Wednesday, August 25, 2010


It's Three Word Wednesday. No humor this week.


A dog yelped from far off. Below us, the mountainside was shrouded in fog. I imagined the dog picking its way through the rocks and trees, stumbling. I sipped my coffee and waited for our guide to tell us it was time to move again.

We were walking the Trail of the Tiger, also called Bravery, also called The Evening Swallows. It depended on who you talked to. An old man in the village who smiled and packed rice into bowls with his dirty bare hands for hungry travelers had given me my bowl and said, "Luck for your walk on the Path of Sorrowful Words." At least, this is how I translated it. The pamphlet in the travel agent's office had called it the Trail of the Tiger: A Spiritual Hike Into The Mountains of Tibet.

In preparation, I had walked miles each day with my husband. The bottoms of his sneakers wore out, as did mine. We never held hands while walking. We sometimes talked.

I had gone raw, eating only organic vegetables and fruits, prepared in a dizzying amount of ways for the first six weeks, then dipping suddenly into predictable salads for the last two. Dan ate seafood as well, and I swear I smelled chocolate croissant on his breath one afternoon.

I had tested how long I could go without a shower. Two days in Michigan. Four, here in Tibet. It was no longer a test.

I had abstained from everything I previously took pleasure in: sugar, weekly dinners at La Cucina, hair dye, sex. Disappointingly, my hair did not turn a regal, steel-shot gray. It looked faded and dull and had wiry white hairs sticking out from unfortunate places. Dan did not seem to notice that I was abstaining from sex.

The guide announced that breakfast was finished. Wearily, we gathered up our packs. The sky was turning rosy and gold, another stunning dawn. As I stretched my arms and shoulders, I watched the guide go to the edge of the trail and say some words, head nodding. With a snap, he tossed something into the fog below.

"What was that? That you just did? What did you do?" I asked, bowed slightly under the weight of my pack.

"I say a prayer." He tilted his head. "You say one too."

"Um..." I never prayed. There were no words readily available on my tongue. "Our Father..."

"No. You say this."

"All right."

"You say: to the spirit of this mountain, if it pleases you--"

"To the spiriti of this mountain, if it pleases you--" I obediently repeated.

"May we pass in peace. May no one be harmed."

"May we pass in peace. May no one be harmed. Will the spirit understand this if I'm saying it in English?"

He smiled. "And if they lose their footing, may we find them down the mountain so we may give them a proper burial."

"And if... What?"

He laughed. "Now throw something that is valuable to you."

I thought for a moment. What did I have on me that was valuable? I couldn't give up my shoes. I had some coins in my pack. I hadn't bought any souvenirs.

I touched an ear. Dan had given them to me for Christmas twenty-one years ago, this pair of diamonds. No more than tiny chips. We'd been so poor then.

I undid one earring and held it between my fingers, showing it to the rising sun. It caught the glow, a halo of light as I turned it.

He whispered in my ear. "And now you say, thank you."

I tossed the little earring over the trail's edge. "Thank you," I said quietly. I couldn't see where it went.

"Ah, good." He patted my arm. "Now, maybe if you fall, the dogs won't eat your bones."

"That's... wonderful. I sincerely hope so." I followed him, a throb in my one naked ear.

Down in the fog, the dog yipped again. I wished Dan could be here to hear it.


Thank you for reading. As always, critique welcome. I had wanted to add a line about how she thought she was on a pilgrimage, but she didn't know to where. I couldn't find where it would naturally be, so I left it out. Ah, well.


  1. Dark, but I liked it a lot.

    It flowed so well, I had to read it a second time to figure out where the day's words were.

  2. Who said there's no humor? I LOLed that Dan didn't notice that she had abstained from sex....

    A pilgrimage like this would be like traveling the road to Hell for me. Just raw vegetables... no shower, no sex, No HAIR DYE!!! OMG! If that is the price of enlightenment, I'll stay shallow and well-groomed.

  3. sefcug: I try to "hide" the words, not make it obvious, so I'm glad to hear this.

    Mimi: I'm with you, sister. Loreal Perfect 10, here I come! (I'm overdue)

  4. Sounds like rigorous and thoroughly unpleasant training for such an expedition. The abstaining from sex was a good tad of light hearted humor in this otherwise tight and tense story. It is important to appease the mountain spirits indeed. Good tale!

  5. I really liked this and was totally caught up in the tale. Loved the humour with "Dan didn't notice that she had abstained from sex" :-)
    I would have happily carried on reading, a sign of a good story.

    I look forward to reading more of your writing. :-)

  6. Wonderfully written, everything 'just right' .. I didn't want it to end!

  7. Dark yet humourous! I enjoyed this little clip. Great use of the prompts.

    The World of Lost Souls

  8. Hey there. I liked this one alot.

    This had a spiritual quality that I admire. My favorite line was:
    "Dan ate seafood as well, and I swear I smelled chocolate croissant on his breath one afternoon."

    No humor? Are you joking?

    Lovely writing.

  9. Thank you so much, everyone!

    And yes, a tiny bit of humor. ;)

  10. This is nicely done. There's a spiritual element here that I like, but a twinge of sadness and dark humor, too. I think I would like this woman.

  11. Well read it and enjoyed it.. interesting.. yes!

  12. Ann: I think I would like this woman. Thank you so much. That is a great compliment.

    Ramesh Sood: Thank you!

  13. I like the many layers, how you paint a multitude of pictures with so few words; the man with dirty hands and rice and sorrowful words, the predictable salads, the throb in her one naked ear… As always: delightful!