Monday, August 30, 2010

Chris Heimerdinger & Tennis Shoes 11: Sorcerers and Seers

Congrats Chris!!! I'm definitely anticipating the continuing adventure! I hope you get some sleep, but tuck an extra pen in your pillow case just in case you have too many autographs to create.

I have especially enjoyed the audio versions of your Tennis Shoes Series. I have twice listened to volumes 1-10 as I've driven my thousands of kilometres each month. I don't have lots of discretionary time for actual reading of books, but in your case, that’s good. In my experience with audio books, your creative creation of audio storytelling is most unique and entertaining. To date (and it's rather tough to pick just one scene from so many great ones), my favourite scene is the armed battle between the warriors Apollus and Gid. I would venture to claim that that clash of those undefeated titans - from two different continents and cultures, is the finest battle ever penned on paper. Legendary work Chris! That scene is certainly the most heart stopping one I have ever read (or heard)! My question now is, “Will you outdo yourself in Volume 11?” Perhaps I’ll have to pull over and park my semi again! (Blaming your pen for an accident just wouldn't seem fair!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Noble Pursuits and Mundane Necessities

"There's five in the bed and the little one said, 'Move over! Mover over!' So they all moved over and one fell out!"

What can I say? That's the story of my life too Nancy. Noble pursuits and mundane necessities all duking it out with savage sibling rivalry for strategic head-on-pillow placement on the mattress of my life. I need a bigger bed! I need more pillows! Hey, someone turn off the light so I can get some sleep! (Maybe tonight I can dream up a more efficient plan to tame the tangling troops!) Ew! Who ate crackers in bed? Listen you two - stop talking and go to sleep – you can visit in the morning! Ok, ok, go get one last drink of water before you go to sleep!

Am I inconsistent? Sometimes. Am I lazy? Never. Yes, I’m often exhausted but there is a silver lining… I am never bored! I am, however, often frustrated!

I’ve found it helpful to do what Steven Covey suggests: Write down the 6 most important things I think I need to do tomorrow. Rank them from 1-6. Then, in the morning, start on #1 and work until it’s done. Then I proceed to #2 & so on until I finish #6. If I only get #1 accomplished – or even worked on, then I will have at least worked on the most important thing I had to do & can feel somewhat satisfied.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 19

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 19

Ominous clouds continued to creep into Green Canyon. So far, no rain had escaped their dark clutches. The lichen-encrusted rocks, covering the majority of the canyon floor were dry. No dew had fallen this morning. Vast and rugged, the fractured, irregular meadow of boulders was anything but warm and inviting. Gloomy cloud-cover brooded over High Tor’s iced summit. Even the much lower peak of Ravenscrag Mountain was under attack. In just minutes, thick rain clouds would swallow everything over seven thousand feet in elevation.

Big C scanned the sky. From his prone point of view, it wasn’t pretty! The clouds were descending more rapidly than they had been earlier. The helpless man could almost smell the inevitable rain. He peered longingly in the direction his hiking partner had taken nearly two hours before. “Where is Glen?” Stan’s lips were dry, but, thankfully, he was warm enough. “I hope that tough Scotsman returns with water pretty soon.” The big man ran his tongued over his chapped lips. His body was dehydrated. “At least the sun isn’t beating down on me.”

In spite of his lack of hydration, a pleasant and much appreciated event had taken place in Glen’s absence. The lowering murk had driven the shrill marmots back to their burrows. The silence was a welcome relief. Now Stan just had the normal things left to endure – his throbbing, broken limb, the stabbing pain with each breath, his cuts and numerous bruises, his dry mouth and throat, and the deteriorating weather conditions.

Glen McPherson suspiciously eyed the trunk of the large tree. It towered just a few feet from the trail where his motionless body stood. Ragged claw marks scarred the bark some ten feet from the ground, perhaps even higher. Only two or three feet above the scars hung Stan’s backpack, still suspended safely where Glen had left it the day before. “I’m glad I had the foresight to tie the rope to a neighbouring tree.” Glen muttered. The angle of the rope had kept the inviting pack out of the focussed reach of the curious bear. Of course, with the remainder of the food in the dangling pack, the bear had probably been more than just curious.

