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Chapter 19: Andrew's Hard Landing

As he flew through the air, Andrew decided that galloping his horse down the mountain was one of the stupider choices he had made in his life.  Right up there with hide-and-go-seek in a construction site, but he had an excuse for that one, having only been four at the time.  At 26, it was a lot harder to excuse stupidity.  But he would dwell on that later.  Right now, he had more pressing concerns, like how not to get killed on his landing.

His mind flashed to early airborne training and he heard Major Winthrop's voice lecturing on the keys to surviving a hard landing.  Roll with the landing.  Let the pack take most of the impact.  If on a downslope, slide and keep the feet forward.  It's easier to fix a broken leg than a broken crown.  Oh, and ignore the pain.  All bloody brilliant advice in theory.  Reality, on the other hand, was about to put theory to the test.

Andrew tucked into a ball, landed hard, and pitched forward.  He landed on his back.  Good.  Time to sprawl, arms out and legs forward to let the backpack taking the impact.  Too fast.  Tucking again.  Ignoring pain.  Pitching forward again.  Tumbling.  Landing on shoulder.  Ignoring pain.  Rolling to back.  Sprawling, arms out, feet down.  Seeing rock in path.  Twisting.  Ignoring the bloody pain.  Sliding.  Is that a ledge?  Sliding.  Falling.  Landing hard on side.  Ignoring the blasted, bloody pain.  Rolling to back.  Sprawling.  Sliding.  Slowing.  Sliding some more.  Slowing.  Arms out.  Feet down.  Slowing.  Stopping.  Stopped.

Breathe.

He stayed there, motionless, for a count of 100.  Then, he carefully began going through a mental checklist.  First, he tested his toes, and when they moved, be let out a sigh of relief.  Second, he flexed his fingers.  They moved also.  By the tenth part of the checklist, he had determined that all of his appendages moved.  Slowly, he tried turning his head to test his neck and found that also had a full range of motion. 

Andrew burst into laughter.  It hurt like hell, but he could not stop laughing.  He felt exhilarated.  He had cheated death -- and he felt alive.

"Andrew.  Drew.  Drew!"  The canyon walls echoed with the sound of his Mum's voice and for a moment he debated responding.  There would be hell to pay for his little outburst on the bluff, especially when Jeannie found out.  He tilted his head back to look up the slope.  He could not see the place where he fall, and then recalled sliding off a ledge during his tumble down the slope.  All he could see was dirt, scrub brush, and the remnants of his backpack and the picnic blanket, which lay strewn across the slope.  "Andrew.  Drew.  Drew!" the echoing shout came again, this time with 100% more panic.

With a groan, Andrew rolled over to his stomach and pulled himself to his hands and knees.  The side of his face was wet, and he wiped away some blood from a cut on his cheek.  He tried to survey the rest of the damage, spotting myriad cuts on his arms and legs, but those would heal.  Tonight and tomorrow, it would be a challenge to get out of bed, he would be so sore, but he could move for now.

"Mum, I'm okay," he called out, but from his position down the slope, his voice did not carry or echo like hers.  He had no idea how long it would take to climb up to her, and by that time, she would be a wreck and have half the state's search and rescue units looking for him.  An idea popped into his head and he began fishing around what was left of his jacket until he found his cell phone still zipped into the interior pocket.  Shockingly, it even had a few bars showing.  He pushed the speed dial for her number.

At the top of the hill, Kim was growing frantic.  She kept yelling for her son, but there was no response.  The slope was too sharp for her to walk, and she could not even see him.  Had he fallen all the way to the bottom?  That would be at least a thousand feet.  And there was nobody on the trail that she could see.  "Andrew!" she screamed again, waited for his name to stop reverberating through the canyon, and prayed for a response. 

How could she have let him run off like that?  She had pushed the subject, tried to force him to talk, when she knew he would push her away.  And now she might have killed her son, her wonderful, beautiful son.

Something in her jacket shuddered and she jumped.  Then she remembered she had her phone.  Of course, her phone.  She could call the Highway Patrol and get them so send out search and rescue.  Why didn't she think of that immediately?  How could she have been so panicked?  She pulled out the phone, prepared to tell the person on the other hand that she couldn't talk, when she saw the read out: "Andrew."  Her baby.

"Andrew, honey," she said, breathlessly into the phone.  "Tell me you're okay?"

