Monday, February 27, 2012

Spring Fever

The birds were singing. The sun was shining. A soft breeze wafted through the windows. And Gonga was staring down the biggest pile of laundry he had ever seen in his life. Trust me; he wasn’t staring at it because he wanted to. He would much rather be outside enjoying the weather, even if it meant suffering on a climbing wall with Derrick.

The problem was Derrick. He had decided that Lilia and he would have dinner with friends that night. And Gonga’s apartment just so happened to be the lucky place that was picked for their gathering.

Gonga hadn’t wanted to admit his terrible house-keeping habits to Derrick. So, he had accepted vigorously. And now he was facing the consequences.

Gonga sighed. He couldn’t believe how much that pile had grown since he moved in last fall. He hated doing laundry. So he tended to just pick up freebie t-shirts on campus and wear them for a couple days, let them air out in his room, wear them for another couple days, and when people started wrinkling their noses and shifting around to stand up-wind of him during conversations, he would finally cast the shirt into exile in his closet. The only problem was that he had cast far more shirts into exile than he remembered. And at the moment, he really wished he could stand up-wind of the closet.

It didn’t help at all that the basketball game had gone terribly wrong the night before. Not that Gonga really followed sports. But it did mean that his room-mate had come home in a terrible mood and started lifting weights. He claimed he’d tripped and the 25 pound dumbbell had simply fallen on the washer machine and somehow bumped it enough to break the water connection. Gonga hadn’t been home when the incident occurred. But there had been a police report filed on his apartment the night before for disturbance of the peace. The first line of the recorded phone call said it all. “Someone’s swearing like crazy and beating the crap out of something!”

And now he had at least fifteen loads to haul to a laundry-mat somewhere, along with the gallon of quarters it would take to wash that much. Gonga was tempted to pick up the dumbbell and finish what his room-mate had started.

The Textbook Game Blogger: Laura Prather

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Fallout

At first Gonga’s plan had worked like a charm. He found the boring librarian person. Vivacious, unfortunately. Very interested in all he said. Decidedly on the “I don’t care” side of fashion. But, most of all, a librarian. That was the best part. Derrick would never in a million years consider going out with a librarian.

Which is why Gonga didn’t tell him she was a librarian. He simply set his friend up on the blind date, telling him to carry his bright blue camel-back with him to The Upper Crust and lay it on the table. That’s how he had told her to find him. Yeah, the camel-back would stand out like a sore thumb in a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s day. But that was the point. And Gonga was past caring about Derrick’s comfort.

He had expected to see Derrick again in about two hours, fuming about what a jerk Gonga was to set him up with such a horrible person. Maybe three hours, if the waiter took his time. But Derrick hadn’t come back.

Gonga stayed up till two in the morning, waiting for a desperate call for rescue. But none ever came.

The next day he ran into a very giddy Derrick standing in the coffee line at Starbucks.

“Oh man, do I ever owe you!” Derrick crowed, slapping Gonga on the back and giving him a bear hug.

Gonga frowned.

“That was the best thing you’ve ever done for me. Oh man, oh man. What a friend! Buddy, you’re fantastic.”

“I try,” Gonga grunted, shrugging his shoulders. He wondered what kind of drugs the girl had introduced Derrick to.

“She’s amazing!”

Gonga looked up sharply. That tone of voice had only before been associated with worship of the most daring of feats. But this was even something more.

When Derrick proceeded to gush about Lilia for the next hour, Gonga knew he has made a mistake. Apparently his boring librarian pick was none other than the resident expert in the history of outdoor adventuring and exploration. Not only a historian, she had made it a goal to spend at least a month each summer somewhere abroad, climbing a mountain or trekking through some jungle or swamp. And she’d done it without fail since the year she turned fourteen.

Gonga finally excused himself, saying that he had to hand out flyers for The Textbook Game, and kindly reminding Derrick that he had already missed one class that morning, and it would probably be wise to try to attend the rest, if only for attendance points. Gonga doubted he would hear a word of the lecture that day.

Then Gonga went off to sulk. Part of him hoped that Derrick would snap out of it in a week or so, and resume his normal routine of ridiculous exploits and insane pranks. But something told him that this would be different. Somehow, he knew. He had just lost his best friend.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blind Date

Gonga cracked his knuckles. For once, he had his work cut out for him. Time to do his good buddy Derrick a favor he would never forget. He grinned. Gonga would have fun with this one.

Derrick has been whining the past few days about finding a date for Valentine’s day. For some reason, the idea of spending the whole day on the face of a rock wall was starting to lose its appeal. Historically, this is how Derrick always spent special days. Somewhere outside. Climbing. Hiking. Camping. Usually picking up a scrape or two, and always putting his life in harm’s way. But this year was different.

Gonga wondered whether his brief adventure as King Kong with “Ann Darrow” over Halloween had influenced him at all. Since he’d done nothing else with “Ann,” aside from wave cheerily as she walked past on her way to class each day, he decided it couldn’t possibly be the root. Knowing Derrick, he would want something that went a little deeper than saying hello every time he met someone on campus.

After about an hour of patient prodding, Gonga had finally extracted an agreement from his friend to try a blind date. Now he, Gonga, was setting out on a quest to find a likely female who would also acquiesce to his insane ideas.

