Franconia Gap

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two strangers struggle to survive in the wilderness.

Submitted: September 08, 2015

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Submitted: September 08, 2015

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Words 4149

Franconia Gap

Vexed, Telly puts his back to a boulder then slides down hunkering. Propping the shellacked, logo imprinted walking stick (purchased at the park gift shop) against a rock, he sips at the water bottle. Glancing about with confidence that this place would have been perfect before whoever hauled away the crystalline sheets ruined its primordial exceptionalism. Shaking his head at the random destructiveness of mankind, the incessant examination of the suitability of this place for the film’s locus lingers unabated. His contract calls for a site to serve as a surrogate for mars-scape and this landscape would have served admirably. To make it work now the company would have to install fabricated ersatz crystalline sheets; the cost of which he is intuitively confident would be prohibitive sans the formality of running the numbers. Tellingwood concludes his negative evaluation and shifts gears to the process of muscling through alternatives. Crouching with knees akimbo he scoops up gravel with his left hand and with the right picks up each pebble individually, rubs it between finger and thumb for a ten count prior to tossing the bit at a knob. The routine serves the identical purpose as worry beads in the hands of a Near Eastern emir. The simple action facilitates the cognitive bustle as he grapples through the possibilities. Weighing as he does the difficulty, costs and realism each in turn, every option is pondered. Peru, a land he knows intimately, is where he can find the appropriate setting but he is staggered at the prospect of the damage to the budget. Rising… as his mind migrates to the advantages of South America. In evaluating the matter obstacles lessen in magnitude while the positive aspects strengthen exponentially. The calculus of travel costs offset by the lower production costs balances the equation; this formulation is the nexus of his deliberations. Exerting laser focus whereby facilitating his quest for an exceptional setting for this movie. His mind is gander fluff as he daydreams of the impact an excellent outcome in the execution of this contract will have in cementing his position in the stratosphere of location consultants. In retrospect he will realize he would have been wholly better advised to be paying attention to the peril beneath his feet created by the mist moistened slippery slime on the fragmented stone on which he treads. Considerations of safety want intense mental attention; whereas Telly’s mind is absorbed elsewhere. The rubber cleated sole of his hiking boot slips on the wet mossy surface, throwing him off balance causing his arms sheathed in the sleeves of the red checkered lumberjack shirt to leap up above his head which pulls his right limb off its footing and propels his insulated rain pant encased rump and legs a flying into the loose shale that forms the riprap angling up to the ridge trail. Sliding down through and over the keen points and shards which gash the rain pants and thereafter the exposed skin until; he comes to rest at the bottom of the stone fall. Good damn shit, he roars at the pain completely unavailing against the ruin of his clothing and the injury to his skin. Excruciatingly agonizing is the act of rolling over onto his hands and knees, he heaves himself up with an obscenity. Brushing the back of his pants he encounters considerable blood which engenders a degree of anxiety. He twists about, straining his neck to get a glimpse of the actual damage to no avail, considers disrobing then rejects the idea as not worth the effort. Seizing up his stick in his right hand, he plunges it into the shingle to steady his ascent. Hobbling up the riprap, leaning on the staff, with significant difficulty due to the slippery aspect of the damp, slime covered stone as well as the tendency of the slick slivers of shale to constantly dislodge and slide from under foot impairing his progress. After a time, the frustration of attempting to regain the ridge trail under these adverse conditions, stymies him. He raises his arms with the stick in his hands for balance proceeding to slip and glide to the bottom of the shale slide thinking to make progress along a course less prohibitive until such time as he should discover an amenable route to regain the top. By this time vapor and perspiration have pooled to soak him thoroughly adding to his discomfort. A mist descends from the topmost filling the space between the riprap opposite the outcroppings which form the landscape to his right. All before his eyes is but grey haze. He is unable to see neither the ground nor much else. Stumbling and slipping upon the variations in granite and shale chippings beneath his expensive hiking boots. Keeping his eyes fixed upon the trail, he taps along with his rod in the manner of the blind. He attempts to see through the vapor that obscures the ground. Focused thus he is ignorant of what is to his front. As he moves along he bumps headlong into a body hanging in the crook of a wind scoured fork at the base of the shale slide. At the exact instant his head butts the body he spies the spatter of blood upon the rock below as well as the splash of a plasma drop from the body. Looking up he is aghast, the horror gags him, retching he forgets to breathe for an instant then, Holy Shit. Reaching up with both hands he lifts the body from the fork and places the young lady on the ground, “How y’a’ doing girl?” Before he notices she is insensible. An ear placed before her mouth is attentive for the telltale signs of