Saturday, February 26, 2011

"In Ravenscrag's Shadow" - Chapter 45

In Ravenscrag's Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2011

Chapter 45

Multiple motors sent exhaust into the night air. The procession of one car and three vans wound their way out of the Midnight Lake Campground. Down the dark dusty road they drove, the Kilronan Valley only vaguely visible in the faint starlight that was mostly covered by clouds. Stan Calderbank lay in the back of Richard and Carlea’s van, Alida at his side, her hand in his once more. Within the van’s dark interior, even the voices of six-year-old Gerald and four-year-old Grant were switched off. The only sound reaching Stan was the gentle rumble of rubber on a well-maintained gravel road.

Minutes passed. Before long, they all turned left onto the main highway. A convoy of four, the two worried families accelerated down the pavement towards the hospital.

“Welcome to Peebles.” Gerald Calderbank read out as Richard sped past the sign.

“That didn’t take very long!” Grant added, and the forty minute spell of silence was finally broken.

Ten minutes later, Glen and Stan both lay on clean white cots in the emergency room. The Peebles Hospital was a small one, and it took another fifteen minutes before the on-call doctor arrived.

Another half an hour found the wizened physician scrutinizing a bank of backlit x-rays. Alida sat nearby. Stan lay still, eyes fixed and wondering. Then the old doctor turned. White-coated and suntanned, he began to speak. The old man’s voice was filled with certainly. “Well Mr. Calderbank.” He stated, glancing briefly at the intense gaze of Alida, “You are a very lucky man.”

In spite of herself, Alida put a hand to her breast and let out a little puff of air. The doctor continued, setting his hand reassuringly on Stan’s arm and nodding slightly as the words cascaded expressively from an aging throat. “The break to your femur is clean and I think it can be set it without difficulty.”

The lines on Stan’s deeply tanned face relaxed a little. “Thank you.” He rasped.

The doctor smiled warmly and continued, “I’ll give you some more Demerol and while it’s taking effect, I’ll tape your ribs. Two of them are broken.”

Stan nodded.

“Then I’ll set and cast your leg.”

Stan nodded again.

“Considering what you’ve been through, your injuries could be seen as being relatively minor. The prognosis of a full recovery is very promising.” The doctor gently patted his wrinkled hand on Stan’s arm. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

An hour later, Stan was wheeled back to his waiting wife. Alida arose. The graceful woman smiled as she moved closer to her injured husband and caressed his strong hand with her delicate fingers. Tears cascaded quietly down her delicate features. Stan’s injuries were an unpleasant surprise. “But he’ll be OK now.” She told herself.

Tentatively, Alida lifted the sheet that covered Stan and inspected the doctor’s handiwork. She nodded approvingly and shot he husband an empathetic look. Stan glanced down at his broken leg. It was encased in a fibreglass cocoon, but the familiar throbbing was strangely absent. The big man’s brain and body were still numb from medication, but his thoughts were his own.

The big man looked up at his wife. He studied her high cheekbones and small nose, her red lips and the tiny wrinkles framing at the corners of her pretty mouth. Finally, he found her opal eyes, pools of sapphire where it seemed he could swim forever.

“I’m sorry.” He finally said.

Alida’s soft voice spoke. “It’s alright my love. You’re OK now.”

Stan closed his eyes, gratitude filling his soul like hot chocolate trickling into a tall mug. Visions of his family paraded across the stage of Stan Calderbank’s memory, the procession led by his beloved Alida. Following her, all dressed in their finest, came his three sons and their sweet wives. Five precious grandchildren ran in their wake, energized by boundless youth and overflowing with the pure joys of life. Children’s laughter flooded the warm air.

Then the big man was in the water – frigid water! Skull Creek boiled over his vulnerable body. Death reached out to claim him but he was delivered. Suddenly, he heard the deafening roar of the grizzly. He felt the hot fetid breath and spewed spittle strike his face, but he lived on. “Why was I spared?” The question burned in his mind.

Next, Stan lay on the field of boulders under Ravenscrag Mountain awaiting a rescue that seemed to forever elude him. He felt the pains of a broken body. He saw the fog. He felt the bonfire. He felt the distress of hunger and thirst. He recalled the lurching travois and their narrow escape in the truck. “I know.” He thought. “I know why my life had been spared.”

Stan Calderbank opened his eyes. His face was wet with tears he hadn’t realized were even flowing. His Alida stared down at him, compassion for him adorning her slender face, her eyes sparkling with mists of emotion.

“I’m sorry... I was unkind... to you.” The big man rasped, swallowing hard. He squeezed Alida’s hand in his. “I’ll do better... in the future.”

Alida reached out her delicate fingers and touched Stan’s broad face. Then she bent down and kissed him tenderly, her own tears spilling. “I love you Stan.” She whispered.

“Big C?” Glen’s familiar voice cut into the tender moment.

“Yeah?” Stan rasped, turning his head and wiping his eyes. With a pair of professionally made crutches under his arms, Glen McPherson approached Stan and Alida. The small man’s face was clean, if one didn’t count the beard stubble. Glen was smiling. The stubborn Scotsman had stark white bandages on both his knees and his left ankle was cradled in a yellowish fibreglass cast. The narrow cut on his face had been cleaned and then stitched shut. Stan’s eyes silently examined the cut for a moment. It had looked much worse before. It definitely gave his small friend a more roguish appearance!

“I haven’t seen... you move so... fast in days!” The big man eventually said.

“We’re quite a pair.” Glen said, grinning. “How are you doing?”

“Much better... but I’ll be... laid up for... a while.” Stan lifted the sheet to reveal his cast.

“Nonsense!” Glen countered, an indomitable twinkle in his eyes. “If it makes you feel any better, in the 1976 Olympic Games, a Japanese gymnast named Shun Fijimoto broke his femur during the floor exercises. He was so committed to winning a team Gold Medal that he got a cast, just like yours, and competed in the ring exercises.”

Stan was listening, but rolled his eyes a little as the small man continued.

“The ring exercises didn’t require the use of Mr. Fujimoto’s legs until the end of the performance when he flew through the air, twisting and turning and flipping before landing hard on a thin mat!”

Stan and Alida both winced.

“Shun Fijimoto gave a flawless performance on the rings and landed his dismount perfectly, holding the landing for just long enough to secure the Gold Medal for him and his team.”

Stan grimaced at the thought and Glen went on with the story.

“Afterwards, when they interviewed Mr. Fujimoto in the hospital, he was asked how he did it. Like a true champion, he smiled and said, “The pain shot through me like a knife, but now the pain is gone and I have a Gold Medal.”

The bold gymnast’s words hung in the air for several silent seconds. In spite of his suffering, Stan smiled. He too was alive – and he had something much more precious than a Gold Medal. The big man gave Alida’s hand a little squeeze and his eyes met Glen’s. Glen saw deep gratitude there, but there was something else too. “Life truly is… about living.” Stan rasped.

Glen nodded, but remained quiet for a few moments while his smile melted into contemplation.

“Well,” Stan finally broke the silence. “Are you ready… to drag me back… to Maple Creek… to get our stuff?”

Glen grinned wryly, “Ok, but this time we’ll have to take a roll of duct tape and some real crutches - just in case!” Then he winked at Alida, a rakish smile climbing his ruddy cheeks. “And maybe you and Lillie can accompany us too! Stan’s just too heavy to drag by myself!” 

*******   The End   *******

PS. A heartfelt thanks to all you readers who visited my blog and read this novel - my very first one. The only editor this manuscript has seen is me, and since the manuscript has been circulating, I have been made aware of a few minor errors. I hope the mistakes haven't spoiled the story for any of you. Adventure should never permit interruption by spellchecker!!! When this novel is formally published, and I do plan to publish it soon, I hope all the mistakes are corrected. Stay tuned for more on publication.

If you can spare a minute, I would very much appreciate knowing how you feel about the book, plot, characters, spelling or whatever. Any comments are welcome, so please be honest. You can email me at Also, if you do email me a comment, please also indicate whether of not I am allowed to publish your words on some future day. If you will allow me to quote you, please indicate how you'd like your name to appear at the end of the quotation. And... if you just want to be anonymous, that works too. My goal in writing this novel has been to have a bit of literary fun - and I have. Hopefully you did too.
My next project is a short story / novella  about a fictitional character in a Mexican sea port. There will be some scuba diving, spanish speaking, mystery solving and plenty of adventure - and who knows what else I'll toss in before I'm done. I should consider some romance too, cuz like Brooks and Dunn's song says, "Put a girl in it!" The bottom line is that I'm gunna have some fun with the project - and of course, I'll share it with you all. Due to having to work for a living (what is with that anyway), I write slowly, but I'll post about this very fun project as it comes together. Thank you for you interest. Hasta luego! (And "Yes", I do speak a little Spanish.)
Davis L. Bigelow

