Brex and the Snowboard

I was doing a Q & A with a

local school not long ago, and one of the kids asked if I ever use real stories in my books. Right away I thought of this story, that made it into Time Jam. It’s a silly story–and pretty disgusting!–but it really happened!

EXCERPT FROM TIME JAM:

“No, seriously, man.” Zach peeled a blackened chunk of pterosaur steak from the engine and tossed it onto a growing pile of burnt flesh and filthy rags they planned to burn later. “This has gotta be, like, one of the top five most disgusting jobs I’ve ever had.”

Snowboarding
Snowboarding sport photo

He shuddered as he plucked an unidentifiable piece of pterosaur from the engine, holding it between two fingers the way he’d hold a dead snake.

“Probably top three.”

Chase laughed again. “Top three? What in the world is number one?”

Zach didn’t even pause to think about it. “Snowahlamie Mountain.”

Chase stopped what he was doing, suddenly nauseated. “Oh, jeez,” he said. He not only knew what Zach was referring to, but ranked the experience as his own number one.

“Hey, don’t hold out,” Captain Jenks said as he tried to loosen a stiff bolt. “What happened?”

“Last winter,” Zach said. “Me’n Chase and my ten-year-old cousin Brex were snowboarding at Snowahlamie Mountain. Out in Utah?”

“Dinosaur country,” the pilot said. He gritted his teeth as he leaned against the stubborn bolt. “Okay …”

“There’s a big lodge halfway down the mountain,” Chase added. “And one of the underground sewer lines burst.”

Zach: “It wasn’t real deep, and all the warm … sludge … began eroding away the dirt, and the snow—”

Chase: “Making a hole about five feet across—”

Zach: “And filling it with … sludge—”

Chase: “But people coming down the hill couldn’t see it.”

Captain Jenks stopped work on the bolt to listen.

We saw it,” Zach said, nodding to Chase. “And just barely missed it. But because it had just happened, the resort didn’t know anything about it—”

Chase: “We didn’t know what to do—”

Zach: “So Chase called nine-one-one.”

Captain Jenks: “You called nine-one-one?”

Chase spread his hands. “Hey—who you gonna call?”

Zach laughed. “And the poor dispatcher thought we were prankin’ her. Chase kept saying, ‘Seriously!’ and ‘I’m not kidding!’ and ‘This is for real, man!’ ”

Captain Jenks: “So what happened?”

Chase: “Dispatcher finally called the ski patrol—”

Captain Jenks: “The ski patrol?”

Chase: “Yeah, I didn’t get it either.”

Zach: “But then we looked up the hill—”

Chase: “And here comes Zach’s little cousin Brex.”

Chase and Zach exchanged somber glances.

“He was flying down the hill,” Zach said. “I mean, if it was the Olympics, he would have gotten the gold.”

Chase: “We started waving and yelling—”

Zach: “But he thought we were telling him to go faster—”

Captain Jenks could see where the story was going and began to chuckle.

“Yeah,” Zach said, seeing the pilot had figured it out. “And he went right in—”

Chase: “Massive belly flop—”

Zach: “Right into the … sludge.”

Both boys shook their heads.

“We had to help him out of the hole,” Zach said. “I mean, he was literally drowning in it—”

Chase: “Flopping around like a fish—”

Zach: “Splashing his arms—”

Chase: “Still strapped to his snowboard—”

Zach: “And man … it was horrible.”

“You can’t even imagine how bad it was,” Chase said. “A ski patrolman finally came to help—”

Zach: “His name was Chase, too—”

“Yeah,” Chase said, remembering. “He took us down to the patrol locker room where they have showers so we could clean Brex up and stuff. But still”—he shuddered—“it was the worst! I mean, I’ve never, ever, been around anything so disgusting.”

“We just threw his clothes away,” Zach said. “I mean, who’d want to ever wear ’em again?”

Chase: “We found him some stuff in lost-and-found to wear home. And poor Brex drenched himself in cologne and aftershave every day for a month, thinking he still smelled like … well, you know.”

Zach: “It was like a mental thing: no matter what he did and no matter how many times he showered, he was certain he could still smell it. For like a month!”

Chase shuddered again, then turned back to the gooey mess in the engine.

“You know, come to think of it,” he said, getting back to work, “this really isn’t all that bad …”

Ooh! I can’t read that without shuddering! And remember, it really happened! And it reminds me of the time . . . well, we’ll save that story for another time!

Moon Lake Adventure

I spent this past weekend at exotic (and mysterious) Moon Lake, speaking to a group of 11-year-old Scouts. Great kids! I had a great time (and even looked for the legendary Moon Lake Monster, but without luck).

bearAnyway, I opened my talk with one of my favorite Scouting stories, which went something like this:

A bunch of years ago I spent 18 days backpack through Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Now, there’s a lot of bears at Philmont, so you can’t keep any food in your tent at night. Yeah, you do that and every hungry bear on the mountain’s gonna try crawling into your tent with you.

So every night before you go to bed, you’ve gotta take all your snacks and candy and anything else that smells like food and put it in a burlap sack called a “bear bag.” Then you take the bag about fifty yards out of camp and hoist it into a tree. That way, if any bears come wandering by, they spend the night trying to get into the tree instead of your tent.

