Gnarly Bandit: The Tide Turns at Kettle

PhoneThe staccato sound of the Bandit’s yellowed fingernails tapping the desktop registered his level of impatience, which had increased lately for a variety of reasons – not the least of which was the fact that he had been working for over an hour trying to communicate with the customer service department at the other end of his phone line. He listened to the tranquil, automated voice emanating from the earpiece, “We’re sorry, but @#$%! is not one of the menu options. Please try again, or press zero for immediate assistance.”

The grizzled one stared at his phone’s baked enamel finish. “Press what?” he groused. Sticking a gnarly finger in the hole marked zero he dialed, hearing the satisfying “click, click, click, click…” as rotary swung its way back around. “We’re sorry, but that is not one of the menu options. Please…” The Bandit slammed the handset into its cradle in disgust, upsetting his bottle of quill ink. A black stain crept slowly across his copy of the results from the Kettle 100 mile, obscuring the names – but glancing down, GB could still make out the only four that mattered. John Maas, Veronique Boucher, Jeremy Lindquist and Jordan Schmidt – all still thriving despite his best efforts.

The Gnarly Bandit couldn’t understand it. The Sirens. Yes, the Sirens had always been so reliable. From the days of Homer, the temptresses mythical, sing-song voices had lured sailors; drawing them in, mesmerized, until their ships were dashed upon the rocks of the Grecian coastline. So devious they were, so… so… deceptively evil. They were his kind of gals, and he had hired them for one simple job, to derail these rascals from their quest for his pot o’ gold.

He’d had a plan. Catch the exhausted, unsuspecting runners as they finished the first 100K out-and-back; set the Sirens upon them to sing their intoxicating melody, offer them a fine lookin’ copper kettle. Let the rhythmic lyrics draw them in, “Oh, you poor dear… you look weary… maybe you should stop here… It’s allowed.” “100K is a fine, fine day… perhaps you should have a seat… and, hey, how ’bout a nice, cold beer…?” Who could resist?

It had seemed easy enough. But the Sirens, always in demand, weren’t what they used to be. They had branched out, franchised, moved into the modern world of media. Instead of a choir of alluring mistresses, he had been sent a box; containing something called an iPad, loaded with the iSirens mobile app. He had been perplexed by the peculiar device, it operated on some type of new-fangled witchcraft with which he was not acquainted. But he was desperate, so he had given it a go, trying to work his way past the enigma of something called the Login screen. In the end, it had all been outside his cattle n’ stagecoach era skillset. As he had watched the Bandit contenders roll on by, each cranking out the final 38-odd mile out-and-back to finish the 100 miler in triumph, he had grown ever more irritable.

And thus the Bandit sat, hours later, staring at the tablet – and the 4-inch diameter piece of aspen sticking out of its screen – with no help to be had from the melodic phone voice that represented modern day customer service. Though GB had to admit, something about that voice made him want to pick up the phone and call her back…

Snapping back to reality, the Bandit realized he was going to have to up his game, for there were only three hands left, and his stack of chips was growin’ short. But the wizened one had an Ace in his boot… the ol’ 89 trail, that ribbon of dirt, rocks and roots that cut down the undulating backbone of the Black Hills. The fearsome foursome better be ready for him this time. The Gnarly Bandit was dealin’, and he was not feeling charitable.

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