Davis L. Bigelow
By the time Lillie returned to the dusty pickup, Richard Calderbank was manoeuvring his van closer. Lillie McPherson pressed close beside her friend. “Alida, are you ok?”
Moist, sapphire eyes settled on Lillie’s green ones. Alida was dishevelled. Blonde tresses streaked with noticeable accents of white obscured her tear-stained face. A slender arm was draped over the side of the truck bed and a delicate hand absorbed the warmth of her husband’s chapped and dirty fingers. “I think so.” She breathed, looking down again at Stan.
Lillie embraced her friend, and her own unbidden tears trickled into Alida’s hair. After a moment, Lillie found her voice, and whispered softly. “I’m so sorry.”
“Alright” Richard announced, already out of the van. His wife, Carlea had the rear door open and Harlan and Irvington Calderbank stood ready at the tailgate. Glen leaned on the travois stick he had used to operate the clutch, Val Marie on one side and his daughter, Laura McTaggart on the other. Val Marie was intently watching the drama unfold while Laura was content to put her arm about her father’s waist. Laura silently wiped tears from her eyes, but Glen was too preoccupied to notice. The small man had done his part. Now more able hands were finally lifting his heavy burden.
Laura’s husband, Kelstern moved to assist Richard, Harlan and Irvington. “On three.” Richard orchestrated. The four healthy men gently drew Stan towards the bed that waited a few steps away in the back of Richard and Carlea’s large van. Stan Calderbank gritted his teeth once more. His jaw muscles were sore from the innumerable efforts of the brutally painful day. Alida’s hand was lost in the darkness. “Dear God?” Stan silently prayed. “I’m almost there. Please help me to endure just a little more.”
Juniata and the four Calderbank boys stood nearby, corralled by Harlan’s wife, Daphne and Irvington’s wife, Lorlie. With strong hands gripping the edges of the ragged tent, Stan floated into the air, borne upwards as if on a cloud. Lillie and Alida joined in the lift too. Laura McTaggart pulled away from Glen, wiping tears from her youthful face, her long red hair sweeping through the dim light like a blood-red sunset.
Val Marie McTaggart watched as her mother took a position at Uncle Stan’s head. Val Marie wiped at her own tears. Before today, the little girl had never shed tears for someone else’s sorrow. Val Marie tightened her grip on her grandfather’s careworn hand and stared on.
Mylar crinkled and flashed a myriad of tiny reflections of the fire and lamplight. Stan Calderbank felt like an overstuffed, foil-wrapped sausage at the centre of an oddball art exhibit.
“Ok Dad.” Richard interrupted the big man’s thoughts. We’re going to slide you in onto the bed. Surrounding him, Stan could hear laboured breathing and the soft shuffles of shoes on the dirt and gravel of the campsite’s driveway. At his feet, Carlea appeared. The mother of his oldest grandson knelt on the bed inside the van, reaching out for the tent. In seconds, Stan felt the soft foam mattress caress his body. Grunts and groans sounded from all quarters as his family and friends struggled to keep him lifted into the air until he was over the bed. Richard and Harlan joined Carlea inside. Then, the mattress had him, and mercifully, the motion ceased.
Carlea Calderbank was the first to emerge from the van. “Mom?” she said, looking through moist eyes at Alida. “You can ride in the back with Dad and Glen can ride up front with Richard.” Glen heard, and began to hobble forward.
“Can I go with you Grandpa?” an innocent voice asked.
Glen paused to gaze down upon the face of his precocious granddaughter. Before he could respond, however, another voice answered. “If it’s OK with your mother, you can go in our car Valley.” Lillie’s gentle voice soothed as she crouched down in front of her granddaughter.
Lillie looked up Glen McPherson. The bruised Scotsman’s eyes reflected his approval. “Carlea?” he called. “Lillie’s going to drive me.”
“OK.” Came Carlea’s quick reply.
“Lillie and I will follow you.”
Carlea replied once more, but her voice was drowned out. Simultaneously, the roar of three additional engines joined the motor pool choir. Glen looked around. “It seems everyone’s going to the emergency room.”