Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Pitfalls"

This poem is spillover from the September 16, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rix_scaedu and DW user Peoriapeoriawhereart.  It also fills the "disability (temporary)" square in my 3-6-14 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the series P.I.E.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses. So far sponsors include: janetmiles, kestrels_nest, Rosemary, general fund, DW user Dialecticdreamer

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Pitfalls


For once it was Darrel's job,
and not Brenda's, that
got them both in trouble.

He had spent weeks undercover
stalking a major crime ring responsible
for smuggling drugs into the city.

Brenda was supposed to be
just a consultant this time,
searching the internet for
breadcrumbs and connections
with some help from Zephyr.

Unfortunately the drugrunners
tracked her to their meeting place
and ambushed the two of them.

Brenda and Darrel were taken
far out into a forest and dumped
into a deep hole in the ground.

The weather was already frigid
and rapidly getting colder.
They weren't meant to make it out.

It was meant to look like an accident --
a hiking trip gone wrong -- and it was
even plausible given how well people
knew their love of the wilderness.

Brenda sat up and looked around.
Then she groaned. "This pit
must be ten or twelve feet deep.
With the ground half-frozen, it's going
to be difficult to dig handholds
so that we can climb out."

"I can't climb anywhere," Darrel said,
lifting his left hand away from his right forearm
to show a distinct bump of broken bone
under the skin, where earlier he had
blocked a blow aimed at Brenda's head.

"Well, crap," said Brenda. "I guess
I'll just have to climb for both of us, then.
Help me search for something to dig with.
I need a sturdy stick, or better yet, a sharp rock."

The pit was easily the size of a closet,
its floor covered with autumn leaves
and a thick dusting of snow, under which
were some branches and, farther down,
frozen mud and gravel with a few stones.

In the end they managed to find
a flat rock the size of Brenda's hand
and a short stick that came to a point.

"I can dig left-handed," Darrel said.

"Okay," Brenda said. "It will go faster
this way. Dig from the top down. Make
a notch that slants in to a flat base.
I'll mark where to put them."

She had to stand up for a few seconds
to indicate the higher positions, and
then she scrambled onto Darrel's shoulders
to stretch above that, although even then
she could not reach the edge of the pit.

When Brenda got back down,
she started scraping away the dirt
to make the lowest of the handholds.

Darrel worked on the higher ones,
which meant that Brenda got dirt in her hair,
but digging together kept them both
at least somewhat warm and would
get them out of the trap sooner.

"That's the last of them," Darrel declared
as he brushed the loose bits away
from the highest of the handholds.

"Take off your belt, get behind me,
and hook your left arm over my shoulder,"
Brenda said. She anchored the belt
around Darrel's right arm above the elbow
and fastened the rest to his left arm
to hold them securely together.
"Sorry, this is going to hurt, but if we
stay here then we'll both freeze."

Brenda took hold of the dirt ladder
and began to climb, Darrel's weight
at her back no worse than some packs
she had carried in the past, although
she hated the way he whimpered
against the side of her neck.

She tried not to jostle him too much,
but it was still a miserable climb.

Brenda wasn't looking forward
to the trek home either. With
neither wheelchair nor crutches
she couldn't travel on her own.

Darrel had the worst of it, though,
judging from the muffled sounds he made.
Letting Darrel carry her out of the woods
wouldn't hurt anything but her pride.

When Brenda hauled herself over the edge
of the hole, however, she began to laugh.

There in the snowswept leaves
lay her wheelchair, tilted on its side
to suggest a sudden tumble into the pit.

"Did they frisk it?" Darrel asked.
The thugs had taken both their guns.

Brenda ran her hands over the chair
and quickly produced her tactical baton,
a large sheathed knife, and her keychain.
Sadly neither her cell phone nor Darrel's
were anywhere within sight.

She took off the carabiner and the split-ring,
then swiftly unraveled the paracord keychain
to produce three five-foot lengths of cord.

Inside lay a thin roll of cash, a metal file,
a tube of waterproof matches, a fishhook
in a plastic sleeve, and a miniature compass.

Brenda used one piece of cord,
the sheath from her knife,
and the baton to fashion
a splint for Darrel's broken arm.
"Everything will be fine," she assured him.

"Yeah, it's better with my weight on my feet,"
Darrel said. "What about you?"

"I'll need help to move," Brenda admitted
as she climbed into the wheelchair.
"The everyday model is not meant
for forest trails and has no handles.
Sort of put your good shoulder
behind me and shove."

Brenda used her hands on the wheel rims
to add what force she could, but
the path was thick with fallen leaves
and a liberal dusting of snow which
made good traction impossible.

"This is not working," Darrel muttered.

"Agreed," Brenda said, although
she was used to much better mobility
and hated the thought of abandoning her chair.

"Okay, we have wheels, a real carabiner,
and a couple more lengths of paracord,"
Darrel said. "What if we make a harness,
and I pull instead of push, using your wheelchair
like a travois? That has to be easier than
trying to carry your whole body weight."

"Great idea," Brenda said.

The harness looped over Darrel's shoulders
so that it didn't stress his broken arm too much,
and hooked into the frame of the chair.
With Brenda facing backwards and the
large rear wheels right behind Darrel,
they made much better progress.

It still took a couple of hours to hike out
of the forest and find a road, then
flag down a passing car for a ride.

The driver had a cell phone, though,
which he loaned to them so that Darrel
could call the police station to report
what had happened to them
and the drugrunners' plans.

At least when they got to the station,
there was plenty of hot coffee,
someone had sent out for pizza, and
there were warm comforting blankets
for both of them to wrap up in.

Officer Grant looked at the mess
of mud and leaves caked onto
Brenda's wheelchair and said,
"Would you like me to see if
I can clean that up some?
I do my own bike maintenance."

"Sure, do what you can," she said.
"After the beating this poor thing
took on the trail, I should really
take it to my regular mechanic,
but there's no reason to go
tracking dirt all over the station."

Officer Grant evidently rode
his bike to work, because he had
a kit stashed in his locker and
soon had the work in progress.

Darrel and Brenda made their report
in more detail for the benefit of the team
who would be ambushing the thugs in turn.

Darrel declared that he didn't mind
missing the collar. "I'm cold, I'm tired,
and I still need to get my arm set.
Somebody else can be the hero this time."

"You're still my hero," Brenda murmured.
"I would've had a hard time getting
out of the forest without you."

"Mutual," Darrel said. "I probably
wouldn't have made it out of the pit trap."

"I guess those drugrunners
should have known better
than to tangle with two of us
at once," Brenda concluded.

* * *

Notes:

Drugrunning is a leading activity in organized crime.

Breadcrumbs are the traces you leave of your online activity.  There are pros and cons to leaving or obscuring your trail.  Here are some steps you can take if you wish to hide yours.

Forearm fractures are a prime example of defensive wounds.  Know how to deal with broken bones in the wilderness.

Paracord is a thin strong rope very useful in survival situations.  Here is a keychain with a hidden compartment and another with a carabiner.  You can also make a simple harness with paracord.  Make sure you buy quality paracord and carabiners.  There is no point in a cheap knockoff that won't actually support your weight in an emergency, and you can get the real thing for under $10.

A travois is constructed from two poles and a container stretched between them, used for transporting goods over moderately rough ground. Learn to make one.

There are written and video instructions for wheelchair cleaning and maintenance, but they don't really expect you to drive the thing through a half-frozen forest.  So here are steps for hosing and scrubbing a mountain bike, plus a decent cleaning kit.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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