The worn out Scotsman shot worried looks up and down Green Canyon. His earlier search had revealed only one set of bear tracks, but he didn’t want to lower the hanging backpack if a member of the Ursus arctos horribilis family was anywhere nearby. Glen knew that Grizzly bears had relatively poor eyesight and only a fair sense of hearing, but their noses were keen enough to compensate for both limitations. Only Grizzly cubs could climb trees, and the bear whose footprints he has discovered a quarter of an hour ago were certainly not those belonging to a juvenile.

Cautiously, Glen untied the heavy pack and eased it to the ground. He hobbled over to it and sunk to his knees. In seconds, Glen loosened an exterior lash strap. His trembling hand closed on the comforting carbon-fibre handle of Big C’s hatchet. Unsheathing the polished stainless steel head, the vulnerable man nervously glanced around again. He pulled his index finger across the honed blade at a right angle – just to be sure. Stan made an art out of sharpening blades, and the uneasy Scotsman was not disappointed. The polished cutting edge was razor-sharp.

Snapping the ready blade back into its oiled leather sheath, Glen threaded the fastening loop onto his belt. “If a bear encounter does become life threatening, at least I have a fighting chance of surviving the attack!” The small man fingered the leather sheath. “The short handle won’t give me very much mechanical advantage.” He clenched his teeth together. “The hatchet is probably sharp enough to split the skull of a charging bruin and hopefully save my fragile life.” Glen shuddered at the image that popped into his distressed mind. “At a maximum weight of 1800 pounds, a full-grown grizzly bear, charging at nearly 30 miles per hour would be a formidable opponent! Even if I killed the bear, the sheer inertia of the massive animal’s lifeless body would probably crush my insignificant carcass!” Glen continued his distressful anticipating. “The bear’s salivating jaws would have to be just inches away before the axe could effectively strike!” Glen shuddered again. “What if I miscalculate the swing of the hatchet?” Glens wits were unravelling fast!

“Get a grip Glen!” He growled to himself. He was trembling all over. His breath was ragged. “You will be OK!” he muttered, attempting to steady himself and push the disturbing images from his head. Feeling quite helpless, Glen knelt next the backpack.

In desperation, Glen bowed his head. “Heavenly Father.” He prayed aloud, “Please help me to be spared from any animal that I may encounter.” He paused to consider his next words. “Please help me to be able to defend myself should that need become inevitable.” Tears quietly made their way to the corners of the weary hiker’s eyes. “And… if I am to die here…” Glen trailed off, choking down a sob before continuing to speak to his God. “Please help me to accept thy will.” Thoughts of Lillie gently paraded across the stage of his consciousness. The Lillie he might not see again in this life. His tears were flowing now, spilling unchecked down his soiled cheeks and onto his scuffed pants. The tough Scotsman spoke from the depths of humility. “Heavenly Father… Please help me to live with honour for as long as thou seest fit that I should live. If it be thy will, please help me to have the strength and protection to be able to save the life of Stan as well as my own life.”

For long moments, Glen lingered; keeling; crying. Raw emotion pulsed through the muscles in his face, twisting at his lips and twitching his chin and neck muscles. Several silent seconds passed. Finally the injured hiker opened his bleary eyes. His scratched leather gloves lay beside him in the soft, dry dirt. The anxious squirrel had long since ceased its cry of alarm. A few, nearby birds flitted among the bushes and branches. Overhead, the dark, descending clouds approached in profound silence. Not a breath of wind rustled even the smallest leaf. The world was tranquil. Within the breast of the small, kneeling hiker came a soothing puff of peace.