"I'm okay, Mum," came her son's voice.  "Just a little banged up."

Relief flooded through Kim, but that feeling turned just as quickly to exasperation and anger.  "ANDREW SHAWN DONOVAN, HOW DARE YOU SCARE ME LIKE THAT!  YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!'

Down the slope, Andrew winced and lowered the phone from his ear.  He didn't need it.  Her screams echoed through the canyon loudly enough that he could hear every word.  So could most of Malibu.

"Hey, Mum," he said.

"What?"

"You know those letter things in Harry Potter?  The ones that open up and start screaming at the kids?"  He could almost hear her pursing her lips, but he finished the thought before she could say anything.  "You're doing a bloody brilliant impression of one right now.  I mean there might be some people at the beach who can't hear you, but they're probably old with hearing defects.  Anyway, would you mind holding off the yelling at least until I climb back up?  That going to be hard enough without worrying that the mountain will collapse from the sound waves."

He waited nervously for the screams to begin again, but they never came. 

"You're really okay?" his Mum asked softly.

"Yes.  Just some cuts and bruises.  I'll be the color of an aubergine tomorrow, but I can climb up.  Just be patient.  It could take a little while."  Andrew tried to come up with a distraction for her in the meantime.  "While I do that, can you check out Diamond?  If he's not sound, we'll need some help out of here.  Right, so, let me get cracking on this hill."

As the call clicked to an end, Kim let out a breath.  She could kill her son right now, but she also wanted to smother him in kisses.  She debated calling the Highway Patrol, but then figured Andrew had a good idea.  If the horses were okay and he was capable of riding, they could just ride out.  Plus, checking Diamond gave her something to do instead of worry.

For Andrew, the climb up the slope was a slow one.  Who would have thought finding handholds on a dirt slope in Malibu would rival his last climb in the French Alps?  The ground was so loose that it threatened to give way at every step.  He was sweating profusely by the time he reached the ledge and managed to pull himself back over it.  He lay there, caught his breath and looked up the slope, for the first time, seeing where the slope ended.  It was still a long way, but at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  His breather finished, he started climbing again.   He found some footholds and was just stretching his for fingers into a crevice when he heard his cell phone ring.  "Les Toreadors" from Carmen.  No, he groaned.  Only one woman in his life qualified for music from Carmen and her timing could not be worse.  He debated ignoring the call, but then realized her next call would be to their mother.  Better he fall again than let Jeannie hear about this whole episode from Mum.  Straddling the slope, he forcing his left hand deeper into the crevice, fished the phone out with his right hand, and held it to his ear.  "Hey, Sis."

"Where the hell are you?"  Jeannie's voice came through full-force, almost as loud as Mum's had been earlier.  "I've got lunch on the table."

Andrew looked up at the top of the slope, which was still about 100 yards away.  His grip was tenuous and hanging on the side of a mountain while talking on a cell phone probably was almost as high on that stupidity scale as racing the horse down the mountain.  But he needed to deflect his sister; the last thing he needed right now was Hurricane Jeannie.  "Sorry, Sis.  We've just had a trifle of a delay."

"Is Mom okay?  You didn't overtax her?"

"Her?"  Andrew bit his lip to curtail his initial response.  "Oh no, she's fine.  We, well, we just had a bit of a chat and I kind of let things, um, slip away."  He could envision the expression on Jeannie's face, a full-on pout.  He felt some dirt give way below his right foot.  "Um, look, Sis, I'm a bit hung up right now.  Can we continue this conversation when we get home? 

"And when will that be?"

"Oh, I don't know.  Maybe an hour or two.  Mum's having such a good time and she may not get a chance to ride again for awhile. "

"Fine," Jeannie said with a harrumph, and the line clicked dead. 

Andrew shoved the phone back into his pocket and grabbed quickly for a crevice with his right hand.  He pulled himself up, just as the dirt under his right foot gave way.  He scrambled to find a safe place to rest that foot, found one, and then gave himself a chance to breathe.  The top still seemed so far away.  Then it dawned on him that he had given himself a time limit for the rest of the climb, and he groaned in disbelief.  That, too, had to be pretty high on the stupidity scale.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Myrthala Miranda-Guzman
Apr. 3rd, 2011 08:51 am (UTC)
Love this!! This is just how I would have imagined Jeannie and Andrew to be. :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )