Hey, hey, hey! We’re into the second half of word challenge week!
Today’s words are: Chocolate, Canada, Work, Gym, and Hibernation.
So with those words as a prompt, I came up with…
It is inadvisable to hike at this time of year. I told Mr and Mrs Wilson that a week ago when they came through the information centre at the foot of the hills. They were still determined to hike, though the remnants of snow were still visible on the ground.
I wouldn’t have let them go, had they not been experienced hikers. They gave me a return date—yesterday—and set off on their merry way.
The woods are glorious at the beginning of spring. The snow preserves everything as if autumn is just ending—it’s just a lot soggier.
When I was younger, I thought I would be a hockey player. I spent hours in the driveway hitting a tennis ball back and forth with my hockey stick. When I reached eight years old my parents finally had enough money for me to get lessons.
From there, I joined our local under 13’s team. One hour a week of formal training, developed into fifteen hours a week around school.
No matter how much my training increased as I grew up, I still spent my free time in the driveway pushing that sad little tennis ball around.
Eventually, though, reality stuck its nose in the door and forced its way into my life. “The journey” became “the dream”, and “practice” became that thing that I could maybe fit in if my treatment finished a little earlier than usual. Even then you probably wouldn’t call it practice … I barely had enough energy to walk from my bed to the bathroom.
I looked down at the paperwork in front of me. There it was: Todd and Rita Wilson due back March 24th—yesterday. Suddenly, I regretted scarfing down a whole block of chocolate last night. Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but when faced with a hike that could take days, extra weight potential isn’t really what you want.
You might be thinking, “so what? The Wilsons are a day late, maybe they decided to extend their hike a while.” True. They might have. But they also might have been mauled by a grizzly who came across their skinny asses when he surfaced from hibernating for months. You see the dilemma?
‘So, Kane, who are you taking on the recovery?’ Nina, the information centre lady, asked me.
‘It’s just Liam and me.’
‘Is that wise?’
‘What? Liam’s fine.’ I said a little too quickly.
‘Mhmm …’ She popped a piece of gum into her mouth, ‘you keep telling yourself that, sugar. When you’re dangling from that grizzly’s mouth and Liam’s miles away shitting his panties, just keep thinking “Liam’s fine”. I’m sure that will save you.’
‘When did you become such a comedian?’
‘Around about the time you told me that Liam was your backup! Are you nuts?’
Liam was the newbie—the hopeless newbie. Ten points for enthusiasm, negative ten for finesse. He started a few weeks ago. His enthusiasm was so consuming, before I knew it I had printed out the contracts and he was signing on the dotted line. Nina had been giving me shit ever since.
‘He’s gotta learn somehow.’ I muttered, putting the paperwork back in the filing cabinet.
A couple of hours later, Liam and I were in the information centre’s parking lot.
‘Canada in spring is wonderful, isn’t it?’ Liam’s face reminded me of the Cheshire Cat.
‘Yeah, it is.’ I mumbled as I tightened the straps on my pack.
‘I’m so excited to be going on my first official hike!’
‘You got everything you need?’
‘I followed the list you gave me exactly. Not sure what you meant by “personal products”, though …’
‘I tell you what,’ he went on, ‘I wish I knew about this earlier. I could have gone to the gym a bit more.’
‘You’ll be fine, Liam.’He patted his stomach a little, ‘Should’ve skipped all that candy.’
‘Come on,’ I patted him on the shoulder and took off toward the trail.
After my treatment, and subsequent recovery, these trails were the only thing that comforted me. To be all alone in the quiet wilderness of the woods, yet only a few miles from the civilised world, was one of the greatest feelings.
So instead of hiking on one of my few days off from a desk job, I decided to make hiking part of my work. I applied for the ranger position about six weeks after the doctor gave me the “all clear”.
Six hours into the hike, and there was no sign of the Wilsons. Liam had asked me ten times whether we could stop to have something to eat. Somehow, I convinced him to keep going.
The sun was slowly descending toward the horizon, so I decided to set up camp about twenty metres from the trail.
I hadn’t seen anything as funny as watching Liam trying to pitch his tent. I’m surprised he didn’t accidentally impale himself on a pole; he did peg his shirt to the ground, though.
The next morning, I woke Liam up at dawn and set off down the trail as soon as our packs were ready to go again.
Another six hours in, and I was beginning to give up hope of finding the Wilsons in one piece. I was half expecting a severed arm to be hanging from a tree branch. I stopped and leant against a tree trunk, taking a swig from my water bottle.
‘Kane!’ Liam waddled up to me, out of breath, ‘I think I heard voices over there!’ He pointed west of the trail.
My body suddenly tensed and I made off in that direction. My eyes scanned and surveyed every inch of scrub for any type of creature.
I could hear Liam huffing and stomping behind me.
‘Ranger Kane?’ a woman’s voice pierced through the afternoon air, ‘Is that you?’
‘Ms Wilson?’ I saw her then.
Her hair was all over the place. There were leaves and twigs snagged in it; her face was covered in dirt smudges.
I dropped my pack and raced toward her.
‘Are you okay?’
‘I’m fine.’ She mumbled.
‘Where is your husband? Is he in danger?’
‘Danger?’ she raised her eyebrows and pouted, ‘Goodness, no.’
‘Then why do you look like you have been dragged through the woods by a grizzly?’
Mr Wilson appeared then. His appearance was similar to his wife’s. Ms Wilson’s cheeks darkened.
‘Well, Ranger,’ she leant forward and whispered with a smile, ‘we’re newlyweds, aren’t we?’
If you have missed the rest of the week, here they are: