Chapter 28: The Longest Walk
My pick-up of my mailed package for our next hiking section went off without a hitch at the Kohlrabi Post Office. With a few groceries (mostly cheese) I was resupplied for another three to four weeks. But there was no excitement or sense of joy in opening up any of it. Oliver flatly and sadly declined to put anything I had acquired in his pack, although on a short break heading back to the woods I tossed him an nice bag of new gorp, this version containing butterscotch pieces. "Something to remember me by." I said. He smiled wanly, took a small handful out to eat, and then he packed it in to his half-empty pack.
After a month of my moping and worrying and dreading Oliver leaving, it was now Oliver who seemed inconsolable. I was the mature adult, reassuring him that all would be okay and he would have plenty of fun being a rabbit god without me.
My new book from my shipment was Don Quixote. When I showed it to him, Oliver, with all the spark in him completely snuffed out, weakly said "I would have liked to read that one."
Forty years on no one has ever called me "Guv'nor" again.
We climbed back towards the woods and the main Agua Fria Trail. Oliver was leading. It started to drizzle.
Oliver turned back to me and said "You know, you have less than 2,000 miles to go."
I said "Maybe we should try and do it all today." He smiled without a lot of heart.
The land was open for some miles away from the town of Kohlrabi. When we came upon the woods again they appeared suddenly out of a mist. Up ahead I saw Oliver enter them, the entrance a dark blot in the face of a wall of trees. I trudged along behind in my familiar quest to catch up to Oliver, who I would regularly find resting comfortably, munching gorp when he could, always waiting. But this time I kept going and did not find him. Indeed, I never caught up. I kept hoping I would, long after I knew I wouldn't, until I came to my bag of butterscotch gorp, lying, abandoned, on the middle of the trail.
A rabbit dashed into the woods.
I heard a roll of thunder.
It started to rain.
"This is the driest thing I know." I said softly to myself, and walked on.