The Hard Place

“Hello, you’ve reached 9-1-1. We’re unable to answer your call at the moment, please leave a message after the tone.”
Uh, Hi..
So here I am, stuck between a rock and a hard place, Quite literally! I’m dangling off the side of a cliff, hanging from a tiny branch, staring down a hundred foot drop. Can you send help? I could totally pull myself up, and I would, but there’s a cougar at the top of the cliff who’s really mad at me! I think she thinks I’m here to hurt her, or her cubs. Isn’t that funny?? I mean, ME? Oh wait, sorry.. my name’s Max, and I guess you could call me a “nature enthusiast”.

See, today started out harmless enough. I slept in and was woken up by the wonderful sounds of nature. The birds were performing their symphony as my eyes crept open, I couldn’t help but smile as I tried to imagine what they were trying to convey. Were they calling for help? Looking for a mate? Signaling their young ones? We have no idea what all those sounds mean, but they’re still music to my ears.

Anyway, I got inspired and decided to go on a nice nature hike. I have to be at work at noon today, so if you could hurry up, that’d be great. But yea, so I grabbed my gear and headed for the hills. It’s really beautiful first thing in the morning. I chuckle when I’m up here this early, I imagine all the critters moping around, half-asleep, anxious to get their first cup of coffee. It’s silly, I know, but that’s me!

So yea, I started my hike up the hill. I wanted to make it to the peak before the sun got too high; the view from the top is just spectacular, but more so at certain times. I put my headphones on, had a few swigs of water, and I was making really good time. I bet you’re wondering why someone who loves nature would listen to music while hiking, right? Well, I’ll have you know that I wasn’t! That’s one of my pet peeves, people who want to be around nature, but not really. Well, I guess I am one of those people when it comes to camping, but still. I wasn’t listening to music, I was listening to my dad.

My dad passed away several years ago, quite unexpectedly. He was a Biologist, and a damn good one. He always wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but I’ve never really been cut out for school, you know? I left my hometown the second I got my wings. It’s been almost two decades since I left that place. I wish I could say I miss it, but I don’t. I do miss my dad, though. He died relatively young, he was barely sixty. I imagined him living a lot longer than that, I pictured him hanging around way past eighty!

I miss him. Sometimes when I laugh, I can hear his laughter, which makes my laugh bittersweet. He was a good man. He didn’t always do the right thing, I mean, who among us does? But he always meant well, and he had a huge heart. I remember days we’d play wiffle ball, or throw the frisbee around, I remember how he’d just sit in amazement as I played videogames, and I also remember how he’d try to play when I wasn’t watching. He taught me so much about life, and treating people well, and something that was very dear to him, treating animals well.

You know, I don’t know what kind of voicemail system you guys have, but it’s pretty awesome. I mean, my voicemail will cut people off at about thirty seconds, but I’ve been rambling for minutes. Sorry about that, by the way, but I fear I’ll shit a brick if I don’t keep talking. Can you hear her? She’s just roaring her little heart out. I can see her pacing back and forth, she’s very patient.

So, right, I was listening to my dad. Before he died, he made a bunch of tapes. A sort of “Biology for Dummies” thing. He loved to talk about nature and all that. It’s the closest I can come to being with him again, so I like to listen to him while I hike, and imagine that he’s right behind me trying to learn me on the importance of genus, phylum, and such.

I made it to the top of the hill and grabbed the best seat in town. I peered over the edge, staring out towards the vast forest below. It’s truly an amazing sight. This time, Dad was going on about stratigraphic ranges or something. I think it has something to do with fossils or something. I gotta admit, I don’t ever really listen, I just like to hear him talk. So there I was, hearing his voice, feeling the warmth of the sun, and admiring the view. Then something strange happened, I felt him touch me! Well, that’s what I thought happened.

I felt something warm at my back, so I spun myself around with a quickness! There, behind me, was Puma concolor! Sorry, a baby cougar! Have you ever seen such a thing?? He was adorable! He had hundreds of little whiskers and feet so big, it’ll be a decade before he fills them out! I reached out to him and he dropped on his back, paws up, ready to play.. it was amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid, those baby claws could puncture an artery in a second, so I was very careful. Come to think of it, I must be pretty stupid. I mean, it never crossed my mind that the momma would be nearby! So I yanked my earbuds out and played with the little fella.

A baby cougar

It wasn’t long before the bliss was broken. I heard a noise. A noise that, even though I’d never heard it before, I was deathly afraid of. It was a deep, rumbly sound. Almost a mix of a train rolling down the tracks and a really hungry stomach. The cub heard it, too. He, however, knew what it meant. He hopped right up on all fours and turned towards the source.

There she was. Momma cougar, and yet another cub. Shit, right? My friendly little cub hung his head and moped over to momma, as if he knew he’d done something wrong. It was kinda cute, thinking back on it. At the time, however, all I saw was my bargaining chip walking away.

Soo, bada-bing, bada-boom, she took a step forward, so I jumped off the ledge and grabbed on to this branch, and here we are. I don’t know if it’s your lunchtime, or if it’s just a really busy day for Emergency Services, but I could really use your help. Before noon, that’d be nice. I’m gonna go now, I just realized I could be uploading some really cool pictures to Facebook.

Please, send help. Thanks for playing!