The blond bombshell he stopped on her morning jog turned him down flatly. But she was just the first person he’d seen, so it didn’t phase Gonga too much. The next girl, someone he had noticed frequenting the greenhouses listened with interest as Gonga described his friend. Tall. Fast. Not exactly movie-star handsome, but better looking than average. Adventurous. Gonga held back a bit on this last snippet. He didn’t quite want to make the girl think that Derrick would probably die next week on the winter ascent of Pike’s Peak he and two of his crazy Mt. Everest friends were planning. What girl wanted to go out with a still warm corpse?

The girl seemed likely enough. Gonga surmised than an interest in growing things would at least equal an interest in the outdoors, which would go a very long way with Derrick. He noticed she seemed to be fidgeting her hand a bit, but it wasn’t till he was done talking that she finally waved it almost under his face.

“You know you’re being really great for your friend,” she said. “He sounds like a fun guy…but I’m already engaged.”

Then Gonga noticed the diamond.

The girl dropped her hand. She frowned. “But I might know someone who’s a bit more available.” She scribbled a name and number down on a scrap of paper. “She’s usually in the library at four. You should try to catch her there and see if you can sell her on the idea. You never know. She might be in the mood for a blind date.”

To be continued…

The Textbook Game Blogger: Laura Prather

Monday, February 6, 2012

Snow Withdrawal

After his brief (and painful) jaunt in Aspen Colorado, Gonga thought that he would be thrilled to be back in Columbia. But he had forgotten how much he loved snow. And being on a ski slope in Aspen did nothing to help the memories stay buried.

Now, back in Columbia, the streets looked dingy and bare. Fog hanging over the street lamps glowered sullenly. And the mournful sound of ice-scraping greeted Gonga’s ears each morning. Worst of all, Gonga’s new winter coat hung un-used in the closet of his apartment.

What was wrong with Columbia? Where was the snow storm he so enjoyed last year? The spring of snow and ice that seemed to lock the town in an everlasting grip?

Gonga kicked at a pebble and watched it skitter down the street downtown. Last year he would have been kicking snow. No, correction: he would have been throwing snow.

He remembered the snow-balls fights, and the snow forts, and the tunnels burrowed in the mounds and mounds and mounds of snow.

Gonga knew that he shouldn’t be missing snow this much. After growing up in the Congo, snow was a novel experience, a freak of nature he had not before been subjected to. But once was enough to form an addiction. And the withdrawal symptoms were hitting hard.

Gonga found himself staring into the freezer for minutes on end each night, imagining that the frost on the sides was snow forming. He paused in front of Coldstone, wondering if there was a way to run water across the icecream freezers and get snow to form. Maybe if someone spritzed the water out of a spray bottle? He even pondered stopping in at Buck’s ice-cream and asking if they could let him sit in their freezer for a few minutes, just so he could savor the feeling of cold penetrating to the bone again.

Outside Hatch Hall, Gonga stopped his frenzied pacing for a moment to glare up at the clouds. When would they stop mocking him? When would they give their snow?

He beat his chest in a wild jungle howl and began running, charging across campus, leaving swirls of started students in his wake.

The Textbook Game Blogger: Laura Prather

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gonga Goes Skiing

The new semester started smoothly enough for Gonga. He wasn’t directly involved in taking classes himself, but his work schedule definitely revolved around that of the students. No students meant no work. Lots of students meant lots of work, and lots of new students meant lots of unexpected work. Thankfully he had managed to survive the first two weeks of the semester without miss-hap. Until Derrick showed up.

Most of the time Gonga liked hanging out with Derrick. But there were times he really wished he had fallen off a cliff during his last mountain expedition. Today was the one of those times.

Gonga stood at the top of a sheer mountain of white snow. His goggles were still firmly attached to his head, but that was about it. His poles had gone flying when he clattered off the ski lift. And even his skis had somehow managed to detach themselves and twist into an undecipherable mess.

“Come on,” Derrick panted, “everyone falls off the lift their first time. Let’s go!” He made to push off, then he noticed Gonga’s confusion.

That was the one nice thing about Derrick. He might be a complete dare-devil. But he still managed to sense when others were uncomfortable. With Derrick’s help, Gonga sorted out his ski gear and got ready again. He still thought it was a ridiculous idea. He pondered letting Derrick go without him, removing the skis and simply walking to the bottom on the slope. It seemed a safer solution. But his toes screamed at him from inside the ski boots and he realized that even without the skis he wouldn’t manage to get far.

Gonga sighed. Why, oh why hadn’t Derrick gone plunging over a cliff last month? Then at least he could attend a nice, cozy memorial service in the comforting flatness of central Kansas with Derrick’s family.

Oh well.

Gonga pushed off.

At least, he tried. It took several minutes of painful coaching from Derrick before he worked up enough courage to begin the decent. But by mid-afternoon, he was stuttering down slope with less than two wipe-outs each run. Derrick had long since abandoned him for the double black diamonds. But Gonga didn’t care. He was finally beginning to make progress. He had actually managed to get off the lift without falling twice in a row!

For that Gonga was happy. But after seeing the bruises on his knees that night, he promised himself that never again would Derrick convince him to go on a “short weekend trip” to anywhere in the world. He didn’t care how “short” Derrick promised it would be.

Passing out flyers for the Textbook Game might take longer, but he never ended up feeling like he had been run over by a truck.

The Textbook Game Blogger: Laura Prather