Saturday, April 26, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

And with the below entry, Mossy's Backpackers draws to a conclusion... for now. I'll probably come back to it at some point for stories from the road or something, but I'll be leaving Max, Cate and co. alone for the time being.

Starting next week I'll be beginning a new story, one that will be a complete departure from the one centered around Mossy's little hostel. It's much darker but hopefully won't be completely devoid of humor... I'm looking forward to it. Tune in next Friday for the first entry and a new look to the page.

See you then.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mossy's Backpackers #25

“More tea?” Cate asked brightly.

This is so not fair, Max thought to himself as he rubbed his throbbing temples.

You know, I’d hate to agree with you…


So I won’t.

I hate you so much.

“Yes please, thanks luv,” Cindy said gratefully. “These omelets are fantastic Max, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better noon breakfast.”

“Same here mate. And trust me,” Greg added with a laugh, “we’ve had plenty.”

“Oh, they’re easy enough to make,” Max said. “I always make them the morning, or afternoon, after a long night. And last night was longer than usual… what time did you wake up anyway?”

“I was up just after eight,” Cate replied as she topped off everyone’s peppermint tea. “I’m surprised I didn’t wake you, I barely managed to get you lying down on the couch without dumping you on the floor.”

“Dead to the world, milady,” he answered with a smile, his headache finally starting to recede to the background.

“Aw, I knew I shoulda drawn that mustache on you,” she grinned wickedly. “Don’t know how Tim managed to talk me out of that.”

“I guess that explains why he said ‘you’re welcome’ as he left,” Max said, thinking back to their groggy goodbye several hours earlier.

“Ha ha… wait, didn’t he tell us that too?” Greg asked, giving Cate a suspicious look. In response she quickly pulled out her road map and began to study the day’s planned route. “You cheeky devil!”

“That would’ve made for a great breakfast,” Cindy laughed. “For us girls anyway.”

“You’re both terrible,” Max said with a shake of his head before looking around the empty common room. “Man, this is going to be like leaving home all over again.”

“I know, I’m having trouble with it too and I haven’t been here nearly as long as you,” Cate said. “I’ll probably sub-consciously leave twenty things behind so we have to keep coming back.”

“Aye, a lot of good memories here. A lot of good people came through that door,” Greg said. “And a few bad ones too.”

“Ha ha, remember that Russian girl who kept trying to sneak her boyfriend in?” Max howled. “It might have worked too if he ever showered. And didn’t snore like a grizzly bear.”

“Oh mate, how could I forget… we could hear him from our room!”

“And that drunk Irish guy,” Cindy added. “Didn’t he want to fight you because you asked him to turn the music down?”

“Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about him,” Max said. “How I didn’t refuse him on sight is still a mystery to me. He came in the door hung-over with two cases of beer as his luggage.”

The four of them sat back and smiled, lost in their own favorite memories of the hostel. Their mugs and plates stood empty watch on the table but no one moved to leave.

“Hey gang,” Mossy said as he appeared from the back of the hostel. “Me and the missus made you a little something for the road.”

“That’s very sweet Mossy, thank you,” Cate said as she stood to meet him. “Do I smell cinnamon?”

“Apple and cinnamon muffins, baked fresh this morning,” he replied proudly. “Least I could do for my favorite guests.”

“Favorite…? Where are they, I’d love to meet them,” Max said, looking around the room and under the table. “But to be serious for a moment: thanks for giving me a second home mate, I’ll never forget my time here.”

“It’ll be strange to not have my Vibe Quality Control around,” Mossy replied as he shifted from one foot to the other before awkwardly offering his hand. Max swatted it away and swooped in for a hug, his fingers barely managing to touch the middle of the big man’s back. “Alright, alright, that’s enough of that. You kids best get going before I decide to adopt the lot of ya.”

“My mum would be here in record time if you did,” Max said as he stepped back, his eyes moist. He blinked several times, looked around the room one final time and turned to Cate. “I guess we’re all set then?”

