a very dull party. And now the party was
asked J.R. if he’d like to check out
the scene at the greenhouse and he said sure, just let him refill his
Russian, and he started the painful journey upstairs.
But then the anxious deputy asked if he could
snag a ride with me. Space in the
already bursting Nissan was less than accommodating and the deputy was
exactly petite, so I told J.R. I’d be back for him after I dropped off
deputy. How could I have known how
quickly Fate would make a liar of me?
greenhouse scene was
hopping. It looked as if a parking lot
carnival was in full swing as we drove up, slack-jawed with amazement
of us. Cars parked willy-nilly, an
officer directing traffic with a flashlight-baton, the thunderous
the helicopter, the urgent growl of generators, an unearthly
of halogen lamps, and the bustle of people as animated and feverishly
as an anthill riven by a plow—all of this chaos was a staggering
the lonely vigil in front of Dorothy’s. How
could such furor have been going on all this
time without our
knowing it, without our hearing nary a peep of the cacophonous uproar
now confronting? The first thing I
learned was that the rescue was definitely NOT
over. If anything, it was just beginning
to come to a roiling boil.
deputy whisked me through the
tumult to talk to the sheriff and the rescue personnel coordinators. The roar of the combined elements was
deafening; I understood more by gesture than by word.
I gathered that I was to lead in the next
rescue party immediately, the fourth to enter thus far.
Though I had heard Jim Currens’ distinctive
voice call my name as I’d stepped from the car, I had not yet picked
familiar face in the throng. Then, all
at once, I was surrounded by them.
Chris Reynolds was trying to jockey
his truck through the ever-shifting maze of folk and vehicles. Tom Crockett stepped into view, telling Chris
to park up at the house. But Chris found
a place beside the fire truck, and the two of them joined me at the
rescue organizers. Anthony Dean walked
up shortly after them, his usually cheerful face stricken with
Annette Durbin stood close beside him.
summarized the important details
of the accident, but it wasn’t registering in its entirety against the
din. “Who fell?” I yelled. “Mike
Harrington’s brother, Gregg,” and the realization went through me like
gunshot. I had written Mike to remind
him of the meeting, told him we’d go caving together, that we’d go
together today. I was late; they went
without me. “Everybody else is out
already,” Tom yelled back at the blank stare I must have been giving
him. “Everybody but Mike.
He’s still underground with Gregg.”
And I stood there for a moment, held by the
sardonic thought, “And so we shall, my friend; so we shall go caving
noticed a clutch of shivering
young people (so old have I become!) wrapped in khaki-colored blankets
an emergency vehicle. I approached them,
recognizing Brian Heckman and Alan Abt among them.
They told me what had happened.
I need not repeat the story here as John
Young’s harrowing trip report is more than ample testimony.* This was no longer a faceless chore for
improvident strangers. This was
suffering friends on a trip that would not have happened had I typed a
faster, had I come to Sloan’s when I said I would, had I... “Goddamn,” I said, just as I became another,
more formidable person. A person ready
for hellfire, if hellfire be met. The
transformation was instantaneous and good thing, too, because all at
pace was ragtime.