Saturday, August 7, 2010
Davis L. Bigelow
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.