Friday, February 25, 2011

Celebrating 10,000 Page Loads

From the day of its very humble and halting beginnings on June 17, 2007, I am pleased to say that my blog has now enjoyed over 10,000 page loads. A long time reader from Milo, Alberta, Canada got the number 10,000 spot! Congrats!
I'm grateful and glad that so many have visited and re-visited. I hope all of you have enjoyed my posts thus far and that you will continue to visit often. I hope to keep things interesting and I think even add a little controversy from time to time (I'm not that political, but I'm going to climb out of the kiddie pool and venture a step or two towards the deep end). Thank you all for your kind interest!
And to those of you who felt to make comments - I appreciate all of them. Because of your comments, I have taken the opportunity to enjoy the blogs of many fascinating, interesting and exiting people from around our small globe - yes, that would probably be you. I find that several significant things make my life interesting: Having new adventures, sharing the adventures of others, trying to say things that would be positive and uplifting, creating art in word and deed, sharing in the heartaches & triumphs of others while I consider my own vicissitudes and achievements, and just getting outside myself to see this amazing world through my own eyes and through the unique eyes of others. My blog, in spite of my reluctance to begin it, has made my life infinitely more rich. I appreciate all who add positive, inspirational and uplifting content to the world wide web. You are awesome!!! Please keep up the good work!
Three & a half years ago, when I began this blog, I hadn't a clue what I was doing! Even today, I still feel like I need to consult Blogging For Dummies from time to time! Now I realize that it's not typically manly of me to admit something like that, but hey, the truth is the truth! Since 2007, I've posted 161 times - which is not very many times compared to some of you out there. For nearly the last year, I've taken special pleasure in publishing my first fiction novel, "In Ravenscrag's Shadow" for anyone to read (and hopefully enjoy). Tomorrow at 4am MST (mountain standard time), the final chapter goes up and the book reaches its epic conclusion.
What will I do next? Well... at the end of the final chapter of tomorrow's post, I will tell you.
See you in the morning!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"In Ravenscrag's Shadow" - Chapter 44

In Ravenscrag's Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2011

Chapter 44

It only took one brief glance before Lillie tore away from the gawking group and sprinted though the darkness towards her own campsite. A flashlight flared in the McPherson campsite, but it went unnoticed by the rest of the group. In seconds, Lillie held her husband’s cellular phone, staring at the glowing display. “We need an ambulance!” she panted to the darkness, but the phone refused to connect. “No Service” was its only response.

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.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Am I Publishing My Novel Online - for Free ?

Queen of Chaos said...     (In the Comment Section on Chapter 43)

Woah! You're posting your book on your blog? I have never seen this before! I must go back to previous posts and find out the answer. ;)

I think you're brave. Aren't you afraid of copyrite laws- even though you wrote Copyrite 2011 at the top of each post?

Guess I'm just a little worried for you.

But, besides me being worried, I'm excited to read your book right here on your blog!

My response:

Thank you for your kind words Autumn. I think that you raise a good question - one that I've thought about a lot. Here is my lengthy answer.

I decided to open-publish my fiction novel, "In Ravenscrag's Shadow", on my blog for a few significant reasons.

My first reason was that I loved writing this novel and didn't want to keep all the fun I had doing it to myself. At the beginning, I wasn't sure if I would ever publish the book (in print), so I thought, "Why not". Truth be told, I only spent about three and a half months creating "In Ravenscrag's Shadow", so if someone did try to 'rip me off', at least the loss wouldn't be unbearable. That said, however, Blogger puts date & time stamps on every post, so proving that this manuscript was mine first would be a no brainer (not to mention my original notes).

My second reason was that I hoped to soon publish my non-fiction book, "Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off" and felt that with my lifestyle of working all the time, I needed an advertising / promotion tool that didn't involve travelling around to do book signings. I thought that publishing "In Ravenscrag's Shadow" on line would assist me in getting noticed - hopefully in a positive light. Since I have a worldwide readership on my blog, I hope that at least some of my visitors are entertained. I also hope that my readers will tell their friends about a free online novel that their children can read without fear of moral contamination to their young minds.