In spite of all his worrying, Glen knew that everything was as it should be. “I will try my best to live. I will try my best to save the life of my broken friend. I will try, but whether my immediate future carries life or death, I know that God is watching over me.” A passage of scripture flowed through his mind, [1]“Therefore, let your heart be comforted … for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.”

[1] Doctrine and Covenants | Section 101:16

Saturday, August 21, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 18

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow

Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 18

An hour later found Stan lying alone under the monotone sky. Several of the mountain peaks were shrouded in clouds. Unlike the day before, not one shadow littered the field of rocks in Green Canyon. No brilliant sunlight threatened to bake him. Beneath the grey, the big man felt the unhealthy effects of cabin fever. In spite of the gravity of the situation, though, he smiled to himself. At least he still had a little of his good humour left. Suspiciously, Stan eyed the lowering sky. “A comfortable, cosy cabin would be a wonderful improvement over the exposed rocks that I’m lying helplessly on top of!” He pulled his sleeping bag a bit tighter around him. “If Glen doesn’t hurry, I’m going to get rained on.”
The resident marmot whistled somewhere nearby. Stan gazed in the direction of the sound, but too many large boulders blocked his view. A few seconds later, a second woolly marmot sounded off. Then, as if clumsily choreographed, the marmots began so call back and forth to each other. A captive audience, the big man closed his eyes and did the only thing he could think of to do: He tried to enjoy the concert. “I am most definitely in the cheap seats and walking out, in the middle of the performance, is not one of my available options!” A bitter laugh tried to surface, but the big man stifled it. His ribs hurt too much, even for a snitcher. Instead, he just smiled grimly. The whistling performance, put on by the intrepid woolly marmots, was incompetently composed at best and miserably monotone at worst! “I wish I had brought some earplugs!”
Glen McPherson picked his way across the remaining rocks strewn randomly across his chosen path. He and his trusty crutch had been working their way across the rugged landscape for over an hour now. Red pack perched on his back, Glen’s movements made him look more like a hunchback with a severely inflamed hump than a normal man. In spite of his bizarre appearance, he was making better time using his crutch than he had using his hands, foot and knees the day before.
Stalwart, but staggering, the panting Scotsman felt thirsty. In fact, he was downright parched! His dry, granola bar breakfast had been welcome but without a tall glass of cold milk to wash it down, the food was not as blissful as it might have been. Glen hadn’t eaten much since blacking out two days ago. His body was probably starving, but all his injuries were suppressing his appetite so he didn’t really notice. “Of course, I’m not under any stress.” The hobbling man thought. “I just need some water to keep me going and then I’ll be able to eat!”
With every passing minute, Glen McPherson felt himself weakening. “Can I really endure all that this survival situation will yet demand of my worn-out body?” He continued to plod forward. “What else is there for me to do?” He thought. “After all, no other option but pushing onward carries the sweet promise of remaining alive.”
Two hobbling steps from the level dirt trail Glen halted abruptly. The exhaustion temporarily forgotten, he quickly looked up from the ground at his feet and glanced furtively to his right and then to his left. Up and down the woodland trail, the tense Scotsman saw nothing unusual. That fact mattered little now. His day had just gotten worse!
Glen held his head perfectly still. Ridged, the small man might have been a stone statue. His ears were pricked for danger. Not a breeze puffed against his face. Within the nearby scrub and trees, not one leaf rustled. No twig snapped. No animal grunted. No bird sung. No sound, audible to him, betrayed the presence of any living thing. Glen’s heartbeat began to pound through the veins at his throat. He could hear that! Precious seconds passed. Nothing!
The terrified Scotsman again focussed his eyes on the patch of soft dirt that lay right in front of him. There, pressed in the soft soil was a perfectly formed foot print - and it was not human. Well over a foot in length, five claw marks punctuated one end of the massive print. Glen drew in a deep breath. His heart pounded in his throat and ears.
The lame man staggered onto the dirt trail. He paused again for several silent seconds before stooping awkwardly. Glen McPherson examined the impression, touching the deep contours with a dirty finger. The characteristic claw marks were curved towards the centreline of the print. Five distinct toe pad marks punctuated the space between the claw grooves and the deep dent of the heel pad. The alert Scotsman blew out a breath of frustration.
Glen had seen photographs of perfectly formed tracks like this. In all his trekking, however, this impression was the first one he had ever seen that matched the perfection of the photographs! He observed the distance between the claw marks and the rest of the track. Glen shook his head. The deep indentation pointed towards the south. That was the same direction he had to go to get water!
Glen swallowed hard. A mix of despair, powerlessness and terror engulfed him. He gawked down the trail in disbelief, shaking his weary head again. There was no mistake. Shortly before their hiking adventure Glen had read about the powerful carnivore that had obviously passed this way sometime in the last several hours. The perfectly formed print had most certainly been created by the right hind paw of a rather large grizzly bear!
Glen’s thoughts settled on the pressurized bottle of pepper spray they had brought on the hike. To save weight, he had left it with Stan! “What and idiot!” He muttered. A deep furrow ravaged the balding brow of the sweating Scotsman. The only weapon Glen possessed was the three-inch blade of his Leatherman multi-tool. He patted his right hip for comfort and found the tool resting peacefully in its leather sheath and securely hanging from his belt. Glen began to scold himself for his poor planning. “My baby knife won’t save me from a bear attack!” Then suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted.
Unexpectedly, a squirrel sounded the alarm. Glen rose quickly from his examination of the disturbing track. He glanced in all directions. His feelings of terror were reaching new heights. His throat tightened and his respiration rate increased.
The small, injured man felt like a wounded deer during hunting season! He glanced furtively around some more. “Where are you?” He whispered his staccato demand into the still mountain air. Glen’s unblinking eyes scanned. His gaze was as intense as a laser beam from a spy satellite. Nothing moved.
Glen tried to relax his tense shoulders but they refused. “Perhaps the squirrel sounded the alarm because of me?” He looked and listened some more but the only movement Glen could detect was his own chest - heaving in panicked breath. Thirst gnawed at him. Glen swallowed again. “I cannot go back for the pepper spray. I have to go on to Maple Creek. I have to have water.”
Finally, Glen dropped his eyes back to the dirt near his feet. Methodically, he scanned the ground in all directions. If the big bear had a cub in tow, he should know about it now!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 17

