Leap of faith, a La Brea story
Washington State Trooper Jeremy Cross screamed out “Noooo” with a volume that shook the woods when Gavin Harris and his daughter, Izzy, stepped into the sinkhole near Seattle. He may have been the only one, or just by far the loudest. The other troopers guarding the site had been hardened by exposure to highway wrecks and, less frequently, homicides.
Of course, they hadn’t gotten the smile. Jeremy 's college girlfriend, Sally, had recently left him and he had had no hope of finding anyone else.
Sally had never had enthusiasm for his plan to live in Muckleshoot reservation housing while they built his dream home: a passive house in the mountains. Evidently, Sally had taken advantage of his sleeping at the Patrol Academy five nights a week to explore her options with other suitors.
On this day, Jeremy and Sergeant James Royal had spent most of their shift giving evacuation warnings to residents and news people in preparation for the catastrophic opening of a quarter-mile-wide sinkhole to the land of La Brea, 10,000 years Before Present Era. When it happened, the earthquake was no more than 4.5 on the Richter scale and the sinkhole was no wider than a house. Jeremy remembered several Olympic long jumpers that could have spanned the gap, given surer footing.
The Washington State Troopers had arrived at the sinkhole first and tried to secure the dangerous hole, which ran straight down for 20,000-feet. The Troopers were outranked and pushed aside by geologists, NASA scientists and agents of Homeland Security.
Walnut haired Gavin Harris and his blonde daughter had arrived at the rear of the entourage, though it was Gavin’s visions that had provided much of what was known about La Brea. Also, Gavin’s wife, Eve and their son, Josh, had fallen into the Los Angeles sinkhole and were alive in 10,000 BPE.
Jeremy found his eyes tracking Izzy and when she looked at him, she smiled. Jeremy smiled back with all the wistfulness of a young man who had lost his love and was surprised to find a girl who even noticed him. To his utter surprise, Izzy widened her smile. It seemed to Jeremy that a ray of sunshine shone only on him and thawed the icy loneliness of his heart. He would give her his card and ask for a phone number when she returned from gazing into the depths.
Gavin and Izzy stood dangerously close the brink and talked quietly to each other. Then they joined hands and jumped forward, disappearing from the modern world. Yes, Jeremy had screamed. Then Jeremy turned away and strode purposefully to the patrol car.
“What are you doing?” asked Sergeant James Royal. James was an inch over six feet in height with blonde hair and an athletic build.
“I’m going after the blonde girl to protect her.” Jeremy didn’t mention the smile, but James had seen the sappy look and knew there was no way to stop his partner, short of physical restraint. That would likely take several men and, given the reporters’ presence, would disgrace the Washington State Patrol.
“Okay,” James agreed with all the dourness of a man making a bad choice and hoping it wasn’t the worst, “Let me help you get as prepared as you can be. This sinkhole may not be here tomorrow. First, give me your equipment belt and radio. Taking Patrol equipment will give you a black mark. Hell, when you get back, I hope to get you re-instated.”
Jeremy hadn’t thought that far ahead but handed over the radio, gun, badge, and his apartment keys. He quickly wrote a note giving Sergeant James Royal authority to handle his affairs in his absence and handed it over with his ATM card.
Royal finished loading the four-inch forty-four revolver he carried, in the trunk, for search and rescue missions. He secured it in its flap holster and handed the gun belt to Jeremy. “Put this on.”
When Jeremy had buckled on the revolver, James helped him don a storm parka, red mountain rescue pack and strap Jeremy’s privately owned patrol rifle to the side of the pack.
Jeremy’s rifle was a bolt-action 1898 Mauser that had been remodeled by the Spanish to resemble the 7.62X51mm NATO chambered CETME assault rifle they had adopted in the 1950’s. Jeremy’s father had bought it three decades ago as the popular .308 Winchester cartridge was the clone of the military round.
Jeremy carried a twenty-round box of ammunition on the off chance of needing a big game rifle to deal with a bear or crazed livestock. The sealed primer and bullet of the premium brand was supposed to protect the powder from water while the cases were nickeled against corrosion. Not designed for mammoth but arguably better than the department issue 5.56X45 NATO (.223 Remington) some people disparaged as a varmint killer.
The red search & rescue pack only had three days of food but had such bushcrafting tools as a saw, camp knife and entrenching tool. The first aid kit alone would greatly enhance the trio’s chances, if he was able to join up with them.
Jeremy tucked his glasses into an inner pocket as they walked back. He expected to reach a terminal velocity of 120 miles-per-hour as he fell. When he turned to give James a final handshake at the brink of the abyss, he spotted several people converging on them and sidestepped into the empty air.
* * *
Sergeant Royal’s Captain was a small, lean, man who never looked at ease behind a desk.
James Royal skipped asking for forgiveness for himself and went straight to his ask, “Can you give Trooper Cross leave without pay?” And laid Jeremy Cross’s gun belt and radio down.
Captain Arnold pushed out his lips as he weighed his reply, “Sorry, but there’s no way. I can’t ask for more sworn personnel to help in Seattle while holding open an empty slot. How long an absence do you expect?”
Sergeant Royal had trained himself to not tug at his mustache, “If they make it to Los Angeles in less than a year, it will be a miracle. I see your position.”
“Okay,” Captain Arnold conceded, “I can write this up as a voluntary separation without prejudice. We do this a lot for female troopers who re-think their career choice. As you know, the average male recruit remains with us for eighteen years.
“How about you? You seemed closer to Cross than your other trainees. Are you thinking of joining him?”
Sergeant Royal rocked back on his heels. His recent status as a divorcee had left him open to spending off-time with Jeremy Cross but he currently was seeing a librarian, when their schedules allowed. “No Sir, I have important work here.”
“Good to hear it. Now get out of here. You wouldn’t believe the mountain of paperwork this sinkhole is giving me.”
Royal left before the Captain thought to delegate some of the load onto him.
* * *
Jeremy woke lying on his left side. It was cold and his feet felt like blocks of wood. The land scape was bright without the familiar Douglas fir to block the glare. That was when he noticed the lack of evergreen scent. No jay birds or squirrels scolded him. He looked up and was pleased no vultures were circling, yet. Sitting up, he saw he was on a tundra of lichen, grass and low shrubs. The tall mountain to the east could one day be Mount Rainier.
To be continued?
4/5/2022 06:34:52 pm
He forgot toilet paper.
4/6/2022 12:38:33 pm
The mountain rescue pack has a limited amount of toilet paper but not nearly enough to last three people for a hike to Los Angeles. Smooth rocks and some vegetation offer alternatives. Some cultures in arid lands use the left hand and a towel. The punishment of cutting off the right hand not only disabled swordsmen; but made them social pariahs where eating involves dipping the right hand into the common cook pot. Best regards, Rick
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Rick Kester is a Viet Nam era veteran living in Northern California with his wife Nancy.