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Backpacker Magazine – October 2012

Worst Nightmare: Cold

A hair-raising tale of wilderness terror that will haunt your backcountry dreams

by: Bruce Barcott

Kayak Paddle
Kayak Paddle
    Tags:

Derek eased his legs into the cockpit until his soles felt the firmness of the kayak’s foot braces. Somewhere out there, five miles across the Strait, was Blakely Island.

“Who do you know on Blakely?” he asked.

“Gordon Manicker,” said MK. “Starbucks CFO.” Unserved by ferries, Blakely was an isolated island of compounds. “Said we were welcome to go hiking. Stop for coffee. Gord’s got his own Clover press.” 

Derek checked the map. “Northwest heading should get us there,” he said, pointing into the curtain of drizzle. MK stroked past him.

A week ago when MK suggested a New Year’s trip, half the SONEN staff signed up. A winter paddle-and-hike in the San Juans with the boss and his new boat. Bracing! Fun! Kind of not optional! So Derek borrowed his neighbor’s kayak. And then it rained. Which it did every day in winter. But apparently the drops turned his co-workers to jelly. In the end it was just Derek and the man.

He doubted MK even knew his name. The way he used phrases that elided the proper noun. Everybody knew MK’s name, of course. Michael Kee, director of the SONEN Biomedical Institute, formerly of Goldman Sachs. The Vanity Fair piece hinted at some dark incident behind the pretentious initialism, but Derek just assumed the guy didn’t like the Life cereal sound of “Mike Kee.”

MK broke the ice. “So you keep our checkbook balanced, eh?”

“Yeah.” Pause. “Derek.” Nip the bud.

“Of course,” said MK. Smiled. “So how we doing, Derek?”

“Good,” he said. “A stray thread here and there. Probably nothing. An errant zero. Happens all the time.” 

MK let it drop. He wasn’t a numbers guy. He was big picture, famously so.

They paddled on. Drizzle turned to hard rain. As they moved into the Strait, Derek sensed a change in the water. It grew thick and pushy. Half an hour in, all sign of land disappeared. They had kayaked into a ground cloud.



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Reader Rating: -

ALL READERS COMMENTS

HikingMike
Dec 10, 2012

I wish it had said somewhere that this was a piece of fiction when I read it in the magazine. What the heck.

Swampsis
Nov 18, 2012

what a short dumb@ss ending

Swampsis
Nov 18, 2012

what a short dumb@ss ending

Puget Sound
Oct 29, 2012

Wait! Was there a happy ending?

turd
Oct 27, 2012

he said hard shaft on soft flesh, lol.

Kay Kay Kayak
Oct 27, 2012

Just came in from kayaking , cool here in Wisconsin today. Makes me more aware of what can happen in the cold water. Always have a plan and a wet bag with dry wool ware, I use boiled wool mittens when paddling in cold water.

Chi3f
Oct 26, 2012

Agree written poorly. Jumps around from scene to scene too much. Confusing.

John
Oct 26, 2012

My guess would be only Mk returned from that trip

Dax
Oct 26, 2012

Seems to me the writer got interested in a different project and left the ending in a hurry.

Yeah, he killed his boss? The boss killed the employee? - is that a tricky ending? Nope, just confusing...

Nos
Oct 26, 2012

MK killed Derek to save his own skin. When I first read this story, I was taken back. I thought this was the survival issue and not the murdered at sea issue. To bad Backpacker didn't include a tip on how to survive your psycho boss at sea.

Nos
Oct 26, 2012

MK killed Derek to save his own skin. When I first read this story, I was taken back. I thought this was the survival issue and not the murdered at sea issue. To bad Backpacker didn't include a tip on how to survive your psycho boss at sea.

Jerry G
Oct 26, 2012

Site broken. no link to page 3

Jean-Claude
Oct 26, 2012

You're not alone, Jacquie...I don't get it either...why was this story so short? it was very interesting...then stopped...I've the same question...what happened...

Gary
Oct 26, 2012

Uh, what! Strange article, even stranger when it went porn at the end. I don't get it.

Sam
Oct 26, 2012

/SPOILER ALERT/





MK hit Derek with the paddle and left him to drown.

gen
Oct 26, 2012

same here...kinda dum ending

ConAir
Oct 26, 2012

MK put Derek in the water. The end.

KW
Oct 26, 2012

MK hit Derek with the paddle, knocked him into the water and paddled to shore alone.

Arid
Oct 26, 2012

For real that ending makes no sense

Anonymous
Oct 26, 2012

I think MK beat the narrator with the paddle and he fell into the water and drowned.

SpaceRacer423
Oct 26, 2012

Jacquie-

Re-read the end.

The perspective switches from Derek's to MK's after Derek says: "We need to loose weight."

Read from that angle it makes more sense.

Danielle
Oct 26, 2012

This story was written by Bruce Barcott, "a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow in nonfiction..." I guess I'm just not sophisticated enough to understand his style of writing...the store seemed confusing to me and the ending seemed to end abruptly. The whole story just flew over my simple brain...

Anonymous
Oct 26, 2012

yikes...poorly written story...

Vernon Smith
Oct 26, 2012

MK disposed of Derek and took over the kayak.The Nasty Big Boss saved himself.

chuck
Oct 26, 2012

surely you jest. MK knocked Derek into the water and left him to drown.

Brant
Oct 26, 2012

Seriously, what the hell kind of ending was that?

Tank
Oct 26, 2012

I think something is missing at the end...

Wildflower
Oct 26, 2012

MK pushed Derek into the water with the paddle and took off to save himself

Bobby
Oct 26, 2012

I hope there's more to this story

RG
Oct 26, 2012

Jacquie,
MK opted to dump (kill) the employee, Derek, in order to get rid of weight and save his own life. (Ba$tard!)

Rb
Oct 26, 2012

The old man hit the young fit guy with the paddle, knocked him in the water and paddled on leaving to die.

Jim
Oct 26, 2012

Lame ending

#2
Oct 26, 2012

That sure fizzled out.

Niko
Oct 26, 2012

MK knocked Derek off the kayak and paddled to shore.

Lost
Oct 26, 2012

Second...what happened? They're about to sink...then suddenly all is well?

Jacquie
Oct 23, 2012

I don't quite understand. What happened at the end?

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