Blithely ignore the deluge outside, I stripped half-naked and dried off with my trusty pack towel. Originally intended for backpacking in Europe, Megan had ordered the pack towel for me. In an attempt to save weight, I had asked for the medium, not knowing that it would be the approximate size and have all the utility of a soggy burrito wrapper. Still, I did my best, and quickly changed into dry clothes before crawling into my sleeping bag.
I figured our best option was to wait there until morning and hope for better weather. My plan had the added benefit of leaving our friends more time to catch up with us. Ever impatient, however, P-Nut had only begrudgingly agreed to stay. We had both just settled in for the long haul when it abruptly stopped raining.
And the sun came out, and the air was filled with birdsong and the laughter of approaching thru-hikers, some of whom we just happened to know. Caveman was there, along with Redwing and Lil Dipper. Even Hobbes was there! I think. And Bandito was there, too.
Bandito had missed me most of all. I was his best friend and moral compass, after all, and without me, he had been lost in a deeply embarrassing sea of misunderstanding and untowardness. He was thus only lucky that he caught up with me, so that I could keep him on the straight and narrow.
Moonpie and Little Brown might also have been there, but I didn't begrudge their presence. Despite all our differences – mainly their good humor and general gregariousness and my egregious lack of grace of humility – we shared a common goal, and for that reason alone it was easy and perhaps inevitable for us to get along and pull for each other. Plus Moonpie mentioned the possibility his girlfriend bringing us trail magic the next day, and that was an excellent way for him to get into my good graces. I was, and remain, an extraordinarily shallow person.
The next morning, Redwing and Lil Dipper mentioned going into Glasgow or Big Island to resupply. Personally, I wasn't too keen on the idea. It was a notoriously difficult hitch, and I had more than enough food to tide me over. I selfishly tried to convince them to wait a day to resupply at Buena Vista – inexplicably pronounced Byoo-nah Vista by locals – but they weren't so sure.
"Well, I just thought maybe you wanted that Five Dollar Foot-Long I owe you," I shrugged.
"They have a Subway there?" gasped Lil Dipper, her eyes lighting up.
I nodded coyly.
"Blimey!" she exclaimed. "But that's literally my favourite sandwich shoppe! I would walk like a thousand kilometers just to eat there!"
"Subway," added Redwing, winking. "Eat Fresh!"
And so, as a group, we decided to skip Glasgow and Big Island, and to hike on to the Punchbowl Shelter. Or something.
We saw Moonpie and Little Brown at the Matts Creek Shelter, just before the James River. Moonpie reminded us in his characteristically humble fashion that his insanely hot girlfriend was picking him up at US501, just across the bridge. And that he was subsequently going home with her for a week to gluttonously revel in all that mature adults in modern civilization are so privileged to enjoy. Like hot showers and cable television. Oh, and he also told us that she was bringing trail magic.
And she was.
His girlfriend – whose name I've callously forgotten – was gracious, charming, and generally way too young, attractive and intelligent for someone so unabashedly rough-around-the-edges as Moonpie. I was at a complete loss to understand their relationship. Still, she had brought with her a glorious cornucopia of junk food, for which I am forever grateful. Nobody deigned to mention to her that people providing trail magic don't generally buy out a Walmart in order to do it. Usually just sodas and candy bars would suffice. But she had so much that we almost considered skipping Buena Vista.
"Yeah, I'm sorry Lil Dipper," I shrugged. "I may not need to go into town after all. Your Subway sandwich will have to wait."
"What?" snapped Lil Dipper, eerily reminding me of Caveman. "But how much did you take?"
"But they bake their own bread, daily! And their sandwiches are so hearty and delicious!" moaned Redwing. "And the way they don't tessellate their cheese? I was so looking forward to that."
"Oh well," I shrugged, annoyed. "Maybe there's a Blimpie in Waynesboro."
Now, at this point, I had written something about how Lil Dipper and Redwing suddenly transformed into vengeful, Valkyrie-like goddess warriors, beat me to within an inch of my life and nearly drowned me in the river. I had also written an extremely clever bit where Hobbes came along just at that moment and made fun of me for being beaten up by a couple of girls, and for also apparently soiling my pants. On this last point he would have been wrong, however, as I then would then have explained in a carefully crafted joke involving a conspicuous smudge caused by some melted Snickers bars. Which had only melted because of a lightning bolt cast by one of the angry British girls. But it all would have been very silly and stupid, and none of it really happened. So I'm not including it.
Because everything else I've written has been the unequivocal, unvarnished truth, without regard for my or anyone else's feelings, public image, or future political ambitions. And I want to keep that going. Also, because I have artistic integrity, and would never write anything that wasn't at least emotionally honest, not for shock value, not for laughs, and certainly not for any extremely generous gift card to the first and most delicious and healthy sandwich-based chain restaurant that springs to mind.