It was a shortcut that I would regret for the rest of my life. I had planned everything down to the last detail, but for the mayonaise. I hate the stuff myself, which is probably why it didn't leave the store with me when I did the bulk of my shopping. So, I decided to hoof it to the Circle K and get a small jar. I'm sure I'd pay the premium for convenience, but what else was there to do?
It was just a short way to the store and the car was stuffed with all my gear. I didn't want to drive it until I officially hit the road. I dashed out of the front door with my wallet and hit the pavement. It was beginning to drizzle and mist, which I hardly noticed. It was just another day in an era of almost constant meteorological moodiness we'd been experiencing since the beginning of June: Extreme heat, humidity thick enough to slice for sandwiches and precipitation that lingered around like your kid sister and rained down on you if you tried to play outside without her.
I cut through the neighbor's yard and began to navigate my way through the woods that separated their property from the park. It was damp under the trees and the earthy aroma of dead, wet leaves wafted upwards as my feet rumpled their slumber. The wildlife were restless; squirrels chased each other around, mad with the damp. They were probably just trying to get dry for once. I could hear crows arguing as the way began to tilt downward.
I'd taken this shortcut numerous times. Sure, it's a bit steep once you get past the first line of trees, but since there are so many trees, there's always something to grab onto and work your way down the hill. Confident in this knowledge and a feeling the pressure to get there and back, I began to follow my usual path down the slope. Grab a tree with one hand, strike out with one foot, reach to the next tree with the other. It was a sort of arborial hoedown, the rhythm of which was marked in my muscles so that I didn't really have to think about it.
My mind returned to my to-do list. I rethought through it and was just coming to the end of it when I heard a snap and my internal programing was interrupted by a broadcast of a pain. It bleated from my ankle all the way up my leg. My momentum was such that I continued to take one step and then another on the bad foot and fell face forward into a hot mud goulash. I lifted my head and blinked in time to watch my wallet dance down the hillside and land in the creek below.
I hung my head, gasping. I remembered my lamaze training and began to focus on something in the distance. Breath in through the nose, out through the mouth. I couldn't have broken anything, I thought as the pain stopped screaming and started to pout. I lifted myself into the cobra position and pulled my good foot under me. I started to drag my other foot forward, when the pain remembered what it was so pissed off about and began to rant anew.
I dropped down to my elbows and rolled on my side, digging for my phone. No phone. Shit. I could see a tree in front of me that was somewhat substantial. I walked myself there with my arms, dragging my wounded foot behind me. I was able to situate myself with my back against the tree and my legs aimed up the hill to keep the damn thing elevated.
As it began to rain, I had time to pull my ball cap down over my face and consider the implications of my situation. I'll never make it to the camp grounds now. And it was our last chance. We were going to give it one more shot. He took the kids for a week in Mohican State Park and I was to join them there for the weekend. They will have spent the week in a tent, but in concession to my contempt for camping out, he arranged for us to have a cabin for the last couple of days of their trip. I agreed to bring mayonaise and sandwiches and other refrigerated luxuries. We were going to leave our egos and attitudes on the firepile and try to start again. And now I'm a no show and incommunicado.
All the old arguments rafted through my mind. Every complaint he ever had about me floated to the surface for my examination. I began to form a vision of the consequences of this shortcut. I constructed the set, casted and directed our final showdown, complete with lawyers and child psychiatrists. I also imagined the possiblility with this weather and my location, the crows wouldn't have much to argue about in the very near future. Either way I was carrion for scavengers.