The Sad Thing by Oliver Mestitz

My father knew a man who climbed Mt Everest three times. On the first climb, my father said, the man was my age and a teacher. By the second he did not need oxygen.

“Sometimes,” my father said, “sometimes at school we would go for walks. We would have to go for walks.”

My mother nodded. She was eating a breadstick.

“We would go for these walks and things,” my father said. “Nobody would ever want to go but we’d have to. We were at school. I always took a compass.”

“Were you friends?” I asked.

“O yes,” my mother said.

“He never took a compass,” my father said, “he only ever took the long way round.”

“He was very fit,” my mother said.

“He never liked taking shortcuts,” my father said. “But he always loved the walks. He loved to walk up hills. We all tried to take shortcuts but he never did. He would only take the long way round.”

“He did love to walk up hills.”

My father smiled. He looked exactly like I was going to look. My mother was eating a breadstick.

“He was a teacher,” my mother said.

“Physics,” my father said.

“A teacher at your age.”

“He was a teacher, very young.”

“This was over a period of ten, fifteen years.”

“We were all still very young.”

“And the sad thing is,” my mother said, “nobody has heard from him since.”

“Not for three decades,” my father said.

“He fell in with that holy man. That mystic.”

“No, he was a Sherpa,” my father said. “A Tibetan mystic.”

“They fell in together and he stopped climbing mountains. They were in Tibet.”

“On the mountain. They found religion on the mountain.”

“He must be a holy man now, in the mountain or somewhere,” my mother said. “Nobody has heard from him since.”

“He’s on the mountain,” my father said.

“That’s the sad thing,” my mother said. “Nobody has heard from him.”
“He doesn’t teach.”

“It’s a shame.”

“He was a teacher, at your age.”

“A holy man.”

“Nobody’s heard from him since.”

“Not for three decades,” my mother said. “That’s the sad thing.”

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Oliver Mestitz is a writer and musician and also he invented a board game.