Rescue – Short Story
I don’t even know where the waterfalls are! thinks Taco, waiting with a group of friends for the transport that at 6 a.m. will take them to the boundary of the paddock.
“I’m not sure” he admitted, “I think so.”
To enter the paddock, they jumped over a barbed wire fence, anchored between two wooden posts, covered with grandfather’s whiskers moss that drunkenly drooped over the grass when they freed it from the chain lock. The edge between paddock and forest, blurred by the cattle and the cut down trees for firewood, was the scenery for a long time.
First of all, there’s nothing else we can do, just keep going. thinks Taco.
Beyond the grove there was a gentle hill, where a light breeze brought a strange feeling. Three and a half hours of walking and not a hint of the waterfalls. The turriwalkers of the day, gathered around Taco in the thicket of shrubs, where a hairy and oval leafed cobblers peg prepares its fruits covered in porcupine needles to jump onto the clothes and hair of the innocent passersby. Near the plant await the guide’s instructions, just like the cobblers peg.
“Team, we need to make a decision, there’s still a ways to go than expected… I screwed up. Goodness’ sake! We’ve been walking for more than three hours! Do we keep going or not?”
Interrogating looks crossed the high bushed until landing in other looks, like playing hot potato. Don’t keep it or you get burnt! You’ve only to imagine the scene to know nobody had the answer. The silence allowed them to hear the faraway singing of some birds. Nearby, the bush branches did not move because, just like everyone else, it awaited an answer.
“Let’s keep going!” growls an off-tune choir.
And so they kept going, stomping on the cobblestones, permeating their breath on the oddly shaped rocks from some ancient volcanic eruption. Climbing over the moldy tree trunks that had been defeated by the wind, inhabited by black rhino beetles, with every step they tattooed their bodies with scratches and bruises, laguhter, cries. Swarms of horseflies filled the air, diving, hoping to land their sharp stinger in its objectives: ears! lots of ears!
Dangerously, the mountain equipment was languishing, forgotten, at the bottom of their backpacks. They carried vases of enthusiasm, full of waterfall images. The freefalling water from the heights, following the contour of the rocks. Adventure in every droplet seeking the rainbow. The scattered water upon messily falling onto the pool. The fish, the butterflies, this, and that. The dreaminess energized the legs and quenched the thirst.
No one slowed down the pace and the vanquishers raised their conquest flag when they reached the bottom of the canyon. A warrior’s spirit never breaks, declares the flag.
“So pretty” excalimed Taco with relief. In a moment, the minuscule water droplets soaked the faces of the visitors. They piled their light packs in no particular order upon a rock, creating what looked like a beaten animal with water splashing its tongue.
“We forgot everything!” mumbled Taco. The group dipped their feet in the smaller pools of water to test the temperature and splash, the slippery stones jumping away from the unsuspecting feet only to fall like a toad, or better yet, like a squash into the cold water. There was laughter, water fights, olympic dives that an improvised jury would grant a ten… Some dared to stand under the waterfall, others would sit over by the rocks…
The Rock let a thick column of water fall racously, like a mythological beast who, from the edge, and without hesitation, leaps into the void. It stretched its body infinitely until it reached the bottom of the canyon, where it transformed its lengthy form into an amorphous mass ready to reshape itself once again, looking for more leaps until it met with the sea.
The Curtain comes down without unglueing its body from the contour of the rock. Its hasty intention of clinging onto the cracks and edges losens pebbles that fall like tiny birds into the vacuum. Like this, it makes its way down and gets stealthily lost in between the bends of the riverbed.
The waterfalls, lacking an interest in posing, hurrying onwards in their adventure downriver, let the intruders wash away their exhaustion in the clear and fresh pools of its banks.
We must return, though Taco, it’s late. In the distance, over the horizon, the sun dipped slowly and quietly with a sort of smile alond the edge of a rainbow.
“Everybody! We’re leaving in five minutes!”
“Pick up the trash, make sure no backpacks or clothes are left behind.”
“The climb is tough, very tough.”
“Always on the trail, at your own pace. Careful with the branches.”
The bible of recomendations was clear. What was obscure would be the night that would catch up to them halfway back because of the improvised oversight of flashlights.