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow

Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 17

Before Glen could try out his crutch and crab-walking techniques, Stan required some serious assistance. His bathroom needs had taken a dramatic turn for the worse. “Ok” Glen coached. “I’ll hold the end of the travois up and you try to slide off the end.” Stan nodded and the two men began to work. The doubled up sleeping mats made the sliding process easier, but that didn’t remove the agony from the short, but excruciating journey. Before Stan was even close to being in position to relieve himself, at least ten minutes had elapsed. Glen untied the splint’s upper strap so Stan could sit up a little. That helped, but as soon as the big man’s trussed feet touched the rocks, the sliding stopped.

“I really… have to go!” Stan muttered, panting hard. In desperation, Glen shook his head.

“There must be a better way to do this?” he mumbled to himself. Then, Glen had an idea.

“Hold on Big C.” he cautioned. “I think I know how to make this work.” Hobbling and crawling to the back of the travois, Glen plunged his crutch directly between Stan’s splinted ankles. In seconds, the tip was jammed deeply into a thin crevasse. Then, returning to the opposite end of the travois, the gritty Scotsman slowly yanked the apparatus out from under his groaning friend. The crutch held the big man, but the pull on his broken leg took its toll.

Finally the rough rocks were supporting Stan’s bruised hind parts. “That’s… enough!” He wheezed, sounding like a man broken under severe torture and ready to admit to anything. Instantly, Glen ceased pulling the travois. “I need… to get… my legs… apart.” Glen nodded and clamoured quickly to his side. As each denim strap was untied, Stan’s pain intensified. At last, the final knot pulled loose and the big man was free of the confining wooden splints. “Help me… sit up… before I… wet myself.” Stan sounded terribly desperate. The wiry Scotsman scrambled to hoist his shoulders up.

