Harry spit. He had an ulcer. I looked away, disgusted. Above us the ladder stretched out of sight, hooked at intervals into the crooked granite face. The ladder was really just two steel cables, and between them, every yard or so, a knotted plank, nailed into the rock. Getting Jessie up there would be murder.
In the end we wrapped him up in canvas, just his head protruding, and hauled him up behind us, carabiners hooked at either end to the hog tied bundle.
It was hard, hot work, and dangerous. Half way up Harry stumbled and I barely caught him, hugging us both against the cliff until his shaking passed. By the time we edged the lip, and bit by bit lugged Jessie over, we were both wheezing in the high thin air. We lay like that for minutes, baking fish in the July
I struggled to my feet first, taking a butterfly knife from my khaki’s and sawing through the tight elastic rope which bound the chrysalis. Jessie’s face was purple from the heat and pressure, his tongue protruding grotesquely, like a dogs. Harry coughed and rose to a crouch.
’He still kicking?’
I felt for a pulse.
Harry grunted and poured some whiskey into his flasks cap. I titled Jessie’s head to clear the airway, and we poured the foul stuff in. Jessie choked a little, but didn’t wake. Together we lifted him, I at the feet, Harry at the head, and started slowly across the plateau. I wasn’t certain it would work, but the adrenochrome brought Jessie round quick enough. It took both of us to hold him down.
He shuddered as he came to.
’Fraid not man. We didn’t think to bring any’.
Jessie looked around skittishly, eyes clenched against the noon sun.
’Where..Where are we?’
He looked pitiful, weak and shuddering on the rock. I felt bad for him, but a deals a deal.
’The Half Dome Jessie. You remember.’
Jessie showed no sign of understanding me. He began struggling to rise to his feet. I planted a boot on his chest, slapping him back to the granite mesa.
’The Half Dome man’, Harry said, lighting a cigarette.
’You told us if you ever got back with Sarah, to fuck you off the Half Dome.’
Harry took a couple of steps to the edge and leaned over.
’Wooo! It’s like a freakin map. Must be a mile straight down’.
Jessie began to struggle, so I kneeled on his chest, pinning his weakened arms. There was almost no wind, and his pained wheezing seemed to echo across the roof of the mountain.
’You..You guys are crazy. I was just drunk..You..You can’t be serious’.
I shook my head, smiling.
’Deals a deal Jessie. We drove all night to get here. We wouldn’t be your best friends if..We are your best friends right?’
Jessie looked back and forth from me to Harry.
’Sure. Sure guys, you’re my bud’s. Lets go home ok? I think my rib’s cracked. I need a doctor, ok? I’m not kidding..’
I interrupted him.
’Jessie, man. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.’
Harry stepped over, looked down at Jessie’s face.
’You make us promise man. We wouldn’t be your friends if we didn’t keep our word.’
I let Harry take the hands, and moved down to hook my forearm under the knees. Dried up and injured, he was too weak to resist, much. As we carried him over to the edge, he caught sight of the drop and started shaking.
’Shit guys, Sarah and I only broke up for one day!’
’Please..You guys..My mom, Harry you know my mom.’
Jessie sailed out over the drop. He seemed to hang for a moment, pawing at the air like Wile E.
Coyote. I wondered how he knew it wasn’t a dream.
Jessie took a long time to fall. Maybe ten seconds, tumbling over and over. I guess he was too weak to scream. It was like a sweet repeat on pay per view, Lennox Lewis dropping Tyson in the eighth.
Glorious slow motion.
Harry spit out across the gulf, and slapped his big hand on my shoulder.
’You know if it ever comes to it..’
’I know man’.
He didn’t seem to hear me. His eyes were fixed to a vanishing dot.
’I’ll be there for you’.