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HIS ROPE’S END

McGinty always found a way to keep his wits about him. An analytical mind was not something with which this cow poke had been blessed, and yet things worked out for him.

He was chosen ranch foreman because he had been at this for a long time. Add to that the fact that he could lasso better than anyone “the Boss” had seen, Mac was a shoe-in for the position.

Driving this beef had been arduous lately. The terrain seemed rougher and rougher, the cattle having grazed the old paths clean. There was space in the high country that was relatively untouched. McGinty thought if he could take them through Cherub’s Pass, he’d kill two birds with one stone.

The incline was rather gradual, so the strain wasn’t overtly terrible. But the ledge of the Pass seemed to narrow as they went further up. Mac thought of scrapping the idea, but he had too much time invested in it, plus he didn’t need some ambitious hand taking him down. On they went.

Near the rear of the pack, McGinty heard a rather raucous noise; his animals were in distress. One of them anyway, but the rest of the herd sounded the alert. A young calf, had strayed behind and had gotten too near the edge of the ravine. It was a minor drop, but it still had separated it from the rest of the herd.

McGinty secured his rope around a stump and then around his waist. The other hands lowered him to the calf. As he worked to calm the animal he felt something hit his back. It was the other end of his lasso. He needn’t worry about an ambitious hand; an unscrupulous one was just as dangerous.

“You babysit, Foreman! I’ll take ’em from here!’ shouted the villainous varmint.

He had been duped. And there McGinty sat, stroking the calf and trying to think his way out of trouble. Surely he had come to the end of his rope

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TO THE HEIGHTS, AND DEPTHS AND BREATH

J.P.’s father had given up the ghost. Or at least his body did. His heart carried on the struggle.

John Panella, Sr. had battled liver cancer for the last four months, relinquishing fourteen of the months he had been allotted. But he had lapsed in and out of consciousness, flirting with coma for the past three days.

Here lay a man who had been the pinnacle of who J.P. wanted to be. He wondered how a man of such lofty stature could fall so far, so quickly. Sedated now, morphine became his extreme solution in heavy doses.

“To make him comfortable” the nurse offered.

“To render him unreachable” John Jr. thought.

As so he sat at his father’s right side; his sister on the left. They took turns talking to the man who had given them every bit of life he could.

“I love you, Daddy!” his sister Louise whispered to her un-hearing father.

John smiled at the sentiment. But the reality hit him sharply. He couldn’t remember the last time he and his father had exchanged such words. It just wasn’t the way the men in his family handled things, he thought. He surely knows, J.P. thought.

Hours spent clamped to their father’s bony hands, black with necrosis and faintly gripping back. Breathing was a chore he had no energy to undertake, but it kept insinuating itself into his routine. The elder John gagged and gurgled. His children thought it was his last gasp. They held their own breath as well. But his chest fell and rose again. Still erratic, but still expelled.

John Panella, Sr.’s face was ashen and his eyes occupied deep depressions in his skull. His lips were turning blue and his hands were cold and still. His eyes flashed momentarily and a slight smile graced his face. His chest rose one last time ending in a long drawn-out exhalation. His last breath.

J.P. noticed that death felt the same as life did mere moments ago. His father’s battle was over. He needed not fight any longer. Now John Jr. and his sister could breathe easier.

The young man leaned close to his father’s right ear to whisper what had always remained unsaid.

 

Copyright © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2012

EXTINGUISHING THE FLAME

Simeon Kimbuutu knew the time had come. This was his personal finish line. His last Olympic Games. At 47 years of age, Simeon had accomplished all he could in his storied career as a long distance runner. He was a national hero in his country. The small African Nation of Calderone could never be more proud of their native son. Kimbuutu had won his share of medals. But he saw his last chance slipping away.

The runners from Kenya and Ethiopia were very strong and had dominated the sport since Simeon’s last gold medal finish. The Calderone harrier didn’t think he stood a chance against them now.

He had been slated to run the second heat of his event. His stretched his tight muscles, not truly getting relief or confidence. Simeon stood with his hands on his hips and looked around at the throng of spectators.

Bright banners were sparsely scattered throughout the stadium. The cacophonous roar filled his head, but did nothing to motivate Simeon. At that moment, all previous medals slipped from his memory. All the training he had done still left him ill-prepared for the fray. Being the oldest competitor in this young man’s sport had Kimbuutu feeling old.

Simeon looked to the end of the Paladia where the caldron stood ablaze. But, all he saw was an impossible feat. He held no passion. His feet felt like they had been cemented to the track. The starter called the runners to position.

But Simeon Kimbuutu had nothing left. He had lost his fire.