Flash Fiction Challenge: Lost Footing

2014 Chataqua rock wall climber Flash Fiction prompt
Photo Copyright K. S. Brooks

Well good job, Wendy, I said to myself as I bent another fingernail backwards, ripping it to the quick. What the heck was I thinking, telling Jason that I’d love to go climbing? Sure, I’d been dying for him to ask me out, but I never should have alluded to being athletic. At all. Ever.

I glanced at Jason, just a few feet to my right. He smiled. I smiled back. He’s so cute, and smart, and funny. And every other girl in class has the hots for him, too. I know lying was wrong, but I really wanted just one chance for him to get to know me.

Through all that thinking, I had managed to get myself in a bit of a predicament. My feet were now way too far apart, and the left one was slipping…

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12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Lost Footing”

  1. Well good job, Wendy, I said to myself as I bent another fingernail backwards, ripping it to the quick. What the heck was I thinking, telling Jason that I’d love to go climbing? Sure, I’d been dying for him to ask me out, but I never should have alluded to being athletic. At all. Ever.
    I glanced at Jason, just a few feet to my right. He smiled. I smiled back. He’s so cute, and smart, and funny. And every other girl in class has the hots for him, too. I know lying was wrong, but I really wanted just one chance for him to get to know me.
    Through all that thinking, I had managed to get myself in a bit of a predicament. My feet were now way too far apart, and the left one was slipping…

    Time to let go, drop back to the ground, and start climbing again. But up an easier route this time.
    And what the heck is an easier route? I wondered, as the rope caught me and the safety guy lowered me gently to the base of the wall. I looked up in dismay at the prospect of struggling up there again and saw Jason hanging there by one hand, his toes barely touching the rock face, as he waved at me with his free hand as if inviting me to join him.
    Well at least he’s still interested, I thought, suppressing the shame of falling off as I sucked my damaged fingernail. Perhaps all hope is not lost after all.
    I started climbing again.

  2. Wendy clung to the stone on the climbing wall unable to hush her shivers and thanking the heavens for the harness that would prevent her from breaking her neck if she ever slipped.

    And she had no doubt it might happen.

    “You okay over there?” said Jason’s voice.

    Wendy tightened her grip on a purple stone that was particularly slippery and glanced at Jason. She had been chasing after Jason for more than a year now, secretly hoping he would ask her out in a romantic date with flowers, in a restaurant dimly lit with sweet candles. Until, finally, he did.
    Only this wasn’t the romantic dinner she was hoping for.

    Wendy managed a smile. “Yeah, I’m alright. I told you I’m a pro at this.”

    The things you say for love…

    Jason tugged on the safety rope that ran upwards to the pulley system. “No need to worry. I got you if you fall.”

    “D-Don’t worry. It won’t be needed.”

    She was about to turn back to her terrifying task—she much preferred staying in the same position than moving and finding another dangerous stone—when Jason turned his head to someone.

    A blond girl, lean, busty and pretty, had caught Jason’s attention.

    “Hey beautiful…” she heard him whisper.

    Jason, you cheater, Wendy thought. How dare you?

    Her blood began to boil.

    And she lost her footing. She began to fall and had only the time to gasp and notice that Jason had let go of the safety rope.

  3. Frantically I overcompensate and go tumbling, how embarrassing to be dangling from the end of a rope. There goes my chance to make a good first impression.

    Gathering my wits about me, I look up at Jason’s grinning face.
    “I thought you said you were an experienced climber?’ He teased.

    I feel myself turning beet red as I am lowered to the floor amidst good-natured heckling from Jason’s friends.

    My buddy Mark gives me a sympathetic smile and a beer just as soon as my feet touched. “You ok?” He asked. “It will get easier.”
    Good old Mark, he is always there for me.

    A loud cheer interrupts my thoughts. Jason had made it to the top. Now he was strutting around like a banty rooster.

    O, how I wish he was in my henhouse.

