Infinity + Muse= Human

Infinite: unbounded or unlimited; boundless; endless.
Muse: think or meditate in silence, as on some subject.
2.Archaic. to gaze meditatively or wonderingly. meditate on.
4. to comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon.
5. the genius or powers characteristic of a poet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Jumps

“You scared?”

A dense and shaded forest stood ahead of us; foreboding in the early evening.


I lied.

“Pfft!” There were snickers all around-- barely audible disagreements to my claim. “Well, let’s go then”.

Eyes widening, I looked around at the gang - my brother and next-door neighbour Brent among them- then to the sky. It was cloudless, darker, and fairly calm.

Yet glancing back at the evergreen mass, I could feel a wash of dread overtake me. My mouth grew dry and my clammy hands threatened to slip from the crutch handles. I repositioned them and feigned a strong grip. Made it look like I was ready... I was never a good salesman...

“Come on Alex, it’s just The Jumps"

“Yeah, quit bein’ such a scaredy-cat!"

The Jumps.

The Jumps were just across the road from both our houses. Not forty yards away was the safety and warmth of home. Perhaps dinner. Perhaps Nintendo…

Yet here we were.

A place where we’d never gone far enough into to know what was really there. Dark masses of twigs and ever-greens seemed to us a kind of wall that concealed God knows what—whatever we dreamed up, maybe. Whatever we could imagine.

I could imagine a lot of things…

I remembered stories that Brent told us about older kids who rode trick-bikes in the forest here, taking jumps on small dirt moguls. I pictured them in dirty jeans and white tank-tops. Tattooed and smoking highschoolers that would beat me or hang me from the tallest tree…

“Come on already, let’s go!” Brent took a few steps forward from the dirt-laden outskirts.

My brother’s eyes seemed fixed on the forest some yards ahead, past the initial shrubs and twigs. I set mine on the first brambles, the first twigs, the first fallen trunk. Then casting my eyes low, I glanced at my crutches.

I put my weight on them, pressing the yellow straw-weeds into the ground.

The crutches felt rickety. I felt rickety.

Suddenly my brother started forward. Brent after him, and the others after that. I had no choice but to clip up at the rear, using my arms to propel me over some stiff weeds, the likes of which the rest of the gang tramped on in defiant ease. A swell of anger rose, and was replaced by an unthinking need to simply catch up, and not trip and fall. Not be useless. Not be slow.

So we walked. Though home was only some yards out, they were yards that were un-walkable. Passed possible. Old news…

My brother moved through the grass, past some moguls, and into the first thicket with such speed that I was hard pressed to follow, stumbling the whole way.

It wasn’t long before we came to the thicket’s mouth. In my crossing I had been gouged in the torso by a few errant branches, but all eventually gave way to a scene of swaying and darkness.

I broke out in sweat. Small inklings of dampness came over me. My hands pressed even more tightly to the crutch handles, as if they were some kind of pillar. Glancing over, my brother swatted a fly and said nothing before proceeding; hopping a small bit of dead log.

The log to me was more than a speed bump, and the vast expanse of tightly-woven trees resembled the Berlin wall, complete with its own electric fence.

I looked down again, this time at my worn shoes, covered in the dust of my brief sojourn. A tide of doubt ran laps inside me. It welled up and maliciously twisted my stomach; and as if some fey thing had willed it, my right hand suddenly atrophied, dropping my crutch. It hit the ground with a hollow aluminum thud.

It was a familiar sound.

The group looked back a moment and I instinctively reached for it.

“Thought you fell again” one muttered. The words were the inevitable pin-pricks I ought to have expected.

“May as well go stay there anyway, won’t be able to do much through here...”

I swelled. Filling with anger and determination like an overflowing aqueduct, spilling with a desire to push on. The usual aluminum thud resounded again in my mind...

I bit my lip, snatched up my crutch, yanked it free from a spot of muck and forged forward.

Won’t be able to do much…

I plunged furiously into the forest and my nostrils became swarmed by a horde of black-flies.

They crawled into ears, noses, locks of hair—inspecting us. Branches scraped and tugged at my shirt, like wooden fingers that wouldn’t let go. I willed myself through them. There was never time to stop.

Pits of dark muck sought to hold my advance. More fingers tugged and poked and the swarms got to the gist of our matter. It was like Hades bade us welcome.

I imagined myself as Odysseus on the River Styx. And felt just as alone.

Keep paddling.

I looked up. My brother was always ahead. I pressed harder. Crutches sank and prodded depths, leaving crutch-prints where crutch-prints maybe hadn’t ever been.

My hands were callusing and drenched--I pressed still.

Vaulting through the forest now, I wanted to believe I was Champlain, or even Columbus. Somebody other than me. Someone who was unquestioned—never doubted—someone who--

…I heard the hollow frame of the crutch creek and the cuff swivel. I felt my body twist and dip to the left, while a crutch slid forward.

It was only a few more degrees before the clatter of another crutch against stone; before a slicing of my right arm; before the dense thud of the left side of my face against the chalky ground.

I had hit twigs on the way down. Carved my arm on my own crutch. I was bitten and bleeding, lying in the forest.

Ryan looked back from his pole position and said nothing, though I could hear him just fine…

His feet fell as commanding steps towards me…

Keep paddling. I whispered, disturbing the hardened earth, dog-tired and breathing heavily.


  1. I really liked reading your piece. You have such a gift at creating a complete visual picture in your writing. I find myself being able to picture everything that I am reading, which I think is due largely in part to your attention to detail.

    There are a number of passages that I can draw upon to emphasize your use of detail, but I especially like your personification when “branches scraped and tugged at my shirt, like wooden fingers that wouldn’t let go. I willed myself through them. There was never time to stop.”

    Even mentioning something so small like, “glancing over, my brother swatted a fly and said nothing before proceeding; hopping a small bit of dead log,” contributes to the creation of a complete experience for the reader.

    I loved how all of the italicized phrases of “won’t be able to do much . . .”,
    “keep paddling” and “keep paddling” create their own arc and their own story within the larger picture and emphasizes a message of perseverance.

    In all, I think that you have woven together a really great piece that works on many levels with the connection between moving through the outdoors physically as well as mentally.

  2. Alex,
    This is a wonderful piece of writing.
    The use of the single sentence adds good structure to the piece. It works well when you are describing your fear, or a tense moment. I think this is because you being afraid blocks out everything else, and the single sentences give it a dramatic effect.
    I liked how you used your vocabulary. Instead of repeating the same words, or using something generic like “forest” the whole time, you used things like “twigs,” “evergreens,” “shrubs,” “brambles,” “trunk,” “yellow straw-weeds,” etc. I also liked the following sentence: “The crutches felt rickety. I felt rickety.” I can’t really decide why it is so effective…perhaps because it is straight to the point and not overly extravagant.
    My favourite part of this is the following: “The log to me was more than a speed bump, and the vast expanse of tightly-woven trees resembled the Berlin wall, complete with its own electric fence.” This passage creates a visual image in my mind, and highlights the severity of the situation.
    The way that you contrast yourself against the other boys is nicely done. In addition, the way that you portray the forest as somehow attacking you is a wonderful literary device. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this (I actually read it more than once!) and I think it is a really impressive piece of writing that keeps the reader satisfied, but still guessing at the end.

  3. I love it. I love the imagery, I love the comparisons to greek mythology and I love how it's a cliffhanger. I WANT MORE
    What happens next?!?!?


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