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Packrat (standard:adventure, 1005 words)
Author: GXDAdded: Jul 19 2007Views/Reads: 2272/1273Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Jeff never went mountain climbing without his alarm clock -- until he met the Packrat. Enjoy the laugh!
 



PACKRAT 

Jeff tumbled upward onto the rock ledge, but the sun had already set. A
trace of color to the northwest wasn't enough to light up the rock 
facade -- night was here till morning. He'd see more by moonlight 
later. 

One by one, he drew items out of his pack and set them around him at
arm's length. The ledge was wide enough for that. He dealt out harness 
clips, cooking gear, pre-moistened wipettes, flashlight, a log to 
recall the day's events, an alarm clock ... 

Jeff never went climbing without an alarm clock. This one was a beauty.
It had big, easy-to-read letters. The electronically amplified alarm 
was pitched at a shriek. It went off with a ring loud enough to wake 
the dead. And it was only two inches square. Jeff had put in new 
batteries just that morning. 

...and, of course a pen. Well, an old stub of golf pencil, with a blunt
tip. Its end was all chewed off, as if it had had the audacity to carry 
an eraser. With the flashlight between his teeth, he sat on his mat and 
blanket, scribbling notes in the log. He took a final swig of water 
from his half-gallon plastic jug, leaving it near empty. As a rule, he 
would hang it from its handle, but the ledge had no tree branches.  And 
it was dark. He set it with the other things. Finally the flashlight 
died out. 

Jeff's dream was euphoria magnified.  He was soaring over tree-tops,
feeling the thermals against his arms and body, toasted by the sun, 
uplifted by a sensual, soaring, spiritual ... in the rain, in the green 
trees, the tall rocks with their scarred faces and cracks, the patient 
black birds tracking him, always in sight ... how his heart was 
beating, thump ... thump ... thump-splash-thump ... thumpthump ... a 
sound so real, he felt himself waiting for it. And it came: thump. Over 
there, somewhere to his left. He felt for his flashlight, groping, but 
couldn't find it. 

The beautiful black night cast a rockshadow over his ledge, but it was
not entirely dark. Moonlight was creeping around the edge and would 
soon shine in his face. Edging away from the ledge and toward the 
sound, he touched first the rock, then something plastic. Instant 
silence. No more thumps and splashes. He recognized his water bottle 
and grabbed it, but it wouldn't come. The handle was stuck on something 
inside a hole in the rock.  He pulled harder. A squeal and the sound of 
chattering teeth came from the hole and he let go. A minute later, the 
thumping commenced again. 

Jeff realized that a packrat was trying to get that big bottle through
his little hole -- and wouldn't give up. Some other items might be 
missing, but it was too dark -- without a flashlight -- to check on 
that. He tried to go back to sleep, but scrapes and thumps kept him 
awake. He found a good-sized loose rock and propped it against the 
water bottle, so whoever was in the hole wouldn't escape. That stopped 
the noise. Then he dozed off. Even the moon could not wake him. 

But just as false dawn phased into a cinnibar-fuschine-peachblossom-
marigold-apricot-goldenrod-beryl-aquamarine-hyacinth-violet 
luminescence its silence broke to the muffled clangor of an alarm. The 
electronic god trapped within Jeff's clock was bellowing to be set 
free. 

Jeff was furious: the clock was no more than two feet away, but he
couldn't get to it. Even if his hand would fit the 3-inch hole, he 
didn't want to be bitten by a furious rat, for sure. That clock had set 
him back a good twenty bucks. Inadvertently, he shrugged. Best let 
things lie. And with his head on a fold of the blanket, he listened to 
the alarm, wondering how long the new battery would keep it ringing. 
Around him, the ground was bare, except for the cooking things and the 
stove. Everything smaller than three inches had disappeared inside the 
packrat's nest. Even his pencil: he couldn't even write up his feelings 
in the log. Jeff wondered if the rat was chewing on his pencil. 

By now, Jeff was getting really sore about the situation. Suddenly, the
alarm stuttered once or twice, then stopped. Good, he thought, it's run 
out. Rolling up the sleeping things, he stomped on a can of goulash 


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