Kevin Carman Writes

Poems, short stories, essays and words by Kevin Carman

The Solidness of Roads

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It was a sunny summer day on the sleepy garden isle. He was headed to the point at Kalihiwai bay. Riding a borrowed cruiser from his long time friend, and carrying a pack full of gear. The old road was overgrown and curvy. Like a meandering river. Downhill all the way. Tropical jungle encroached from all sides. The fruit trees were choke full. Their first real abundance since the hurricane hit eight months earlier.
Iniki devoured Kauai. Choked up on him, then spit him back out all chewed and shredded. There were signs of the fight everywhere still. Corrugated metal rooftops littered the jungle canopy in the more inaccessible places.  Other areas were stripped clear to the dirt, and just now beginning to return.
He was on his way to one of those places. Just before a curve in the road, where the trail to the point begins, was a slough that dropped one hundred feet to a cobble beached cove below. It was a natural shoot  that became exposed after Iniki had his way with it.  Old power line poles had come down there. On an earlier trip to extract the number three gauge copper from the downed poles, he spied the old cork top bottles protruding from the dirt of the slough. Following them down, he saw the decades old  pile of junk at the bottom. He realized that this was an old dump that dated back to the twenties at it’s earliest. Possibly much older. The discovery and exploration of what lay down there was beyond irresistible to him.
A week later he was back. The bike coasted right up to the guard rail protecting cars from the slough.  He locked it there and proceeded to the trailhead. It was a short walk up through dense foliage  to the peak of the point. Then down thirty feet or so to where the trees gave way to an epic and sweeping view of the pacific. Down and to the left was a tranquil bay with a river emptying in to it. Extending north and west was the coast of the island. Ending in Bali Hai. A three thousand foot spire that punctuates the beginning of the napali coast.  The reefs off Anini beach were docile compared to what they look like in the winter. The point ends in a ninety foot cliff, with a world class wave at the bottom. It breaks right and into the bay. When the direction is proper, it will throw a spacious and mean barrel. It is a heavy local spot both in and out of the water.
On the other side of the point was the cove. He intended to get down to it by repelling  from a rope attached to a lone pine tree  growing on the edge of the cliff. With his back facing out, he jumped over the side and maneuvered down the loose vertical wall with the speed and agility of a seasoned climber. At twenty feet down, the cliff became the roof of a massive overhang. Making the last seventy feet an exhilarating free hanging drop to the bottom.  He unclipped his harness from the rope and began to evaluate the terrain. The whole beach was watermelon sized cobbles of black basalt. Uninviting to the walk or sit. The whole place had a strange feel to it. Made him feel like he wasn’t supposed to be there. Or more like something didn’t want him there.
He quickly located the slough and the freshly exposed junk pile at the bottom. It was large with indefinable parameters. Several dirt layers created a stratigraphic effect. Further enhancing its academic appeal. There appeared to be several old cars dating to the fifty’s. a multitude of large and small household appliances. Bones from animals, and  all assortments of typical junk pile detritus. Most of this was worthless crap. Useful only in an historical archaeological perspective. The stuff he was after was above this. In the dirt of the slough itself. Little cork top bottles sticking out neck first. Translucent pink he could see. There was brown, clear, blue and yellow. Most were near the bottom. A good fifteen feet above the junk pile. Which, itself, rose twenty feet above the beach.
At the top of the junk pile a pine tree grew in between the slough and the cliff. It was actually growing out of the dirt of the bottom of the slough. Iniki had exposed a lot of its roots, and he used those to get to the bottles. Straddling the cliff and the tree, he began the task of removing them. The dirt was packed hard, down where the oldest bottles were. He had to use a stick to dig around them. Slowly working his way up the slough, he removed as many of the bottles as he could reach.
The terrain was becoming more and more difficult to maneuver in. he was now faced with a choice. At this point there was only twenty feet above the junk pile. It was still possible to use the tree and cliff to climb back down. From there he would have to walk the coast or swim until he found a way up. Sharks aside, it was the safest way out.
