CONVERSATIONS. Koda and Drake, lost hikers on a backroad.

The night was getting dark as we drove the last couple hundred yards up the mountain; almost home after seven hours on the road. 

One of the children said.
There’s two teenagers walking up our mountain!

On this rare occasion, they were correct. I looked out and there were two boys; one shirtless, weaving their way up the mountain a hundred yards from our place. 

I pulled in. Me and three of my favourite girls: my 10-year old daughter, my eight-year old niece, and my 22-year old sister. Home at last. I turned off the lights, opened the car door, and stepped outside.

she whispered urgently. 
They’re coming down our driveway! 

Sure enough. Two young men slinked down the driveway. After 10pm, dark night, lonely mountain, two strange characters in my yard. 

I shut the door, tossed the keys in, and locked it from the inside, not in that order, and walked up to confront them. 

I said. 
What’s going on?

They both started talking, but then the shorter, shirtless, inked one anointed himself the alpha. I’m not going to try quoting him, because very little made sense, but apparently there was an ex-girlfriend they were supposed to meet, and then they somehow got lost. Lost on the top of a mountain three miles from the Safeway at the bottom where they had started off. 

Can I use your phone? 
he asked. 
I’m really sorry, mine is almost dead and I need to call my mom to see if she can pick us up.

Right, I thought, and bypassed his question with my own
Are you drinking?
I asked. 

No sir,
He said. 
I mean, earlier we were, but not since we started walking up this mountain.

You smell like booze. 
I said. 
What’s the number?

I punched it in and handed the phone to him, crowding him a little and keeping his tall skinny friend in my field of view. 

The children peered through the car window and he noticed as the phone was ringing. 
Your kids are so cute.
He said.
I love kids. I’m definitely planning on having my own kids.

I decided to wait until he was off the phone to suggest that perhaps he consider having his own children with someone other than his ex-girlfriend, and also possibly investing in an automobile, and possibly a lifestyle change or two. 

An older female voice answered at the other end. He jumped right in. Hey Mom, can you pick us up? We were supposed to meet ____ and ______ and then _____ so can you pick us up at the cross street of ______.  

Okay, see you soon, love you Mama. 

Hung up, handed my phone back. My body relaxed slightly; happy that I wasn’t going to have to chase someone in the dark to get my phone back. 

Hey thanks so much,
He said.
Sorry to bother you. 

Sure thing.
I said.

They started walking up our driveway. I gave twenty seconds to make sure they weren’t bluffing and made a decision:

I called.
Call your mom back. I’ll give you a ride to Safeway. 

He said.
That would be so awesome!

I said.
Give me two minutes.

I unloaded my daughter, niece, and sister our of the car quickly and hustled them inside.

Lock it behind.
I told my sis. 
I’ll call you in ten. 

They climbed in and I drove out. One hand on the wheel, one on my phone and two-foot length of sturdy fiberglass club I keep handy for such situations. 

I said.
Explain to me again how you came to be up here?

Again, they both started in, but the shorter, the one in the passenger seat, took over. Short version is they were trying to walk partway up the mountain to meet his ex-girlfriend, and obviously paths got crossed up, and cell phones were going dead, and...

What were your names?
I asked.

Said the shorter alpha in the front seat.

Said the taller sidekick in the back. 

I said from my position in the driver’s seat. 
So she’s your ex, Koda? 

He said.
I mean...sort of. It’s complicated. I mean, I still love her, and she sometimes likes me, but she yanks me around a lot and I’m okay with it. I know what to expect. 

I said. 
I don’t know what to say. That’s not cool. Sounds like you’re a loyal guy. Meeting up with her tonight and all. 

He said.

So what keeps you guys busy when you’re not hiking mountains in the dark?
I asked.

Koda jumped in. 
I’m gonna travel and buy property. My plan is, I’m going to school to learn HVAC, and when I’m done I’ll start at $60 thousand a year, and then I’ll be making in the triple digits after a few years. 

I said. 
Sounds like a good plan.

Yeah totally.
He said.
So I’m gonna save up three or four hundred thousand and then buy property. I’ve been researching and you can buy, like, 40 acres for $20 grand in Montana.  

Montana’s awesome,
I said, checking out quiet Drake in the back seat. 
You been there?

He said.
I’ve never been further away than Bend. But there’s, like a bunch of places in the world where you can buy cheap property. After I’ve saved up three or four hundred thousand I’ll go buy some and then get a 5th wheel with my buddies and set up a drifting track. 

