A Right Pickle (Furious Fiction Short Story)

At the beginning of every month, the Australian Writers’ Centre has a competition to write 500 words using prompts. This month, the prompts were:
  • Your story must take place at either WEDDING or a FUNERAL.
  • Your story must include something being cut.
  • Your story must include the words “UNDER”, “OVER” and “BETWEEN”.

by Russell McGilton

Sir Harry Randolf was an extraordinary man. Explorer, adventurer, mountain climber… and my, dear, dear friend. As has been reported in the papers, I was there on Harry’s last climb of the Peruvian Andes, and I was there when ‘it’ happened.

After summitting the glorious Siula Grande, we made our descent, and it was during this that  Harry tripped over his boot laces and promptly broke his leg. Always the stiff upper lip type, (or perhaps because it was twenty below) Harry said, without a hint of irony, ‘Got myself in a bit of pickle here, Malory.’

Now, in the mountain community it is acceptable to leave your fellow injured climber behind. I knew that. Harry knew that. The mountain knew that. Still… I’d known Harry since childhood and we always dared each other to do things: who could climb the highest tree, the highest building, the highest…girl in Cambridge ( Lady Bethany was a remarkable six foot four!).

In any case, we shared friends, wine and to my surprise, my wife, Jacqueline.

So there we were hanging off a mountain ice sheet at 4,000 metres, Harry, his left leg at odds with itself, and a night snowstorm tearing through us. As fast as I could, I let him down by the rope. All was going fine when suddenly I could no longer see Harry. Gone! Nowhere to be seen. It was like he’d gone right over the cliff.

Well…he had!

He was flailing about, screaming and swearing at me to get him back up. A lot of belly aching, to be frank.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had to hold somebody’s body weight other than your own and (let’s be honest, Harry had packed it on in middle-age), but it’s not easy. Your hands get sore. Your arms give out. Worse. The snow that you’re sitting on starts to shift up between the cheeks of your…Let’s just say that you end up with one of the worst ice-cream headaches known to man.

Alas, after a very hard and long ten seconds (and thinking about Jacqueline mostly), I did the only thing possible – I cut the rope. Poor Harry dropped like a stone.

Well, more like a snowball. He bounced off an ice cliff just a few metres below, then over a nice piece of life-saving relief before disappearing into a rather nasty looking crevasse. And that’s where poor Harry would have stayed, over there in Peru, under a shifting glacier between a rock and a hard place.

You see I managed to get Harry out, get him back to the UK, only for the clumsy oaf to trip over his laces again and fall in front of a cheese truck. An ignominious end, yes, but ‘tis perhaps fitting to be hit by a speeding block of cheese when, to quote Harry again, ‘You’re in a bit of pickle!’ Hah hah!…erhum.

Go in peace, dear Harry. I will miss you…(just not as much as Jacqueline).