My third reason was to give a little back to the online writing community. I have personally benefited from the words of many others but have never seen anyone offer to show me their writing-in-progress. As an author, I felt to keep all my unedited words to myself, so I decided to breach my comfort zone and let those who might be interested see a part of my creative process. The novel, you are reading here in this blog, has been edited only by me. It is my raw writing and my very first attempt at fiction writing in excess of 1,000 words as well as well as my very first novel. ("Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off" is a collection of historical, autobiographical short stories.)

My fourth reason was that I thought that "In Ravenscrag's Shadow" did need a little fine tuning, and what better way to get some helpful feedback than to put it out there for the world to read and respond to. (As awesome as it might be to do it, I'm not naive enough to believe that I could write a fiction best seller on my first attempt - only in my dreams.) Once the book concludes with Chapter 45 (on Feb 26th) I'm going to re-edit the manuscript with consideration given to any comments that you, my readers offer. In November, I printed and hand-bound one copy of "In Ravenscrag's Shadow" which has been read by several friends.

Once the feedback is all in and I've completed my next edit, I plan to submit the manuscript to a publisher or two. If I get no takers, I'll probably self publish and offer the book for sale on Amazon - or, I might just produce hand-bound copies at home. Or perhaps both. It is a lot of fun to transform a bunch of pages into a real book!

So there you have it... It's been a rewarding, fulfilling, exciting, scary, demanding and fun experience to publish "In Ravenscrag's Shadow" online and I figure... what's the point of creating if I don't enjoy it to the max and climb a little way out of my comfort zone! If you enjoy reading this novel half as much as I enjoyed creating it, then I'll smile in gratitude, draw in a big breath, exhale slowly and feel very satisfied!

Thank you all for visiting my blog!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"In Ravenscrag's Shadow" - Chapter 43

In Ravenscrag's Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2011

Chapter 43
Midnight Lake shimmered calmly in the sunset’s afterglow. It would be dark in just a few more minutes. Alida’s oldest son Richard had just lit the propane lantern before retaking his seat by the warm and cheery campfire. The full spectrum of yellow, orange and red danced in the eyes of the onlookers, four boys and two adults. The four Calderbank boys each gripped short sticks and were thoroughly entertaining themselves by poking at the coals. Four pairs of dirty knees shifted in the dirt as swirling smoke determined the source of each boy’s next breath of fresh air.

Just out of reach of the smoke, Glen’s son-in law, Kelstern McTaggart, chatted amiably with Richard Calderbank about the latest stock market trends, but the boys paid no heed to such boring conversation. As smoke and flame gently rose into the night air, six muted shadows danced against the backdrop of ebony evergreen trees.

Twenty feet from the fire, Lillie McPherson sat with Alida at the picnic table, wrapped up in a game of Saskatchewan Rummy - which Alida was winning. In fact, the picnic table was surrounded by six additional, card playing adults as well as two children.

Beside Lillie nestled her five-year-old granddaughter, Val Marie, intently studying Lillie’s cards. Juniata Calderbank sat quietly on her grandmother’s lap. Cobwebs of sleep were knitting thickly over the two-year-old’s closed eyes and her head lay against Alida. In the lamplight, Juniata’s fine features gave her the look of a porcelain doll. Apparently, keeping up with her four older cousins had run the little girl completely out of steam.

Spread out on either side of the two grandmothers sat Lillie’s only daughter and Alida’s two younger sons as well as all three of the Calderbank daughters-in-law. Sixteen in number, the only missing members of the two families were Glen and Stan.

“It ‘s a campfire!” The pinpoint of light twinkled through the trees. Glen turned his head towards the open rear window of the cab. “We’re here Stan! We made it!” Tears swelled once again into the eyes of the big man. Glen guided the pickup truck into the Calderbank campsite.

Val Marie was the first to notice the slow-moving headlights in the darkness. Her sharp emerald eyes peered through strands of claret hair, an unspoken question on her alert mind. Then, a dirty black pickup swerved into the campsite’s driveway.

Four red-tipped sticks and one energetic card game abruptly froze as sixteen sets of eyes focused on the dusty pickup. The headlights winked off and the engine died. Except for the gently crackling campfire, the air in the Calderbank campsite went as quiet as a funeral. Then Val Marie pulled away from her grandmother’s embrace. “It’s them!” she cried out, joy gushing. “Grandpa! Grandpa! Grandpa!” The scampering of Val Marie’s bare feet in the dust was instantly followed by an audible gasp as Glen opened the door of the pickup, activating the truck’s interior light. The light’s glow revealed only one occupant!