breathing. Upon confirmation she lives he undertakes a survey of her body to discover what injuries she may have sustained. “Anything hurt when I touch it, you got pain anywhere?” He mouths this as soothing babble to settle him as well as for what benefit there may be for the insentient female. Telly resolves the leg appears to be the only hurt, the ankle broken, hanging loose a flopping, and the bone piercing the skin explaining the blood flow. Having seen a movie once wherein an actor sustained a similar injury; he is aware from the dialog that immediate attention is necessary to prevent the leg from having to be severed. The first order of business must be the immobilization of the injured ankle. The young lady has about her head a bandana, worn in the manner of an Apache. He’s seen the style in several westerns. Removing his pen knife from his pocket and the bandana from her head he starts six thin pieces and tears them through. Scurrying about he scrounges two limbs that once broken to length will do. “OK girl we’re gon’a fix up that leg,” grabbing the foot and the calf he begins to arrange the two in a proximity to allow the application of the splint. At his touch the woman’s eyes blow wide open, her head pops up, she shrieks as in response to a jet of pain and swings the lanyard from which her phone hangs at his head. Missing she smashes the phone against a rock. Instinctively, he recoils falling away alarmed at the ferocity of the gesticulation, “Damn lady, what the hell, I’m trying to help you.” She slips under once more. He checks her eyes by lifting an eyelid, notes her comatose state. Assured he continues with the chore. Her groans affect him. He moves as delicately as possible, incorporating the lanyard no longer necessary for the phone. Tying the branches to each side of the leg with the six strips as well as about the foot with the lanyard accomplishes a firm stabilization of the leg. The application of the splint is aided by the fact the young woman is wearing skin tight jeans, has on fashionable boots rather than true climbing boots, these are more easily manipulated in applying the splint than heavy insulated rain pants and rigid climbing boots would have been. The young lady must not have had the benefit of reading the notice posted at the trailhead concerning the violent temperature flux usual in the White Mountains. A perfect summer’s day may turn a bitter ice storm in minutes. One must dress accordingly. Unfortunately she has failed to heed the advice. Telly with painful exertion (his shredded legs are stiff and cramping) rises. Once upright the slight man leans down and sliding his hands behind her neck and knees raises her. His thought is to bear her to a shelter from the cold mist. Quickly, he realizes his thinking is faulty; he should leave her on the ground and search out a sheltered location. “I’m gon’a put you down then go look for a place we can get out of the weather, don’t fret I’ll be right back.” Once he has located an adequate site, then he might transport her, rather than carry her around aimlessly exhausting himself. Dumbass you can’t afford to make mistakes, get your head in the game. A search is conducted amongst the outcroppings. Almost immediately he locates an overhang which will serve well to collect the warmth from a fire while keeping the spritzing from wetting them further. Returning to the girl, he finds she is moaning in increased volume, fitfully jerking her head back and forth while grimacing animatedly. There is immediacy to his concern. Removing his handkerchief from his pocket he dampens it applying it to her head, “there dear, does that feel a little better?” Noticing the spittle has dried as white flakes upon her lips, he slides his hand behind her neck lifting her head so as to dribble a little water from the bottle on her parched lips. Gargling the water; she expels a good deal, but some goes down. At least her lips are cleansed. God Damn, don’t waste water. The girl’s eyes open. “Hi, you have had quite an accident, how are you feeling?” He looks at the hazel eyes conveying to him alarm and agony. “Hurts like a bitch, who are you?” She blinks her eyes several times as though to cleanse dust from them. She shudders to square away her shoulders attempting he surmises to gain a more comfortable posture. There is no whimper now that she has regained control, her mouth takes a set. Thankful she is spirited as such an attitude will make this whole adventure less onerous, good humor lightens a load. The authentic light wit in the face of harrowing circumstances is also appealing to Telly, long jaded by the affected sophistication of Hollywood. “My name is Winthrop Tellingwood, people call me Telly. We need to get warmed up some,” in angst as to the sheer linen shirt she’s wearing over a thin chemise. His mind springs to the heavy woolen shirt-jac he sports, although beneath there is only a henley. Shrugging at the inevitability of his having to give over the warmer garment, he removes the shirt and works it on to her. “Thanks, I suppose you are going to freeze playing the chivalrous knight?” The eyes were just that much brighter, a crinkle now at the corners and all of it accompanied by a smile. He really, really liked the smile. “Fair maid, we are born to serve,” with his right hand he swipes the purple cap, with the golden letters spelling P T Productions emblazoned upon it, from his head and placing it before his waist bows deeply. They both chortle at the theatrics. He thinks, for the sake of her warmth, to place his cap on her raven hair done up in a French braid. He finds the arrangement quite appealing. We’re lost on a mountain, in the rain, freezing to death, can’t you keep your dick down at least ‘til we’re back at the lodge? “And how are you called Maiden” “My appellation is Joyce