The walkers, in a clear straight line, left shoe moulds on the loose dirt. The twisting length of the climb exhausted the braves and in the high steps died the footsteps when crashing the tip of the shoe onto the exposed treeroots. Dehidration and the muscle strain on the legs, particularly set into the calves, caused terrible shakiness, pulls, and bumps hard as rocks under the skin. During the endless climb, the guide dragged his legs, on the steps he supported his knee any way he could, and held onto any available root. Then, any flimsy branch, considered a nuisance on a trail, in total alliance would help him get back on his feet. Like this, a burden of helplessness squashed him on the next step, like a tree knocked down by lightning, he became a post of blackened wood, like one of those ancient ones nailed into paddock fences. In addition to the exhaustion, the muscles in Taco’s calves begin to feel a violent pain like the bites of a herd of hogs.
With both hande he massaged the pained leg muscles. Oh my God, so painful! WIth his right hand, he swept the step that served as a seat, throwing aside stones and small branches. He fixated his attention in a reddish thread on his right hand wrist. Goddamn ants! Not only stiff but also bitten by black ants. He stopped complaining and checked the wound. It didn’t go straight across, it seemed like a scorpion stinger. What a start, so much pain! Ouch! He checked more closely, no scorpion. He looked for other sources of the agresion: pejibaye spikes, none, mountain immortelle trunks, none. Without a clue, he sat again and raised his arm to the light to check is there was a stinger or splinter responsible of such agression. He lowered his arm, Oh my God! the critter bit him again in the same spot, with more fury. He raised his arm once again to identify that the ant was voraciously biting the wrist. THe wound, the will, the rage.
“I’m an optimistic person.” he said.
At least it’s me, sitting on Mother Earth, not a healthy cedar tree cut down by a chainsaw, or a millenary ceibo. He pondered.
I want to climb through my own means. Can I climb through my own means? Do I have the means?
He filled the glass with courage and drank it. He tried to stand up when he heard the voice of two women who, in a step nearby, said, “Taquito, we’ll stay with you!
Taco smiled and looked them in the eyes.
“It’s a great gesture, the nicest thing I’ve heard today. You make me so happy.”
“Keep on walking, find some help. I’ll hold out here.”
“Ok.” they answered.
“And, who do we ask for help?”
“On the trail you’ll find the house of the landowner. He’ll know what to do.”
The entrusted mission inspired in such a way the two women that they didn’t run just because the slope was impossible, but the determination gave them wings.
The farmhand arrived, a strong man. He fit perfectly in this setting, designed to go up and down those ungodly trails while carrying heavy loads.
“How’re you feeling, pal? What? Everything hurts?” He launched the questions rapidfire. While inspecting Taco, he calculated his weight and size like he was a sack of sweet corn ready for chorreadas, similar to the granfather’s double basket with freshly picked coffee or the guava woodpile for the stove to cook the beans in. He measured the load and, without asking, continued:
“Listen! Things are either easy or difficult! Do you want them to be easy?
“You tell me!” inquired Taco.
“Every once in a while the travelers around here get these leg cramps, right? But the wolly slug’s nettle is worse, the fuzzy caterpillars in the coffee plantations. They sting so bad! But it goes away a few days later if you rub yourself with hot pig fat where the caterpillar stung and cover it with angel’s trumpet leaves. Grandmother’s prescription!
“I’ll carry you on my back” said the young man with authority.
“Forget it,” said Taco “I’m too heavy to be carried up.”
“Why? I’ve carried heavier loads the whole climb up.”
“What do you mean?!” laughed Taco, “What choice do we have? Leggo.”—
“Hold on tight!”
The burly farmhand got him on his back in one swift motion, like he did with all those yucca sacks he had carried up those slopes. A piggyback ride, the load and the carrier fused their existence. They were the miracle of two red-hot irons in the forge. The corpulent young man climbed like a wild animal, a brahman bull bellowing in the slope. A tornado with a considerable hump broke through the bushes. There wasn’t a step that rejected the man’s foot, marking a groove and an everlasting print.
Upon finishing the climb and reaching a small plain, the load eyes’ shot wide open, clinging on like a sloth to a snakewood branch, stiff with amazement and cheerful from the rescue.
“Ooh! Aah!” exclaimed Taco in admiration.
“Wait here, I’ll find a beast to carry you.” said the farmhand…
Taco arrived after nightfall at the place where his companions were waiting for him, walking a path lit by a cell phone light. On their way, in a house where a wake was being held, out of the goodness of the countryside people’s hearts, they gave temporary refuge and meals to the party since all they had in their stomach was water from the waterfall. Even a kind soul provided them with a four-battery flashlight that would light their way to Limón.
Of course, they didn’t lack a bit of swearing. From the bus driver, since he had the vehicular restriction and now, after 10 p.m. he could see the oncoming traffic ticket, and the participants, who had left their house at 5 a.m. and by 11 p.m. they were barely reaching Turrialba.
Author: Renier GAMBOA