    Springing off the top like an acrobat he gracefully makes his decent to the claps and cheers of the onlookers. Once on the ground he is surrounded by his friends. Later he makes his way over to me. Still flushed with excitement, he asked, “Did you see my dismount! I really nailed it that time!”

    He gives me a quick hug and heads back into the crowd.

    I sit back down. My torn fingernail is really starting to throb, along with various other places on my body. Lo and behold, here comes Mark with a cool damp rag. What a guy.

    I hope that he will set me up with another date with Jason!

  4. Adjusting my grip on the jagged rock, I summoned my inner ninja. Don’t look down, I told myself. It’s a hell of a long way and you’ve been trying to block out Mr Vertigo all this time. Instinctively, my legs turned to jelly. Come on, Wendy, try harder! My maths teacher seemed to be sending subliminal messages or else my mother, but she would have stretched every syllable until there was a veritable avalanche.

    “You okay?”

    I peered up through my dangling hair at Jason. I hadn’t tied it back, wanting to look sexy. Now I regretted it. There would be nothing sexy about plunging because I couldn’t see. “Fine,” I managed. Okay, I was never going to be scaling Everest soon, but I could do this. Who needed fingernails anyway?

    Realising I was staring hypnotised at Jason’s butt in those tight shorts of his, I chastised myself to get a grip. Sunburn, scraggly hair, bloody knees and rashes from the stinging nettles I’d been attacked by earlier – yep, Jason would surely have the hots for me! In my next life.

    I pushed on. After an eternity, I reached the top. The man of my dreams wore a whopping great grin. “You know, not many girls have the guts to do that,” he said.

    Jason was impressed! I collapsed alongside him, trying to act nonchalant while panting for my life. “Really? So I’m braver than I think?”

    He sniggered. “Just more stupid. Up here no one will hear you scream.”

  5. “You ok?” Jason asked, his smile replaced now by a slightly worried expression.
    “Fine!” I waved him off, glancing back at him as I tried to hitch myself up into a better position. Bad idea, I realized, as my foot slipped off and I fell off the rock wall with an undignified squawk.
    I hung midair trying to ignore the sputters of laughter as I was lowered awkwardly back down to the ground.
    I looked down when I landed, fumbling with my equipment. My legs felt like jelly, my finger hurt and I was such an idiot. To my horror I could feel my face getting blotchy and red. I was not the sort of person who wore embarrassment well. Frankly, I would have preferred the terror of free fall to total humiliation.
    Jason had turned back to face the rock wall and started to climb down, but I could see his shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter.
    “I can do better than that.” A girl who had been watching from the sidelines brushed past me, smiling coyly at Jason as he landed with a flourish.
    “Wanna race?”
    “Nah.” He replied easily, with that damnably gorgeous grin, walking over and tucking me into his side. “I prefer girls who can make me laugh.”

  6. I adjusted my grip and inched my feet back under me.

    “Careful. It’s easy to slip if you lose focus,” said Jason.

    But seeing him here, in his element, just didn’t lend itself to paying attention.

    I reached out with my right hand, applying as much grip as possible. Another nail bent back, splitting down the center. I winced but pulled harder to keep my position.

    “Good job,” Jason said. “Looks like that hurt.” Jason glanced down at my hand, then back to my eyes.

    I lost my grip and footing, and barely caught myself. Awkwardly, I clung on with little chance of escaping without embarrassment.

    Jason laughed.

    “Mean.” I glared but it only made him laugh more.

    “Is this worse than when we went rock climbing?”

    “Nothing could be worse than that.”

    Jason smirked. “It was so worth it.” He reached out to steady me. “I still don’t get why you lied about your skills though.”

    “I panicked.” I pulled myself upright.

    “Oh.” There was that half-smile again.

    “Anyway, I thought you wanted to date me, not recruit me.”

    “Hey, watch that hand,” Jason said pointing toward stainless steel table.

