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Sons of adam, p.3
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       Sons of Adam, p.3

           Myfanwy Tilley
 
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Palmer cleared his throat to speak, and the corner of Reid’s mouth twitched in anticipation. Between leaving Pakistan and arriving in Australia, Reid had convinced himself that even if his parents didn’t change their opinion about Wil, they would surely value himself a little more.

  “Yes, he’s certainly a competent mountaineer, your brother,” said Adam Palmer, nodding his head slowly with satisfaction. “That’s his bandana, isn’t it?” he asked, pointing at a red speck in the photograph Reid had taken at the summit of Church Peak. “Did you get to the top, Reid?”

  Reid said nothing; he was stunned. He had described the events of that day to his father just moments beforehand, but it seemed to have fallen on wilfully deaf ears.

  “And brave; cutting the rope to save you.” His father gave Reid an affectionate pat on the knee.

  Wil had cut the rope, but only because he had been able to manoeuvre himself onto a ledge that projected from the crevasse wall fifteen metres below the lip. Wil had obviously realised that if Reid plummeted into the crevasse after him, he would have been pulled off the ledge to a certain death. Reid didn’t resent Wil for wanting to save his own skin, but he did resent the spin he later put on his account of the incident, especially as there was no mention of the fact that Reid and the rest of the party risked their safety to rescue him from the crevasse.

  It was as Reid lowered himself into the crevasse to rescue Wil that he experienced the epiphany he’d hoped to have on top of the mountain. He looked down at Wil perched on the narrow ledge and saw how fear made his body quake, and how helplessness had silenced him. At home, Wil was arrogant, loud and self-centred, but here, where none of these things counted for anything, he seemed ridiculously feeble and puny. Really, he had little to boast about. Although Reid fleetingly wished his parents could witness all this, he finally understood the nature of the ego’s imperfections and vulnerabilities, not least his own. Reid had brought Wil to Church Peak to humble him, but his motivations exposed himself as being every bit as arrogant as Wil and, if he were honest with himself, with little more to boast about. Like Wil, Reid had also wanted to prove himself, to impress people, to be a leader, and not his parent’s minder - if Reid had known that Wil was going to jump off the family ship, he would have done it first. They were brothers and they had the same impulses - even if they did things differently.

  I’ll be more tolerant of Wil, in future, Reid decided as he clipped his rope onto his brother’s harness and embraced his shaking body.

  At first, Wil had been grateful for Reid’s help and everyone’s role in rescuing him, but it lasted only briefly. By the time the party had descended to Camp One, Wil had begun to rework the truth about the incident, creating the inference that Reid had been, in some way, lax in adhering to safety procedures and had caused the incident. At Base Camp, Wil related his version of events to other mountaineers preparing to climb the peak. At first, Reid and the rest of the party laughed at Wil, but, as they exited the valley, Reid listened with increasing rage as his brother related his story to every trekking or climbing party they encountered: Wil, the experienced mountaineer, had easily climbed the peak and assisted other members of the party, namely his brother, Reid; Wil, the trusting brother, had foolishly given Reid the benefit of the doubt concerning his knowledge of mountaineering safety; Wil, the martyr, had cut the rope so that his brother could be saved. Two weeks later in Islamabad, Wil telephoned his parents on the pretext of inquiring after their health. Reid overheard the conversation: their health was dispensed within seconds, and the rest of the conversation was dedicated to Wil’s heroism, and how Reid would have botched the rescue had Wil not given instructions.

  “How do you think the drugs got into his backpack?” asked Adam Palmer, dolefully.

  “I don’t know, Dad,” Reid lied, suppressing a smirk. “There was nearly a kilo of heroin; it’s not likely that someone randomly hid it in his bag ...”

  “It happens all the time,” Reid’s father interjected angrily. “That Australian girl in Bali, for instance. Wil’s never used drugs, and he’d never sell them. He has a wife and children, he runs his own business… He’s got so much going for him, why would he do something like that?”

  Reid shrugged indifferently, “His prints were on the package, Dad.” It had been all too easy to set-up.

  “He’ll get the death penalty, won’t he? We’ll never see him again.”

  Reid fell silent for some time, but, finally, he slowly rose to his feet and reached down to pat his father’s shoulder. “I have to go, Dad. It’s in the lawyers’ hands, and the Australian government is trying to assist. There’s nothing more we can do, at the moment.”

  “Perhaps he had financial troubles. He should have spoken to us about it.” Tears welled in Evelyn Palmer’s eyes.

  “He’s innocent, Eve,” his father hissed.

  As Reid Palmer pushed the door open to leave the pub, he glanced back over his shoulder: his parents hadn’t noticed that he had left. They were studying the photographs of Church Peak, and he could tell from the sentimental expressions he’d seen on their faces so many times before that they were looking at the ones with Wil in them.

  Things will probably be even worse, now, Reid thought. The sense of vindication he had enjoyed since leaving Pakistan turned into despondency.

  Letting the pub door swing closed behind him, he stepped out into the blazing heat of the afternoon, and considered for several moments which direction he might take. Shrugging, he turned and began walking, ushered along the melting bitumen path by the scorching westerly wind.

  Dear Reader,

  Thank you for reading my short story. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favourite retailer and, perhaps, send a link to your friends? I hope you may also enjoy some of my other short stories and first novel.

  Myfanwy Tilley.

  Short Stories:

  The License

  Party Animals

  The Cockroach

  Full Length Fiction:

  Psyche’s Garden

 
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