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Prepared for Anything

“Yeah, that’s right,” I said. “We’re heading into dangerous country, so be prepared for anything. Bye.”

I grinned, listening to the frantic squawks that came through the phone as I hung up. If Stretch Wheenie wanted to say anything else, he would have to wait until tomorrow, when I would pick him up and drag him off to the untamed wilderness.

I sat down at my computer and was in the middle of playing a game of computerized Scrabble when an email from Stretch popped up. It read, ‘Matt, I didn’t get to ask you why the country we’re heading into is so dangerous.’

I thought for a bit, and then typed out a reply. Stretch, it is dangerous for us because we are going there.

Chuckling at my genius reply, I hit the send button and promptly shut off the computer.

I was planning to go into the mountains to look for a lost cave that some careless person had mislaid. Counting on Stretch to bring all the survival, cooking, and rain gear, I packed light, simply bringing a water bottle, a flashlight, a knife, and some food, plus the clothes I was wearing.

In the morning I was awakened by my sadistic alarm clock, which I had set for eight o’clock. It decided to go off at six o’clock instead, so I gave it a good wallop. Groaning and cracking my joints, I hauled myself out of bed. When I was thoroughly woken up, which required approximately ten milliliters of solid caffeine, I grabbed my pack and headed out the door.

Stretch was only a little angry at being awakened by a truck horn at six-thirty. I could tell because he threatened nothing worse than to slash my tires. If I had woken him up two hours earlier, he probably would have threatened to slash my throat.

Stretch’s demeanor was somewhat improved after I treated him to a gourmet breakfast of hash browns and sausage at Greasy Hank’s. I was going to mention where I was taking him while we were in the restaurant, but figured it would be safer to tell him when we were at least ten miles from his house.

The drive to the wilderness was quiet and uneventful, except for one minor incident where both rear tires of my truck slipped out over the edge of a large pothole. I had all wheel drive, thankfully, but that didn’t stop Stretch from shrieking like a little girl.

“Will you stop your screaming?” I asked as I switched into four-wheel-drive mode.

“Me?” Stretch shrieked. “You’re screaming just as loud as I am, maybe even louder!”

“Maybe I am,” I replied, watching the front tires peel out like crazy. “But you’re screaming like a little girl, while I’m screaming like a man.”

"You're literally screaming at a higher pitch than me, Matt."

When we were safely away from the pothole, Stretch asked where we were going.

“Oh, I thought we’d go on an expedition to find the cave that someone mislaid up here in the mountains.”

“Sounds like fun. What general area is it supposed to be in?”

“I believe it’s up on Cougar Mountain,” I replied.

Stretch looked at me with horror and dread written all over his face, his beady little eyes bugged out in terror. “C-C-Cougar Mountain?” he spluttered.

“Yeah, that’s why I told you to be ready for anything. And wash your face, will you? I don’t want to be seen with someone who has horror and dread written all over his face. What is that, Sharpie?”

“Dry erase marker.”

Cougar Mountain was somewhat accessible from a rough trail that happened to wander by a mere five miles away. At the trailhead, I helped Stretch get his rather enormous backpack strapped on. Then we started up the trail.

We hadn’t gotten far before we came upon a traveling preacher. The preacher greeted us in the name of the Lord and then set up his portable pulpit. As he began his sermon, Stretch pulled a Bible out of his backpack.

“You told me to be ready for anything,” Stretch whispered when he caught my incredulous stare.

The sermon was a short one. Evidently the preacher figured we didn’t need too much convincing, seeing as we were headed into such dangerous country.

A little further on we happened to stumble across a sleeping man who was wearing striped prison clothes. I recognized him as the murderer who had recently escaped from jail.

Stretch reached into his backpack for a pair of handcuffs and took the escaped prisoner into custody. He was just wondering what to do with his catch when the preacher came puffing up the trail.

“You forgot your Bible,” the preacher wheezed.

“Thanks,” Stretch replied. “Hey, would you mind taking this guy to the police?”

The preacher consented and we set out again. We had hardly gone a hundred feet when a huge king cobra reared up right in front of us.

“Distract it!” Stretch hissed, dashing away into the bushes.

If I hadn’t been pinned down by the snake’s murderous glare, I would have gladly hunted Stretch down right then and there and found a cougar to feed him to.

Suddenly, when I was sure the snake was about to strike and inject me with deadly poison that would definitely kill me (I thought a lot about the deadliness while I waited to die), a blurry figure with beady little eyes shot from the bushes, grabbing the snake by the neck with one of those snake-catching grabber sticks.

“Stretch!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Stretch replied, slicing the snake’s head off with his Bowie knife.

“How’d you happen to have one of those snake-catching grabber sticks with you?” I asked when the snake was quite dead.

Stretch shrugged and said, “You told me to be ready for anything.”

I started to wonder what Stretch would pull out of his backpack if we were about to be vaporized by a nuclear bomb, or if a Tyrannosaurus Rex intent on having a snack suddenly charged out of the forest.

In a short time we left the trail and struck out for Cougar Mountain. I was walking along in front of Stretch when I noticed to my great surprise that there was no ground underneath my feet. I plummeted downward, blacking out when I hit the rocks with a sickening crunch.

I came to my senses in a helicopter. Stretch was bending over me, poking various parts of my body, evidently trying to determine if I was still alive or not.

“You are alive!” Stretch exclaimed.

I smiled weakly and looked around.

“You pull this helicopter out of your backpack?” I asked.

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