She nodded at him, a quick little jerking motion, before giving Mossy a hug of her own. He patted her back as gently as he could and then was enveloped on both sides by Greg and Cindy. He looked to Max with tears forming in his eyes and gave him a goodbye nod as he freed himself from the knot of arms around him.

“You drive safe, now,” he said gruffly. “And don’t forget to send me a few emails to let me know what you get up to.” They all assured him that they would and then gathered up keys and maps and headed outside.

“Keep in touch,” Max told the Brits for the tenth time that day. Cindy gave him and Cate big hugs, Greg shrugged before doing the same, then they got in their little red sedan. With a long final honk of the horn they pulled onto the road and headed north.

“I guess it’s our turn now,” he told Cate quietly.

“We’ll be by here again,” she assured him. “With some great stories to tell… so let’s get started on them!”

Max nodded and climbed into their white rental hatchback, wedging the tin of muffins into the pile of bags on the back seat. He started the engine then sat looking at the front of the hostel for several moments.

“See ya soon, Mossy’s Backpackers,” Cate said. “It’s been a blast.”

Without a doubt, that it has.

“Later Mossy’s,” Max said as he put the car into drive and stepped on the gas. “It’s been the best.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mossy's Backpackers #24

“How do you spell recommend?” Tim asked as he stretched his long arms above his head while balancing Cate’s journal on his lap.

“I think there’s a ‘q’ in there somewhere,” Max replied, barely managing to stifle a yawn.

“Oh shut up,” Cindy giggled. “Oh bloody hell, I’m getting the giggles again. What time is it?”

“Three-thirty in the am,” Diego said from his spot on the floor beside the couch. “Maybe we should do this after we get some sleep – I know my notes would be a lot more coherent that way.”

“What fun would that be?” Max asked as he stared at the blank page in Greg’s journal before him. Or was it Cindy’s? “Wait, who’s book do I have now?”

“Mine,” Tobias said sleepily. “I hope you haven’t written a love note to Caitlin in there.”

“I have, actually,” Max said with a half-crazed laugh. “But it’s okay, I’ll just cross out her name and put yours in and it should work the same.” At this Cindy started laughing uncontrollably and Greg had to latch onto her to prevent her from falling off the couch.

“I think I’m starting to sober up,” Cate slurred into Max’s shoulder. She had started out slowly with a small glass of wine at dinner but when Mossy had shown up with a keg on his shoulder things degenerated quickly. Max had kept pace with her for a while but gave up once he realized he was twice as drunk as she was after only five drinks.

She drank your butt under the table.

Well, two things to consider. One: tomorrow morning is going to be much more pleasant for me. And two: she probably won’t remember anything past dinner tonight.

Then it’s a good thing Jay and Tim have most of the night on video between them.

“What time are you lunatics planning on leaving tomorrow?” Jay asked, looking very relieved he could spend the day in bed.

“I’m aiming to wake up at noon,” Greg said. “We’re pretty much all packed up already so I reckon a quick shower and some breakfast and we’ll be out the door by one.”

Noon seems a lot closer than it ought to be,” Cindy said while failing to keep a straight face. Greg sighed at her before tussling her hair fondly.

“I’ve got a bus to catch in the morning so I guess I’ll be first off,” Tim said with an uncomfortable glance at the time. “Nine am is definitely closer than it has any business being.”

“Nine?” Max groaned. “Why not catch a later bus?”

“Why you busing? Why no hitchin’?” Cate mumbled.

“Sorry, what was that?” Tim asked, looking to Max for help.

“How far do you have to go tomorrow?” he asked, taking a stab at the reason for the Texan’s mode of transportation.

“Oh, I’m heading for Stone Creek, it’s almost 8 hours by bus and only one bus can get me there in one day,” Tim said. “So it’s either nine tomorrow or nine the day after. And if I stay an extra day it’ll be a week later before I know it.”

“Fair enough,” Max said as he returned his gaze to the journal in front of him. “We’d give you a ride but we’re headed straight south. This is Greg’s book, right?”