Alida let out a cry and shot to her feet. Lorlie Calderbank reached to grab the waking Juniata. A dozen slightly curved cards fell unnoticed from Alida’s trembling hand, landing helter-skelter on the picnic table. Concerned murmurs sounded. Both families mobilized.

Val Marie reached the truck first, her bright green eyes curious. When she saw Glen, however, she stopped short. “Who was in Uncle Stan’s truck?” The man rose to stand, retreating a little from the dim light that seemed to eerily emanate from within the cab. The man’s face was streaked with dirt and dried blood. The little bit of hair he had was tousled. The stranger’s shirt was badly torn and he only stood on one foot. Val Marie took a step back. Tears spilled from the man’s eyes, tracing silver rivulets on his cheeks. “Sunny Valley!” called a familiar voice. Val Marie’s eyes widened, but her response was drowned in the cacophony of approaching voices.

“Where’s Stan?”

“Are you OK?”

“What happened?”

“Are you hurt?”

Lillie rushed forward to embrace the spent Scotsman.

For a brief moment, Glen McPherson wrapped his aching arms around his Lillie, more tears gushing. Then, as if trying to halt traffic, Glen held up a hand. He drew in a deep breath. Glen had rehearsed this speech several times in the past few hours, but now that he was about to give it, everything felt so different. He opened his mouth to speak. “Stan…” The name caught in his throat as another powerful wave of emotion pulsed through him.

Alida stiffened. “Stan?” She screamed, but the sound was squeezed from her throat by raw realization. Her hands flew to her open mouth. Her eyes were whirlpools of terror. The fine features of her face were twisted by unspeakable grief. Her shoulders shagged. Then, like a giant redwood undercut by the sharp saw of an experienced woodsman, Alida began to fall. Her youngest son, Irvington was the closest to the distraught woman. As Alida collapsed into Irvington’s strong arms, her other two sons, Richard and Harlan sprang to her side. Alida’s boys gently eased her limp body to the ground. The campsite went silent once more.

Several stifled sobs shattered the stillness. “No!” Glen blurted, shaking his head. “Stan’s alive! We just need to get him to the hospital.” Alida began to stir. The faces of the group all turned away from Alida and stared again at the battered and shadowy countenance of Glen McPherson. The small man continued, gesturing with his upturned thumb. “Stan’s in the back of the truck with a broken leg.”

As if choreographed by a master director, all eyes silently shifted to the shrouded blackness of the truck bed. Kelstern McTaggart pulled his flashlight from his belt and shattered the darkness. There, wrapped in motionless silver, lay Stan Calderbank.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"In Ravenscrag's Shadow" - Chapter 42

In Ravenscrag's Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2011

Chapter 42

The starter engaged and the truck’s engine came back to life. A third blow pulsed through the truck’s metal skin, this time sliding the rear tires sideways. Stan heard Glen grind a gear into place. The engine roared. Springing over the rocks and grass, the faithful pickup truck regained its footing. Dirt and rocks and shredded grass spun from the wheels, scattering wildly into the air behind them. The grizzly bellowed one final time. The pickup fishtailed forward, gaining momentum.

A minute later, the dusty black truck was bumping and lurching down the narrow excuse for a road, dodging trees and rubbing against encroaching bushes. Yarbo Road was merciless! With each passing second, its ruts, bumps and potholes produced pain for Stan Calderbank. The big man’s face was a moving mask of wrinkles and grimaces.

“How you doing Big C?” A familiar voice rose above the sounds of the chugging engine, squeaking suspension and pulsating tires. Glen had opened the sliding rear window in the cab so he could be heard.

“It’s too… bumpy!” The big man hissed through clenched teeth.

“Sorry. I’ll go slower.” For the past several minutes, the small bruised and bloodied hiker had stared into the rear view mirror, watching with relief as the furious grizzly grew further and further away. Now the silver-tipped terror was gone from sight. “We’re lucky that bear didn’t give chase!”

Stan heard the words, but made no reply. Silently he prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank thee for sparing our lives once more.”

Glen sat in relative comfort, cradling the steering wheel in one hand and the front travois support crutch in the other. Activating the clutch with his left foot was impossible, but on his retreat into the cab, he had brought the discarded chunk of wood. He glanced down at the crutch. “I’m sure glad you came along for the ride.” He said, patting the scuffed bark and smiling a little. “Of course, idling along in first gear doesn’t require your services at the moment.”



“I’m cold.”