He eyed the cliff on his right. It was vertical for seventy feet with what looked like large holds all over it. He figured it would be an easy out for an experienced climber. Ten minutes up and he’s back on the bike. As opposed to a down climb and two hour plus hike around. He opted for the quick climb. Shouldering the bag of bottles, he removed his shoes, tied the laces together, and quick clippe
The d them to his harness.first fifteen feet was easy enough. The holds were big and smooth. He felt good to be climbing again. Having been  on island for three months, he’d done no technical climbing since leaving the mainland. His muscles ached to be used this way, and they were lighting up to the challenge. It didn’t take him long to get lost in the beautiful black rock. He knew it was deadly weak and dirt soft in places. He put all of his knowledge and awareness into finding the solid holds and moving through them. Right up to the one that seemed so strong. Even with all four points separately weighted, this one hold popped and he was air born. No time to think. He reacted. In  mid air he turned one hundred eighty degrees, catching the tree in a big bear hug. Fear had not entered his mind until then. Still it was only a nod to it. He was in control.
But what to do? It was still possible to down climb using the tree and cliff, and take the safe way out. In a comfortable position for the moment, he looked up at the cliff and slough. He was somewhere around half way up, and the cliff seemed so easy still.  It didn’t take him long to decide to continue up. The challenge was on. He’d climbed much harder rocks with no rope, and twice as tall. This was chump change.
He transferred back on to the cliff, and began his ascent again.  Same thing, easy and flowing. He moved like a spider over the rock. Delicate, yet strong. Another twenty feet went by. He was ten feet from the top of the tree when it happened again. Only this time it wasn’t just one hold that popped. The whole disintegrated beneath him. He went with it. As the rocks collapsed and fell, he sprang out, turning at the same time, and barely caught the tree.
That one was bad. He’d lost the bag of bottles, and any hope of a down climb was completely eliminated. The safe route was gone. The cliff had made its point, “stay off!”
The fear was no longer a nod. It was now vigorously shaking a fist at him. For a moment he had the feeling that the cove, or rock, or some entity within them was somehow trying to eliminate him. The first wave of panic passed thru him. He caught it like he caught the tree, and smothered it. This was no time for that. He assessed the situation with an almost calm and rational eye. To go down now meant a fifty foot vertical fall onto  rusty metal and other pain causing death things.  If he didn’t die from the fall, but was incapacitated. That would be worse. The cove was isolated to the point of being only visible from the water. Where he would fall, was not even visible to that. So down was out. The cliff face to his right was noticeably loose, and off limits. Besides, the top of the tree was now closer to the slough. He saw that he could easily reach the horizontal roots that were exposed in the middle. There seemed to be about thirty feet of dirt to climb before reaching the foliage. Then another fifteen to the guard rail. It seemed sketchy at best. But he knew it was his only option. He had to act quick. He was getting tired holding onto the tree. He looked out at the pacific one more time, and made his move.
A foot. A hand. Another foot and hand. He was on. But instead of this making him feel better, it only made him feel worse.  Everything  now was much more dicey and delicate. The dirt here was much more unstable. He was thinking that the soft rock would be a cake walk compared to this.  He could not fully weight any one point. The dirt would collapse and the root would snap.  He had to be constantly moving. He knew that if two points gave way at the same time, it was over. The fear was becoming almost constant now. There was no enjoyment in this.
He’d climbed about fifteen feet by simultaneously stepping and pulling on the roots, but it was becoming increasingly harder to do this. They were snapping quicker. Dirt kept falling into his eyes, his nose, his mouth. He was sweating and breathing hard. He finally found a bigger root to weight, and gained the slightest of breaks. He broke a section of root off, and began using it to dig out better foot and hand holds. This helped him get a few more feet, but he was tiring fast. This had become the most difficult and challenging climb of his life. He was wondering if it might indeed be his last. He was reaching the end of his endurance, and starting to think about the things he would miss.
In the meantime, while all of this was going on in his head, the slope began to ease a bit. This gave him no relief. With the easing slope came softer dirt. Every movement caused more and more to come down in his face. He no longer had time to dig out holds. The higher he got, the more difficult things became. A part of him wanted to give up and let go, but the better part wasn’t about to let that happen. Not now. Not when he was this close. So many times before, when situations became critical, he could find some ability within, to rise above it. He summoned it now. In the face of rising panic.