    I looked at our prisoner. “Good. He’s waking up. Take out the gag and we’ll see if he wants to give up the location.”

    “So eager,” Jason said while he removed the cloth from the man’s mouth. “Better tell the lady what she wants to know.”

    I grabbed the man’s hand and began to bend back another fingernail.

  7. “Um…Wendy?” Jason’s teal eyes squinted from his position ten feet above me. “Do you need help?”
    “No, I got it.” I squeaked as my left foot inched toward the tip of the green hold. I clenched the dried-yellow-Play-Doh-looking chunk under my right hand tighter and readjusted my left hand’s grip on a blue hold.
    There was a high probability I’d be forced to dangle like a kitten in a poster that reads, “Hang in there!” Except those kittens, with their bulging eyes and tense abdomens, probably appeared calm in comparison to the intense panic I exhibited.
    I closed my eyes, gulping a couple of shallow breaths. When I reopened someone was right beside me. Jason.
    “You’ve never done this before, right?”
    I cringed. “Never. I wanted to impress you, but like always I messed up.”
    He reached out, his warm hand covering mine. “I’m already impressed or I wouldn’t have invited you.”
    That was what I needed to hear. “Help me, please,” I pleaded.
    “I’ll talk you down.”
    Every hand movement and foot placement he suggested was perfect and unwavering. Just like Jason. With our feet firmly on solid ground, he unhooked our safety lines.
    The remaining fear, injected with adrenaline, quaked my body in tiny surges.
    Jason rubbed his hands up and down my arms. “So, no rock wall climbing?”
    “Probably not.”
    His soft lips grazed mine. “That’s okay. Maybe bungee jumping?”
    I giggled and rocked my forehead against his chest. “Not a chance!”
    Occasionally, lying had definite benefits.

  8. I don’t know what came over me. It was the single moment in my life when I didn’t think about the action before I took it. I leapt, I mean seriously, hanging on the rock-face, I jumped.

    The moment felt blind and free and I couldn’t breathe. I floated in space for a brief moment that felt like an eternity before my fingers scrabbled against the next section of the wall. I caught myself and held as my lungs raced to catch my breath again.

    “No time for breaks,” Jason said. “I’m going to beat you to the top.” He didn’t look back.

    My arms and legs were shaking from the jump and my adrenaline. Hell, I wasn’t sure if it was the remark or a need to get off that wall but something changed. Like my jump I stopped thinking about it, stopped thinking of all the things around me.
    I saw the rock-face, nothing else. My fingers gripped and pulled, my feet locked and pushed. I climbed the wall like a machine.

    I reached the summit, panting, sweating, and swearing the horrors of rock walls as I lay on my back looking into the sky above. I made it and I had no idea where Jason was right at the moment, not sure I really cared.

    When I saw him on his phone, talking to Sara, I jumped. For a brief moment I was blind and free. His phone sailed deep into the canyon.


    My beginners rock climbing class threaded down the steep rock strewn incline to the bottom of Rattlesnake Point. I looked up at the 100 foot cliff, realized no decernable hand or foot holds. The towering mass an enormous blank wall.
    The instructors top roped the two selected routes for belaying. The Blocks, named for obvious reasons. My class attempted the other. Chalky’s Balance Climb seemed shorter and therefor easier in my ignorance.
    A great bulge of smooth limestone overhung the face.As I belayed each climber, noted their every move, memorized them. Me, the last to climb.
    My hotshot youthful classmates either developed sewing machine legs; the climbers legs uncontrollable dance around, not pretty, and give up. Lower them like quivering bags of thrashing trash. Others got below the bulge and fell off. Visualized the move to conquer the crux, a lateral movement, a scissor crossing of the legs to maintain balance and a step over empty air. Using finger tips for steading oneself and gain tiny foot holds to the top.
    Watching this vertical chess game became enthralling, So engrossed, fear not an option. My turn. Tied myself into the harness, a neophyte belayed me.
    I started assending, flying up the face. In seconds I stood proud at the summit. Arrived at the top of the world a scant hundred feet up.
    Egoistically shouted, “Next, the universe!”

