Only six Boy Scouts could find a place to grip my litter at a time. That’s a standard set of pallbearers, but not enough to hoist and carry a body like mine over uneven ground. They kept dropping me; which resulted in my passing in and out of consciousness, as well as adding to the already considerable number of bruises I possessed.
At last, one clumsy scout tripped over a rock and I tumbled out of the stretcher on top of him. He screamed so much to get me off him that I thought he was making sport of my weight; until, at last, they lifted me up and found that I had broken his leg.
This turned out to be the same Boy Scout that had revived me. He shot me a few dirty looks and I could tell he thought I had done him ill despite his saving my life. I didn’t believe I had anything to apologize for. I didn’t ask him to do CPR. I’d been happy flitting about with my newly freed soul. He’s the one who wanted to be a hero and thought he’d do it at my expense. Furthermore, my legs have been carrying my weight for years without breaking, so don’t blame me if yours are weak and brittle.
I knew I was expected to feel and express gratitude. I was aware of all the trouble these people were going to on my account. The problem was; I didn’t feel any gratitude. In fact, I was pissed off. Pissed that I was back in this body I hated, living the life of a worm. I worried about the state of my face. Judging by the look in everyone’s’ eyes, I must have been horribly disfigured. I wasn’t walking, although I didn’t know why, and I wondered whether I would ever walk again. Moreover, my passing in and out of consciousness forestalled any attempt to work through these feelings and my inability to speak clearly hindered my articulating an acceptable appreciation.
Someone remembered that Native Americans, who had no need for the wheel, dragged their sick and maimed on a travois. So, they put the lame Boy Scout at one end of the litter, rolled me on the other, and efficiently drew the two of us down the mountain. They ingeniously rigged poles so that eight boys could push abreast while the Scoutmaster urged them on like a slave driver in old Egypt. Several more Boy Scouts followed us. They rested from pushing by carrying everyone’s’ packs.
It was with this retinue that I made a triumphal arrival to Barr Camp, a log cabin halfway on the trail to Pike’s Peak. We caused quite a stir among the caretakers and lounging hikers by our coming. I guess nothing quite so exciting has happened here in a long time. Everyone seemed to be talking at once, giving the lame Boy Scout high fives because the word had quickly spread that he had saved me. Every single one looked over my injuries as befuddled men will stare at a car’s engine with the hood up. Had my soul escaped again without my realizing? There’s a person here, I wanted to say, but I still couldn’t speak clearly.
I had the words all lined up, but somehow I just couldn’t coax my mouth to say them. Everything came out all garbled, as if I still was eating gravel. It might be just as well, though. If they had heard me, they all might have concluded that I was an ungrateful wretch and left me on the trail or pitched me and my litter down a ravine.
We were a mile and a half from the Cog Railway station. Four well-built men, members of the Olympic Bobsledding team, volunteered to carry me to meet the train. They said it would be good workout, but I didn’t see that they needed it. The troop of Boy Scouts could manage their crippled hero on their own. Therefore, without delay, two litters set out to the station.
If I could’ve spoken, I would’ve told them that they had it all wrong and I was just the one to correct them. I had recently come from the other side. They thought they knew what would make this world a better place. Just a few adjustments; show some kindness, make some sacrifices, carry a litter, save a life. The fact is: things are perfect as they are. Everything is provided, in abundance. We don’t even have to go around saving lives, they’re saved for us. We have parachutes, so why bother keeping this noisy, fuel consuming, exhaust belching plane aloft, where we’re strapped to a seat that’s too small, with no legroom, when, if we’d just give it all up, we’d glide serenely through the air.
I fumbled around, feeling for my composition book. Someone had placed it with me in my stretcher, but, in my groping, I knocked it off and it fell on the trail. A scout picked it up and attempted to thumb through it, but the wet pages had mushed together. He shrugged and, disregarding every rule in the Scout handbook against littering, tossed it aside into the underbrush, as if it had no value.