Gaston Suarmer pondered the small puddle of whiskey that sat in the bottom of his tumbler. He wanted to have another but his potential client would be arriving any minute and he had to keep his wits about him. Why this individual had asked to meet at the Hilton instead of Humpy’s, Darwin’s Theory or any of Anchorage’s institutional watering holes was beyond Gaston. At one of those places, he would have known the bartender who was working and probably a couple of the patrons. There, this potential client could’ve walked in out of the dark, cold Alaskan afternoon and seen him telling stories and holding court. Here, Gaston was alone with a bartender from Lithuania or Georgia or some other eastern European country who could care less about what he had to say.
"Want another one?" yelled the bartender.
"Um," said Gaston, as he looked at the uneven score of the basketball game on the television. "Sure, why not."
One more would not hurt and choosing not to have a drink or just stick with Diet Coke added a silent discomfort when trying to woo a potential client. Anytime Gaston met with one, he planned every detail meticulously. First, he searched the person online and found every piece of information he could pull. Most of his clients were very accomplished and had CVs (curriculum vitae) and biographies available. From there, he would plan everything from the photos and slides that he used in his presentation to his attire to little tidbits that he would work into conversation.
Unfortunately, he had been able to find very little information on Orlin Norris, who was now 15 minutes late. The only information online was an address in some town in Tennessee that he had never known existed. Gaston then went ahead and paid for an online background check, but only learned that Orlin owned property in that town and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy. Based on that limited information, Orlin went with his basic presentation and wore a navy blue shirt with black flat front chino pants. It was unoriginal and uncreative, but it was professional and safe.
"Gaston?" asked a deep voice with a southern drawl.
Gaston calmly took a deep breath and slowly spun around.
"Orlin?" he responded.
"You got it," answered Orlin with a grin.
The two men shook hands. Gaston quickly scanned his potential client, who wore brown cowboy boots, dark blue jeans and a light green shirt, which was mostly covered by his heavy coat. Nevertheless, Gaston could tell that Orlin was in his mid-30s and a physical specimen who could probably handle himself on any terrain.
"Have a seat," said Gaston.
Orlin took off his coat and slowly sat down on the stool. The bartender approached them.
"What can I get you?" he asked.
Orlin looked at Gaston’s glass and pointed questioningly.
"High West Double Rye," answered Gaston.
"I’ll have one too," said Orlin.
The bartender stepped towards the middle of his liquor display, which had an assortment of bourbons and whiskeys. Orlin turned to Gaston.
"Hope you didn’t mind meeting at my hotel. I just figured it would be easier to talk here than in a crowded bar," said Orlin.
"Of course," said Gaston. "I spend a lot of time traveling this time of year and taking care of permits and supply deals and meet in all kinds of places. I just hate for your experience of Anchorage nightlife to be the Hilton bar."
Orlin smiled.
"Well, I’ve been a here a couple of days. Maybe we can go out afterwards," he said.
Gaston nodded.
"So what brings you to Alaska this time of year?" he asked.
The bartender returned with a half-full glass of whiskey. Orlin took a sip, savored it and held the glass up approvingly to Gaston.
"So the town where I live, Pennyroyal," Orlin began. "Way back when–"
"Where is Pennyroyal?" Gaston interrupted, even though he already knew the answer.
"In the mountains of East Tennessee," answered Orlin, taking another sip. "So anyway, some time in the 1800s, gold was discovered–"
"Whoa," said Gaston. "How much?"
"I don’t really know. Enough to make a ring, but not enough to start a gold rush," said Orlin. "Be that as it may, we play it up big time. We have an annual Gold Festival and a store and a plot of land where you can buy time to pan for gold."
"Do people ever find any major loads?" asked Gaston.
"Think the owner’d let tourists pan for gold on his land if they did?" said Orlin.
"Sorry, dumb question," said Gaston.
"No, I’d ask the same thing before I wasted my time," said Orlin. "It’s mainly a novelty for people passing through. Kids love it. Anyway, we thought another draw would be if folks could use equipment from Alaska since that’s the last place in America where people legitimately prospect for gold. So the owner sent me out to meet with a guy from Klondike Equipment Company and it looks like they are going to start shipping pans, rock hammers, and classifiers."
"Cool," said Gaston, taking a sip of his whiskey. "What have a you thought of Alaska so far?"
"Honestly?" asked Orlin.
Gaston nodded.
