Saturday, October 23, 2010

"In Ravenscrag's Shadow" - Chapter 27

In Ravenscrag's Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 27

Tired of waiting for the frail-looking human to drag the odd-looking contraption his way, with any kind of speed, the grizzly backed a few steps deeper into the foliage. Silver-tipped fur shimmered slightly as the 1,700-pound bruin settled his bulk onto the forest floor. Earlier, the massive bear had spent a few hours scraping in the dirt, locating succulent roots to supplement his diet. With the apparent excitement in the canyon on hiatus, it seemed to be an excellent time for a much needed nap. “Besides,” thought the bear, “My nose will jar me from sleep if that human comes close enough to smell.”

Unseen by the two dawdling hikers, the massive bruin licked its paws clean and then swiftly succumbed to sleep. The relaxed respiration of the grizzly contrasted sharply with the staccato breathing of Glen McPherson. The sweaty man struggled on.

As the hours passed, the smooth, dirt trail meandering through Green Canyon grew closer and closer. “Will we ever escape this field of jagged boulders?” Glen thought for the thousandth time as he pulled and yanked and jerked and tugged and wrenched and heaved and hauled and huffed and puffed. He felt like a zombie risen from a remote mountain tomb, but still the stubborn Scotsman would not give up!

Almost imperceptibly, Glen was, in fact, making progress. Now, finally, the inviting woodland was within rock throwing distance. Well, that would be true if Glen had felt strong enough to actually throw a rock. He didn’t. His whole world was caught up in dragging the heavy litter. Carefully constructed by his own hand, the rudimentary travois cradled his friend. Next to his sweetheart, Lillie, Stan Calderbank was his best friend in the world. Glen’s mind wandered from his burning limbs to a much more inviting prospect. The smiling face he could now see in his waking dream, belonged to that of his Lillie. “Will I ever see her again?” His wildly pounding heart longed to be in her congenial company—to hold her in his arms—to kiss her softly and tell her that he was safe.

“Glen?” Stan’s strained voice ruptured Glen’s delicate bubble of remembrance.

The winded Scotsman stopped. Turning his head he listened for the big man to finish his sentence.

“I have to… go to… the bathroom.” The big man sounded anything but laid-back and relaxed. The foot, belonging to his good leg, was pressed against the lower cross member of the travois. Stan’s big hands gripped the long poles that ran upwards past his sides and into his friends gloved hands. The big man’s face bore a thin sheen of sweat.

Glen frowned. He hung his head wearily. “I guess that was inevitable!” He muttered imperceptibly. “Ok” He conceded, this time loud enough for Stan to hear him. “I guess it’s better to take care of that on these rocks than on the trail!”

Twenty minutes later, Glen stood, once again, at the head of the travois, pulling. At his back, the big man lay on the lurching litter. The trail was less than one hundred feet ahead. The small man’s eyes focussed on a fleeting patch of smooth dirt. “Come on Glen!” He cried out within his fragmented mind. “Just a little bit more and then you can rest!”

“All that effort for one minute’s worth of relief!” Stan thought darkly, shaking his head. He was still wheezing and groaning from his restroom ordeal. Tears trickled from the tightly closed corners of the big man’s eyes. “How can I endure this pain?” The distressing dismount from the travois, the act of sitting up to relieve himself, the insufferable slide back onto the litter’s slippery surface—all the events had been excruciating. Ragged gasps attempted to quell Stan’s racing heartbeat. His head spun! He even felt nauseated! “I’m definitely ill and at the mercy of a merciless plague of pain!”

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