He opened his eyes on a jagged cold passage, Jeremy locked eyes with the stranger resting on his chest ,only inches away, with its icy horns nearly boring his ears, a musky wet mountain goat.
A creature the size of his bag pack laid frozen atop him , bleating. They both agonized by their differences in size and power exchanged first looks and bleated in harmony.The steel strong hooves tapped on his ankle, as the goat felt his unbudded horns being driven away by a fluffy pair of teenage hands.
Both scurried away from their accidental embrace before Jeremy’s brother could make sense of this situation.The mountain goat merged with its flock as it’s owner , younger than Jeremy, appeared to chase it on the same spaghetti passage they had been hiking up all day.
He quickly collected himself and got up. Dusted himself, until the dust no more hugged him. “ Re….ady?” he gulped. Thirsty and still struggling to find his voice, he looked at the last bits of his water bottle cap that laid on the wet and slippery trail. He approached the nearest boulder and raised his right leg to rest on top of it. As his beating heart calmed he glinted down at the remarkably long and singular vast slope, the heart beats picking pace again, the greish stones still sliding down to its nest miles beneath him slicing the summer snow. Fresh crispy air went through his nostrils.
The entire terrain miles beneath appeared greyish brown with greyish brown jagged boulders , greyish brown dried bushes and greyish brown birds flying miles underneath them. Jeremy held onto his cap as a pair of birds larger than the 10 mountain goats cast shadow on him. It flew over their heads slicing the whipping winds from Namche Bazar to their grey nests!
“ Chunky Monkey...you better hold onto your saddle like Pa told you to, else you are gonna get kissed by your mountain goat friend again!” a teasing voice claimed from behind. A lanky, piercing black eyes met his watery ones.
“I can tell she is dreaming about meeting you again…” Paul continued making duck faces.He grabbed his younger brother’s backpack from the boulder where it had fallen and placed them on his now steady mule carefully.
“ Argh...” he grunted looking away, hating how Paul made it appear this was his fault.
“ Ma and Pa are way ahead, we need to pick our pace unless you intend on taking your friend out on a dinner by the river down below” added Paul pointing at the dim and hungry locks of the river which strangely looked like the curly locks of his head. Herds of cattles walked past their mules once again engulfing the anorexic razor sharp trails to Namche Bazar,with their hooves on the wet,slippery path thumping like gunshots . They hiked down as the brothers hiked up.
One could say there was trembling resemblance between George Dawson and a sparrow. Quick to take flights and quicker to escape, although Jeremy thought his father didn’t look like a sparrow . He rather looked like a large hippopotamus. With his round , fuller beer belly , circular chin , bunny tooth, protruding eyes and short hairy hands. George Dawson waved at his teenage boys, Jeremy 12 and Paul 15 towards the clustered nepalese village which was now visible from the towering ridge they were standing at.
A much rather pale and skinny boy with a smudge of dust on his jackets advanced him. “ Jer!! What happened now son?” He demanded wheezing looking down at the floor.
“ I fell off the pony while taking photos of Paul” reported Jeremy removing the twigs that were trapped between his zippers on his yellow jacket.
“ How long is the village, Dad? if Paul doesn’t get food in the next few minutes , he’ll start eating his own arms and legs, and I think I need to get my legs checked!” objected Jeremy rubbing his left ankle.
“ Collect yourself boy” George stepped closer to him. You know what they say about pain? ...there are two and only two of them... One !that hurts you and the other one that changes you” muttered George. “ You are supposed to look out for your younger brother” he consoled looking up at his elder son from his mule. Paul looked back at Jeremy and winked.
The man on the mule pulled out his calculator from his fanny pack and punched a few numbers on it and concluded “ 3 miles to our new homes, come on now...chop, chop, your mother has the first aid kits, go ask her”. They all continued to the ever unchartered territory.
He carefully put on the snow goggles his next door neighbour Agatha had given him as a farewell gift. He already missed her.Agatha loved to play football unlike most girls in his school. These girls bunked sports classes to talk about new teachers and rotten boys in the restrooms. But she was unique, she had shorter hair that graced her narrowed eyes.She was in his class as was Akash. They were his only friends.
Jeremy liked lesser people in the school as teachers would ignore him most of the time and always gave bucket loads of written assignments every weekend. They always got infuriated when he asked questions.The school clearly was ignoring his god-given talents.
“ I heard you are moving out Jer? Paul told me all about it!” inquired Agatha as they lay on the bermuda grass in front of the school’s courtyard.
“What! Is she telling the truth Jer? snapped Akash frowning.
“ Yeah…. , it’s true... mom and dad got newly appointed as the department heads at the WildLife Trafficking centre. Pa said they’ll be signing a contract with them for the next 2 years alongside doing research and ma said we have to leave kathmandu.? he chucked up.
Jeremy was not going to miss anything about Kathmandu except his friends. Everyone and everything were just the same. He hated the cramped old and new houses where the sun never shined, lousy neighbours whose lousy kids always picked on him, boring teachers who never gave recess. He eventually had grown to endear their absence.
“ When?” they both roared.
“ Next Monday!” answered Jeremy.
“ Wait a minute. That place was on the news” Akash reported. “No bloody way….”. They both looked at him. He continued “I heard it’s terrorized by unprecedented animal attacks! Last month, the wife of some guy got killed by a strange animal! My dad said she was snatched at the break of dawn right in front of the local police,” whispered Akash as he caressed his lovely soft long neck.
Agatha looked at Akash in confusion but this wasn’t new to Jeremy. He had been brought up and raised in an environment where both his parents took him alongside them to animal rescue mission centres, where he was babysat by their colleagues. They would tell Jeremy anecdotes of their encounters with cruel poachers and victimized animals and how they saved some days and got defeated by the others next. And if Jeremy was lucky , he’d get to meet the rescued animals! If lucky, even hold them.
“ You’re right, my parents’ are going to work on that case!” Jeremy confirmed as he wiggled under the fluffy grass blades with his friends.
There was a long pause between these three friends. “ ...so in the next 3 days” stated a voice beside him faintly. Jeremy felt a wet kiss on his cheek that made his heart beat fast. Why did she do that? Was she crying? Jeremy was too afraid to ask! He kept on gazing past the smoggy cloud.
There it was sitting like a shadow under the nose of Everest, Namche Bazar. The family sauntered through the jagged rocks down the hill overlooking the setting sun. Tourists were flocking the village there too like the herders without their livestocks. Some were returning back , crouching from their overpowering backpacks while others had local porters carrying their goods for handsome cash in return. All of them were unlike what he had seen in Kathmandu. Burly, heavy ,sweaty men and women. The sun always cast a rosey shadow on their cheeks. He looked at his brother Paul whose jaw hit the ground as a group of tourists passed by him with two porters who nonetheless would have reminded him of Atlas in Mrs. Chopra’s history class. And so, there he was Atlas in front of them , glimmering and kissing goodnight to his home, Mt. Everest.
Overlooking the edge of the trail there were stone brick concrete houses with blue steel cut roofs. Some were red, and others navy blue. Stacked on the terrain plates almost covering the entire village of some 150 concrete building blocks.
As they walked by he noticed his mother staring at the revealing view doing the same at the edge of the path. They both exchanged glances and smiled. In split seconds her smile turned upside down as from the far distance a voice bellowed in warning “ Watch out!” when something heavy plunged against his back and THUD! It got him.