…Without A Paddle
You mull over your choices for a short pause, and then decide what to do.
“I don’t think we should chance the waterfall with your leg,” you say. “And frankly, I don’t think I’d be lucky if I tried testing the waterfall a second time. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up falling and breaking something worse.”
“Right, right, fair,” Erin says.
“And that incline you fell down? I don’t think kangaroos are built to hop up steep slopes like that, let alone steep slopes made of rocks.” You grimace. “Ten to one, we’ll slip and tumble down, or I dunno, the rocks would give way and we’d get swallowed up by some kind of rockslide. So unless you’re really aiming to be insane, I think our best bet is to follow the river.”
Erin laughs. “You got a good head on your shoulders, mate. Better than my own, at least with this whole mess. I’m down for trying it, either way.”
You nod, and, then comes the first hurdle: getting back up to where you were.
“Um, so,” you say, looking up the ledge, then back to Erin. “Can kangaroos, you know, walk… normally?”
“If we really try, aye, we can,” Erin says. She smiles at you. “And so you know, I don’t think shouldering my weight’s gonna make a difference. All I ask is you stay ahead of me and keep an eye out for any trouble, right? I’ll limp behind you until we get to the top, and we’ll figure things out from there.”
“Are you sure?” you ask.
She nods. “I’m a stubborn sheila, mate. Gonna have to accept I won’t take help unless I absolutely need it. Again, I appreciate it, but I can do it on my own.”
You don’t exactly like the idea, of course, but you don’t want to argue over the point with Erin. So you do as she suggests: you take the lead and start to trek back up the way you just came, but you hop incredibly slowly, enough that you don’t get too far ahead of her. You pause to peer over your shoulder and see, yes, Erin is walking like a normal human. Or, limping like a normal human.
Part of her doing this looks rather comical given the way kangaroos tend to move, seeing some tall, bulky kangaroo limping along on one big foot while the other is barely moving or touching the ground. But her grunting and wincing are audible enough that it saps away the sense of humor, at least for you.
‘Stubborn people are something else,’ you think, shaking your head.
“Aw, piss off, don’t give me that head shake,” Erin mutters.
What follows is the slowest ascent you think you’ve ever taken part in, in any stretch of the phrase. You move a tiny bit at a time up via an equally tiny hop, pause to let Erin take a few limping half-steps, and then hop a bit again. Rinse and repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and time slogs on by.
But you remain silent and don’t complain about it, and simply keep an eye on Erin as the two of you make your way upward. It’s a steady, snail-paced process for sure, yet it works, despite the obvious discomfort Erin is in limping up the way she is.
“You sure you don’t want a hand?” you ask.
“Positive,” Erin says through her teeth. “Besides,” she grunts, “you’re a female roo, mate. I’m a male. I’m heavier and bulkier than you, so it wouldn’t be easy for you to help push me along. Sorry,” she grunts again and gasps, “ah, fuck this isn’t pleasant.”
You sigh but don’t belabor the point.
She isn’t the worst offender of being the most hardheaded person you’ve ever met before, but, she’s definitely up there, you feel. Still, you respect her tenacity, even if you have to resist the urge to ignore her protests and just help her anyways. You know better and keep soldiering on, the same way she does.
Time passes in a crawl until you manage to get to the top portion where you spot the gap between where you both are and where you need to be to get to the river. Now your mind races and you begin to wonder how the hell you’ll get Erin across when her leg is injured. You ponder this by glancing around, only to halt when you turn back toward Erin to see her trudging along after you.
She’s a few feet below you, doing her best at moving without hurting herself further. You wait for her, and let her make her way up the path. She’s breathing heavily and looking pretty in pain, yet you stay silent out of respect, and watch.
“Holy shite,” she mutters.
It takes another minute for her to get to the spot where she can finally step over onto flat ground, and when she does, she nearly collapses. You reach out your hands to help steady her, and she nods to you in thanks for that.
“Mind if I sit for a moment?” Erin asks.
“Not at all,” you say.
She limps over and flops down on the chunk of rock that points up to the even steeper incline, and she lets out a loud, exasperated breath. You can’t help but chuckle while she collects herself, and now that she’s here with you, you take a moment to again scan the surrounding area for any sort of method to help you both get across safely.
“Oh, you have gotta be pissing on my tits,” Erin says after a short silence.
You blink several times at such a humorous and random phrase, then turn to see her eyeing not you but past you at the gap, a look of frustration now adorning her face.
“You jumped that, I take it?” Erin asks.
“Yeah,” you say. “Overshot the jump, but, still made it safely. Nowhere near as taxing as trying to jump and then speed climb up the waterfall ledge.”
“Right, that’s dandy and all,” Erin says. “But how the fuck are we both gonna get across the gap? I can’t jump, ‘cause if I try, I’m probably gonna hurt myself even worse. Or miss and fall to my death.” She shrugs. “Might honestly have to wait for my ankle to recover to make this work, mate. I’m not seeing an out here.”
“No, no, give me a moment,” you say.
You scan the area again, and after a bit of uncertainty, you notice that you do, in fact, have a few options. Two different things present themselves to you, and you swear you’ve been thrown into a video game - now you need to figure out which of those two ideas will work the best in helping Erin across.
“I’ve got two ideas,” you say.
Erin eyes you. “I’m listening…?”
You point to the left. “You see that flat bit of rock sticking up from the mound over there? I think if I time a kick right, I might be able to kick it off…” You look up, then double check from a distance. “If I can angle the kick, that flat rock should land RIGHT over the gap for you to get across.”
“Or,” you say, and you point to the right, “see that? I’m ninety percent sure that’s a boulder right there, just chilling on a ledge with enough space I think I can actually kick it down and roll it over to fill the gap.” You nod as you say this. “Either one should be big enough to fill up the hole for you.”
Erin continues to stare. “Um. You do realize this is real life, right? And not a video game where that kinda shit would work?”
You stare back at her. “We are talking to one another while wearing kangaroo costumes stuck to our bodies. Yours is male. Mine is female.”
She blinks, then nods. “Fair enough.”
You smile, then look from one option to the next. Which will you pick?
Written by Hollowpage on 19 September 2020