"I think every other person I meet here is on dope," answered Orlin.
Gaston snorted with laughter and put his hand over his mouth to keep from spitting out his whiskey.
"Sorry, probably should have waited ’til you swallowed to say that," said Orlin. "But seriously, I’m from a small town and we’ve got our fair share of rednecks and rubes, but it seems like every unexceptional person I grew up with would be managing a hotel or restaurant here."
Gaston doubled over laughing. Orlin would be someone he would enjoy.
"I just hope people aren’t like that in the wild out here," said Orlin.
"They’re not," reassured Gaston. "If you’re a dumbass in the wilderness, you die real fast. That’s where you find the exceptional people in Alaska."
Orlin shrugged and took another sip of his whiskey.
"Yet you still want to come back," said Gaston.
"To your point, I’ve hiked up to the top of Mount Mitchell and Clingman’s Dome; from the bottom mind you. I didn’t park 50 feet from the top and walk up," said Orlin. "I’ve done some rock climbing back home too. I have always wanted to climb Mt. McKinley, but I don’t know shit about shit when it comes to the high altitudes or the snow. I don’t even know if I should call it McKinley or Denali."
Gaston downed his drink before speaking; time to earn his money.
"It varies," he said. "The park is called Denali, which is what Alaskans have always called it, but it got named after William McKinley after the turn of the century since everyone was upset with his assassination and the name stuck and now it’s legal. Every year, Alaskans in Congress push for the name to be changed when the National Park authorization bill comes up, but since McKinley was from Ohio, someone from there always blocks it."
"Hmm," said Orlin.
"Personally, I think since it’s a national landmark, the federal government can call it whatever the hell it wants," said Gaston.
"Maybe so," said Orlin as he stared at his glass.
Oh dear, I hope I didn’t overreach and offend him, thought Gaston.
"Did you say you have a presentation?" asked Orlin.
"Yeah," said Gaston. "It’s a short PowerPoint."
"How about we go up to my room and you show it there instead of trying it here?" asked Orlin.
"Sounds great," said Gaston.
They both finished their whiskeys with one shot and stood up. Gaston grabbed the bill.
"I got this," he said.
"Thanks," said Orlin. "By the way, how do I pronounce your last name?
"Everyone asks me that," said Gaston with a smile. "Swarmer. My family is from Argentina."
The light was already on in Orlin’s executive suite when the two entered. Gaston entered carrying his workbag and nodded at the amenities.
"Nice," he said.
"Yeah, you get a good rate this time of year," said Orlin. "Can I get you anything? Take your coat?"
"No, I’m good for now," answered Gaston, as he sat down in one of the tables two chairs.
Orlin sat down in the other chair and placed his coat in his lap. Gaston produced his laptop from the bag and opened it.
"Alright, let’s get started," he said Gaston.
He turned the laptop towards Orlin, and pulled up the first slide of a PowerPoint presentation. The slide read:
Carpe Diem Ventures
Gaston Suarmer, Owner
"Now I promise you that this is not some boring PowerPoint presentation," said Gaston. "I just want to give you an idea of what I’m about. Like you, the first mountain–well major mountain–that grabbed me was Denali."
Gaston pulled up the next slide, which showed a postcard-worthy photo of the mountain. Snow covered two-thirds of its rugged landscape and a lush green forest extended from the base all the way to Wonder Lake.
"I took that coming in before I made my first ascent eight years ago," continued Gaston.
He went to the next slide, showing him standing at the top. Gaston was wearing a parka and insulated pants and his gloved fists were raised in the air. A roped connected to a carabiner hooked to his waist trailed out of the photograph.
"Eleven days later, I summited," he said.
"Wow," said Orlin.
Gaston gushed and went to the next slide, which showed Mount Everest. The images was not as breathtaking as Denali, since it jutted above of other Himalayan mountains, but the image of snow blowing off the top was very intimidating.
"I thought I would do McKinley and be good to go, but that summit made me want to go after more mountains. So the next year, I went after Everest. I spent a month on that mountain, but on May 17, I made it to the top."
He went to the next slide, which showed him on the top of the mountain. Orlin’s eyes widened. From the summit, it really did seem as if one was standing on top of the world.
"When you make a summit attempt on Everest, you have to start at midnight the day before to make it up and back. So you are above 29,000 feet when the sun rises," said Gaston, his voice beginning to quiver. "So you are watching the sun come up in the east but you look to the west and it is completely dark. Words can’t even describe it."