Several more minutes passed before Stan was done. Glen waited patiently behind the big man, supporting his broad shoulders against one of his own. “I can’t… believe how… hard this… is!” Stan whimpered.

“It’s almost over now.” Glen reassured. “You’ll be feeling a lot better in a few minutes.” Sweat beaded on the big man’s forehead. Neither of them could afford to lose their valuable moisture this way! Glen eased his large friend’s shoulders back onto the tail end of the motionless travois.

“Can you… just splint... the broken leg… by itself?” Stan was still gasping for air.

“I think so.”

“My good… leg is… so stiff.” Stan managed.

As the unbearable seconds ticked by for Stan, Glen retied all the splint straps except the very top one. The topmost strap would have to wait until Big C was back on the travois. With only one leg securely bound to the four lengths of sturdy wood, Stan could move his good leg freely. Of course, the term freely was misleading. Even the slightest movement of the uninjured limb sent lightning bolts of distress into the broken one.

Glen again moved behind the big man. “Let’s get you up onto the sleeping pads before I leave.”

“If I… have to.” Came the reluctant reply.

“You’ll be a little more comfortable.” Glen rationalized. “Besides” he added, trying to lighten the mood, “maybe you’ll be able to sleep some and dream of Alida.”

“Yeah right!”

“Weren’t your kids and grandkids going to arrive in camp last night?” Glen hoped that thoughts of family would help to distract the big man from his severe ordeal.

“Yeah… I just hope… I see them… again.” Stan sounded low.

Glen slowly shook his head, silently scolding himself. “What am I thinking bringing up such a painful subject?” Their reality was certainly dim and their outlook awfully bleak! Nothing he could say would change that! Glen bit his tongue. “There are no cheerful thoughts to think this morning!”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 16