Renneg however; people who know me and share their clothes with me call me Joy, how do you do?” extending her hand, which he grasps lightly but sufficiently to detect the cold on her skin; while they shake warmly. There comes upon her a pitiable visage amassed from her eyes and the remainder of her face. He is taken aback at her ability to convey such emotion on her features. “I hate to tell you this adding to your burdens but I have no choice, so I can only ask you to forgive me. Once we are back in civilization I will make a gift to you sufficient to repay your bad luck. I really have to go to relieve myself bad.” His anxiety is allayed, “Well, I think we can work something up to get the job done.” So saying he lacks a clue as to how to accomplish the task. “If you want I can go in my jeans, if that would make things easier.” “Possibly, but it might contribute to other issues such as infecting your ankle, no we better find a way to pursue a more conventional approach.” He bends down and lifts her up, carrying her several yards away to the side of a boulder. He rests her against the rock. He takes out his handkerchief, affixes it over his eyes and begins to slide the zipper of her jeans. Pulling the jeans and panties down to her knees he removes to the far side of the rock feeling his way along with his hands. “Am I out of view?” “Yes, you are fine; I’ll just be a minute.” His thinking runs to the way she braced herself while leaning against the rock. She will have to maneuver smartly in order carry out the bodily function. Tolerating an element of agony will also be part of the act. This thought strangely warmed him as he gave over to how during their short involvement she’s approached difficulty with verve. The micturition makes a slight sizzle on the ground then he hears her calling to him. Once he has her resettled, he gives thought to the wood gathering as he considers the ease with which they have gotten past a most embarrassing issue. Later he will consider the thought ludicrous given the natural requirement of the act by all animals. As well as the fact the whole silly concept is a human construct without basis in actuality. “Well, time to work, I have to get up a fire,” so saying he turns away to undertake his search for dry wood on this water shrouded mountain. “Thank you for your kindnesses,” the voice is angelic, soft, he can almost feel its hand. Is this natural or is she an actress? He queries cynically. “My pleasure fair maid,” in future when he turns this episode into an anecdote he must be sure to emphasis the lovely bliss of her form as well as her beatific spirit. This of course will only add to the appeal of the story, but even so he thanks his lucky stars she’s not a raving shrew. She burrows down by pulling the collar up while thrusting her hands well into the pockets of the shirt, she takes stock. Her position is precarious, beyond the obvious injuries and inclement weather there is the possibility of this man Telly causing her considerable mischief. Although there has been a demonstration of kindness one never knows, she must keep her wits about her. Even so what can she do to thwart him given her ruined leg and this miserable clammy cold? Now that her attention has been drawn to it she focuses on the contraction of her innards and how deeply the cold has invaded her torso. Profoundly, she realizes how very chilled she is and the urgency of her need to get warm. Her thoughts run to the competency of this stranger in this circumstance; has he the skills to preserve them or is their only salvation in the earliest possible discovery by rescuers? Telly clambers about and gets himself up on an outcropping he hopes will facilitate phone reception. Dialing 911, it rings; he is greatly relieved, “White Mountain Ranger station. What is your emergency?” “Yes, hello, my name is Tellingwood. I am here with Joyce Renneg. Miss Renneg has broken her ankle. We are not dressed for cold weather. We have no food, little water and are in a bad way, can you send someone?” “Yes, where are you located?” “I don’t know, I just took a walk up here, really didn’t pay attention to the trail signs,” the anxiety in his voice is palpable. Jesus Christ calm down, panic won’t help. You already look the fool; don’t make it worse. “It’ll be alright, we’ll get a team started right away, just leave your phone on we can use it to locate you. The important thing is for you to try to stay dry and warm. If you get antsy we can just talk it through, ok?” “Yes, yes ok, thank you.” “How is the girl’s leg?” “I put a splint on it, the bleeding stopped.” “OK just wait; it’s going to be ok.” “OK” “Don’t move around stay put.” “Yes, ok.” “We’ll see you soon.” “It can’t be too soon,” really… a joke, Jesus shut the hell up. “Yes, Mr. Tellingwood.” Pushing along he is able to discover a log or two and some sticks pushed back under the rocks where the wood is shielded from the rain and remains dry. Gathering up an armful he makes his way back to their shelter. Dumping the wood in a pile under the dome, he gives over his attention to Joy, checking the splint, checking for bleeding, putting the back of his hand to her forehead to determine whether she is feverish, while wondering what he can do about it if she were. He coos a line of triviality as he goes through these motions and she reciprocates with but a smile in recognition. “We’ll have a fire in a minute,” as he begins to construct a fire starter with his pen knife and a branch. “I can use it, it wouldn’t be so bad but the damp really cools y’a down,” still tucked up tight in the shirt-jac. Her lips are an actual blue as they quiver. He is struck by this sight. “We’ll get y’a fixed up alright, just give me a minute.” His confidence is founded on his experience of having watched this being done in a historical