Sunday, April 24, 2011

Summer Is Coming

“You know it’ll be here before you know it,” Dereck plopped down on the bench beside Gonga and dropped his backpack on the floor.

“Not fast enough,” Gonga grunted, laying his accordion aside.

“Why, what are you planning on doing?”

“Going to help band birds.”

“Band birds? You mean, shoot birds, right?”

“No, we will trap them and put a band on their leg and let them go.”

“Sure,” Dereck punched Gonga in the arm. “You mean you’ll eat a couple of them and then let the feathers go.”

Gonga scowled at his friend, “That is what Gonga does to Jayhawks. Not what Gonga does to real birds.”

“Well, you have a great time banding your little birdies. I’m gonn’a go climb Mount Everest.”

“Gonga think you mean Ozark mountain.”

“Those aren’t mountains,” Dereck arched his eyebrow. His watch chimed. “Well, better get going to class, or I’ll be late.” He hefted his backpack off the ground. “Stupid textbooks,” he muttered.

Gonga grinned. “Can sell them at Textbook Game,” he said. “Will buy oxygen mask for your mountain climb.”

“That,” Dereck wagged his finger at Gonga, “is the best idea you’ve had in weeks.”

“Banding birds is a better one,” Gonga responded. “Must sell my books to get money for that job.”

“You ARE crazy,” Dereck turned on his heel and strode off toward campus.

Gonga eyed his accordion case and tried to stop day-dreaming about feathers fluttering away in the breeze.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Can Gorillas Run 5Ks?

Gonga grunted with the effort of lifting his foot for the next running step. Sweat poured down his face inside the rubber mask, stinging his eyes and making him squint all the more. The sun soaked into the black fur on his head. This was misery. Sheer torture.

He should have asked himself whether gorillas were designed to run 5Ks before agreeing to this hair-brained idea. But the girl in the pink shirt with the signup sheet had been so cute and persuasive. He hadn’t been able to tell her no. It would have crushed her. And it was so good to see such liveliness!

Now he was in the middle of a surging crowd of bodies, creeping along a strip of asphalt, wondering if he would ever make it to the end.

Stankowskie field, and the finish line shimmered in the distance.

“Come on Gonga, you can do it,” Dereck popped up at his shoulder, grinning broadly.

Dereck had stumbled across Gonga playing his accordion last week and after a lively conversation about accordion styles and mannerisms, they had become instant friends. Now Dereck seemed to pop up all over campus.

“Need---water,” Gonga croaked.

“Oh, be right back,” Dereck disappeared, dodging through the pack of runners and taking off down the track. In a minute, he was back jogging beside Gonga. This time he had a plastic cup of water in his hand.

Gonga blinked. Had he just imagined that? He accepted the water and poured most of it on his head and down his shirt. A few drops made it into his mouth.

“So fast!” he grunted.

“I ran a marathon last week,” Dereck said. “This is just a little relaxer, I’m not racing.”

Gonga rolled his eyes and stumbled on towards his goal. The Stankowskie field track felt good under his feet. It felt even better on his hands as he collapsed on the other side of the finish line. No, he decided. Gorillas were not designed to run 5Ks.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Almost Lost That Job

When one goes riding on the MKT trail, or the KT trail, (or any trail for that matter), one must remember that coming back often takes longer than going out. So you should turn around a little before halfway through your allotted time. More like a third of the way through, if you plan to stop and smell the roses on the ride back.

Gonga learned this the hard way.

After biking for five days straight, he realized that spring break was over the following day and he just might need to return to Columbia in time to get to work the next morning.

He thought about turning around and biking all night in an attempt to make it home on time. But he at least had the sense to realize that one night of frantic peddling would not make up for five full days of leisurely biking.

Thankfully, he had the bright idea of climbing up the embankment of the next bridge he met and begging for a ride from passing motorists. He had no idea what road he might be on, or if it would take him closer or further from Columbia. He just hoped he could figure out a way to contact his boss and tell him where he was before he turned up missing the next morning.

Semi-truck drivers can occasionally be compassionate to weary sojourners. And since Gonga looked particularly woe-begone with his bike crumpled on the shoulder next to him, one driver finally pulled over.

He laughed hard, and long when Gonga finished his story. And he kept laughing the entire drive back to Columbia. (Thankfully Gonga had stumbled upon a road which really did lead home, and thankfully the driver was going that direction.)

Gonga tried to ignore the laughter. He finally decided that it was the price he had to pay for his own stupidity and suffered through the remaining hours of the trip in silence.

When he stumbled through the door of The Textbook Game early Monday morning, he decided not to tell his boss exactly what had happened. Just let him think he had stayed up late enjoying his last scraps of break. After all, that’s what he had done, right?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gonga’s Spring Break

It was spring break, and Gonga had absolutely nothing to do. No work. No school. No friends to hang out with. No-where fun to go. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Any other week of the year, and Gonga had plenty of friends. But this week they had all decided to abandon him. Bye. See you later. I’ll bring a T-shirt back for you.

Oh yes, they were friendly. But remote. No one offered to let him tag along on their crazy adventures to Pensacola, or Denver, or Boston, or Europe…

So here he was, stuck in Columbia, Missouri. Good ol’ CoMo.

He spent the first morning buried in the library, pouring over old vacation magazines, and pulling down every picture atlas he could find. He even read half a dozen travel guides to various destinations both in and outside the U.S. By the end of the day he had enough travel ideas and plans to fill an entire month. But still nothing to do the next six days of break.

The second morning he decided that he had his fill of just sitting around Columbia.

So he rented a bicycle at Walt’s Bike Shop and struck out on the MKT trail. By mid-morning, he had reach the KT trail proper and was riding along the Missouri river.

It was peaceful. Wind in his face, and no one else around for miles. In the afternoon, he began passing small knots of people walking on the trail, enjoying an evening outdoors.

Gonga stopped for water at several towns along the way. It was getting dark when he suddenly realized that he would need a place to spend the night. He kept riding for a few minutes, wondering if there were any more towns this direction. Then a solution popped into sight. The looming shape on the horizon which Gonga had subconsciously identified as a cloud turned out to be a bridge.

He spent the night under the bridge, tucked up in the tightest crack he could find, with his arms wrapped around his bike.

The next three days were sheer bliss. Gonga rode all day long, stopping for water frequently and bartering odd jobs for dinner in the various town scattered along the trail.

It wasn’t till the morning of the last day of spring break that Gonga suddenly realized he had failed to account for something. How was he going to get home?