The man who did not know
The man who did not know had a name but his name does not matter.
What matters is what the man who did not know, did not know.
The man who did not know was standing in the living area of the little red 19th-century Victorian home he'd recently closed on and was in the process of remodeling, looking through the open door. Outside the sky was all around a brightly screaming blue and way off in the distance he could see the rocky crags and gendarmes lined up like some kind of high-alpine sentinels along the southeast ridge of the mountain he was preparing to climb.
The dog was sitting on the couch in the precise spot the man had risen from just minutes earlier, because it was warm there and she liked warm places and she liked the woody cigar-smoky scent he left behind. She was a husky with one eye blue and one eye gray and she could still remember the day all those years ago when he'd rescued her from the bad men, and all the shouting and shooting and then that unforgettable heavy dead silence. And then, the sound of his feet stepping lightly across the vinyl to lift the tablecloth and coax her out pry off the muzzle toss the choke collar and finally carry her away to his car as the cabin burned behind them with the bad men still in it.
As the man leaned down to tie his shoes she was thinking two things: 1) There are strange numbers floating above the man's head that I've never seen before, and 2) The man does not seem to know about them.
The dog was worried about her favorite human so she hopped off the couch and trotted over to him. She sat down and put up one white paw and yipped twice to tell him about the numbers but he just smiled patted her head picked up his hiking pack and then went out the door. Through sighing eyes she sadly watched him go.
The man who did not know was walking through a forest on singletrack trail not too far from treeline lost in thoughts about building permits and a package of probably dogfood at the post office and the woman he was excited to meet for dinner that evening. The weather was agreeable and everything about the day was unfolding exactly as he'd planned.
As he ascended the man reveled at the sight and sound of the aspen all aflutter and aflame with dying color in the easy morning breeze. He called back to every squirrel that yammered urgently at him and sang along with the elk as they bugled their concern.
But the man who did not know did not hear what the wildlife was trying to say about the countdown, nor did he understand the lodgepole pines as they each reached out their needly branches to implore him with an evergreen message of warning, nor did he detect any danger in the roar of the creek as it went crushing thunderously by him on its way downvalley. And so up past the last of the bristlecone and into the land of lichen and moss and talus and scree went he.
The man who did not know was standing on the summit smoking a bowl and savoring views that flew a hundred miles in every direction when a mountain goat crested silently next to him. The man saw the goat and said Hello friend.
The goat looked at the man and saw the sign and by instinct instantly knew that the man did not know, and so the goat said with some insistence You are almost out of time. But the man who did not know did not understand, and so the goat moved closer and tried again: Get help your time is almost up.
And yet the man who did not know just stood there blissfully oblivious and unaware staring into the great big world around him smiling as if he had all of humankind's time left for the taking for himself. The goat took one more look, understood that such is life, and then simply said Farewell friend.
The sun was nearing its high point and so it was time to begin descending before the afternoon monsoons came rumbling drunkly in to ramble on and on with their madcap tales of hail and graupel and lightning.
The man who did not know gathered up his pack, bade the goat goodbye, and proceeded down the trail.
Reaching the crux of the route he turned and positioned himself and started downclimbing into the class 5 summit approach chute when suddenly with a wrathful raspy thock the hold he'd chosen for his left hand popped right out of the mountain and the action spun his whole body around and off the rock's chossy face; his other arm wildly outflung failed to find purchase and as he existed there eternally alone in empty wailing air watching the peak he'd just been perched upon go rushing up into the heavens above—
in those final few interminable moments of a good life snatched away from earth and wrapped forever in gravity,
the man who did not know, knew.