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“Hey, you’re the one who lives in Oregon,” I responded, after Lance made some exasperated comment about me keeping him on the phone.
“Crea, I’m Attorney General…”
“And I’m running… you know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m here. Are you sure you’ll be able to get away? I’m taking a lot of time off to do this…” I said.
“It’s not me you’ve got to worry about. You know how Kyle is.”
I shook my head thinking about our baby brother. “Have you even spoken to him?” I asked, and Lance just laughed.
“Okay, that’s a no. Well, text him or something, he listens to you more than me. I also think Crater Lake is a cool spot to meet, especially since it’s where Grandma and Grandpa met. At least, according to Grandma’s stories.”
Lance was quiet, and I wasn’t sure whether he was thinking about our grandmother, or just ignoring me like he usually did when I called.
“Okay, I’m about to hit a national forest, and there’s never coverage in those. I’ll Facetime you when I get to the park, and you can thumbs up or down our choices of staying around there.”
“Thanks, brother… and yeah, I’ll text Kyle… not that it’ll do any good.”
I smiled as I hung up. I didn’t spend much time with my brothers, not like I should, but there was always this wall between us… a wall our dad had built. Despite that, I was determined to maintain some sort of connection, or at least try to.
I put my phone down, turned up my favorite CD since the national forests were notorious for poor radio reception, and cruised toward Crater Lake National Park. Hopefully, given Lance and Kyle both lived in Oregon, they’d be willing to join me there for a weekend of getting reunited.
It’d been two freaking years since I’d seen them, after all. Not to mention that our grandmother had passed away during that time. At the very least, they could spare their brother a weekend.
The cantilever bucked, and I dropped it, causing the log to roll off the sawmill, knock me down, and roll right over my left leg. As I lay on the ground, pain searing through me, I chastised myself for not oiling the damned thing first thing that morning.
“Fuck,” I said out loud, knowing nobody was gonna hear me anyway. I was out in the woods by myself, miles from anyone or anything.
As I lay trying to convince myself to get up, I saw the daytime moon and could feel her chuckling. “Okay, Goddess, I know you’ve been pushing me to get out and be social, but damn, did you have to do it this way?”
“Yes!” I could swear I heard her say, but then again, I could’ve been hallucinating. The pain was that intense.
No matter how bad I hurt now, though, I knew from experience it was going to hurt a lot more when I started moving.
I leaned up on my elbows, and immediately broke out into a cold sweat. “Fuck, I’m FUCKED!” I yelled, and lay back down.
My ATV was just over the ridge. I had to make it there or I’d be screwed for sure. My ranger buddy told me there’d been bear and cougar sightings just this week, in the very same spot I was working. On the ground, injured, I was a sitting duck!
I looked back at the moon and bit my tongue, resisting the sudden urge to call the Goddess some choice names I’d later regret.
I grabbed a piece of bark off the ground that I’d shaved off a log just moments before my big faux pas. I scooted up to the back of the sawmill, managing to reach around and turn the damned thing off. Then I bit down on the bark and pushed myself up onto my good foot.
Pain overwhelmed me.
I closed my eyes and waited for the world to right itself again. I couldn’t afford to fall. I doubted I’d get back up. When I opened my eyes, I searched for anything that could help me keep my balance and prevent my crushed leg from flapping around as I ventured from the sawmill to the ATV. Everything was too short or too long. Finally, I found a stick that was a little too short to be much help, but I’d have to make it work at a crutch. I just needed to get to the vehicle.
I thought then that I should probably have figured out how to secure my leg, but damn, I was up and couldn’t afford to stop the momentum. I needed to do this now.
I tried hopping, and fuck. My injured leg bumped against my other one and I saw stars, then stumbled. I landed on my good knee, but the pain in my left was so intense, I vomited all over the fucking stick I was using as a crutch.
