We slung the fat bastard on a stretcher and carried him over hills and streams for miles. What else could we do? Pedro was a broken vessel: liver shriveled up and G-d knows how many other related diseases eating away at whatever dim spark was keeping him alive. Despite all of it, we still cared. He had trained us for this type of scenario. We just never imagined we’d be evacuating him from a jungle in 100 degree weather.
How we got here is too much to talk about right now. Suffice it to say there were some illegal elements along the journey. Dangerously illegal and, in hindsight, unnecessary and desperate. But pressure sometimes breeds poor decision-making and that is all I can come up with now by way of justification.
We finally cratered under the strain when it became apparent he’d stopped breathing. We’d have to bury him in the muck on a remote hillside three thousand kilometers from home. I asked for adventure, but this was morbid and exhausting. We finished shoveling as the rain pelted us and forced us to find a large tree for shelter. I looked at my comrades faces, streaked with mud and weighing the realization that we had at least two solid days of hiking to get back to camp. I farted and fell to the ground. Failure on all fronts and our guru buried in a muddy pit. Nobody spoke as the rain filled the nearby stream and forced it over its banks.
Someone had to lead now and our silence indicated that a hard choice was looming. Pedro would know just what to say. He didn’t say much, but your ears sure pricked up when he did. Direct, inspiring and efficient-that was him-but it surely wasn’t me. Crisis makes the man, or so I muttered. Nobody could even hear me over the storm and I doubt they would have been roused by my words.
Maybe it was better that way. I stood up and pointed, then I trudged off, not daring to look back. They might not follow, but I was going to lead.
© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.
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