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is intended to be amusing.
Let me change gears and spin a tale about a misguided climber who for
the purpose of telling this story, we will call "Shorty."
Shorty's Choice is about a guy who made a pretty bad choice. Everyone,
from time to time, makes bad choices. Sometimes the bad choices don't
amount to much, some are no worse than a bad move in a game of checkers.
Sometimes the bad choice is more serious like, ordering the liver special
at the local cafe. Other times it is a very bad choice, such as
choosing the wrong path life and moving to a flat state like Nebraska.
All of the above choices are pretty awful, but there are far worse choices
a person can make and Shorty's Choice is a sad tale indeed. In
Greek tragedies the hero is always brought down by his own vanity, rather
than any other adversity. So it is with our protagonist.
Shorty craved the recognition and respect of his climbing peers. He
had recently managed to make the second ascent of a very difficult rock
climb, which climbers had named; Call 911. In the
Climber's Guide to Imagination Gulch, Call 911 is rated
5.12d. This climb would be a milestone in many a climber's career and
was Shorty's "personal best." Shorty had trained hard to gain
the strength and fitness necessary to climb Call 911, and deserved
to be pleased with his effort, but he wasn't satisfied.
While Shorty had developed into an excellent rock climber, he would
never be a rock star. Shorty decided that he would free-solo Call
911. Free-soloing is climbing without a safety rope or any other
protective equipment... Like any stunt such as, a trapeze act without
a net, free-soloing leaves no room for mistakes... Then, he thought,
even the best climbers would acknowledge his bravery, women would want
to go climbing with him, and he might even be asked to speak at the
International Climber's Festival.
It was a cool Autumn morning when Shorty hiked up the trail to the base
of his climb. There were no other people in the canyon that day, and
as Shorty snugged the laces on his climbing shoes, his fear was hidden
by the attention he imagined he would receive. Everything went
well at first. After forty-five feet, Shorty reached the first overhang.
He knew that if he changed his mind now, he could climb down and go
home, but above this overhang he wouldn't be able to climb down. Shorty
imagined that glory would be his, gritted his teeth, and climbed the
Call 911 is a short climb-- only eighty feet tall, but the hard
part, the crux, is nearer the end, at the sixty-foot level. By now Shorty
was tired. His forearms were swollen and he was pale with fear. Shaking
violently, he just barely made it through the crux, but in haste, placed
a foot improperly, which skidded off the hold. Shorty's tired arms couldn't
withstand the force of the slip.
The wind in Shorty's ears made a coarse, rushing sound, like silk being
pulled through a knot hole. For a moment, Shorty thought he might actually
be dreaming or that he might fall forever... then after a micro-second
flash of searing, bright light, there was nothing but dark terror that
went on and on and on.
When Shorty awakened it was in the hospital. As he emerged from the
terrifying blackness, he was surprised by two things-- to be alive,
and by how much he was hurting. Shorty and had lain crumpled for two
days and a night before two hikers happened upon his impact zone.
During the fall, Shorty's instincts had taken over and he hit the rocky
ground like a two-legged cat. Amazingly, only his legs had
been broken, and he would have been okay had he been discovered right
away. However, because he lay unconscious for two days with a compound
fracture in one wrecked leg, gangrene had set in. By the time
he was rescued there was no choice: amputate or die.
What next took place was a tragedy the likes of which you only read
about... Somehow, a mistake was made and the non-gangrenous leg
was removed. When this was discovered, the choice remained: amputate
or die. The second leg was removed.
Shorty's climbing forever was finished. The climbers that Shorty
had sought to impress, pitied him. but also, if the truth were
told, they looked down their noses at a fool who attempted a meaningless
stunt and had reaped what he sowed. Shorty was crippled, dejected,
out of work and terribly depressed.
Desperate, Shorty brought suit against the hospital that made the mistake
of amputating the wrong leg and then, having no choice, had amputated
his gangrenous limb.
When Shorty's day in court arrived, he was wheeled into the legal chambers
only to have the judge throw his case out of court. The judge
threw the case out because he said, Shorty, "didn't have a leg
to stand on."
© 2000 Paul Piana
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