It is best to keep in mind that this experiment in storytelling requires the reader to accept the premise of a disability as tailored throughout. It might require a paradigm shift, i.e., instant suspension of disbelief at the get-go. Above all, keep in mind that it’s fiction. Now you are as prepared as you’re going to be.
"I LOOKED AT Sally and what did I see?
I saw Sally, looking at me.”
I think okay but I mutter or blurt in rhymes and it’s a rare condition and I can’t help it. The medical community calls it Rhymosis. I kid you not. Not the nose thing. That’s Rhinitis. Actually, wish I had that instead. At least it’s treatable. It affects everything I say. You think it’s humorous, but it gets old.
“Know what I mean
Sally and I love each other and we’ll probably get married as soon as she decides she can put up with my malady. We also love to climb and we had never been to the Grand Tetons before. This would prove to be the final test, although I didn’t know it at the time.
The mountains stood before us, majestic, silent, ancient and hoary and the big smiles on our faces the genuine article. Anticipation translated to the here and now. Hot dog!
“Sally’s my love
We fit like a glove.”
There I go. Tom, our guide, said to stick with him and listen before we make any stupid moves. He lacked social skills, but came highly recommended. We said okay. Actually, I said,
We’re here to the end
So tell us true
And we’ll stick with you.”
He smirked. Thought I was kidding. He’d find out. Probably get old with him before we got to the foothills. We hiked our packs onto our shoulders and set off, bundled against the chill, Sally to my right and Tom up ahead, leading the way. For a mile or so, the terrain gentled and caused no strain. Sally carried twenty pounds. Us men carried forty.
In case it got rough.”
Eventually we started to climb and slowed to pick our way. Tom knew the land and pointed out things to watch for. Sally smiled at his attentiveness. I didn’t think anything, being more interested in the sights.
A canyon opened before us and the trail narrowed. “Careful there,” said good guide Tom and I blurted,
“The hills are rough
The going is tough
But we’ll prevail
Or fall on our tail.”
For all his social ineptness, Tom took his work seriously. He came to an opening across our path; maybe fifty feet deep and three across, motioned us to stop and then jumped across, agile as a mountain goat. He held up a hand for me to hold back and asked Sally to cross first. He held out his hand and she grasped it with her gloved one. I muttered,
“Fair maiden needs care
So guide Tom is right there.”
He called her to jump on his signal. She looked scared…
As he bid.”
Another blurt, but in low murmur and only to myself.
Once over, the guide called to me to leap and I did, but the ground crumbled as my feet caught the edge and I began to fall backwards. Sally screamed. Tom pivoted and grabbed for any piece of clothing he could get, clutched the bottom of my coat and planted his feet hard. With my jacket a fulcrum and my feet slipping on dirt, I yawed over the chasm and crashed to earth on the lip of the far side.
Sally reached down, got a fist full of hair and pulled me onto firmer surface.
“Ow! The hair, the hair
It just isn’t fair
But this isn’t a boast
Without you, I’d be toast.”
I know Sally tried to help save my life, but it came out anyway. Turning onto my knees, I gained my feet, grateful that Tom wouldn’t need to fish me, doubtless dead, out of the fissure.
“Tom, I almost fell
To save me was swell
But I’m stupid as hell
To almost fall in that well.”
The guide said “Nada,” and gave me a big macho smile that ended it. Then I noticed something else. Sally looked us both over as if comparing. Could it be…?
I’m not the jealous type, but Sally could be getting tired of my unintentional poetic outbursts. Handsome Tom the mountain guide, rugged and virile…I wondered. I had to redeem myself in Sally’s eyes. But how?
We climbed steadily, sometimes leaning against almost vertical gray walls to keep our balance. The trail narrowed in these places and Tom had us tie ropes to our waists. For Sally, he’d hook an end of his rope to her safety “harness” and I would do the same on her other side. We’d then feed out ten or fifteen feet for each of us. Tom eased through the passage with care and then had Sally work her way past the same stricture while he gathered line and I paid it out, keeping Sally’s lifeline taut.
Although always last in line, being last also seemed best. Should Sally misstep and fall, she had us both to catch her, with her weight distributed between us. Should I fall, there would be two to bear my weight and pull me up, I hoped. More important, should I not make it because of an accident, Tom could get her back to civilization.
The views became breathtaking as we moved upward. It would be too dangerous to go into the snowline, but we’d gained a couple of thousand feet and did not want for spectacular sights.
Tom mentioned just ahead a flat shelf held a view he liked. When we got there, we turned to look. Sally gasped at the beauty. Tom looked at her intently and I thought, possessively. Sorry, I couldn’t overlook that look and it unsettled me. Still, I tried to be cool.
As I looked down from my high point, what I saw nestled between overpowering mountain heights gripped me with the power of magic. The mountains came together and a river, fed from three extraordinary, thundering waterfalls, began to wend its way toward Wyoming's Jackson Lake. My debility kicked in. I spouted something to commemorate this wonderful view.
“The view is ocular
Our eyes binocular
The scene is wet
But better yet
The mountains I see
Are for you and me.”
Hoods up and cheeks red, we reveled in delight as we felt our hardworking muscles euphorically deliver the rewards of glistening youth.
Then it happened. Coming around a sharp bend on a narrow section, I felt something in my feet, a vibration. Tom felt it, too, and laid his ear against the cold stone face as if listening. His face worried, he looked up.
“Avalanche!” he cried. High up in the snowpack, a section of the mountain took on a cloudy look and I saw movement. Tom glanced around wildly, looking for something. I understood him instantly.
Then he lost it. “We’re gonna die!”
His pitiful panicked cry transformed him into an ugly thing. What happened to handsome, rugged and virile? For me his light went out.
Behind me, the mountain rose sheer for fifty feet and then took a sharp angle upward. That’s it! Already in motion, I said,
“Quick, that place among the rocks
Will save our clocks
I’m saying we’ll make it
I wouldn’t fake it
Save your breath
To avoid your death!”
The rumbling grew and grew. I saw Sally grab Tom’s rope and yank, turning him toward us. Sally and Tom ran right behind me as terror gave wings to our feet. We arrived and I shouted:
“Paste yourselves against the wall
Or you will surely fall
Do not look askance
Don’t invite grim happenstance!”
The words tore from me and were lost in a crashing whiteness that vaulted over us. We became one with the mountain. We shook in sync with the avalanche as the roar of snow overwhelmed our ears and threatened to take us on a two thousand foot journey to oblivion.
The whiteness and roar seemed to last an eternity. Then, just like that, it ended.
Sally’s face, white as the snow that attacked us, softened as she realized we still lived. Tom, too, white with fear, regained his manliness. I, curiously, felt wonderful. During this trial, something happened to my sense of well-being and I felt serene.
What pleased me most came from Sally, a fitting end to this awesome saga, to find no one but me in her thoughts.
“My dear, you couldn’t be braver
You are my true savior
My mind is made up
You get the winner’s cup
I am no longer harried
It’s time we got married.”