documentary not that he has ever done it or even attempted it before. He carves a little bit of branch to put in his teeth, sharpens a straight stick on both ends, takes a larger branch an scraps a depression in it and also one in the small piece for his mouth. He undoes the lace from his boot. With his pen knife he shaves kindling, gets up a good pile, breaks the smaller branches to put on after the kindling’s a going and he is ready. He wraps the lace around the straight piece puts one end of the straight stick in the hollow in the larger branch and the other end in the hole in the piece in his mouth, and alternatively pulls the lace, spinning the straight piece in the depression in the larger branch. The friction quickly causes the branch to smoke, and then smolder. Gently he piles on the kindling and blows on the ember producing a flame. He places the fire just to the edge of the overhang out of the rain. As the fire strengthens he adds more wood, the heat fills the cavity warming it considerably but also filling the upper reaches with smoke. Again he sets out to search for wood to keep the blaze through the night; a couple of trips produce a good size pile he thinks will do the trick. Lying down next to Joy, “are you still cold or beginning to warm a little?” he questions but observes the lips still quiver while colored by a sickening off grey hue. To him the little grotto is warm enough, her chill a mystery. “I’m fine; I’ll be warm in a minute. The rock is reflecting the heat.” She coughs; he notes the accumulating smoke and attendant noxious fumes. Placing two logs in front of the fire he pushes on them with the soles of his hiking boots moving the fire outside the overhang in an attempt to alleviate the smoke build up in their shelter. “Well, shall we spoon, body warmth and all?” so saying he lies down and snuggles up to her. “That feels kind a nice Telly,” she says it with a certain sweetness belying their recent introduction. When he awakens during the night, the fire has been extinguished by the rain, which now is a full on shower. The temperature has dropped considerably as well. He considers whether he should try to light another fire in the dark, abandoning the idea as fruitless. Joy wakes before dawn, her fever rages now. The leg is swollen to the extent possible in the tight jeans. About the ankle where the skin is exposed there appears a dark blue tinged in yellow with red veining. She rants in her fever induced incoherency. He dampens his handkerchief pressing it to her forehead, “feel better?” Awakening her; allowing her to regain her composure. “Telly what do you think of going down the mountain to bring back help?” She’s expressing her great fear that this fellow although generous in his goodwill may not be making the best choices in support of their chances for survival. She has no measure of his capabilities while beginning to realize her life may lie in the balance. He reaches around for his phone and sees his battery is dead. He damns himself for a fool for having left it on all night when there was no chance the search party would come up the mountain in the dark especially in the rain. “Oh, we’ll be alright, they are surely out searching by now. They get an early start in the morning I’m sure. Don’t forget I spoke with the Rangers last night and they said they would be right up. The dispatcher was emphatic we should stay put.” Although he spoke with confidence, he had allowed the phone to go dead, a grave mistake, and had caused the fire to be extinguished. Now the girl is really sick appearances are her leg is badly infected. Should he leave her to go down for help, probably meet someone on the way up or should he stay and wait for the rescue party. What is the best course for the girl? The decision is wrested from his hands with the almost immediate conversion of the rain into a glacial sleet storm. The area is enveloped in a dense shroud. He couldn’t go down now whatever his desire. The henley is soaked through with frigidity while his teeth clack uncontrollably. There is in his lower back a dull ache as well as a vigorous shriveling in his abdomen. He understands for possibly the first time the adage-cold to the bone. He snuggles down closer to the girl, to transfer as much body heat as possible, with the last conscious thought before dozing off the need to light a new fire at the moment the tempest abates. Within his entwisting embrace, the regularity of his breathing reveals his having succumb to the icy environs. She is aware that falling asleep in the cold is first in the progression to death; however, under the circumstances she reckons the preferability of the peaceful expiry to the prolonged in vain struggle. This the last thought as she closes her eyes and relents. *** When they find them there is in her the minutest spark of life. The leg having festered is amputated, which shatters her ego ineffably. The feisty spirit succumbs to this last ravagement too terrible in its repercussions to be withstood. Without compunction she gives over her being and is lost. Mr. Tellingwood is dead of hypothermia, still tightly entwined with Joyce, shielding her from the fury of the storm. The back of his henley is encrusted with ice. His life is given up for the sake of an unknown woman not for fame, honor or recognition. His act is not courageous or even intentional, while possibly attributable to his stupidity since he made mistakes which contributed to his demise. His life is surrendered out of everyday decency. To him there was no other course open other than to aid a fellow in distress and in so doing he placed the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of common grace. We may not know the evaluation of the bargain in his lights. The End


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