The cool breeze envigorated Jerry’s body. He jogged up the dusty dirt road. A view of the Rockies was on his left and an aspen-covered slope on his right. His agile legs expertly guided his feet around the rocks that could twist his ankle. Jerry had always been athletic, but he had never wanted to be an athlete. His idea of fun was not to raise himself above others but to absorb himself in the world around him. There was nothing purer than a man running alone in the wilds of nature. The dirt road took a familiar switchback and substantially increased in grade. Jerry smiled. He always enjoyed the beginning of his muscles burning and knew before long his endorphins would release and he would enjoy the natural euphoria that comes with pushing your limits.
The sun was just beginning to break over some of the lower crests, and its warm glow felt right on the back of Jerry’s t-shirt. He turned the next switchback, and the sun warmed his face. Jerry was soaking it in when the sudden pain struck his right ankle mid-step. It was two needles delivering fire into his flesh. Instinctively he kicked and saw the small rattlesnake go flying off to the side.
Immediately his stride became a wobble. Jerry did his best to go the opposite direction of the snake. Fortunately, the creature wanted nothing to do with the runner and left on his own in the opposite direction. The blood swiftly pumping through his veins was now a delivery system for death instead of a celebration of life. He let himself collapse in the middle of the road. Jerry took off his shirt and ripped it. He pulled himself across the rock and dirt, grabbed a stick and created a tourniquet above his wound. The pain was unbelievable. His hot muscles and veins fought against the restriction put upon them.
Jerry blocked his instincts and twisted the stick tighter than he could stand it. It was a struggle to stay focused with the pain. He worked to control his breathing, and calm his body. Now what? There was no walking or running back to the car. He had gone at least three miles, and any movement would only hasten the venom. Jerry chastised himself, “Why don’t I ever bring my cell phone?” He wanted to be one with the world, and now it looked like he was going to die in the effort. Would animals pick his bones? “Careful what you wish for.”
The minutes ticked by, and Jerry had lost all feeling in his right leg below the tourniquet. He could not decipher his ankle anymore due to the swelling. His toes and foot looked like they would pop if someone poked them with a needle.
At first, he thought it might be a hallucination. The sound of a distant engine below. Whatever it was, the strain on the machine meant it was climbing up the dirt road. The engine began to get louder, and Jerry said a prayer of thanks. An old black jeep appeared around the bend and Jerry hollered and waved with everything he had left. The driver stopped and jumped out. Usually, Jerry would have been enamored by the attractive redhead. Her tight hiking outfit and boots fit her young figure like a glove. As far as he was concerned, she could have been ninety years old and wear a potato sack, just so long as he lived.
“A rattlesnake bit me! I could use some help!”
The young hiker went back to her jeep and got one of her walking sticks.
“Grab hold of this. I’ll take your other shoulder and help you up. Then we’ll get in the jeep.”
Jerry managed to keep his foot off the ground. They worked their way over to the jeep. The young woman already had the front seat tilted forward, and Jerry eased into the rear seat. He laid there on his back with his foot elevated. She grabbed an ace bandage from her first aid kit, and the two of them tied off his tourniquet. Dialing 911 on her cell she jumped in the front seat, turned the jeep around and made her way back down the mountain. An ambulance would meet them on their way towards Boulder.
“If you don’t mind me asking, why didn’t you have a cell phone?”
Largely mumbling through the pain he responded, “That’s a great question. I guess I just like to get away from all of that. I was running, and wanted to be one with nature.”
“Looks like you got a little too close to nature. Judging from that swollen foot, I think your running days may be over.”
“Maybe. There’s always swimming.”
She smiled. “Do you mean next time I will find you floating in one of the lakes.”
“Only on my back.” he grunted.
“By the way, my name is Maria.”
Although he was gasping with pain, the conversation was keeping his mind occupied. “I’m Jerry. I really don’t’ know how to thank you.”
“Don’t worry about me. Let’s just get you to the hospital.”
The ambulance appeared ahead, and she pulled to the shoulder. The EMTs brought the gurney to her vehicle and Maria hastily scribbled something on the back of a card from her purse. She walked over, put it in Jerry’s hand.
“Don’t lose this. It has my business number on the front and my cell phone on the back. Let me know how things turn out. Maybe we can go to dinner sometime, and you can tell me how you managed to avoid this happening until now.”
Jerry looked into Maria’s eyes and muttered. “Remind me to thank that snake later.”
The EMTs delivered a quick dose of pain medicine and pushed the gurney into the ambulance. Jerry felt himself relax and closed his eyes.
(Daily Post Prompt) Athletic