Glen considered a moment before replying. He didn’t have much to offer his friend. “Ok.” He said, “I’ll stop and cover you with the emergency blankets.”

The barely moving truck came to a halt and Glen set the hand brake. Warily, he opened the door and stared long and hard down the rutted track. Only the tips of the tallest trees showed movement. Glen drew in a deep breath. His heart was still racing as his good foot touched the earthy surface of the rutted road. In seconds, the wiry Scotsman was in the bed of the pickup. Spreading the twin Mylar sheets sideways over the big man, Glen tucked in the edges and offered some commentary. “Considering how fast we are going, these probably won’t blow off you anyway, but better safe than sorry.”

Stan grunted his agreement.

When Glen was done tucking him in, the big man resembled a giant, plump caterpillar cocooned by a shiny chrysalis. “Snug as a bug in a rug.” Glen observed. In spite of the gravity of the situation, the battered Scotsman grinned. His cocooned friend might easily have been a special effect in a cheap sci-fi movie from the 1970’s! Glen’s grin then melted. The determined man glanced warily about. Satisfied, he clamoured from the bed of the pickup and hopped for the truck’s open door.

The day waned as the truck crawled slowly onward. Glen McPherson manned the helm. Stan Calderbank was his silent, silver-robed cargo. At just five miles per hour, and sometimes even less, Yarbo Road lasted forever! Inch by inch, however, the black truck lurched its way along.

“There it is!” Glen shouted, jubilation spicing his voice. “Fairlight Road!”

Stan lay motionless, unless you counted the perpetual jostling of the ride, his eyes closed, his breathing shallow and measured. At the sound of Glen’s voice, he looked around. Trees towered above him, reaching towards a leaden sky. The summer air was cool. “What time… is it?” He wheezed.

Glen glanced at the battered face of wristwatch. “It’s 4:00pm.”

“I’m hungry.”

“Me too big guy, but we’ll be there soon.” Glen turned the wheel and four dusty tires bit into Fairlight Road.

The next twenty miles went by a little faster, but still required nearly three hours of additional torture for Big C. As his faithful truck bumped and bounced over crushed gravel, protruding boulders, gyrating washboards, the occasional rut and several gnarly wooden bridges Stan kept his silent mantra going. “You’re almost there! You’re almost there!” The words echoed down the corridors of his focused mind, seeming to bolster the big man’s will to endure. Somewhere in the middle of the trip, Glen had made a bathroom stop, but their quest had quickly resumed. The monotonous rumble of the rough road under inflated rubber seemed a near permanent event.

“Stan?” For being nearly killed twice that day, Glen sounded unusually positive. In fact he might have just won the lottery.

The big man pried open his tired eyes and stifled a cough. He was in pain, but the Mylar blankets enrobed his broken body in radiant heat, helping to ease some of his extreme discomfort. After the hypothermia, it was good to feel warm again. “What?” Came his weak reply.

“I see the sign to Midnight Lake!”

Stan Calderbank smiled and sighed. He was too spent to speak.

“Ten more minutes and we’ll be there!” Glen chortled. “Mercifully, you haven’t been rained on yet! It could be worse!”

A tear of gratitude slipped from the corner of Stan’s eye. His emotions had been systematically stifled and callously crushed by unrelenting agony for an endless blur of time. Except for the several sweet seconds when Glen had stopped the truck along Fairlight Road, the big man’s body had been in constant motion for hours.

“You’re almost there! You’re almost there!” Stan’s mantra continued to echo down the corridors of his failing mind. The sturdy brick wall, protecting Stan’s concentrated-enduring from pain-induced insanity, was now a translucent membrane, weaker and more fragile than a dragonfly’s wing. “You’re almost there!” The big man desperately clung to sanity, but an impending breach felt imminent! “You’re almost there!”

Twin, unrelenting beasts of prey, thirst and hunger, gnawed at the ragged hikers. Fairlight Road was behind them and Midnight Lake was drawing near. Glen McPherson rubbed at the back of his neck, trying to relieve the knots. He reached for a switch and turned it on. Lights flared onto the road ahead, illuminating the darkening access to the campsite. He moved his hand upward to massage his temples. Lack of water had produced an unwelcome headache. “We’ll be there soon.” He breathed aloud. His empty stomach rumbled. Glen scowled. He hadn’t eaten for hours. “That awful bear will no doubt be chewing on my food by now!” Then, suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by a glimmer of light.