Endurance (Prose)

The second figure was obviously younger than the first, and obviously weaker. Their packs were the same size, but the wisened face in front topped an erect and comfortable posture. He strode methodically but casually, a walking stick in one hand that seamed more along for the ride than a support. Behind, bent in a posture that might have indicated gail-force headwinds except that the day was calm and sunny, the slighter figure struggled against the weight of his load.

The stretch they traversed at this particular moment was a straight, gentle incline along an exposed part of the trail. It would have allowed an observer in the valley below to enjoy the caricature for some time before they disappeared around the side of the mountain. They ambled in this manner for quite some time, the smaller hiker in the back apparently struggling against quite a different set of elements than the relaxed man a few paces ahead soaking in the pleasantness of the day.

As they neared the curve in the trail and it became apparent that there was no prospect of respite immediately ahead, the younger could take no more. “Wait, hold on,” he gasped, his hands on his knees. Snapped out of his contented musings, the elder of the two seemed surprised for a moment that he had someone following him at all but stopped at once. He turned attentively, surveyed the harrowed figure for a moment, was momentarily awed by the view off the side of the mountain afforded by the stop, and then returned his attention back to the present.

“How are you holding up?” His voice was kind, slightly scratchy from having not been used in a few hours. He backtracked and put a hand on the bent shoulder, gauging the level of exhaustion. At the first sign of true physical danger, he would immediately intervene. But like he expected, this was merely child’s discomfort.

Shoulders still heaving, the younger craned a pained visage to meet the elder’s eyes. “Why are we doing this?!” was all he could manage after a moment.

“You asked me to make you stronger,” came the reply with a slight smile.


One thought on “Endurance (Prose)”

  1. Chris

    Hmmm, that’s really nice. I really didn’t know what that last line was going to be, and it was a nice lemon drop moment (a phrase coined by Neil Gaiman – not a joke, nor a deep ponder, just something that’s placed there that makes you smile). There were a lot of lemon drops in this short little story. There were some clunky places in between where I got tripped up as a reader, but this is nice. The juxtaposition in how you describe the two characters is so so excellent!


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