Early last year, I found myself on an energetic stroll across Stanford’s e-campus. Having consumed my third "smart meal" (crushed cashews and Joey Chestnut branded wet bread) of the day from the student favorite Redwood Cafe, a brisk walk felt appropriate. I’d recently taken to alternative speed-walking (toe heel, toe heel) and the preliminary results were electric.
I checked my heart rate the old fashioned way (finger in mouth) and logged the result. My goal was to burn 2,850 Stanford calories by noon and I’d blown past 3,000 by 9am. Sadly, as a result of this adaptive energy expenditure, the front of my shins sprouted calf-like muscles. I ended up having to swap my Lee’s Skinny Fats for a pair of Dickie’s Deeps from the campus clending (clothes vending) machine to accommodate the frontal expansion. Jeaned up, I made my way back to the Cardinal tent system for a gravity snoozer.
FIG 1. LEE’S SKINNY FATS
There were a few routes I normally took each day. The most well trodden path, now showing advanced signs of ecological decay, happened to be the quickest and on rainier days, acted as my personal canal system. Seeing as it was as dry as the Gofee Desert, I opted for the paved path.
Not five minutes into my journey, I heard the distant drone from a nearby classroom of what could only be a tenured professor attempting to keep his students interested.
"You see, that’s why language is such a powerful tool!" My interest peaked and a single eyebrow raised, I deviated from my route and approached the classroom to listen in. "A can mean B, and C can mean…. Anyone?" Those still awake in the fluorescent auditorium stared blankly back at their instructor. He let out an audible sigh.
FIG 2. ZARDON
I leaned on the doorframe, one leg crossed behind the other with my toe resting on the ground, much like a cowboy or a 90’s Levi’s ad featuring a cowboy. I removed my prescription sunglasses.
"C can mean D." I smiled, taking off a second pair of prescription sunglasses. "And B." Every head in the class snapped to my silhouette in the doorway in disbelief except for the neck brace kid.
The professor capped his Expo marker. "Thanks, but my 400 level class doesn’t meet until 3pm." I could tell I’d overstepped. The bell rang and students filed out, eager to escape the lecture hall.
"So, you’re a language guy, huh?" I asked, still leaning on the doorframe like a cowboy. He put his thumbs in his belt loops, debating whether to entertain the conversation further. "Yes, I’m the professor of Ancient and Foreign Words and Letters here at Stanford. Like I said before, class is over and-"
I began my descent down the auditorium steps to meet him at the front. "I’m hoping you can help me with this." I pulled out a scroll from my sock and flattened it on the overhead projector. I flicked on the creaky bulb. He turned to face the projection and put the rest of his fingers in his belt loops in contemplation. Studying the hieroglyphics projected from the scroll, his eyes lit up. "Where did you get this?"
FIG 3. ANKLE SWEAT
"Can you tell me what it says?" I questioned. Truth was that I’d found it in a corked bottle when looking for sea glass years prior. Truth was that I’d kept it in my sock every day in hopes of finding someone that could translate it for me. "The only word I can make out is ‘ruby’. Everything else is a wash." I continued.
"Ruby?" He turned to me with a look of both wonder and concern. "Not just any ruby." He pushed his glasses up. "These are, if my preliminary readings are correct, rough coordinates to King Peenty’s Big Red Rubies."
I scoffed, shook my head, and removed the scroll from the overhead projector. "Funny, Doc." I rolled it up taquito style and sheathed it back in my sock. "Real funny, but we both know those rubies have been missing for 5.6 thousand years. Not a single soul has seen them since Jesus walked among the reptiles."
Doctor Zardon paced silently, watching me pack up in frustration. "I’m serious." He plead. I met his gaze. I could see he was genuine. "Can I please see the scroll again? I have a feeling it could give us some clues as to where the rubies may be. I’m not promising anything, but I have a good feeling about this."
I removed the scroll, now wet from my ankle sweat, rang it out and placed it in Zardon’s hands.
Two days later, my phone rang mid pushup.
"Go for Garrett." I huffed, switching to one handed pushups to take the call.
"It’s Zardon. I found something interesting you might want to hear." I repped out four more pushups, full well knowing my left arm, chest, and whole left side of body would be larger and stronger because of the muscular imbalance. I told him to proceed. "Again, I don’t know if I’m 100 percent correct on the translation, but it’s looking like…" Zardon trailed off. I finished my pushups and tied my headband tighter.
"It’s looking like what, Doc?" I asked, a wave of curiosity washing over me.
Zardon sighed. "The ocean." I could hear the tears welling in his eyes. "The ocean, Garrett. The coordinates don’t even say which one. Just, that they were buried in water or maybe an island surrounded by water or it could be a continent that’s not water at all." I stayed silent for a few moments. He continued. "Garrett, are you there?"
"How much did you say these rubies were worth?" I asked.
"Approximately 5.6 billion dollars." He responded. "Each."
My forehead muscles strained from deep rumination, I could feel my headband rip at the seams. After a minute of pacing back and forth, I returned to the call. Sweat dripping from neck, Zardon could hear the newfound confidence in my voice. "Looks like we’re going to need a boat. Or plane. And car, probably."