My name is Joe Daniels. I’ve just been contracted to join the BSI team on a temporary basis, to provide navigational support and technical assistance for a trek they’re planning. (I’m actually an adventure travel agent, but somehow I got talked into this BSI gig, and the deal is I’m their sherpa. Seriously.)

My job normally entails booking people on ecotours in the Galapagos, or hiking trips in the Alps or canoeing expeditions on the Nahani, that kind of thing.

People often overestimate their own abilities, or underestimate the challenges they think they want to tackle. I’ve even seen little old ladies in their fifties who wanted to climb Everest. My challenge is to tactfully channel these kind of adventurers into more realistic adventures. Like maybe instead of Mount Everest, they might want to climb Owl’s Head. I deal with this kind of thing all the time. I’ve seen it all.

So I wasn’t all that surprised when an eyeball rolled in here today, accompanied by a dizzy blonde in spiked heels, an elf and a mangy looking fox, and said he wanted to hire a sherpa.

“Have a seat,” I said.

The fox whistled, and a red couch came clippity-clopping in from outside. The fox, the eye, the elf and the dizzy blonde in spiked heels all squeezed onto the couch.

“So. A sherpa,” I said, “Everest?”

“Elgin,” said the Eye.

“Elgin??” I asked, “The county?”

“The street,” said the Eye.

I chuckled. I was thinking Manny must have put these guys up to this. Manny and me, we trade practical jokes back and forth, and it was Manny’s turn. This did seem a little elaborate though. Dizzy blondes are a dime a dozen, but it couldn’t have been easy coming up with a talking eye and a walking couch and a trained fox and a half-drunk elf.

I showed them a city map and marked our location on Bank Street and their destination on Elgin Street. I explained that they could walk there in twenty minutes.

They all looked at the map like it was hieroglyphics or something. I tried to explain maps to them, how each of those lines was a street. They listened politely and then the dizzy blonde pointed out that even one street was bigger than the whole map, so it made no sense. The others nodded. The Eye kept saying “I see, I see,” but I could see that he didn’t.

By the end of it, I’d been engaged to provide sherpa services to this crew (and some of their friends who I haven’t met yet), to escort them to Elgin Street and back. I’m not sure when we’re going to do that, because they said they had to do a bunch of things first. 

The crazy thing is I think they’re for real. I don’t think Manny’s got any part of this. Manny’s practical jokes never cost  anything, and the dizzy blonde paid me a big retainer.  They’ve insisted I be called Sherpa Joe from now on. I figure what the hell, it’s got a nice ring to it and for that kind of money they can call me whatever they want.

That’s it for now. Fox and Elf and me, we’re going out for beers now.