  10. I stared incredulously at my slipping, left foot. How dare it fail me at a moment like this when I’ve spent so much money this past week babying it with a pedicure and expensive rock climbing shoes, all to keep it looking cute for this outing with Jason.

    “If you slip and ruin this for me, you’re being replaced with a prosthetic,” I said a little too loud to my mutinous foot.

    “Did you say something, Wendy?” Jason called out, stopping his climb to look down to where I was hanging.

    “Just giving myself a pep talk,” I lied, willing my left foot up to the next hold.

    I manage to grab a few more holds before my torn fingernails remind me that I’m not having fun. Too much of a wuss to quit and not strong enough to continue, I just hang there with my arms and legs trembling trying to decide how to make my failure look as unspectacular as possible when I glance over and see Jason next to me.

    “How’s it going?” he asks with a sympathetic smile.

    “Just hanging around,” I lamely reply, a bead of sweat trickling down my nose.

    “You know, Wendy, I was thinking. I’m not really in the mood for rock climbing today. How about we climb down together and grab some lunch?” Jason said gesturing towards the floor.

    “I do,” I replied before I could catch myself. Blushing, I cleared my throat and said, “Sure, I would love to, Jason.”

  11. Jason continued to climb easily with the speed and agility of Spiderman.
    I, on the other hand, was clinging on for dear life, red faced and puffing and wheezing like I had a 40 a day smoking habit. I wasn’t simply perspiring, no sir. I felt as though Niagra Falls was leaking from every pore.
    I was still smiling inanely and gawping at Jason’s totally awesome physique as he flew up the wall with Spidy grace, when I felt my foot slipping.
    I heaved myself up with a deep grunt and stretched my leg wider than seemed physically possible.
    A thunderous noise emitted from my rear- end and I fell from the wall, issuing an ear piercing shriek.
    “Woahhhh aaarrrgghhhh whaaarhhhh!”
    Raucous laughter wafted up from the mean girls below who had been fervently hoping for this moment.
    I was spinning this way and that, dangling from the safety rope 20 feet above the ground.
    To my relief, it had been my lycra shorts splitting, which had made such a racket and I didn’t break wind as I had first feared.
    I was lowered unceremoniously to the ground and landed heavily on my butt.
    Oh, the shame.
    “You okay?” Jason said, standing coolly before me.
    “I meant to do that!” I quipped defensively.
    Jason threw his head back and roared with laughter.
    “That’s what I love about you Wendy, your’e so funny.”
    He hugged me tightly and at the envy of the mean girls, we went for a soda.

  12. Wendy clung to the rock wall twenty feet off the ground. Ripped and bleeding fingernails weren’t her biggest problem. The tingling in her fingertips was. She bit her lip, fighting for control.

    “One normal date,” she mumbled. “Is that too much to ask?”

    “Are you okay?” asked Jason.

    The cutest guy in school graced her with a smile that only increased her racing heart. How could she not say yes to a rock climbing date? So what if she had the agility of a glue stick. He was hot and she was the weird girl no one talked to. But rock climbing? What was she thinking?

    Every muscle ached, trembled as she searched for a new handgrip. There were none in sight. The tingling ran up her arm. Panic began to close in. She chanced a glance at Jason and his bulging muscles only to find him studying her. There was no laughter in his look, only concern.

    “Wendy, don’t worry about falling. You’re on a belay line.”

    “I don’t want to quit. My foot is slipping.”

    He scrambled sideways across the rock like a squirrel. The moment he touched her, the tingling flamed through her body. Jason grabbed her hand as she fell. A blinding flash sucked them away. They landed in a wooded clearing.

    Tears stung Wendy’s eyes. She waited for Jason’s condemnation.
    He stared at her, his deep-brown eyes wide. Then he smiled. “Wow. That was one heck of a jolt.”

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