My boss told me my attitude sucked, he told me that I would never amount to anything, he told me I
was worthless. I told him to go fuck himself. And…career over. White knuckling the steering
wheel, I jammed second gear, fourth gear, and fifth. The tachometer dropped from the red-zone
The tires sang out a droning song as they protested the freeway.
Squealing tires and skid-marks in front of my mailbox noted my feelings about returning
home, for as long as it might be mine. Anywhere but here. The houses whizzed by as I mashed
the gas pedal. Rolling three miles out of the burbs, I glimpsed the jagged rock face of Mount
Bullshit. Climb it! You can hardly climb the stairs. You haven’t been to the rock-gym since you
got kicked out for shitting yourself. You threw your climbing harness in the dumpster. I told
you not to! The little voice echoed in my head. “It was that goddamned Mega Burrito Bomb from NoGo-Loco! And…Go fuck yourself!”
Entering Outdoor Adventure Store, the smell of space-aged polymers, rubber shoe-soles, and
The power bar-eating sales staff filled my nostrils. “Welcome to OAS!” The skinny unshaven
sales guy shouted in my direction from between the colorful nylon tent displays. Nodding, I
scanned the ceiling for a sign pointing me toward the “Insane Fat-Ass
Who Wants To Climb a Mountain” Section of the sporting goods chain store.
“How can I help you today?” The words tumbled out of a mouth hidden somewhere between a
shaggy brown beard and a man-bun.
“I am planning a climb up Mount Bullshit. Do you have any deals on gear?”
After forty-five minutes of listening to the buzzwords and sales hooks, including but far from
limited to “Alpinist approved, aircraft-grade aluminum, high-speed, friction coefficient, UIAA-
rated, and slipper-whippers.” The last of which was his own coinage to try to impress
me with his climbing experience. I didn’t give him the pleasure of responding. Following the
bouncing man-bun to the cash register, I hugged the rope, harness, and assortment of “High-speed” climbing gadgets.
I pulled out my credit card and jammed it into the card-reader. Feeling my eyes grow large, I
gazed at the four-digit total on the computer screen. Watching a small crumb of granola fall
from the beard, I barely heard the money-taker machine beep. “Approved”.
“Great deal! You saved nine-hundred dollars on your purchase today.” The beard smiled. With
a nod of the bun, my last paycheck was transferred. “Have a safe climb.” He said, before flashing
a judgmental glance at my midriff. Looking like a shake-slurping western-world Sherpa, I
flashed a smirk and hauled my gear out through the huge glass doors. OAS, must stand for
Overly Aggressive Salesmen.
The first 12 meters of the fifteen-hundred-foot ascent went largely as predicted. One red and
throbbing shin, a scraped elbow, and hole in my shorts from a misplaced carabiner. Hand-foot,
hand-foot, I climbed the route. The old steel rings on pitons driven hilt deep into rocky face,
ground against the spring-loaded clips as the weight of the rope tugged at them. Leaning back
about forty meters up to rest, my rubber shoe soles bit into the rock. Stretching my neck back I saw two bare feet dangling from a blue nylon seat, presumably attached to the pitons a couple hundred feet above. I climbed, sweated, and grunted.
The feet hanging over the edge of the small blue square were only six meters above when I
decided to rest on an outcropping of granite. The ledge, two and a half meters deep and sloped
a worrisome forty-five degrees toward the edge of the face, stood between myself and
a nasty fall. Panting, I leaned back against the rock and watched a couple large black colored
birds fly below. Hoping they weren’t buzzards. I closed my eyes. I opened them almost as
quickly at the sound of a laugh. I looked up to see an old, grizzled, gray-bearded face peering
over the edge of the seat.
“No worries, those buzzards won’t hurt you.” The frail looking man announced.
Buzzards! I knew it! “Shut the fuck up.” I whispered. A quiet “hee-hee” came
from above. The man, untethered to the rock face, climbed down and sat next to me. He bowed,
his gnarled-hands clasped, then shoved his fingers toward me. I shook his hand. “I’m Pat.” I said. The man smiled and sparkled an eye at me. An awkward moment passed. “No name?”
Bobbing his long-thin gray hair the man chuckled. “Yes.” I rubbed my face with my rock-torn
“Yes, you have no name or “Yes” is your name? “Yes”, the man replied.
Sighing, I unclipped my harness from the rope and coiled it next to me. The man watched me
carefully. He wrinkled his nose. “Why do you climb with rope?”
“It is my hope that it will save me if I fall. Why don’t you climb WITH rope, Yes?” Squinting,
my brows furrowed. I eyed the man’s face for a reply. Sitting with his legs folded, the man
breathed long and shallow as he stroked his scraggly beard. “Is that what you climbed up
here for? Hope?” Wriggling a twisty finger into a crevice Yes snatched up as pebbled, then pitched it over the edge making a long and fading whistle through his sun-scorched lips. My eyes washing over the man, I searched for signs of sanity. His wrinkly smile and wild eye gave me no evidence of the fact. “I lost my job this morning.” The confession fell out of my mouth. “Oh,” The man said, “Do you
expect to find one up here?” I smiled, my eyes darting upward as I rubbed behind my ear. “No,
not really. I just needed to get out, think, find some space, I guess.”
Taking a deep breath, Yes peeked over the edge. “Do you see that car?” He poked a finger at
the only car parked in the dirt road below. “Yes, that is my car. Yes, I see it.” Yes stood on his
toes, dropped his shorts, and put his hands on his hips as a stream of piss arched out over the ledge.
“Did, I hit it?” Yes asked. I sat staring, unmoving. “No, no, I-I don’t think you did.” Yes flashed
a frown. “Aww, I was hoping to.” Shaking his junk in the breeze, the man pulled up his shorts
while bellowing out a loud raspy laugh. “There seems to be a lot of space between me and the
car, perhaps if you climb down, it will be there for you.”
I sat back and stared out at the horizon. Half an hour passed in silence. I startled
at the feeling of the grit covered stone rolling under my ass as I slid toward the edge of the rock.
I dug my heels in trying to catch my petrified body from tumbling three-hundred feet to the
My knees jammed as the sliding as my shoes caught and stopped me from a quick trip to the bottom. I stared at the sky and huffed air. I looked up at Yes. “Were you going to let me fall?”
“I knew you wouldn’t fall, you have your hope.”
Grabbing my rope, I shot a sideways glance at the skinny man. “I should get climbing.” Yes
pointed skyward and smiled. “Up there?” I nodded. “Oh, your hope is up there? I thought it was in
your rope.” The man wrapped his hand round the coil of nylon and stared at the colorful braided
plaits. In retrospect, I have no idea why I let go but I did. Yes, ran the rope through his fingers
caressing the smooth nylon. He held it up under his nose and inhaled deeply. "No hope in here?" then smiled. "No, I replied." With one hand uncoiling from under his bare armpit, he flung the rope over the precipice. I stood, knees shaking, staring, mouth hanging open silently, until it was not.
“WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT FOR!” My words rang out.
The man smiled. “No hope. If it was in there, it is now in your space, perhaps if you climb down there you will find them both. Or is it still at the top of the mountain?”
“What am I going to do now? This isn’t safe!”
“Oh! you were looking for safety as well.” Yes replied.
I clenched my hands, body quaking. Yes sat staring at me. “What are you afraid of Pat?”
“I am afraid I will fall and die or get to the top and have to walk down. It will be
late, dark, and dangerous! Asshole.”
“Are you safe now?” Yes asked smiling.
“No, well sort of. But what about when I climb.”
“Are you climbing now? Oh, and when you get in your car and drive down the highway will
you be safe then?”
Feeling my shoulders relax, I sat. I thought deeply about Yes and my answers to his
Eyeing Yes, who was sunbathing like some majestic Ascetic Guru, I sighed. “How am I going to
get the fuck down now?”
Yes moved nothing but his lips in response. “Very carefully. Be present with life, feel it,
live it. Don’t fear of life, pay attention to the rock in front of you. By using your
body and mind to not overcome the mountain you become the mountain. Don’t fight it, climb
it. Let the mountain be the mountain. Is it you who must pushes the mountain down or will the
mountain to push you up? Now let’s climb the shit out of it.”
Bending at the waist and stretching his hands toward his bare toes, Yes exhaled. He twisted
his head toward me he stared. “Are you ready to go?”
“Where?” I asked. The man pointed up, stood tall, and wedged his crooked hands into a crack
in the rocky-face before hoisting himself up.
Glancing down, then up at the old man twenty feet above me, I let out a long breath.
“Are you coming or not?”
“Yes, Yes, I am.”
Hand and foot, I followed the man up the rock face. Checking my watch at the top, I
scratched my head. The climbing-time had to be a record.
Sitting against the base of a Larch tree, we watched a reddish-orange ring grow around the sun as
it perched itself on the horizon.
Laughing, the old man wrung the soreness and mountain grit out of his hands. “Have you
found what you need yet Pat?”
I smiled pointing down. “Perhaps I did. One question Yes, do you really
think it is safer to climb without a rope?”
“Did you trust the rope, more than you trusted yourself? Have you trust in the person who
made it? What about all the climbers who ascended before and hammered the pitons in? Do you
trust them?” The man reached down grabbing one of the ringed spikes and shook it free from the
I shivered and shook my head.
“Oh, you better hurry up, it will be dark and dangerous soon.” The old man punctuated the
statement with a raspy cackle.
I breathed deep and sighed out. "Perhaps, I will sit and enjoy the sunset with you, if you
“Not at all. Do as you like.”
As darkness descended, I looked at the old man. “Yes, you want a ride home?”
“Not to worry friend, I am already at home here on the mountain. If you can’t find your rope
in your space, comeback and I will help you find it.”
“Sure will. Thank you Yes.”
Ten minutes before midnight, I found my rope. I coiled it and walked out to the car. It wasn’t
until I drove under the first street light that I noticed the piss splotches on the upper portion of
the windshield. I laughed all the way home.
It wasn’t an easy year but by the end of it, I had won three climbing medals and opened
my own rock climbing gym. Well, truth be told, it isn’t all mine. Yes is my silent partner. He
holds free weekly lessons in the gym for new climbers. He says it is because they are
looking for "hope on a rope" but I think he just likes throwing my shit off the mountain.