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow

Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 16

Green Canyon lay nearly silent. A few resident birds and animals were just beginning to awaken. Several hours before, the mountain breeze had stilled to the strength of a baby’s breath. Now it was even less perceptible. Below the snow-capped peak of High Tor and the clouds that obscured it, two forlorn adventurers lay motionless on their rock beds. The only padding provided by nature for them was a scattered smattering of paper-thin lichens that clung tenaciously to sharp angles and rough surfaces of innumerable, randomly scattered rocks.
Glen McPherson’s body felt slightly uncomfortable and a little restless. Bits of crimson light stabbed at the thick clouds overhead, but his face hid from them under the protective flap of his sleeping bag. The dawn of their third day had arrived but the oblivious man didn’t know it yet. Clothed in his warm chrysalis, and still deep within a sweet dream, Glen was nowhere near the despair, discomfort and potential death that was his reality. In fact, he was lying comfortably on his own bed talking on his cellular phone. The smiling Scotsman was just finishing up a pleasant conversation with his three-year-old granddaughter.
“Ok Val Marie” he said. “See you next week.” Glen paused to listen attentively to the child’s excited voice tumbling from the tiny speaker. Val Marie was his one and only granddaughter. Obviously his favourite, the precocious five-year-old was Glen’s pride and joy. In fact, an impartial observer would easily conclude that the doting Scotsman spoiled Val Marie even more than his wife did – if that were possible. Incurably optimistic, the joyful child had earned herself a splendid nickname. Nearly from the day of her birth, Val Marie’s proud grandfather had called her Sunny Valley.
“I love you grandpa.” Val Marie bubbled as their conversation concluded.
“I love you too.” Glen confessed warmly. “Bye Sunny Valley.”
“Bye grandpa!”
Glen squirmed in his sleeping bag but continued to dream. “Hey Lille?” He called out, closing the cellular phone. “Laura, Kelstern and Val Marie are going to join us at Midnight Lake.” Laura was the McPherson’s only child and Kelstern McTaggart was their genuine, bona fide, Scottish son-in-law.
“That’s wonderful news!” Lillie’s voice sang out. “What day are they coming?”
“It’ll be on the third day of our hike.” Glen called back, repositioning his feather pillow and consulting his watch. “Then they’ll stay until Stan and I get back.”
Glen squirmed again. He was downright uncomfortable. “Something is wrong!” The bed felt like Lille had spread a dozen golf balls on top of the mattress. His wife entered the bedroom. She still wore her pyjamas and a frothy toothbrush gyrated in her mouth. In spite of the pain in his back, Glen tried to grin up at her. Even with her auburn hair in a tangle and toothpaste foaming on her delicate lips, she was beautiful. “Why is my bed so uncomfortable?” Suddenly, Lillie removed the toothbrush from her mouth and spoke.
“Glen!” She said brusquely. The Scotsman stared at her, dumbfounded. He had seen her lips move, but he had heard Stan’s deep voice. “Glen!”
The wiry Scotsman’s eyes burst opened. His eyes darted about. All around him was darkness. “What’s happening?” He moved his arms. They protested with stiffness. “Aaaaaah!” Glen moaned, throwing the top part of the sleeping bag off his warm face. Cool mountain air shocked his unprepared skin. A dim dawn greeted the disoriented man.
”Lillie?” Glen called out.
“It’s ok Glen.” A deep voice sounded.
“Big C?”
“I’m here.”
Then, in an unstoppable cascade, reality washed over the Scotsman! “Oh! I must have been dreaming again!” the smaller man lamented.
“You were talking… in your sleep.” Stan observed.
In the faint light, their eyes met. Glen shook his head in disgust and let out a heavy sigh. “My dreams are so much nicer than our current reality!”
“Mine too.” The big man whispered compassionately.
“Are we really going to make it out of this… this…” Glen searched for an appropriate word to fit his foul mood, “this… lifeless moon crater!” he finally blurted, peering out into the morning’s gloom.
“If we don’t… lose our heads.” Stan concluded.
Glen said nothing. In fact, he pressed his lips together in a effort to remain silent. The stiff Scotsman crawled out from inside his warm sleeping bag and began pulling on his cold hiking boots. A scowl furrowed his brow. He glared up at the obscured sky. “Obviously, the sun will not warm us very much today.” Glen drew in a large breath and blew it out purposefully. The deep furrows in his brow began to disappear. At last he spoke. “I guess there are only two things we can do.” Stan’s eyebrows lifted at the change in tone. The trussed man turned his head to listen as his friend went on. Glen started tightening his bootlaces. “We either keep on struggling to live or we will die!”
“We will make it.” Stan predicted. “You will save… us both!”
Glen stopped tugging at his laces and stared at Stan. “I’m not sure I have enough strength.” He shook his head and dropped his dark eyes back to his boots. A leather lace was wrapped around the index finger of both his scuffed hands. “I’m so very tired already.” The smaller man sighed. “I’ve done so much, yet it seems like nothing!” He finished tying the bow in the leather and snatched up the second set of bootlaces. “It seems like it will take more than what we both can offer to rescue us!”
“No!” Stan sounded unusually determined for a man who was trussed up like a large baron of beef in a butcher shop window. “If anyone can… do it… we can!”
Glen briefly regarded the big man. They had been on so many adventures together. This, however, was much more of a tragedy than any exciting adventure they had ever shared. “I just hate being so powerless!” Glen muttered. “If I could just walk!” In bitter silence, Glen looked away. Chaffed fingers mechanically tied the second set of laces. “The accident was so unfair! Why did we take the risk of climbing without a rope?” Glen continued his brooding. “We both knew better!”
Glen stared out over the field of boulders. The two of them were supposed to be having the time of their lives! Glen shook his head in despair. Suddenly, he was face down in his imagined fighting ring once more. The frenzied crowd was on their feet roaring their approval. The referee began the second ten count of the match. Glen saw his opponent lift his hands in a gesture of triumph. The partisan crowd cheered again. “It’s no use Glen.” His own voice whispered inside his throbbing head. “You are defeated.”
Suddenly, Stan spoke again, jolting Glen out of his private pity party. The big man knew all too well that Glen was their only hope for survival. He needed to say something to help his friend and potential rescuer from losing the will to live. “But what?” Glen McPherson was drowning in discouragement! “Think Stan! Think!” The big man closed his eyes to consider. “We can’t give up!”
“Glen.” Stan said gently, scattering the sorrowful sights and sounds in Glen’s imagination. “Neither one of… us are jam-tarts. Neither one of… us are quitters. And neither one… of us are going… to give up hope!”
Glen met the big man’s intense gaze. He knew his own depressing thoughts were not helping, but they were pummelling his mind anyway. Glen shook his head in defeat. “I know.” He muttered. “It’s just so hard to keep going when it doesn’t look like we have any chance to win.”
“I know.” whispered Stan. “But we’re tough… enough to keep… trying. You... are tough enough!”
A long moment of silence passed before Glen spoke. “I’m sorry.” He said finally.
“It’s OK. We’ll make it.”
The small man began to gather himself. “I guess I should get going.”
“Before you go” Stan began. “I need to go… to the bathroom… again.”

