Archive for June 2nd, 2011

2nd June
written by amber

Jonah’s Wilderness Adventure

Let me tell you, hauling yourself up walls with only the strength of your arms really sucks. My motivation – Jessie’s pretty face, her warm green eyes, the dimples when she smiles – fade pretty far into the background when my muscles are screaming and sweaty fingers threaten to erase my tentative grip. Especially since she hasn’t once returned to the bar where we met four weeks ago.

“Hey, Luc! You want to tighten up on that belay? I might have to let you take the weight for a sec,” I yelled. Sure, it’s only 5 feet down to the mat, but I’d rather not fall. Again.

“Jonah!” he complained. “You gotta lose some weight. I can’t keep on holding you up like this.”

I know I put on a few pounds when I was first in the wheelchair, eating more than usual and doing far less. For a while, mealtime was the only thing I had to look forward to. My gut grew bigger and my arms shrank until they looked like the feeble alien limbs my legs had become.

“I’m trying to get fit. What do you think this is?” I would have gestured at the wall, but that would have guaranteed a fall.

“Ridiculous? Impossible? Non-aerobic at any rate. We keep telling you – try the wheelchair basketball, bro.”

I don’t know why I’m so opposed to wheelchair basketball. Because everyone’s pushing me toward it? Because it seems like such a cliche? Because I hated basketball when I had legs that worked?

The next day I called the company that makes the off-road wheelchairs and placed my order. They had one in stock, so it got delivered in less than a week. Meanwhile, I wheeled around town in my other chair, racking up more and more blocks each day, growing callouses on the insides of my hands. By the time my new chair arrived, I was buff. My arms were like pillars.

I guess that’s why I scrubbed my plan for a nice easy trail for my shake-down trip. I could hear myself saying to Jessie, “Oh yeah, I do the trail into Troll Canyon all the time. Want to go with me next Friday?” She walked away from me when she saw my wheelchair, but if she found out I could hike with her, that might change her mind.

I used to hike that trail all the time, and then scramble up to the top of the ridge and explore various routes to higher elevations. I know it’ll be a long time before I’m up to that sort of adventure again, but I see a glimmer of hope in the future. For now, the easy trail into the canyon seemed eminently doable, not too much elevation gain, mostly flat.

Memory did not serve me well. The trail was so rough, I was bagged before I was even half way, when the serious elevation gain began. How could I have forgotten this hill? Because when my legs worked, this didn’t qualify as a hill. I began to regret that I’d come alone. But I hadn’t wanted anyone to see me cursing and struggling along the trail. I just hadn’t anticipated how much cursing and struggling there would be.

Turning back was not an option. That is, until I saw the bear. Not the first time I’ve seen a bear in that canyon, but certainly the first time since I’ve lost the ability to flee. Meals on wheels took on a whole new meaning.

The bear was busy rooting around in some roots and he was still a good distance away, but I knew I’d make too much noise getting the chair turned around, so I began to sing in a loud voice to let him know I was there. I sang, “Another one bites the dust,” a song that’s been in my head, annoyingly, ever since I heard it’s the song of choice for CPR practitioners. My voice was all shaky and I know I was singing off key, because Luc shouted, “Who told you you could carry a tune, bro?” Then he and Matt and Andy were there, having snuck after me to make sure I was okay.

“Guys, there’s a bear.”

“Where?” they asked, and, sure enough, it was gone.

They helped me get to the end of the trail and then back to the car, then we all went to the bar. But Jessie wasn’t there.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012.  Stories must be a minimum of 200 words.  Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.