Chudleigh Angus and the Lost Ark
Chudleigh paused outside the open roller door of the rock climbing gym. Walls reaching high into the roof of the warehouse made him crane his neck. Across each wall was spattered different coloured shapes like a giant Hundreds and Thousands biscuit.
The palms of his hands moistened with sweat and his stomach made a protest against the idea of climbing. Chudleigh wondered if a boulder would come rolling out of the roof and chase him out of the building if he failed to successfully climb.
“What I wouldn’t give for a fedora and a bullwhip.”
The noise of the gym threatened to overwhelm him. He was unsure of everything: his ability to climb, how things would go with Andy. Nothing felt secure. To take a step into the gym invited a wall of spikes to shoot out and pin him to the opposite wall.
“Hey ya, Chudleigh.”
Andy walked up beside him dressed in three-quarter black leggings and a grey hoodie, a backpack slung across her shoulder. “Come on. Let’s get you climbing.”
Looping her arm into his, she ushered him towards the front counter.
At the counter, Chudleigh mentally debated the etiquette of this date/meet up/study break. Should he pay for Andy? What was the protocol as there was no precedent? Andy produced her wallet, flashed a card at the attendant and handed over some cash. He was about to protest when Andy broke in. “Seeing as this is your first time, I’ll shout you.” Her smile was warm and genuine.
“Cool. But I owe you one.”
The attendant handed over a harness to Chudleigh.
“Grab the harness by the sides, like a pair of pants, and put the Harbour Bridge at the front,” he said, pointing at a loop. “You put your legs through, pull the straps tight on your waist first, then your legs. And be careful how you pack your lunch.”
“You don’t want to squash your frank and beans, man.”
With a little wrangling, Chudleigh wiggled the harness over his hips and pulled it tight around his waist. Breathing and climbing didn’t seem mutually compatible. Adjusting the frank and beans, he tightened the leg straps and was horrified to see the accentuation of his crotch. He pulled his jacket low to rearrange his shorts.
Next to him Andy unpacked a pair of climbing shoes and harness. Removing her hoodie she wore a crop top and loose fitting sleeveless t-shirt. Chudleigh noticed the musculature of her arms and inwardly winced at the flabby mess of his own.
Attaching a chalk bag to the rear of her harness, Andy looked at Chudleigh. “Ready?”
His mouth said “Yes,” as his mind screamed a soundless “NOOOOOOOOOO.”
“Do you want to go first?” Andy asked.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll let you go first and see how it’s done.”
“Right, time for that overhang. Haven’t quite managed to get to the end.”
Chudleigh followed Andy towards the overhang. Andy grabbed the tethered rope and reached for Chudleigh’s harness, a little above his framed crotch. She snapped the carabineer through the loop.
“As I climb all you do is pull the rope through and pull it down to the side to lock it off. That way it won’t slip through your hands.”
“What if you fall?”
“I trust you,” she said whacking his shoulder with her open palm in blokey affection.
Andy approached the wall, looked behind her to Chudleigh who nodded and began scurrying up. With a few athletic manoeuvres she was half way up the wall.
Looking up he was suddenly embarrassed. From his vantage point he had a great view of her behind. Her right leg stretched to a small foothold with her left leg pulled up beneath her. He could even see the outline of her underwear. There was nowhere else to look but up so he focused on watching Andy’s hands and feet. Her movements were graceful and precise.
Soon she was at the join of the wall and the overhang. His hands moistened with sweat, nervous for Andy. He made sure to keep the rope locked off tightly.
With practiced grace, Andy moved from hold to hold, suspended high in the air. With a triumphant “whoop” Andy reached the end of the overhang, grabbed the last hold and swung her legs down. Chudleigh was smitten before but now he was truly in deep smit.
Descending like an angel Andy was all smiles. She bounced over to Chudleigh and gave him a hug.
“Been trying that for months. Just brilliant. Your turn.”
“What do I do?” asked Chudleigh staring at a new wall of hundreds and thousands.
“Follow the green holds. They’re the easiest. It’s like climbing a ladder.”
The vertical ascent loomed above him. Grasping the first green hold Chudleigh hoisted himself up.
“Use your legs rather than your arms,” said Andy.
Moving from hold to hold he gained confidence and was soon at the top.
“Slap the girder and I’ll bring you down.”
Lifting a fraction further, Chudleigh slapped the girder and played the theme to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in his head, imagining having successfully replaced the golden idol but he still had to reach the ground. Andy called up instructions.
“Sit back in your harness and place your feet on the wall. As I bring you down, use your feet to walk down.”
Elated with his success he moved to lean back but his footing slipped. His face made contact with the wall, bouncing him into space.
He could feel himself being lowered to the ground but he was only worried about the blood coming from his nose and the lump forming above his eyebrow. Reaching the ground floor he was guided to a seat and an icepack applied to his aching face.
In his head Chudleigh chastised himself for such a stupid action. What a way to impress Andy.
Taking the ice pack off his bruised nose, Chudleigh touched it gingerly and winced at the tenderness. At least the blood had stopped flowing yet the lump above his eyebrow rose up.
“It feels like an egg,” said Chudleigh.
“It doesn’t look that bad. By the way, great attempt at your first climb.” Andy said it without sarcasm. “Want to give it a go again?”
“Perhaps not so soon. How about next time we go somewhere that doesn’t involve me smacking my nose on rocks? A movie perhaps, and I’ll pay?”
Andy became coy, her confidence faltering slightly. She looked at Chudleigh warmly.
“That would be lovely,” she said resting her hand on his knee.
“Does this mean we get to be facebook friends now?”
Leaning forward she kissed him on the cheek.
“And you can add that as your status update.”