Disclaimer: I own absolutely every character and every thing mentioned in here. And if you believe that, I'm a better storyteller than I thought.
Characters: A young Rodney, young Jeannie and someone else we might know...
Spoilers: None, though I mention the preview to Quarantine below.
Genre/Rating: Gen/K (Two mild curse words)
A/N: I don't know. The first line of this popped into my head at midnight the other night (with Rodney's voice attached) and it wouldn't leave. Maybe it was the preview to Quarantine that gave me the idea. . . Either way, instead of working on my WIP ("Home") like I should be, I did this. Uh, sorry? Unless you like it. In which case, Yay!
Don't try any of what you read below. Please! I will not be held responsible for broken necks and I'm not coming to bail you out of jail.
Climbing is a thinking kid's sport.
It is so a sport. Who can climb fastest? Who can climb highest? Who can get to the top first? See. It's a physical contest and that makes it a sport.
Look, I'm a genius. Trust me on this.
Sigh. Do you want to hear the story or not, Jeannie? Okay then.
So as I was saying, climbing is a thinking kid's sport. Any idiot with two legs can run. But climbing. . . climbing is geometry and physics rolled together. It takes strategy. Logic. Timing. The ability to problem solve. Like chess. Only, you know, with buildings.
Yes, buildings. I'm getting to that.
I was six when I started. At first I stuck to the usual kids' stuff — playground jungle gyms, the metal monkey bars over at the park. I conquered them all easily. I mean, once you learn how to plot a course it's just a matter of going hand over hand, really. It got so I could do them blindfolded. They were children's toys, after all.
I tried trees after that, and I —
Don't look at me like that. It's not like I'm allergic to trees. They just have bugs in them that I don't like. And sometimes there's poison oak around. And sometimes there's sap just under the bark and it gets on your hands and you try to wipe it off on some leaves but the leaves just stick to you, too, and then you swipe your hand across the ground trying to get the leaves off but the dirt and all these tiny, jabby rocks just stick to whatever patches of skin the leaves didn't cover, and your hand's all gross and prickly and you can't —
Yes, well, of course you don't remember me ever going near a tree! You were, what, like a year old.
Anyway, trees aren't much fun. Straight up and down. Not like it's a challenge. Anyone can climb a tree.
Now a building, that's another story.
It hit me after my piano lesson with Mr. Collins. His house has that diamond-patterned trellis that goes up the side and then stops at the balcony, and there's that slopped roof — well, you've seen it. Normally I would have plotted out the climb on paper first, making sure all the angles lined up right and the gaps weren't farther than I could stretch. But the path was already right there. I could see it, line met line met angle . . . it was beautiful. So I wedged the toe of my sneaker in the second-to-the-lowest diamond-shaped space on the trellis, hooked my fingers through a spot just above my head and hoisted myself up. Two minutes, Jeannie. It took me two minutes and I was on the roof.
I am not afraid of heights. I'm afraid of falling. There's a difference. Self-preservation. I'll explain it to you when you're older. Anyway, when I climb I know I'm not going to fall, so it doesn't matter how high it is. And up on that roof it was so cool! It was just turning night and the stars were coming out. The sky was this deep purplish color, and there were all these pinpricks of light above me and all the dots of town lights below me. It was like I was on another planet.
That is not why Mr. Collins hates me. He hates me because…. Well, for other reasons. He never even knew I was on his roof. I stayed up for a little while and climbed back down.
You know the town hall? I climbed that a little later. No trellis, so I used an upturned bucket to get me high enough to reach one of the windowsills and from there it was a simple matter of —
No, the library was after that. Piece of cake. All that old brickwork sticking out at odd angles, might as well had been climbing a ladder. The school was a little harder, mostly because it had rained earlier and the roof ledge was a bit slick so I had to go with plan B at the last minute.
Plan B was climbing back down.
Oh shut up.
Believe me, climbing saved my ass more than once. Like that time Tommy Spencer and his band of merry thugs —
I can say "ass" if I want. It's not a swear word.
Wait! Nonononononono, don't ask Mom.
No, I don't have any chocolate.
Wait! Fine. There's a Snickers in my sock drawer. You get it and we'll split it eighty-twenty. Fifty-fifty. Thirty-seventy. Fine. You can have it all.
Snap snap snap snap Not that drawer! The next one down. Down. One down. I need a new minion.
There. Chocolate. Happy? Good.
So here's why we got kicked out of Disney World.
I'd pretty much given up climbing last year. I was at the top of my game —
Climbing is so a sport.
I was at the top of my game. I'd climbed every place there was to climb in town. Nothing was a challenge anymore, so I gave it up.
Yeah, then EPCOT.
You and Mom were in the bathroom and Dad was off somewhere. Looking for a payphone, I think, to call into work again. I was sitting on this low stone wall, minding my own business, calculating how many people were stuffed into the park and how completely over the fire code the place had to be, when this kid comes and leans on the wall next to me.
