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Patrick hunched down in his coat as the winter air swirled around him. His nose was already numb from being outside so long and he swore his toes had all frozen together into one big lump in his boots, making it close to impossible to walk. But he had to keep going. This was his only chance to put an end to this misery. To finally break free of everything that had been holding him down and keeping him from all his life could be.
He took in a deep breath through his frozen nose, coughed as the cold air hit his lungs and thought about turning back. Stopping, he turned to look at how far he had come, what he had faced to make it this far. Even though he only saw mountains and snow his mind conjured up everything he'd faced from the time he'd started his journey until now. Patrick turned to look at how much farther he'd have to go before it was finished and he could rest, warm and snug somewhere, anywhere, once this was over.
"I can't stop. I have to keep going." He said aloud. The wind replied back with a sharp blast to his front and he closed his eyes against the shills racing over his skin. Patrick couldn't stop, not because he didn't want to but because he was afraid to.
Patrick stopped abruptly when he ran into the back of Tom, a tall beast of a man who seemed to be more hair than flesh.
“What’s wrong Tom?” Patrick asked.
“We’re not going to make it.” Tom said turning to face Patrick.
“Everything is going to be…” Patrick stopped abruptly as he saw Tom’s face. Much of his beard and eyebrows were frozen and his nose and cheeks had begun to turn an ominous ashen color.
“I can’t pull it anymore.” Tom yelled through the wind. “He’ll probably die anyway, even if we can get him back.” Tom looked away from Patrick’s stare.
In the makeshift sled the two men were dragging behind them lay the broken body of Paul Hopper, “World Traveler and Adventurer and Author of 17 books” and quite secondarily…Patrick’s father.
Patrick had grown up nearly an Orphan to his Father’s many adventures. But, worse than an Orphan he had to suffer the almost unbearable barrage of comments from admirer’s
“how great it must be to have such an adventurous father…”
“Your childhood must be like a dream, going to such exotic places…”
Truth be told, Patrick had spent most of his life with one Nanny or another. The man in the sled behind him was as much a stranger to him as anyone you would pass on the street.
“We can’t just leave him!” Patrick shouted back. Yet Patrick said so without much feeling, knowing in his heart that he could leave him, he could very easily walk on ahead and just let the rope falter behind him. If they made it out, they could easily tell people that they had tried desperately to help him but had to save themselves.
Thinking of leaving your father to die even when you have no love for his was still more than Patrick was willing to do. Besides, if by some chance, his father lived through this ordeal and found that Patrick had left him behind, he would never live it down. He could see the headlines, “Adventurer’s Son leaves Father on Mountain to die!”
“I’m going to pull him if I have to do it myself.” Patrick said
“Patrick, you’ll die, we have to be practical. With the fall your Father took, he’ll probably die anyway. Why should we die with him?”
“If my Father is going to die, It will be because I killed him.” Patrick smiled.
Tom attempted a smile, but could only manage a wink of his eye. He shook his head and handed Patrick the rope.
“he’s my father, I’ll get him home” Patrick said
“Well it’s going to have to be in the morning, it’s getting dark we had better try and find shelter” Tom said pointing to a small ridge in among some tree’s.
Patrick hoisted the rope back up over his shoulder and headed for the ridge, his father in tow.
Tom pulled his shovel from his pack and began digging a make shift snow cave. He looked the part of a mountain man, but most of his training had been in law school not the wilderness. He had learned most of his survival skills from reading Paul Hopper’s books and had only befriended him 2 years ago after doing some legal work for him, following his divorce.
Patrick stood nearby looking after his father. He could tell he was still breathing, but just barely. He could be of no help to Tom anyway, since he had never bothered to read any of his father’s survival books. When Tom had finished, he pulled himself into the shelter and with him pulling and Tom pushing, they managed to get the broken man into the cave.
The two men huddled in the small cave putting Patrick’s father between them.
