Chapter 3


Chip is Montreat-Bound 

Chip was awakened by the squawking of a mockingbird perched on a branch of the big Rose of Sharon outside his window. Every morning at exactly 7:05 this creature proudly ran through his repertoire of songbird imitations. Today it was the cardinal he was mocking. He was the damned Jimmy Fallon of the bird world. Chip checked the clock on his bedside table and saw that it was time he got up and started his day. He wanted to ride his mountain bike up at Montreat before he had to go to the meat market. Chip retrieved a sweaty Country Day Lacrosse tee shirt from the floor of his room and pulled on his trusty bike shorts with the padded crotch. Ready to rock and roll. He brewed some Suplicar Clemencia coffee from Dynamite in the little four cup Cuisinart  coffee maker he had scored at Goodwill and made some toast. Spreading butter and honey on the toast, he savored the coffee with some organic half and half. Chip washed up the breakfast dishes; he was particular about his kitchen, even though the rest of the apartment was a mess. He took his bike down from some hooks he had installed on the living room wall and carried it down the front steps of 44 Cherry Street. The dew from the big shrubs felt cool on his skin as he brushed by.


Cherry Street was deserted this early in the morning, even though later on this June day it would be crowded with tourists. Life in Black Mountain was relaxed. Stores opened late and closed early. If it snowed or even rained hard, shops would close up and shopkeepers would go home. He liked this laid-back atmosphere after the hustle-bustle of Charlotte. He pedaled up Montreat Road past all the churches and the sadly vacated Source for Wellbeing. Even though so many people in town had valued their health services, Source was shut down over a glitch in the zoning ordinances. Chip had many times gone to Whitney Madden for acupuncture to ease the throbbing pain he sometimes felt in his shoulder, the result of a bad fall off his mountain bike. Now he wondered where she was practicing. He past the hillbilly store on the corner of Montreat Rd, and thought about stopping there on his way back down for something cold to drink.

Chip hoped he might bump into that pretty blonde who sometimes rode the Greybeard Trail in the morning. She was a great rider and quite the dare-devil. When he had tried to catch up with her the last time he had spotted her, she flew down the hill ahead of him and was quickly out of sight. He adjusted his helmet and his expensive sunglasses so he’d look fetching if they happened upon each other.

As he approached Montreat, the level of human activity increased dramatically. The place was alive with runners, bikers, and power walkers. In summer, Montreat is full of families, youth groups, and church retreaters coming to the old Presbyterian retreat center for annual conferences and family reunions. When he was a kid growing up in Charlotte, his family had been among those spending weekends and summer holidays in Montreat. His youth group from Myers Park Presbyterian Church, back in the days when good-old Peter Henry had been youth minister, had spent many fun-filled weekends at Montreat. When he was younger, he had been sent to the “Clubs” program at Montreat, a day camp for the children of retreat-goers and for local kids. His favorite thing had been to play in the creek at the creekside playground finding craw-dads. He would bring them back to the cottage in rescued Bojangles cups out of the trash. Somehow they were always gone the next morning.


He crossed the wooden foot bridge over the creek to access the Greybeard Trail. As it had poured down rain the night before, the creek was roaring. He paused at the far side of the bridge and smelled the musky scent of wet rhododendrons and the cool mushroomy smell of the creek. The rhododendrons were in full bloom, covered with big pink blooms that were sticky to the touch. He set off up the trail at a slow pace, climbing towards the summit of Greybeard, but knowing he would go only so far as the place where the trail criss-crossed back over the creek and he would have to ford it. He had to keep his eyes on his watch to make sure he could get home in time to shower and make it to work by 9:30. He would throw his sweaty clothes on the floor, climb into the shower in his grimy bathtub, and scrounge around for some clean clothes to wear to work. Note to self, he thought. Got to do some laundry this weekend. He would go to the laundry-mat next to Pepperonis and grab some of their great pizza while he waited for his load to dry. Unless something better came along.


Thanks for reading this story!  I will continue writing it. I have to!


Stephanie Wilder