Normal History Vol. 86: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 26-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

An excerpt from “Shadowing The G-Man,” published in MungBeing magazine.

On the other side of the valley, the G-Man falls behind as I scramble up a dry riverbed, leaping from boulder to boulder, towards the alpine meadow. I stop to inspect tiny purple flowers I’ve never seen before. The G-Man is out of sight, still in the forest. I sit on a boulder to wait, knees tucked up, wondering if I should go back to see what’s happened. The G-Man eventually appears, hand on abdomen, slightly crouched, walking very slowly.

I climb off the boulder and walk back down the trail. “What’s wrong, G-Man?”

“I don’t feel well.”

“What kind of not well?”

“Dizzy, pain in stomach, tightness in chest.”

“Here,” I say, easing the backpack off the G-Man’s shoulders. “Let’s take a break. Sit down in the shade.”

I transfer some of the G-Man’s stuff into my pack. We rest a while before heading back through the forest, slowly up the steep trail. The G-Man stops every two or three minutes.

“I’m sorry about this. I haven’t been well. I’m waiting for some tests to come back.”

“Tests for what?”

“Could be the heart.”

Jesus H. Christ,” I say, wondering why anyone with a heart condition would hike five hours into remote mountains and then, after re-thinking my reaction, I add, “Listen, you stop whenever you need to and we’ll just go slowly. OK?” Calculating: 2 p.m. now. Five hours to the parking lot at a normal pace. Dark by 9:30 p.m.

“I’m really sorry about this,” says the G-Man, wincing, gripping the trunk of a slender pine tree at the side the trail.

“Everything is going to be fine. Take a nice relaxing breath in … and exhale,” I say stretching the words out. “Everything is fine.”

If the G-Man can’t make it off the mountain, do we both stay? There’s no place to lie down. We’ll have to crouch on the trail until morning. Is it better that I go back and organize help for first light? A cool wind comes up, roaring off the glacier on the other side of the valley. A person couldn’t have picked a worse place for a medical emergency if they tried. We continue slowly out of the forest to traverse the steep slope, back to the meadow where we stopped to take photos. The G-Man is feeling better as we begin the long, gradual incline to the parking lot.

Climbing into the van through the side door, I am acutely aware of the smell of gasoline mixed with mildew.

The G-Man pulls a beer out of the tiny fridge and hands me a can of sparkling grapefruit mineral water. “Good work, Junior. In fact, I may have to promote you to Intermediate Sidekick.”

“Isn’t there another lemon drink in there?” I ask. “And hey, where did you hide those fancy chocolate cookies?”

“I need to put more of the lemon ones in the fridge. And no, you can’t have a cookie. We’re going to have dinner as soon as we get back to camp. Fried chicken and potato salad. Here, have the grapefruit drink.”

“OK,” I say. “But I am going to have a deeply chocolate-y reward cookie.” I open the cupboard near the fridge, glad that I paid for my share of the groceries.

Scent Glossary
anger – chocolate

Celia looks for chocolate cookies after the hike while the G-Man discourages her; it will spoil her dinner of chicken (rejection) and salty (denial) potato salad.

emotions withheld – musty, mildew
The van: mildew with gasoline (fear of losing control).

fear of losing control – gasoline
The van smells of gasoline, mildew (emotions withheld).

manipulation – lemon
Lemon drink at the end of the hike.

passive aggressive – grapefruit
The G-Man offers Celia a grapefruit drink while sipping a beer (secrets).

secrets – booze
G-Man has a beer in the van, offering Celia a grapefruit (passive aggressive) drink while she’s busy looking for chocolate (anger) cookies.