They lay for a long time in silence in the darkness of the cave, with the wind dancing around outside. Patrick, drifted in thoughts of much better headlines…”ADVENTURER, PAUL HOPPER, SAVED FROM CERTAIN DEATH BY HIS ONLY SON!” He pictured himself on Oprah with his father, them arm in arm explaining the near death experience to the world.
“Yeah Tom, what is it?” Patrick asked.
“What do you figure our chances are?”
“Chances of what?” Patrick asked, knowing full well what he meant.
“If I were a betting man, I’d have to say about even.” Patrick said smiling to the darkness.
“Can I ask you something personal?”
“Why do you seem to have so much disregard for your Father, when so many of his fans, including myself, love and admire him?”
Patrick sat with the question a while, it felt bitter in his stomach. His initial reaction was to strike out at Tom and tell him that he didn’t know “the great Paul Hopper” at all. But that wasn’t true, especially Tom and probably thousands of fans like him might know him better than Patrick himself. He felt embarrassed to utter what he was about to say, reminiscent of the church confessional, Patrick was glad that Tom couldn’t see his face in the darkness.
“Tom, the truth is I don’t really know my father. I’ve spent my whole life trying to get to know him and still at 33 years of age, here in a snow cave, hugging to him desperately, I have no idea who this man is.” The bitterness in his stomach rolled over and he Patrick felt for a minute that he might be sick.
Tom shifted his weight in the cave a little. “Patrick, your father told me in confidence that he regretted not being there for you as a kid. He realizes he traded your love and respect for the adventures he has had. I think that was part of why he had invited you on this trip, to begin to make things better.”
“Then why spend the first two days berating me and calling me weak?” Patrick said.
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him, but he did bring you out here and he did give you that nice gift you didn’t even bother to open. Maybe you aren’t trying to get to know him as hard as you think, he certainly seems to be making an effort.” Tom Said.
“You know, excuse me for saying so Tom, but fuck you, fuck you very much. My so called father makes little effort and when he does, you can usually bet that there is something in it for him. As for the so called ‘gift’ it’s nothing more than a copy of his latest book and on top of that, he gave it to me out here so I would have the pleasure of carrying it back, that’s why I didn’t open it.
“I’m sorry Patrick, but it’s the sign of effort that he was making, he told me that he wanted to make things better.”
“Well, I wish he had taken the time to tell me.” Patrick said with tears in his voice. “Tom, what I know of you, you are a good man. I don’t begrudge you and I certainly don’t mean to be harsh, but there are a lot of things between me and my father you can’t understand.”
“I guess you are right Pat, you know what is best for you.” Tom said. As he shifted his weight again, a small patch of snow fell on Patrick’s face, he could feel the melting snow begin to bite. As sleep reached the men, both of them had a unified thought in the black silence of the snow cave, they realized they may never wake again.
The slow stirring that mornings often bring was followed by the astonishing realization that Patrick was alive. As Patrick’s senses awoke, he could feel the cold ache in his legs and feet, he could see the light that filtered in through the snow and he could hear that the wind seemed to have stopped blowing. Then he heard something else, something much more amazing…Patrick heard voices.
Patrick sat across from Tom in the back of the van as the mountain rescue team drove them towards the hospital. They had no idea that the body they carried in the other van was anyone of any importance. Neither Patrick, nor Tom had told them, figuring they would find out soon enough when the media got word.
It seems Patrick’s father had given him two gifts in that package, a copy of his latest book and the Global Positioning System device that had saved their lives.
Following the funeral, the mourners had all left and Patrick sat down on the sofa, leaning forward he picked up the book his father had given him. Opening the front cover he read…
To my son Patrick:
You have paid for my adventures with your childhood and for that I am truly sorry. I hope that what adventures I have left will be shared with you. I owe you more than I will ever know…
P.S. Hope you like the gift.
It wasn't my fault...I fell asleep and missed my stop.