The Cooper Research Team, Boondocks Division

Action-adventure / Canyon / Umbrella / 967w

It was crazy. Plain old fucked-in-the-head crazy. Jumping like that, raining out, pitch black, negative whatever degrees up there in the stratosphere? No way the guy survived. His skull’s probably up in some pine tree right now, birds in it and shit.

But money is money, man. Like me and Ted say, or used to say, anyway. And if a little eight year old kid with a stick can scratch fifty-eight k out of the dirt in this river, then no reason we can’t, too.

Me and Ted are the Cooper Research Team, Boondocks Division. It’s a joke, or at least it started out that way. That’s what we call ourselves, even though the real Research Team would probably sue us or something. Not like they care about what kids out in the boonies do anyway. But here’s the thing: we know these woods. We know this river, this gorge. We’re Washington kids born and raised. If anyone can find the Cooper cash, it’s us.

Or it would’ve been us, if Ted hadn’t fucked my girlfriend. And I hadn’t socked his teeth in. At some point, before or after I was choking him and he was clawing at my eyeballs, we swore we’d each find the money on our own, and fuck the CRT.

He’d been bluffing, like usual. That bastard thinks he’s gonna do it with our maps, and our trajectories, but he knows I’ve always been the brains of this operation. Let him fall in a ditch and die out here, wherever he is. That money is mine, and I’ll use it to buy a yacht and fill it with women and booze, and a jet to write fuck you ted and maria in the sky over Vancouver every day for a year.

It’s raining, heavy, but that’s no surprise. Rain is the default. I’m slosh-slurching through the thick leaves on the river’s surface, and squinting at my laminated map. I’ve got a compass but right now I’m navigating based on the slope, which climbs up gradually and gradually to the northeast until it becomes Mount Saint Helens, or what’s left of her. Ted and I are pretty good at physics, and pretty good at research, and we found out a lot about where the plane was when The Coop jumped, and what the wind conditions were probably like, and what the rates of acceleration and deceleration would have been, and we think we’re pretty accurate. Even if the FBI made it out here, they wouldn’t have found Coop. They don’t know this area.

I’m in the deepest part of the gorge. Even game hunters don’t get out here. Seems scary with the steep walls and the shadows, but the river is shallow, real calm.

I see something up ahead, floating. It’s blue, bright blue. Not a color you’d normally find out here. Parachute, I think, even though that’s stupid, I’m not in the fall zone yet. I splash up to it. It’s an umbrella. Ted’s umbrella. His initials, TRS, are written on it in sharpie, because he has five brothers and got good at staking a claim to things.

I stand there for a good ten seconds thinking about how dumb you have to be to bother bringing an umbrella into a rainforest. And I think about how he’s here, and he got here before me. I think about how he screamed when I threw him off Maria and into the wall.

Now I’m actually hearing him screaming. He’s right above me. I look up.

Ted’s hanging by one pant leg, upside down, right off the edge of the gorge. He’s thirty feet up. Jesus.

“EM!” he screams. “EMMETT!”

“What the FUCK, Ted?” I scream back. I’m looking around for a way up. I’m panicking.

“Help me, Em!” Ted waves an arm weakly. His stupid Adidas anorak is torn.

“I’m trying! God damn it! How the fuck!”

There’s no way for me to get up there. The sides of the gorge are slimy, mossy, dripping.

“Hurry! Em! Please holy fuck please please—“

“I’ve gotta circle back, T. I’ve gotta find a way up that hill.”

“I’m on this root,” Ted scream-sobs. “It’s not gonna, it ain’t gonna, oh Emmett, Jesus, I’m so sorry, I…”

“Just hold the fuck on. Swing up. Get a handhold.”

“Can’t.” He sounds woozy, drunk. Too much blood in the head. I remember when he got kicked in the jaw during soccer practice in tenth grade. He sounded the same way then, on the hospital bed. Scariest day of my life, up til now.


He’s falling. I stop thinking. I throw myself forward, and it’s like I’m hit by a car. We go down hard on the river rocks.

I’ve cracked a few ribs, I think, but I’m okay, and I sit up in the water gasping for air. Ted’s limp, half on top of me, head submerged. I pull him out and slap his cheeks, but he doesn’t move. I feel for a pulse, and there is one. I start crying because my best friend might make it. Then I smack him in the chest for being such a goddamn idiot and getting us into this fuckup the way he always does.

Something floats by me, which I don’t expect. It’s a tattered twenty dollar bill. And then another one, and another. A lot of them. They’re floating out of Teddy’s unzipped rucksack and slipping downriver, dozens of them, maybe a few hundred, paper leaves joining up with the oak and maple and birch. Of course he fucking found Coop’s cash.

As I’m zipping up the pack, I realize that at some point I dropped my map and it’s probably floating down there somewhere, too.

But it’s okay. We’ll make it out of here. We’re Boonies kids.

Writer’s Note

Many apologies for the long hiatus! My work responsibilities have increased over the past month, and I had some people visiting, so I had less time than usual. But I’m back on the bandwagon and don’t intend to lapse again.

Anyway, my interpretation of action/adventure seems to involve people falling from high places. I’m happy with the two storylines I worked into this, since even though D.B. Cooper is cultishly compelling, I think a sense of intimacy also matters. This is another one I’d like to expand sometime.

I want to find ways to avoid sacrificing imagery and detail when I take on distinctive character voices. Who are some good writers who pull off personality and detail?

A gorge is totally a canyon. And shout out to the real CRT.


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