Okay, Eli. Get it together, you’ve got this. I reached over, grabbed the stick, vomit and all, and stuck it behind my good leg. I took my shirt off and began tearing it into strips. Not too hard, the shirt was ancient and ripped easily. What sucked was that I loved that fucking shirt. I’d bought it at a Nirvana concert in ninety-four, one of their last.
Fuck it, I thought as I continued tearing, then managed to laugh at myself. My mom had lectured me the last time I’d gone to see her that I cussed too much. “Seems undignified and not how I taught you to be,” she’d said. Maybe she had a valid point, but fuck if I cared right now.
I managed to tie the strips around my leg and the stick and got the fucking thing—sorry, Mom—to rest at the base of my ass and stick out low enough below my foot to allow me to use it as a fake leg.
“Goddess, make this work!” I demanded, no longer trying to show any respect. I fully blamed her for the mess I was in.
Thank all the heavens, it worked. The pain was intense, but not puking or seeing stars intense. I was able to gently stumble along using my support and the leg brace to get me over to the fucking ATV.
For good measure, when I sat down, I screamed fuck
one more time.
I drew in a long, deep breath, and pulled my crushed leg up into the ATV. Thank the gods the vehicle was big enough that I could keep it straight and still rest it on the makeshift support.
I started the engine and slowly pushed down on the gas. It revved to life, and I jerked, not a lot, but enough to send stars shooting across my vision again.
I put the ATV back into park, closed my eyes, and waited a moment. Find your center, Eli. I allowed my mind to imagine the energy from the earth flowing into me through my legs and up my torso, then energy from the sky flowing into my head and down my body. Blue and green were the colors I saw in my mind’s eye.
I waited while I let the energies fill me back up, and when I opened my eyes, I felt like I was going to be okay. I could do this.
I put the ATV back in gear and pushed down on the gas again. It still hurt like hell, but this time when it popped, I didn’t see stars. Any improvement was welcome.
I drove as gently as I could, cussing loudly each time I hit a bump, no matter how slight, as the pain was immense.
I had no idea how, but I managed to get to the ranger’s station, and prayed to all that was good and holy, someone would be in. The odds were not good, though, since the Feds had pulled more funding from the forestry service… again.
When I found it empty, I had to resist the urge to cry. Fuck me! I had managed the two-mile drive down the mountain, and as was my luck, still hadn’t found any help. “You knew it was a long shot,” I said out loud, then I lowered my head to the steering wheel and rested, hoping against hope, someone would come along.
I was getting tired, really fast. I knew a service station lay a mile down the road. Maybe that was a better choice. They were likely closed too, but if I could get there, I might get enough cell coverage to use my phone.
I gathered what little energy I had left, and wiped away the tear that escaped my eye. The pain only continued to ramp up as my excruciating nightmare continued.
I pulled onto the road, and got a third of a mile when my ATV began to sputter.
“No, hell no! What are you doing?” I yelled at the machine. “Why?” I looked up to where the moon should be. “Why are you doing this to me?”
I was met with silence as the ATV slowly drifted to a stop. I was so messed up I burst into tears, and didn’t even care.
I had my head down when I heard a vehicle approach, speed past me, and judging by the sound of squeaking brakes, slowed down . Maybe they were coming back, but it hurt too much to look up. I was done. I figured either some passerby would help me or I’d die alone out here in the woods. It was still too cold for much tourist traffic, but I was on a main road now at least.
I heard the vehicle slow to a stop next to me and a window roll down. “Hey, you okay?” a guy asked.
I glanced up into a pair of soulful green eyes, but my mind was gone. The pain was too much, and I was going into shock.
“No, you’re not, are you?” I could hear the alarm in his voice as he opened his car door and rushed over to me. “Hey, buddy, what’s your name?” I could only manage a pained grunt in answer. “Okay, can you help me at all?” he asked, but I couldn’t do much. When he put his arm under me, I tensed, and when my foot knocked against the ATV, I screamed and passed out.