(Read Episode One first)
The sapling Clif clutched wouldn’t hold much longer. It seemed a metaphor for his tenuous grasp on something; what, he wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t think about that now, not when he was dangling off the side of an actual cliff, in darkness, high above a deadly nature feature tourist attraction called Hell’s Rocks.
There was a vague outline of a pine sticking out of the cliff above and to the right. Beyond it seemed to be more trees. Yes, as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw that if only he could only reach them, he would be able to climb to safety. But how to get to them when they were ten feet away?
“A nose has to do what a nose has to do.” Clif had to solve this deplorable dilemma.
The words dire straits came to mind. Then the song Sultans of Swing, which was by the band Dire Straits. Swing. This gave Clif an idea.
He let go of one hand, so that now he dangled one-handed. “Don’t think about bouncing awkwardly on the rocky spires below,” he told himself. “Don’t think about vultures swooping in to pick your bones clean.” Were there even any vultures on the Olympic Peninsula? He’d never seen one. “Okay, don’t think about crows then.” There were plenty of crows not to think about.
Clif unbuckled his belt. He slipped it from his belt loops as smoothly as a snake from a hidey hole, grasped its end, and eyed the tree silhouette above. If he could just loop the buckle onto that lowest branch, he could pull himself up. Good thing oversized belt buckles were back in vogue.
He swung the belt, but it was too short. He cursed himself for being so trim, then uncursed himself, realizing that the branch he now clutched onto might not have held a heavier man. But it wouldn’t hold him much longer. A tendril of root gave, then another.
Sultans of Swing was still playing in his head. It came around to the words “Goodnight, now it’s time to go home.” This gave him another idea: nighttime, time to floss his teeth. He reached into his pocket, retrieving the dental floss he’d gotten from the dentist that day. Grasping the end of the floss, he catapulted the box upwards, but the floss didn’t loosen from the box.
Clif put the box between his teeth and felt in his pocket again. Coins. Three quarters, a dime and two pennies. He’d bought a latte earlier using cash, and while he normally would have put the change into the tip box, there hadn’t been one. One-handed, he expertly inserted those coins into the dental floss box, giving it the weight it needed.
Holding the end of the floss, Clif tossed the box again, and it twirled around the tree like a square dancer executing a perfect do-si-do. He pulled himself upward, hand over hand. Luckily, he preferred unwaxed, spearmint-flavored floss. Otherwise, the climb would have been much more slippery and much less pleasant smelling.
As he climbed, once more he pondered the irony of his situation. His name was Cliff Hangar, and he was now an actual cliff hanger, but they were not the same at all. His last name, Hangar, was spelled with “ar” and not “er,” and Clif was short for Clifton.
He made it to the trees that sprouted out from the cliff like flag poles, which he climbed the rest of the way. At the top of the cliff he stood panting, berating himself for his clumsiness yet reveling in his success. The positive outcome of nearly dying was that his restless leg syndrome had calmed. He could sleep!
Returning to the bed in his hotel room, he was soon floating in that semi-consciousness before sleep hits, half-dreaming about an intermittent tapping noise. Slowly he realized the tapping was real, not a dream. Yes, there it was again. He rose out of unconsciousness like a diver rising too fast to the surface. Tap-tap-tap-tap.
Every hair on Clif’s body stood on end, and he had five million of those hairs, if his hairstylist had been right and not just quoting something he read on Facebook. He made a mental note to check on that later. He liked having his facts straight.
Sucking in deep breaths, Clif told himself it was nothing. Evil-doers didn’t sneak into your hotel and tap nicely on the sage-colored wall. No, they would crash through the door, leap across the coffee swirl carpet, and crush you with the crystal bedside table lamp before you could blink your freshly cucumbered eyes.
Clif slid out of bed, calm on the exterior though his insides churned like a blender on liquify. A professional nose model never let his fear show, even in a darkened room. The tapping intensified, like a woodpecker. But this was no Northern Flicker. This had to be something more dastardly, because the hotel window was open, and Clif hadn’t been the one to open it.
The smell of late-blooming lilacs drifted in. But enjoyment of a favorite smell would have to wait for another time, because when he switched on the light, he saw a box on the kitchenette counter. What could it be? The box was smaller than a large breadbox, yet larger than a small breadbox.
Wait. The noise wasn’t tapping. It was ticking—the ticking of a bomb. Clif was in grave danger.
Will our hero—and his once famous nose—explode into smithereens? Will his comeback as a nose model end before it even begins? Tune in next week to find out.
Now available for preorder: The Climate Machine–A Novel
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