Pretty cool!
I said.
Have you checked out Tokyo?

I’m really into drifting,
He raced ahead.
But I wanna make my own track, so we can build it how we want, and then just, like, do it whenever we want, you know. 

That sounds like it’ll be a pretty awesome experience and setup. 
I said. 
I would love to find out about some of these property deals. And maybe start HVAC school. 

He said. 
I’ve got it figured out. 

What about you, Drake?
I asked.
What’re you up to?

I did have a job until a few weeks ago,
He said.
I worked with my dad loading pallets and cargo and stuff. But then he got fired for drinking on the job. So they fired me too because I guess they thought I wouldn’t be reliable either. 

That’s unfortunate, I’m sorry,
I said.
Are you reliable?

He said. 
I’m planning to go through IBEW training so I can be an electrician. You make good money. 

That’s what I hear,
I said. 
Good luck. So how do you guys know each other?

We went to the same high school,
Koda jumped in. 
But we weren’t friends. We were in, like, totally different groups. But then I saw him at a party and I was like, hey, I know you. We should, you know, so yeah, we were trying to meet up with my girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. 

I’m supposed to be in Maui right now,
Drake explained from the back.
But I missed my flight.

I said. 
How did that happen?

I was at a party the night before,
He said.
And I forgot to set my alarm and my friend that I was supposed to go with called and said we gotta go RIGHT now, and he said he could come pick me up if I was ready right then, but I was too out of it and I just said, ‘just go man.’ So he did. 

I said.
What happened to your ticket?

I told him to take his girlfriend,
Drake said.

So originally he was going with you, 
I asked.
But then his girlfriend was ready to go last minute and the ticket transfer worked and all?

Yeah, pretty much,
He said. 
Maui would be pretty cool, I’ve never been there. 

I’ve heard it’s kind of spectacular,
I said.
But on the bright side, at least your friend’s girlfriend is enjoying it.

He said. 
It’s like, I probably shouldn’t have gone to the party the night before.

I said.
That might have been a good idea...but you’ll have a drifting track to hang out at soon!

Koda said, and Drake nodded in the back. 

I pulled into the Safeway, directly in front, and stuck my hazards on. 

You guys gonna be good from here? 
I asked.

Oh yeah, yeah yeah.
Koda said.
Thank you SO MUCH. 

He reached out his hand and gave me a firm handshake. Drake leaned in and gave me one too. 

Thank you SO MUCH.
He said also.

Sure thing, guys,
I said.
Good luck with everything, and school and work and property ownership!

I drove away and watched in the rear view mirror as they scanned the parking lot for their ride, which I was not inclined to wait around for. 


I parked for the second time that night in our driveway. Stuck my key in the front door lock, twisted, opened, walked in...

...and was greeted by a 22-, 10-, and 8-year old in suspended state of attack; ready to repel unknown entrants. I believe one - my daughter - was aggressively holding a pair of scissors in front of her. I do not recall whether my sister was wielding a machete, or whether or not my niece had a chainsaw. Those details escape me. What I do recall is that apparently my return was not expected; they were in fact quite certain that “the teenage boys,” as they derisively called them, would be returning, sans me, to attack the house, rob everything, and leave a trail of carnage behind. 

Somewhere between one and three of them fully believed this. 

FOOTNOTE: my daughter corrected this incident to the following: “I didn’t think the TWO of them would be coming back. I thought THEY were the distraction, and after you left, a THIRD would be coming along to break into the house.” 

Where she gets her out-of-control imagination, I have no idea.

I spent the rest of the night on the phone, talking down my son, my nephew, and various other family members and friends that had been alerted during my eleven-minute absence to the near-catastrophe. There were tears, there was certainty that we would be under home invasion for the rest of their childhood, and there was nowhere in any conversation the acknowledgment that I was, in fact, the hero of this story and handled it exceptionally well. I am, in fact, the only one that has truly stated the simple facts, which are that absolutely yes, they were planning to attack the house and do horrible things, but due to my calm, firm, and non-violent intervention, a Manson-esque tragedy was averted. 

Again, my involvement in this has never been the focal point in this story. Am I a hero? Who’s to say? Who’s to say. I just live my life threading the guy wire between Sergeant John “Die Hard” McClain and Nelson Mandela. The streets are safe, the mountain is secure, and Koda and Drake...I wish you the best with your future jobs, properties, and relationships. 

And maybe learn to prioritize between a party and a Hawaiian vacation. Mazel tov, boys.