At first, we were all really good about loading up the bear bag, ’cause none of us wanted some nosy bear sneaking into our tents. But there were a couple of problems. First, we weren’t seeing any bears. We weren’t seeing any tracks. And after a couple of days we started thinking maybe there really weren’t any bears, and that they were just a story made up to scare everybody.

And second, sometimes you’d put six Snickers bars into the bear bag, but you’d only get three back the next morning. So we all started getting a little lax about loading our best snacks in the bear bag.

One night after everyone had gone to bed, I went out for a little night hike. When I came back I was trying to be as quiet as I could, so I didn’t disturb anyone. There was one tent on the outskirts of camp, and as I got close I could hear a couple of the guys talking inside. One of the boys was saying, “Dude, quit moving around . . . you’re kneeling on my glasses!”

“Oh, sorry, I thought you were wearing them.”

“I am wearing them!”

Well, I started to walk around when I heard one of the kids go, “Shhhhhhhh!

And man, I froze, ’cause I believe in Bigfoot and I was sure someone had just heard him. But nothing happened, so I finally took another step and heard, “Shhhhhhhh! There it is again!

And this time I realized, “Ah, they hear me!”

But just to make sure I took another step and sure enough, “Shhhhhhhh! There it is again!

Followed by: “What do you think it is?”

“I bet it’s a bear!”

And a horrified voice: “I didn’t put all my stuff in the bear bag!”

“Where is it?”

And in pure panic: “It’s right here!

And the next second ZIP! went the zipper, and the next instant Pop Tarts, licorice, candy bars, power bars, raisins, bubble gum, and trail mix comes flying from the tent.

The next morning, we all searched the bushes for whatever was left of the guys’ snacks, but never did find any of it, which proved there was a bear in camp.

But I sure ate good that week.

Moon Lake Adventure

Boy sCOUTI was recently invited to speak to the 11-year-old Boy Scouts from Altamont, Utah, at their yearly overnighter at spooky Moon Lake in the High Uintah Mountains. Last year I gave a funny talk about scuba diving, and even though this was an entirely new batch of kids, I decided that this year I’d tell them some funny flying stories.

Once I got there, though, and started meeting the boys, I realized I’d prepared the wrong talk. I had to change things on the fly, and started out by telling them about my trip to the doctor that morning, pretty much ad libbing the whole thing. This is how it went . . .

“Wow, I’m jazzed to be here again. I have to apologize because I’ve been limping around all afternoon, and I know some of you are curious about what’s wrong. You see, something really weird happened to me this morning, and I normally wouldn’t talk about it, but I figure we’re all friends and you won’t judge me too harshly.

“I had to go to the doctor, and he’s a nice guy but he told me that he needed to give me a couple of shots. He stepped out and talked with his nurse for a minute, and a few minutes later she came in carrying two syringes. And they were HUGE! When I first saw them I thought they were bazookas. They were so big she wasn’t carrying one in each hand, but she had her arms curled in front of her and was carrying them like chunks of firewood.

“I looked at the doctor and said, ‘Dude . . . you gonna hunt deer with those things?’ And without looking up from his papers he said, ‘No, these are for you.’ I just shook my head and said, ‘I’m not on fire, man, if you’re thinking of using them to hose me down!’

“He just gave me a sour quit’cher-whining look, so I just sighed and started rolling up the sleeve of my shirt.

“Now, have you guys ever seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas? And you remember how the Grinch–when he decides how he’s going to ruin Christmas for all the Whos in Whoville–he gets this evil grin that just curls around his face? Well, the doctor started grinning at me and he got the same evil grin and he said, ‘Dude . . . these aren’t going in your arm . . .”

“Oh, man! I couldn’t believe it! And I’ll skip what happened next (except for telling you the nurse said all the neighborhood dogs started howling when I screamed), but then I sat down–carefully–while the doctor wrote me a prescription. So then I was finished, but when I stood up to leave, I tripped and fell flat on my face. One of the shots had put my leg to sleep–completely to sleep!–just like the shots do that you get at the dentist. You know how your mouth goes funny and you can’t feel anything and you talk funny for a couple of hours? Well, that’s what happened to my leg. And even though I got the shot at, like ten this morning, my leg’s still asleep. And I’ve been really worried about it because I know later we’re all going on a night hike, and I know there are a lot of bears around here, and if one starts chasing us, I’ve only got one good leg to run on and you know the bear’s gonna come after me, right? Yeah, everyone’ll start running and I’ll be hobbling along and he’s gonna be thinking, ‘Get the slow guy! Get the slow guy!’ ”

Well, by now the kids were all howling, and I was having a great time too. I never gave a single word from the talk I’d written, but was sooooo glad I decided to go off script. I told them a few of my favorite funny bear stories, like the one where a fisherman’s standing in the middle of a river . . . well, I’ll save that for another time.

The point is that it’s times and experiences like this that makes being a writer so much fun. (I’m almost willing to go back to Doctor Deadleg just to get some new material!)