Back to writing Page

Shorty's Choice is intended to be amusing.

Shorty's Choice

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 overhang.

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

Back to writing Page