He paused to let what he said sink in with Orlin and then clicked to the next slide. It showed snow-peaked mountain surrounded by rugged brown rock.
"Is that Aconcagua?" asked Orlin.
"Very good. I did it in the fall after I did Everest," he said.
The next slide showed him standing at the summit. The steep peak and clouds behind Gaston made the highest mountain in South America the best summit photo of the three.
"I did McKinley again the next year and then I hired on as a guide for Roy Moore’s company and did expeditions on McKinley and Everest for the next three years."
He shuffled quickly through slides of photos showing him posing with climbers and in various stages of ascending some icy mountain with other climbers.
"But I thought about it and realized that I could lead expeditions with like-minded climbers and help them make their dreams come true for less than what other companies we’re charging. So I started Carpe Diem Ventures, which as you probably know, is Latin for ‘seize the day.’ And over the past four years I have helped 90 people summit either McKinley or Everest. I’ve had 25 climbers summit both."
Gaston pulled up another photo of group of 20 climbers waving at the camera.
"That’s our team at Everest base camp last summer," he said. "We stand out in various ways, but first is the price. A typical McKinley expedition would cost you $7,000. That covers climbing permits, food, tents, supplies and gear."
He pulled up a slide showing the figure.
"But if you climb with me, you can do it for $1,500."
The next slide showed that number.
"And I know right now, you’re asking, ‘How is that possible?’ Well, first I run an operation that caters to the serious climber. I’m not in the business of pulling some fat millionaire up a mountain so he can cross it off his bucket list while drinking $80 bottles of cabernet at base camp. I put together a group of like-minded individuals who can hold their own on a mountain and come to it for one reason and one reason only: to climb it."
Gaston paused and stared intently at his audience. Orlin bit his lower lip before speaking.
"Interesting," said Orlin. "And how do you make sure you have the right team?"
"Glad you asked," answered Gaston.
He moved to the next side, which was titled: Creating the Right Team.
"The first thing I do is have potential climbers fill out a 50-question, um, questionnaire," said Gaston with an aw-shucks smile. "If you make it past that step, then I have you complete four climbing and endurance tests and send me reports on how you did. If I read your reports and determine you’re ready, the next step is the mountain."
"Do people ever lie?" asked Orlin.
"Sometimes, but trust me… I’ve been doing this long enough that I can tell," said Gaston. "The thing is that this is not a pass or fail process. Carpe Diem is built on the belief that some people are meant to climb mountains and others aren’t. That’s what separates us from the other groups that will just let any person take a crack at a mountain. To me, that’s irresponsible. If you’re not meant to climb one of the seven summits, there is another day for you to seize."
"Can’t argue with you there," said Orlin. "What are some of the questions?"
Gaston clicked to the next slide, which showed sample questions.
"A basic one is if you ever served in the military," said Gaston.
"I have," said Orlin.
"Okay, and then a follow-up question would be, ‘In what capacity?’ If it’s classified, you don’t have to feel obligated to answer," said Gaston.
"I was a Navy Seal," said Orlin.
Gaston stared at him wide-eyed.
"No shit?" he said.
"No shit," answered Orlin.
"Wow," said Gaston.
He clicked to the next slide.
"Some of the questions are informational. Others are essay format, like this one here. This one asks, ‘When George Mallory said he was going to attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1924 simply because it’s there, what did he mean?’ Well, what do you think?" asked Gaston.
Orlin looked up at the ceiling for a good 15 seconds before speaking.
"I’ve always thought that answer was so glib," he said. "My guess is that he was saying, ‘If you’re asking me why I want to do this, then there is no way I can truly explain it to you.’ Don’t know if that’s the right answer or the one that you are looking for, but that’s what I think."
"There really is no right or wrong answer," reassured Gaston. "It just gives me an idea of whether you’ll have the right mentality for climbing, and from my perspective, your answer was perfect."
"Great," said Orlin. "What kind of answer did Jason Rawlins give you?"
Gaston’s jaw dropped, but he quickly composed himself.
"So you read that article, huh?" he asked.
Orlin nodded.
"Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jason," said Gaston. "He was on our second expedition of Everest. He was a great man and he was in amazing shape. He was so excited about summiting, and on the day of the summit, he started off great… and he summited. But the thing about high altitudes is that they can affect a person quickly and if it hits you late in the day, there is little that can be done. I stayed with him and radioed for help, but a storm was coming and no one at Camp IV had the strength to climb back up and help. It’s hard to envision this sitting in a hotel room, but it takes about 20 people to carry a man down a mountain when he is suffering from high-altitude sickness."
Gaston lowered his head for a moment. Orlin’s eyes never left him.
"I stayed with Jason until he died late that afternoon," Gaston continued. "Then I went to Camp IV. I had a full team to lead down the mountain. That Summits Weekly article made me look like a monster but none of the authors have ever been higher than Everest base camp. Jason’s death devastated me and–I already had a strong screening process in place–but I made it stronger and have continued to refine it with each expedition."
When he finished, he stared at Orlin, who ran his tongue inside the bottom flap of his mouth before speaking.
"Well, it seems like even with all of that refining you do, someone still manages to die or a lose a body part with every one of your expeditions. The thing about Jason is that he was the nephew of Thumper Rawlins, my boss who owns the gold panning business," said Orlin. "However, he also has some other endeavors and a bit of a–"
"Okay," interrupted Gaston, shutting the laptop. "I don’t think you want to climb McKinley and it’s best that we call it a night here."
He stood and froze when he looked down at Orlin. A .45 pistol sat in his hand above the heavy coat. Gaston felt his hand begin to tremble.
"Wh-wh-what if I try to run?" Gaston asked. "You’re going to have to shoot me and then get out of this hotel."
"That’s my problem, not yours," said Orlin. "Sit down."
Gaston did as he was told.
"As I was saying," continued Orlin. "Thumper Rawlins owns the gold-panning store back in Pennyroyal, but he also has many other business ventures and like many businessmen, he deals with his problems head on. When he heard that his nephew was killed, he started checking around and–"
"Wait a minute," interrupted Gaston, with a snap of his fingers. "I thought Jason was from Atlanta."
"Well, people do move, dumb shit," said Orlin. "The fact that you spent a month on a damn mountain with him and never bothered to learn where he was from says a lot."
Gaston lowered his head.
"So he checked around," continued Orlin. "Called a lot of those websites that cover Everest and learned that you had actually left Jason early in the afternoon and that a bunch of climbers ignored him on their way down. So he asked me to come deal with you, but first he wanted you to read this."
Orlin pulled a folded piece of paper from his front-shirt pocket.
"Oh God," said Gaston, his voice beginning to tremble.
Orlin raised the .45.
"You cry or piss your pants and we’ll forget the note and I’ll just beat you to death right here," he said.
Gaston nodded and frantically wiped tears from his eyes with the palms of both hands. When he was ready, he took the note from Orlin and unfolded it.
"Take your time," said Orlin.
Gaston held the note with two shaking hands. It was typed and read:
Dear Gaston,

You may think you’re sitting here right now because I’m just some bitter man looking for someone to blame for Jason’s death, but you’re wrong. When he told his mother and father that he was serious about climbing Mount Everest, they did what they always did when they thought he was making a bad decision: they said nothing and prayed.

I was the one who pulled him aside and said, "you’re a dumbass" and he we had a long talk and he told me that this was something he had to do. He couldn’t really explain why. I told him that he should wait five years and see if it’s still something he "had" to do. He said that was not a wise idea when climbing a mountain. I said okay and wished him the best of luck.

When he died, I was sad, but knew it was a possibility. Then I started hearing more about how his guide left him and that people just stepped over him when they went down the mountain. Then I looked into it and found out that you are one of many hucksters who subsidize your mountain climbs with other people’s money by just taking them along as a "guide" but not even being with them when they had a problem.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m involved in some businesses that operate beyond the law, but I always fulfill my obligations to someone who pays me and I always help people I come across in need. What you people do on that mountain is an affront to humanity.

I’m still finding out the names of the people who left Jason to die and they will be dealt with in due time. As for you… we have a little thing in the south called being born again. For a lot of men, being born again comes after sleeping with a prostitute after drinking too much whiskey. Your journey is going to be a little different. My friend here will explain it to you, but if you survive, I promise you will be a better man.

Go Fuck Yourself,
J.R.
Gaston lowered the paper and Orlin stuck his hand out for it. When Gaston handed it to him, Orlin crumpled it up and shoved it in his mouth.
"I don’t suppose there’s anyway I can just be a better person going forward?" asked Gaston.
