She flings her arms into the air and I step in to let her hug me.
“Wow,” she says. “You smell genuinely disgusting, Rose. No offense.”
“None taken.” I shrug. “I’m mostly just happy I’m beyond the point of being able to smell myself.”
I wave her inside, reminding her to be quiet so we don’t wake up Maggie, my 3-year-old, who’s spent the past 24 hours with some sort of horrible stomach virus.
I ask Jamie if she wants tea or something, but she’s too excited about her big story: Investigating the mysterious Hoodoo Mountain Howler. I sit at the table while she paces the kitchen.
“From what I can tell, the story started about a month ago. Some people from Portland were up cross-country skiing near Palouse Divide when something ransacked their campsite.”
“Probably just raccoons,” I say. “Or if you’re feeling really wild, bears.”
“Yeah, but it sorted through coolers. It unzipped the tent. It opened beer cans.”
I don’t buy it. “Bears like beer.”
“Come on, Rose, play along at least. This could be my big break.”
She’s so eager, I don’t want to hurt her feelings. “So you’re going to drive out there, interview a few hikers, head home?”
“No way,” she says. “We’re going to go out in the woods and look for it. We leave in the morning.”
“Look, Jamie, I know you’re excited, but I really can’t.” I grit my teeth in an attempt to look extra disappointed. “Mike has to work, and I’ve got to get Joey to school, and Maggie’s probably still going to be sick, and I’ve got a deadline … ”
She laughs, and I know this laugh. Conspiratorial. Triumphant. When Jamie has her heart set on an idea, nothing can stop it. It’s how we spent a spring break road-tripping to the International UFO Museum, how we ended up captaining the college ultimate Frisbee team, how I dislocated my shoulder when she got an awesome idea to build a treehouse.
“I already called Mike, and he said he’d take a few days off. I brought everything we need,” she says. “Please, Rose? Please?”
My teeth still gritted, I nod. I don’t even mean to — it just happens.
Jamie recounts the whole plan when Mike and Joey get home: We’ll head up the White Pine highway, then venture out on Forest Service roads. Jamie used to date a guy whose family has a tiny, hike-in cabin deep in the forest. We’ll snowshoe out, camp there, she’ll shoot some footage.
As she talks, Mike keeps turning and grinning at me. He has met Jamie on quick trips to Seattle, but never really gotten to see the legend in action. He has asked why I don’t want to have crazy adventures anymore, and I’ve never given him a good answer.
Joey, who is 5, is entranced by the idea of an unknown creature lurking through the woods.
“What will you do if you find it? If you find the Howler?”
“Well,” Jamie says, “I guess then we’ll have a really good story.”
Coming next week, Part 3: The Trail
Roberts is a writer and mom who lives and works in Moscow and is very slowly pursuing her master’s degree in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.