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 15

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow

Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 15

The night deepened, but Stan’s brief encounter with sleep came to a speedy end. Beside him, Glen’s rhythmic breathing sounded more like the ticking of a large mechanical clock in a bell tower than a human being. The exhausted Scotsman had been motionless for over an hour, but Stan knew that tomorrow would be a hard day for him. Glen needed all the rest he could get.
The big man lay, warm but uncomfortable and wide awake, peering blankly into the blackness of the cloud-covered sky. A prayer of gratitude had just breathed quietly passed his lips on its way heavenward. If it rained, they would be in serious trouble, but there had been a heavy dew a few hours before! “At the very least, the rain will wait for morning and perhaps not arrive at all.” As bad as Stan Calderbank felt, he was mostly glad for one thing, “At least I’m still alive.”
Stan scanned the horizon, but couldn’t make out any silhouettes of the Mistawasis or the Lajord Ranges. “The jagged towering mountain peaks are both protector and captor to me.” The cruel irony drifted through his mind. “Tomorrow will make the third day I’ll be in the shadow of Ravenscrag Mountain.” Last night, Stan Calderbank had hated that craggy, scree-infested peak. Tonight however, he had changed his mind about the mountain. Strange, yet as the time passed, he felt like the peak was protecting him instead of holding him prisoner. “Tomorrow I hoped to leave its shadow and see the inviting face of my Alida once again.”
“Alida.” The big man’s thoughts caught her fleeting image. Her face was like the sun gleaming through a hole in thick clouds. “She is so beautiful!” His mind caught hold of a picture of her, flying back thorough time to their wedding day, some twenty-eight years before. Alida had been getting dolled up for hours before the ceremony. Her blonde hair cascaded in ringlets over her shoulders and down her back. A sparkling tiara sat elegantly on her head. The pure white dress, that draped her graceful, feminine form, shimmered in the light like a million twinkling stars on a cloudless night. It was just like when he had first seen her at the fountain in high school, only worse. Butterflies flew everywhere inside him and his feet were congealed blocks of cement. Stan grinned at the memories. “I even had to tell myself to breathe! Alida was the most beautiful girl in the world – and I was the luckiest man alive!”
He recalled the gentle touch of her delicate hand in his as they walked the beach on their honeymoon. Warm sand sifted between four sets of tanned toes. Surf pounded out its percussion just a few feet away. The passion for life, magnified by Alida’s sapphire blue eyes, was infectious under the clear tropical sky. Stan remembered her loving kiss; her soft voice in his ear; her sweet laughter. A tear slipped silently from the big man’s eye. Stan closed his eyes, lost in Alida’s warm embrace. Then, like a feather floating to the ground on a still summer’s day, Stan drifted off to sleep once more.