Orlin shook his head, still chewing on the paper.
"Okay," said Gaston. "What’s next?"
Orlin swallowed.
"We’re going to take a ride. Get your coat," he said.
They both wore their coats in the elevator. Orlin kept his hands in his pockets, his .45 concealed in the right one. They were the only two in the elevator.
"If I scream and try to run in the lobby, how do you expect to get out of the hotel?" asked Gaston.
"Again, my worry, not yours," Orlin responded.
"You know, for what it’s worth, when we get to any mountain, I always tell my team that they are going to have to be very self-reliant," said Gaston.
"That’s nice," said Orlin sarcastically. "It’d be even nicer if you told them that before you cashed their check."
They walked through the lobby, through the revolving door out to Third Avenue where a black Ford Escape with an Alaska license plate was parked on the curb. Orlin unlocked it with his key.
"Get in the passenger side," said Orlin.
He followed Gaston around the car to make sure he got in and shut the door. As Orlin walked around the front to get in on the driver’s side, Gaston quickly scanned the buildings on Third Avenue. He thought he might have just enough of a window of time to run down a side alley if he escaped in the millisecond that Orlin was sitting down. He was so busy weighing his options that he did not see the figure pop up from the backseat until the syringe went into his neck. Gaston turned to see Orlin glaring at him as his vision blurred. Then darkness came.
Gaston was awoken with a blow to the ribs. He squirmed to hold his side but felt constricted by some sort of fabric. As he slowly opened his eyes, Gaston realized that he could hear the propeller of a plane but everything was pitch black.
"I think that kick to the ribs probably did it," said a muffled voice that Gaston heard.
He heard a zipping sound and then realized that the bag that he was in was opening. When the fabric cleared, he saw Orlin looking down at him. His expression was cold, but he still extended a hand. Gaston took it and pulled himself out of the bag. He stood up and looked around and realized he was in a bush plane, but he had no idea where they were.
"Want some coffee?" asked Orlin.
"Yes, that would be great," said Gaston.
Orlin walked to the cockpit of the plane and returned with a cup tray with two coffees.
"Stopped on the way to the plane," he said. "Do you take cream or sugar?"
"No, just black," said Gaston,
"Atta boy," said Orlin. "Oh, the pilot is Jeremy. He is the one who put you to sleep."
A lone arm emerged from the cockpit and waved. Orlin handed Gaston a coffee and took the other one for himself. Gaston was beginning to feel at ease.
"You have about 40 minutes before we arrive," said Orlin.
"Okay," said Gaston, with a bit of a wondrous smile. "Where are we going?"
"Denali National Park. That’s where we’re letting you out," said Orlin.
"What!?" screamed Gaston.
"You heard me," said Orlin.
"It’s five degrees below outside!" yelled Gaston.
Orlin nodded.
"The park is 100 miles long!" Gaston screamed again, with tears beginning to well in his eyes.
"What the fuck did you think we were going to have you do? Read to kindergarteners? You killed the man’s nephew," said Orlin.
"I didn’t kill his nephew!" yelled Gaston.
He began to sob uncontrollably. After a few minutes, Orlin handed him a napkin.
"Aren’t you going to beat me to death?" asked Gaston as he took it and began wiping both eyes.
"We’re past that point," said Orlin. "You parachute into the park and see if you can make it out alive. That’s your only option at this point."
Gaston collected himself and looked at the floor.
"You know Jason was an asshole," he said.
Orlin turned his head sideways and studied Gaston
"Yeah, he kind of was," said Orlin.
"No, I mean he was a major fucking asshole," said Gaston. "What you and your boss don’t understand is that I offer a legitimate service. Not everyone can pay $100,000 to climb Everest and not everyone needs that kind of care. I thought Jason was that type of climber."
"Did he tell you he was an experienced outdoorsman?" asked Orlin.
"Yeah," said Gaston sarcastically. "You mean he wasn’t?"
Orlin shook his head.
"Only if drinking beer by the river and letting someone else build your fires makes you an outdoorsman," said Orlin. "Why did you let him climb if you knew he wasn’t?"
"I didn’t know until we got to base camp and checked in with him at his tent and he was taking out his climbing boots. You’re supposed to spend weeks breaking those things in before you even get to the mountain. He was literally pulling them out of the fucking store box. He must have lied on the application."
"Must have," said Orlin, remembering that Gaston told him he could spot embellishments on the application.