“It’s Tobias’,” Greg, Jay and Tim said together, sending Cindy into another laughing fit.

“You should probably get her to bed,” Diego observed.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Cindy told him as she took several deep, steadying breaths. “I just need to put a note in Max’s journal and I’ll have done everyone’s.”

“I can’t wait to read that one,” Max laughed. “If I’m able to read it at all.”

“Don’t make me come over there,” she said menacingly before totally destroying the effect by breaking out in hiccups. Greg shook his head in a long suffering way then got up to get her some water.

“I can’t keep my eyes open,” Tobias said with his chin buried in his chest. “But I don’t want to be the first to go to bed. This is too much fun and tomorrow will be too sad.”

“We had a helluva good run here,” Max said. “And I think it’s safe to say that we’ve celebrated it in fine fashion but it has to end at some point.”

“Fine,” Greg said as he returned with two glasses of water, handing one to Cate and the other to Cindy. “You go to bed first.”

“Not a chance,” Max replied without hesitation. “Although technically Kisho and Haya went to sleep first, they just didn’t go to bed.”

“I’m not sure passing out in the lounge counts as going to sleep,” Jay laughed. “But I guess we’re stalemated and there’s only one thing to do: pull an all nighter.”

“Oh bloody hell, screw that! I’m going to bed,” Cindy announced. “Good night to you all, I’ll see you all tomorrow before we take off. Including you Tim, you wake us up if we’re still in bed when your bus comes.”

“If? We’ll be sleeping mate, but definitely give us a nudge, alright?” Greg said as he stood up then hauled Cindy off the couch.

“Get a good rest you two,” Max said with a sad smile. “We’ll join you for your noon breakfast.” The Brits, after several more good nights, left the room arm in arm to go collapse into their bed and in so doing gave everyone else the excuse to do the same.

“You almost done Max?” Tobias called as he dragged himself to his feet.

“Yeah mate, give me two secs to finish it up,” he replied as he added one final line to his goodbye note. He then printed his email address and handed it back to Tobias.

“Thanks,” Tobias said as he read it then laughed loudly as he reached the end. “Perfect, man. Totally perfect. Good night.”

“Night night,” Cate said much more clearly than she had said anything in hours. Turning to Max she asked, “What was so funny?”

“Oh, I just wrote ‘We’ll always have the Christmas tree’,” Max said with an impish grin.

“What in the world does that mean?”

“Ah, I think I’ll save that story for the road,” Max laughed. “Right now we both need some sleep.”

“Okie dokie,” she said and promptly fell asleep on his shoulder. Max looked around for help but everyone had already disappeared to their rooms.

Don’t look at me, I’m all tucked in. See ya in the morning!

Too tired to come up with an alternative plan, Max rested his head on Cate’s, whispered a final ‘good night’ to the hostel and soon joined her in slumber.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mossy's Backpackers #23

Max hit play on the CD player at the same time as he pressed record on the tape deck. He began nodding his head to the beat as the first notes of Talib Kweli’s ‘Get By’ started to fill the common room.

“Is that rap?” Cate called from the kitchen.

“No,” Max yelled over the music, “it’s good rap.”

Good response, as long as she believes good rap exists.

“I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

Uh oh.

“Give it a chance! It’s great driving music,” Max countered. “Don’t worry, this tape will only have rap that has minimal swearing, mostly positive themes and none of that garbage about disrespectin’ ho’s.”

… You have such a way with the ladies.

“That’s very reassuring,” Cate replied with a laugh.

Yeah, well, this one seems to like me.

I know, I don’t understand it either.

Max poked his head around the corner and found Cate nodding her head to the music as she scrubbed the counters. They had the hostel to themselves for the day since everyone else was out working in various orchards and vineyards around the area.

“Not bad, huh?” he asked with a smile.

“I suppose I might let you play this in the car,” Cate allowed. “As long as you make a mix tape from my Gorillaz and Blur discs.”

