...defined In Wine There Is Truth describes a group of writers that meet at my house once a month in the style of C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. Just as Lewis, Tolkien, Williams and others would meet at the Eagle and the Child pub in Oxford and critique each other soundly while enjoying a pint, we enjoy the fruits of the vine while reading and discussing our latest writings.
Dr. Lucas Boyd provides wisdom as well as considerable spice to our group. At the venerable age of 75, he specializes in stories with a Southern style. Luke has a PhD in European History and served for quite a number of years as headmaster of the prestigious Battle Ground Academy here in Franklin, TN. Dr. Boyd penned this short story and presented it to the Men of In Vino a few months ago .
Would You Do That for Me?
The two young lovers sat on a rock outcropping in a natural alcove beside the rocky trail which clung to the side of the mountain forty or fifty feet above the rushing stream. It and been a tiring hike—and dangerous in places. They sat close together as lovers do. “How far was it from the lodge to the swinging bridge we crossed?’ she asked.
He took out the little pamphlet he’d picked up at the front desk on the lodge’s trails and consulted it. “Almost a mile and a half.”
“Have we come back that far yet?’
“Just about. You can catch a glimpse of the lodge around the bend there.”
“And how far is it to that other swinging bridge we’ll have to cross to get back on the lodge side?”
“The map shows it about a half mile below the lodge,” he replied. Why? Are you tired?”
“A little,” she said. “But not too bad.” She snuggled her head into his chest. The only sounds were a couple of birds chirping and the tumbling water. Drooping rhododendron limbs practically hid the two from view. “A good hot shower when we get back will fix me up as good as new,” she said.
He kissed her on the cheek. Their lips found each other. He slipped a hand under her top and began to fondle one of her breasts. He was glad she was braless. She protested weakly. “What do you think a honeymoon’s for?’ he asked.
“I’m sure there are some other things but I can’t think of any right now,” she replied as she slid her hand under his shirt and began to massage his chest.
Their love play continued for several minutes. They were oblivious to the rest of the world. Suddenly and at the same instant, they both became aware of movement on the trail across the stream. The figures seemed strangely out of place. “Good lord!” he exclaimed in a hushed tone. “Is that who I think it is?”
“Yes,” she replied. “It’s that old couple from the lodge.”
They had had dinner with them at the same big table the night before. She had noticed them right away. They were much older than the other guests. The woman was small—not much over five feet with a little hump in her back and wavy white hair. She walked with one of those metal canes with four tips. The man was well over six feet, lean, and ramrod straight. Probably an old military man the girl thought. Not a strand of his straight, white hair was out of place. He was holding her left arm and making sure that she didn’t trip over anything. “When we get old, will do you that for me?” the girl whispered to her new husband. “You know I will, “ he replied his lips brushing her lightly on the cheek.
As they were getting settled at the table, the old lady had said, “Oh, my goodness. I’ve forgotten my medicine.” Her husband had said, ”That’s okay, dear. I’ll run up and get it,” before rushing away.
“When we got old, will you do that for me?” the girl whispered. “Of course, I will,” he replied, squeezing her hand under the table.
During table conversation it was revealed that the old couple was celebrating sixty years of marriage. They had always loved the mountains—had spent their honeymoon camping in the mountains. Their children had given them this week at the lodge as an anniversary gift.
During the meal she had trouble buttering her bread. Her husband did it for her. She could not get her meat cut so he did it for her. "When we get old, will you do that for me?” the girl whispered. “You know I will,” he whispered back as he playfully stuck his fork into her baked potato.
“What in the world do they think they’re doing?” Her husband’s words broke into her thoughts. “Surely they saw the big sign at the trailhead.”
“They had to,” the girl said. “They had to walk around it to get on the trail.”
“It said ‘Dangerous Trail,’ ‘Experienced Hikers Only.’ And now look at those old fools.” The young man seemed exasperated at just how foolish these old people were.
They moved ever so slowly. He practically supported her on one side. The cane in her other hand sparkled in the sunlight. “When we got old, will you do that for me?” she asked. “Of course,” he answered without taking his eyes off the old couple.
“Do you remember their name?” she asked. “I think it was kinda odd.”
“No. I was giving all my attention to you.”
“Fitz something-or-other. Yes, Fitz… Fitz… Fitzwilliam, I believe.”
The old couple halted. They had come to a section that was only wide enough for one person. “Surely they’ll turn back now,” the young man said. But they didn’t. The old man stepped out ahead with one arm stretched out behind holding his wife’s hand. “They’re gonna kill themselves,” the young man said. “I’m gonna yell at them to turn back.” He stood and cupped his hand around his mouth to yell but he was too late. The old lady had placed the cane too close to the outside edge and a piece broke away causing her to lose her balance. She gave up her grip on the cane which clattered down the rock face and disappeared into the rushing water. As she fell to her knees, her husband whirled and grabbed her arm with both hands. However, one knee found only air and she rolled over the precipice, pulling him to the ground. The girl was amazed that she hadn‘t screamed.
The young couple watched the scene in horror. The old woman was kicking both legs and waving her free arm wildly. They heard him say something to her. She stopped struggling and brought her other arm up to clutch one of his. There was no way for the young couple to get to them. He whipped out his cell phone but there was no signal.
The old man struggled to get to his knees so that he would have some leverage but he could not. Finally, he stopped trying. There were no footholds for her on the rock face. Both couples knew it was only a matter of time. The young man could not pull his eyes away. They felt as if they had been glued in their sockets. The girl began to cry.
A calm seemed to come over the old couple. The young couple could see that they were talking to each other. They could see their grips weakening as she slipped lower and lower. Finally, she turned her face up toward his. He said something and his lips formed a kiss. They knew that hers were doing the same. Suddenly, their hands separated and she plunged into the water. She came struggling to the surface. The young man thought she might be able to grab a tree branch or vine but such was not the case. The cold water sucked her under as she passed around the bend and out of sight.
The old man lay with his arms and head dangling over the edge for a minute or two. Then, he struggled to his knees and put his face in his hands. It was obvious that he was crying. The young couple stared transfixed. Finally, he dropped his hands to his thighs and stood up straight on his knees his eyes fixed on the water. Slowly, he began to lean toward the river.
When she realized what he was doing, the girl jumped up to shout, “NO! NO! DON’T DO IT!” but the words balled up in her throat like a large wad of phlegm. At some point gravity took over and pulled him out into space. He turned over once and hit the water feet first. He did not struggle as his wife had but gave himself to the stream’s watery embrace. Only one arm reappeared above the surface and then he was gone.
The young couple stood looking at the water for a long time. The birds continued to chirp. Finally, they turned to face each other. Her eyes asked, “Would you do that for me?” His eyes did not answer.