"I let that one slide, but after a few days, it was apparent that he was not ready to climb any mountain above 6,000 meters, much less Everest," said Gaston. "So I pulled him aside and told him as much and that if he went home now, I’d refund three-quarters of his money."
"And what’d he say?" asked Orlin.
"He told me I was just a guide and to mind my own fucking business," said Gaston.
"Well, he was a Rawlins," said Orlin. "How did he make it to the summit?"
"If you’re in really good shape, which he was, you can make it to the top," said Gaston. "But once you go above 29,000 feet, your body may not let you make it back down. It ain’t like running a marathon. We started out that morning and Gaston was in the back pretty quickly. When we were about 1,000 feet from the summit and had about 12 hours to go, I could tell we needed to get him turned around. I went back and told him that I needed to take him down. His last words to me were ‘go… fuck… yourself’."
Orlin rubbed his eyes.
"Why didn’t you force him to turn around?" he asked.
"You can’t force anyone to do anything up there," said Gaston. "Try to shove someone and you may find both of you falling off the mountain. Okay, so I did lie. I didn’t stay with him until he died, but there was no hope for him when I left. Doesn’t any of this make you change your mind?"
"No," said Orlin.
"Godddammit," said Gaston. "I might as well jump now. It’s not like I can survive out there in this."
"You won’t be wearing that," said Orlin.
He pointed to three duffel bags behind him.
"Those bags contain all the gear you need," said Orlin. "Think we’d go to all this trouble to make you parachute into the wilderness in slacks?"
Gaston quickly stood up and began rummaging through the bags. They contained a compass, a waterproof map, a parka, pants, gloves and food, along with many other items. All in all, it was everything he would need to have a fighting chance.
"How did you know to get all of this?" asked Gaston.
"Jason’s been dead for two years and we started planning it not long after," said Orlin. "Best hurry. You’ve got 20 minutes."
Orlin went to the cockpit with Jeremy. Gaston quickly began preparing his pack. The situation they were placing him in was terrible. Denali National Park was the size of Massachusetts, but he knew it about as well as any mountaineer. If he could make it through the nights, he would have five to six hours of daylight to work with and hopefully, he would land in the vicinity of a ranger station. Gaston knew that he may lose a finger, a toe or part of his nose, but if he could make it out alive, he would have an amazing story.
Gaston was decked out in his gear when Orlin emerged from the cockpit carrying his parachute pack.
"I think we can fit this over your backpack," said Orlin.
"I think so too," agreed Gaston.
Orlin hooked the parachute on Gaston and began hooking the buckles in the front.
"You ever been skydiving?" asked Orlin.
Gaston nodded.
"It’s the same principle," said Orlin. "You fall for about six seconds and pull the cord."
"Okay," said Gaston.
"You ready?" asked Orlin.
"Ready as I’ll ever be," said Gaston.
Orlin walked to the back and slid open the door at the tail of the plane. The sound of the air was almost deafening.
"We’re in the northwest side of the park. That way you’ll miss most of the mountains!" yelled Orlin.
Gaston nodded.
"Whenever you’re ready!" said Orlin.
He stepped away from the doorway and Gaston moved into its frame. He took a deep breath and thought of the world of shit Orlin, Jeremy and Thumper Rawlins–whoever the hell he was–would be in when he made it out of the park alive. He was smiling as he disappeared into the night sky.
Orlin shut the door and returned to the cockpit. Jeremy’s eyes remained focused on the darkness.
"Did he jump?" asked Jeremy.
"Yeah, we can head back to Anchorage," said Orlin.
Jeremy began to shift the control sticks of the plane.
"Think he was telling the truth about Jason?" asked Jeremy.
"Probably," said Orlin. "At least some of it anyway. Jason was an asshole."
"That he was," agreed Jeremy. "But if you want to see man at his best, you ain’t going to find it on a 29,000-foot mountain."
"Ain’t that the damn truth," said Orlin.
Jeremy swallowed.
"Think he could’ve have made it out alive?" asked Orlin.
"Yeah," said Jeremy.
"Me too," said Orlin.
"Will Thumper be mad that we gave him an empty parachute pack?" asked Jeremy.
"Not after we explain that to him," said Orlin.
*
Check out the next story in this release, Ted Elrick’s No Directions Known!
"My head was a grapefruit in a paper sack dropped by a careless child…"
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