The Monadnock Roar
I rarely lose my temper. But Eliot’s words undid something in me. I didn’t hit him, but I’m sure he thought I had by the suddenness with which I pushed his arms away from his face.
I began yelling. I pulled Eliot to his feet and pushed him past the boulders and into the trees. I never once let go of him; I just continued to push him down and ahead. And all the while, I never stopped yelling.
“Come on, Eliot! Fight! Don’t let anyone or anything take away the greatest moment and the greatest day you’ve ever known! Don’t give it up, Eliot! Please don’t!”
And he didn’t. He fought. He found and strained some sort of energy into his legs and started down, on his own.
I followed him. I remained several yards behind him for fear of breaking the spell. Sluggishly, like a large snail, he lowered himself down the now muddied mountain. Several times he slid, but his large hand always found a root or a rock. More than once, I wanted to help him, to lift him to his feet and have him lean against me, but I didn’t. The glazed staring of his eyes always told me not to. Instead, I’d sit for a moment and wait. And all the time, the rain continued.
We probably had made it about halfway down when we came to the place where the trail was being washed away. It was too late, though, by the time I saw it. I’m not sure if Eliot ever did. Before I could even get the words out, the ground crumbled and rushed downhill, Eliot’s large and limp body going with it.
Eliot had become twisted around and was belly down, his face lifted toward me, his arms outstretched, his fingers separated and oozing streams of mud as he slid farther and farther away. I hurled myself after him. It had to have been at least a hundred yards before we stopped. Eliot was practically buried. I feared he was suffocating, so I clawed and scraped to free him. He began coughing and sneezing away the impacted dirt. Then he lay back in my arms and let the rain wash his face.
We stayed that way for awhile, Eliot cradled in my arms while I listened to his breathing and waited for the sound of voices to come and help us. I remember thinking how sad it was that we had been defeated. There was much we had overcome, much we had accomplished, but not to make it all the way, on our own, was in reality a defeat.
It was then I heard the roar. Eliot swore he never heard a thing. But I know I did. It was the kind of sound that turns hair white. A deep, fierce, almost deafening roast.
I froze, my heart pounding, my mind racing. Then I lifted Eliot, struggled up the slippery incline to the trail, and sat him down on it. I barely remember doing it, but Eliot said it was a practically supernatural feat, and if he hadn’t been there, he would never have believed it.