“Not a problem, that should make a sweet tape,” Max said. “You know, I’m almost glad the rental car doesn’t have a CD player. I used to love making mix tapes when I was in high school.”

“Yeah, nothing but the best of the best makes the cut,” Cate said as the song drew to a close and Max hit both stop buttons. A few moments later the next song for the tape began playing. “Who is this? It sounds familiar.”

“Jurassic 5,” he yelled. “Also known as J5, you might have heard that track they did with Dave Matthews.”

“Oh that’s it… the video for that is brilliant,” she shouted just as Mossy came in the front door. “Hey boss man!”

“Hey Caitlin,” Mossy said fondly, then paused mid-stride. “Is this rap?”

“No, no,” Cate said with a small laugh. “It’s good rap.”

“And here I was thinking you had decent taste in music,” he replied with a shake of his head. “Max is corrupting you already.”

“Hey big man, what’s shakin’?” Max asked as he emerged from the lounge area.

“Well well, if it isn’t the leader of the mass exodus from my hostel himself,” Mossy rumbled.

“Oh relax, you’ll be full up again before dinner tomorrow,” Max shot back. “Plus you’ll have eight people traveling all over the country telling everyone they meet that this is the best hostel on the planet.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere, mister. How am I going to replace you two? Jay and Diego will cover things for the next week but then they’re gone too!”

“Oh, that reminds me,” Cate broke in. “I got an email from my cousin Tammy this morning. Her and her husband Jack will be here in a couple weeks and they’d be happy to take over if you haven’t found anyone long term by then.”

“Well… hmmph.” Mossy looked like he was trying to find another complaint but was coming up empty handed.

“Don’t worry Mossy, we’d never leave you hanging,” Max said. Suddenly realizing the song was finishing, he rushed back to the stereo to stop the recording again. He returned to the conversation without starting the next track, knowing it was a lost cause until Mossy left.

“So tonight is the big send-off then,” Mossy said a bit sadly.

“Yeah it is,” Cate said. “Although I’m not sure Tobias and Tim are going to stick to their word about leaving with us tomorrow. Those two are even more reluctant to leave than Max!”

“It’ll be too hard to stay here with the rest of the crew gone,” Max said. “That’s why everyone has to leave together. I’ve stayed behind too many times already.”

“And there are loads of beautiful places to see before you go home, I’d hate to see you guys get stuck here and miss out on them,” Mossy said before quickly adding, “not that it hasn’t been a tremendous pleasure having you hooligans here.”

“Yeah right!” Max laughed. “The only party bigger than tonights will be the one you throw tomorrow night.”

“Nah, I won’t celebrate until all of you fly home,” Mossy snorted. “Until then I won’t believe I’m truly rid of you lot. I’ll be expecting you back every day otherwise.”

“Oh we’ll definitely drop by before we head back,” Cate assured him. “Max and I are doing a loop of the south before going north to catch our flight.”

“Your flight, singular?” Mossy asked in surprise. “That’s a heck of a long flight together.”

“I reckon if we survive that nothing can stop us,” Max quipped then gave Cate a sly wink.

“If we manage to get through being on the road together for two months then I can’t see a twelve hour flight being a problem. Besides,” she said as she turned to Mossy with a wicked grin, “I sleep like the dead on long flights.”

“You two are something else,” Mossy said bemusedly. “Alright, I’ll be back after dinner – I assume things will be in full swing by then.”

“You know it big man,” Max said as he headed for the lounge again. “Maybe I’ll teach you how to break dance tonight.”

“The only thing breaking would be my back,” Mossy grunted. “I’ll have to bring my best of Johnny Cash CD.”

“The Man in Black! Definitely bring that.”

“You’re hard to upset, aren’t you?” Mossy asked.

“It’s one of my better qualities.”

“That and your cute butt,” Cate pointed out.

“That’s it!” Mossy groaned. “I’m out of here.”

Take me with you!

“Admit it Mossy,” Max called. “You’re gonna miss us.”

“Ha!” Mossy yelled as he went out the door. “Not if I have anything to say about it.”