Don’t you just love it when a hiking trip goes wrong? This one has a little pain, but a lot of comfort. And Addison wrote it using no fewer than fifteen prompt words from a random word generator. Given the wild difference between many of the words, I take my hat off to her!
You can find more of Addison’s writing (and of course, her books) at her website, here.
Our descent from the north ridge took longer than it should have. More than the hike up had taken, that was for sure. I never would have guessed that Phillip, an Army veteran for Christ’s sake, would jump at the sight of a mouse and twist his ankle.
“For the last time,” Phillip grumbled, “it was a fucking rat.”
“Sure,” I replied. My tone implied a tease rather than acquiescence. Although I had to admit the critter had been on the large side for a mouse, so it might have been a small rat. I couldn’t eliminate that theory, anyway. There was no way to prove it one way or another at this point. The damned thing had come and gone in a flash, and I wasn’t an expert on rodents anyway. Neither was Phillip for that matter.
Phillip leaned heavily on me as we approached a narrowing of the path at a steep section passing between two boulders. I edged in front since it made more sense for me to precede him to make sure he didn’t fall on his ass once he got past the bit where he could use the large rocks for balance as he hopped through.
His lips thinned into a tight grimace as he watched me get into position. The misery personified on his features was like a bucket of icy water thrown on the jokey mood I’d tried to foster. I didn’t know if it was more from his physical pain or the fact he hated to be seen as less than strong and fully capable, but it twisted my heart.
“It might’ve been a rat,” I conceded. “I jumped too. I was just lucky there wasn’t a rock in the wrong place when I came down.”
“There’s no ‘might’ve’ to it.” The muscles in his arms bulged as he braced himself on the boulders and swung his body through the passage. Once he joined me on the other side I reached out and slipped both arms around his waist, pulling him in for a hug.
“I love you,” I murmured.
“Love you, too, Dustin.” Phillip’s words were muffled by my hair as he planted a couple kisses near the top of my head. “Sorry,” he added. I barely heard that last whispered word.
“Shit happens.” I shrugged and slipped to the side, tightening one arm around his back and hooking my fingers through his stiff belt. “Nothing to apologize for. It wasn’t your fault.”
I felt—more than saw—him straighten his back. I wasn’t surprised. “Tough” and “determined” were two words that exemplified Phillip’s character. No way he’d wimp out. He’d steel himself to face whatever he had to deal with no matter the hurdles he encountered.
“Got any bars yet?” Phillip asked.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. We were almost to the 4-wheeler accessible flat stretch that would be the final leg of our journey back to Phillip’s sister Gracie’s house.
“Finally. A couple,” I said. “What’s her number?”
“Fuck,” he groaned. “I don’t have it memorized. It’s in my contacts list.”
And his phone was charging on Gracie’s kitchen counter. “Email address?” I asked. “I can at least message her with that. Those beep on her phone so she might see it right away.”
“I don’t know. She’s got a string of numbers in it that mean nothing. I just click the contact to send her stuff. I forwarded you that email from her last week. You still have it?”
“Oh yeah, now that you mention it…” I opened my archive folder and scrolled. “Found it.”
I copied the address and fired off a message giving her my phone number and imploring her to call ASAP.
We hadn’t gone even twenty more yards before my phone rang. I answered it on speaker so Phillip could hear her, too. The sound of Phillip’s niece, Ellen, practicing the piano in the background was the first thing we heard.
“Gracie?” Phillip asked.
“Phillip! What’s going on? Are you guys okay?”
“Nothing major,” he replied. “I twisted my ankle, but it’s not broken or anything like that.”
“Shit. Well, you don’t need to walk on it. Hold on.” The phone went silent for a minute, presumably muted, then the background piano practice returned along with Gracie. “Hey, Alex will head your way on the 4-wheeler. You can return on it, and he’ll hike back with Dustin.”
Phillip’s body relaxed perceptibly. “Great. Thanks.”
“I’ll crush up some ice ready for you. See you soon.”
I ended the call and slipped the phone into my pocket. “Just a little farther, then we can sit and wait,” I said.
“First thing I’m going to do is crack open that rosé we brought,” he said.
I shook my head. “No more than a sample taste. You’re going to have to take some pain meds. That doesn’t mix with alcohol.”
Phillip sighed. “Fine,” he grumbled.
I gave him a squeeze. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”