“I am deeply sorry, from the bottom of my heart, for being such a complete waste of space,” she began to read out loud with a smile, then stopped and read silently for a while.

When the silence had dragged on past his comfort zone, Max cleared his throat nervously. But Cate put up a hand to keep him silent and did not look up.

“I obviously like you a lot,” she finally continued with a slight hitch in her voice. “I count myself lucky to have met such a fun, smart, fascinating and captivating girl. Please let me make up for my previous blundering and being such a colossal fool by allowing me to take you out for dinner.”

Where was I when you wrote this?


Ah, it was a three in the morning job then.

“You’re lucky you’re such a cute waste of space,” Cate said, still looking down at the note.

“So… is that a yes then?” he asked cautiously.

She finally looked up at him and he could see the tears in the corners of her eyes. She blinked them away once, then again. He held her gaze with great difficulty; every muscle in his body screamed for him to look away.

At last she smiled a sweet, perfect smile, nodded slowly, and then walked away.

You can breathe again now.

Max let out the breath he had been holding for the last two years, then headed to the kitchen to pour the stiffest drink he could stomach.