"Hey," he says.
"Hey," I say, and then scoot a quarter metre to the left because, really, personal space here. He doesn't seem to notice, though. Just leans there, arms crossed, legs stretched out in front of him so the crowds have to do the shuffle-jostle thing and give him room.
I look at him out of the corner of my eye. He's tall, thin. Scrawny. About my age but probably a year or two younger. His hair sticks up at odd angles, like he'd just woken up. He's still facing the crowd when suddenly his eyes flick to mine.
"Problem?" he asks, drawing out the word so it sounds lazy, but with an edge. He's still not facing me, just giving me this kind of sidelong look, so I don't face him either.
"No," I say. "But what's up with the hair?"
I immediately think he's going to punch me. He doesn't, though. Doesn't answer me, either. He just turns his eyes back to the crowd, the corner of his mouth twitching like he can't decide whether to grin or not.
"Wanna race?" he asks. And I almost think he's talking to someone in the crowd because he's facing them and not me and nobody has challenged me to a race since I was in kindergarten.
So it takes me a minute.
"I don't run," I tell him.
That gets his attention. He turns to me, all wide-eyed and open-mouthed, like I'd just told him I don't eat or breathe. "What do you mean you don't run? Everybody runs."
I shrug and let that be my answer.
"So if you don't run, what do you do?"
I shrug again.
He grunts and turns back to the crowd. "Oh, you shrug. That's great. Have fun with that," he says, all superior and sarcastic.
Smug? Where'd you learn that word? Okay, yeah, it fits here. So he's superior, sarcastic and smug.
I know the piano isn't going to impress this kid. He probably thinks math is stupid and wouldn't know Newton's three laws of motion if he fell over them.
Ha! That was a joke. Never mind.
So I know none of that is going to mean anything to him. But something else will.
"I climb," I tell him, cool.
"Climbing's easy." Then he looks at me, narrows his eyes. "You climb what?"
"Everything. Anything. You name it and I can get to the top."
He thinks about this for a second and points to a big shade tree in the middle of a "Mickey Mouse and his treehouse" display. "You could climb that?"
I scoff. "Trees are easy. I don't even bother with them anymore." Plus, you know, sap.
He points to one of the support posts for the monorail. "That?"
I scoff again. "Not even a challenge," I say, and he frowns.
Then he tips his head back — thinking, I think, until this smile slowly spreads across his face and he points straight up.
"You can't climb that." Smug.
I follow his finger, and as I look up my heart sinks. He's pointing at the geodesic sphere.
The Spaceship Earth ride.
Sheesh. The. Giant. Golf. Ball.
Yes, thank you. That's what I said.
"You're crazy," I tell him.
"You said anything." Still looking up at the thing, still smiling. Thought he had me. I couldn't just let him —
Look, the base is 15 feet high but angled. The ball's 165 feet high, sure, but the panels are all triangles and they stick out. It was the best challenge yet and I didn't even have to plot it out. The path was suddenly right there in front of me, just like at Mr. Collins' house. Start at the left support leg and slide over to the. . . forget it. I'll draw you a diagram later.
"You can't really do it," he says. I tell him I most certainly can and I lay out the physics of it, but he just shakes his head. "Can't." Then he looks around. "But if you're gonna, you better do it now. They rotate security guards and they're in the middle of a shift change."
I hesitate for a second. Because, really, it is kind of nuts. But it would be so cool. . . .
The kid gives me a shove and says, so low I can barely hear him, "Go on."
I wind my way through the crowd to the left support leg of the base. It's really hot out and my hands are sweating, but the base's metal is cool and just rough enough that my hands don't slip. I get all the way up, wrapping my arms around the post, pushing myself with my legs. It's more like sliding upward than climbing because the post is at a 70-degree angle and there are no handholds, but it's still the best climb I've ever done. I get to the top of the support leg and just touch the first panel — it sticks out farther than I thought it would and its pointy edge is more blunt than it appears from the ground and I'm thinking "This is going to be easy" — when I glance down and see that kid talking to a security guard and pointing at me.
I didn't appreciate the fire engines. I could have gotten down on my own, but noooo, the Disney people panic and send some yahoo to stand at the top of a step ladder and be all nice. "Help's coming. We'll get you down. Don't let go." Blah, blah, blah. The whole time he's blocking my way down and won't move even when I tell him to.
When I do get down, Dad's there, his face all red. He's got a death grip on my arm and he's muttering apologies to everyone in sight: the firemen and the Disney people and that stupid guy who stood on the ladder and blocked my way down.
I caught a glimpse of the kid as he disappeared into the crowd. He turned, grinned and gave me this smart-ass mock salute.
A freakin' salute.
I swear if I ever see that kid again….
I told you, climbing is a thinking kid's sport. I bet he couldn't even climb a tree.