Just a Cigarette Story
Written for OLWG#59
Silver skin birch lined the ridge behind the house. We could see them from the porch, leaves, just a blur of undulating variations of green as the breeze rippled through them in the sunlight on those fair days. Celeste longed to hike up to those trees; we talked about it – we talked about it a lot, but somehow the time got away from us. We even went so far as looking up trails along the ridge, and there was one. Reportedly, it was little more than a track and we wanted to do it, but as I said somehow, time just got away from us.
Years sped by, as they will. We always had other things that needed doing. Work on the house that required doing. There were birthday celebrations, weddings, and funerals that needed attending. We took trips to Stockholm, London, København, Firenze, Paris, Sydney, Rio, and Hong Kong. We never did get around to that hike along the ridge, that walk through the birches. We both had our work.
When she took ill, the ridge walk dropped off the table. On hold, until she got well. We spent over a year in consultation and treatment with doctors, specialists. Yet, it was for naught. When Celeste passed, almost fifteen years ago now, it was for the best. She’d suffered enough. I found it difficult to move on. I developed a tendency to crawl into a nearby bottle when life got tough and life was pretty tough without her.
This morning, though, I was thinking of her and the weather was favourable. I grabbed water and food, food that was heavy on the carbs and protein. I threw my pack in the truck and drove south to the pass. I came to a fire road cutting east that disappeared into the foothills. I didn’t make it far before I had to jump down from the cab to lock in the hubs on my old truck. The road was climbing, and pretty rough, but I kept on. I finally had to pull off the track and leave the truck burrowed into the brush. I grabbed my supplies and started walking.
“I thought we’d get a bit further before we had to walk, Celeste. We may not make it to the ridge today. If we do, it’ll be late.” I told her, as I shrugged my pack up higher on my back.
I got to where what I figured the right ridge to be. It rose off to my left. I turned and walked a couple of hours before stopping. I had found a flat rock in the sun so I feasted on a PBJ, and half a bag of jerky, finishing it off with too much water. I studied the red and umber striations in the warm, flat rock where I lay and dreamed of Celeste. She looked young and unravaged by the disease that had taken her.
“Turn around,” she told me, “go back. You’re too old for this kind of shit. We’re both too old.”
“I want to see this place. I want to show it to you.” I said.
When I woke, the sun was a lot closer to the horizon. I judged that I had slept for at least an hour and a half, if not more.
I peed before continuing my trek, but the trail was tough. It had lots of ups and downs, lots of switchbacks. I still hadn’t made the trees when it began to get dark.
“We oughta pack it in for the night,” I told her. “This track will be pretty treacherous in the dark. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
She laughed at me, “Worry about yourself, old timer. I’ll wait for you at the treeline.”
I found a flat spot with good grasses for a cold camp and Celeste continued up the trail.
I slept – rested until well into the morning before continuing after her. The trodden grass, broken twigs, and turned over stones made her easy to track. Finally, around mid-morning, I caught sight of the trees in the distance. Pushing on, I found her in a clearing, waiting. She had a fire going and coffee on the boil. As I approached, she poured a second cup for me and held it out. She didn’t speak.
“Thanks,” I said taking the proffered cup. I scouted out the nearest tree where I sat down and leaned my head against the trunk; closed my eyes, and drifted off. She stayed nearby.
This week’s prompts were:
- the dead don’t care much for fast food
- the time got away from me
- the hole in your soul