Large sections were beginning to give way. It was now a matter of time before one of them took him with it.He was almost to the foliage. Another fifteen feet and he was safe. But that fifteen feet was the hardest of the whole climb. This was all new- death climbing up moving dirt. Nothing solid anymore. The whole upper section of the slough was in flux. He could not stand still for a second. Every hold collapsed as soon as he weighted it. He felt like the cove itself were pulling him back down.
He got to the foliage just as the whole upper section began to go. At the last instant, he spied the fallen tree. Not thinking about anything else, he leapt for it. An all four points free dyno lunge. It was a good size tree. Maybe twenty feet long. He caught the top and it held. For a second. Just long enough for him to get his feet under him. Then the tree and everything under it gave way. He jumped and ran up the tree as it went down. With his last push off the trunk, he jumped with everything he had. His hands caught the base of a small tree, and he held on tight. It held. He pulled himself up to a bigger tree, braced his feet on the smaller one, and took a big, deep breath. He could not see down the slough. It was covered in a cloud of dust. Fearing his perch too might collapse, he turned and crawled tree to tree until he reached the guard rail and the solidness of the road…

It was a sunny summer day on the sleepy garden isle. He was headed to the point at Kalihiwai bay. Riding a borrowed cruiser from his long time friend, and carrying a pack full of gear. The old road was overgrown and curvy. Like a meandering river. Downhill all the way. Tropical jungle encroached from all sides. The fruit trees were choke full. Their first real abundance since the hurricane hit eight months earlier.                                                            Iniki devoured Kauai. Choked up on him, then spit him back out all chewed and shredded. There were signs of the fight everywhere still. Corrugated metal rooftops littered the jungle canopy in the more inaccessible places.  Other areas were stripped clear to the dirt, and just now beginning to return.
He was on his way to one of those places. Just before a curve in the road, where the trail to the point begins, was a slough that dropped one hundred feet to a cobble beached cove below. It was a natural shoot  that became exposed after Iniki had his way with it.  Old power line poles had come down there. On an earlier trip to extract the number three gauge copper from the downed poles, he spied the old cork top bottles protruding from the dirt of the slough. Following them down, he saw the decades old  pile of junk at the bottom. He realized that this was an old dump that dated back to the twenties at it’s earliest. Possibly much older. The discovery and exploration of what lay down there was beyond irresistible to him.                                     A week later he was back. The bike coasted right up to the guard rail protecting cars from the slough.  He locked it there and proceeded to the trailhead. It was a short walk up through dense foliage  to the peak of the point. Then down thirty feet or so to where the trees gave way to an epic and sweeping view of the pacific. Down and to the left was a tranquil bay with a river emptying in to it. Extending north and west was the coast of the island. Ending in Bali Hai. A three thousand foot spire that punctuates the beginning of the napali coast.  The reefs off Anini beach were docile compared to what they look like in the winter. The point ends in a ninety foot cliff, with a world class wave at the bottom. It breaks right and into the bay. When the direction is proper, it will throw a spacious and mean barrel. It is a heavy local spot both in and out of the water.               On the other side of the point was the cove. He intended to get down to it by repelling  from a rope attached to a lone pine tree  growing on the edge of the cliff. With his back facing out, he jumped over the side and maneuvered down the loose vertical wall with the speed and agility of a seasoned climber. At twenty feet down, the cliff became the roof of a massive overhang. Making the last seventy feet an exhilarating free hanging drop to the bottom.  He unclipped his harness from the rope and began to evaluate the terrain. The whole beach was watermelon sized cobbles of black basalt. Uninviting to the walk or sit. The whole place had a strange feel to it. Made him feel like he wasn’t supposed to be there. Or more like something didn’t want him there.                                  He quickly located the slough and the freshly exposed junk pile at the bottom. It was large with indefinable parameters. Several dirt layers created a stratigraphic effect. Further enhancing its academic appeal. There appeared to be several old cars dating to the fifty’s. a multitude of large and small household appliances. Bones from animals, and  all assortments of typical junk pile detritus. Most of this was worthless crap. Useful only in an historical archaeological perspective. The stuff he was after was above this. In the dirt of the slough itself. Little cork top bottles sticking out neck first. Translucent pink he could see. There was brown, clear, blue and yellow. Most were near the bottom. A good fifteen feet above the junk pile. Which, itself, rose twenty feet above the beach.                                    At the top of the junk pile a pine tree grew in between the slough and the cliff. It was actually growing out of the dirt of the bottom of the slough. Iniki had exposed a lot of its roots, and he used those to get to the bottles. Straddling the cliff and the tree, he began the task of removing them. The dirt was packed hard, down where the oldest bottles were. He had to use a stick to dig around them. Slowly working his way up the slough, he removed as many of the bottles as he could reach.                                                            The terrain was becoming more and more difficult to maneuver in. he was now faced with a choice. At this point there was only twenty feet above the junk pile. It was still possible to use the tree and cliff to climb back down. From there he would have to walk the coast or swim until he found a way up. Sharks aside, it was the safest way out.                                                                                  He eyed the cliff on his right. It was vertical for seventy feet with what looked like large holds all over it. He figured it would be an easy out for an experienced climber. Ten minutes up and he’s back on the bike. As opposed to a down climb and two hour plus hike around. He opted for the quick climb. Shouldering the bag of bottles, he removed his shoes, tied the laces together, and quick clippe                                       The d them to his harness.first fifteen feet was easy enough. The holds were big and smooth. He felt good to be climbing again. Having been  on island for three months, he’d done no technical climbing since leaving the mainland. His muscles ached to be used this way, and they were lighting up to the challenge. It didn’t take him long to get lost in the beautiful black rock. He knew it was deadly weak and dirt soft in places. He put all of his knowledge and awareness into finding the solid holds and moving through them. Right up to the one that seemed so strong. Even with all four points separately weighted, this one hold popped and he was air born. No time to think. He reacted. In  mid air he turned one hundred eighty degrees, catching the tree in a big bear hug. Fear had not entered his mind until then. Still it was only a nod to it. He was in control.                                                                 But what to do? It was still possible to down climb using the tree and cliff, and take the safe way out. In a comfortable position for the moment, he looked up at the cliff and slough. He was somewhere around half way up, and the cliff seemed so easy still.  It didn’t take him long to decide to continue up. The challenge was on. He’d climbed much harder rocks with no rope, and twice as tall. This was chump change.                   He transferred back on to the cliff, and began his ascent again.  Same thing, easy and flowing. He moved like a spider over the rock. Delicate, yet strong. Another twenty feet went by. He was ten feet from the top of the tree when it happened again. Only this time it wasn’t just one hold that popped. The whole disintegrated beneath him. He went with it. As the rocks collapsed and fell, he sprang out, turning at the same time, and barely caught the tree.                     That one was bad. He’d lost the bag of bottles, and any hope of a down climb was completely eliminated. The safe route was gone. The cliff had made its point, “stay off!”              The fear was no longer a nod. It was now vigorously shaking a fist at him. For a moment he had the feeling that the cove, or rock, or some entity within them was somehow trying to eliminate him. The first wave of panic passed thru him. He caught it like he caught the tree, and smothered it. This was no time for that. He assessed the situation with an almost calm and rational eye. To go down now meant a fifty foot vertical fall onto  rusty metal and other pain causing death things.  If he didn’t die from the fall, but was incapacitated. That would be worse. The cove was isolated to the point of being only visible from the water. Where he would fall, was not even visible to that. So down was out. The cliff face to his right was noticeably loose, and off limits. Besides, the top of the tree was now closer to the slough. He saw that he could easily reach the horizontal roots that were exposed in the middle. There seemed to be about thirty feet of dirt to climb before reaching the foliage. Then another fifteen to the guard rail. It seemed sketchy at best. But he knew it was his only option. He had to act quick. He was getting tired holding onto the tree. He looked out at the pacific one more time, and made his move.                                                                    A foot. A hand. Another foot and hand. He was on. But instead of this making him feel better, it only made him feel worse.  Everything  now was much more dicey and delicate. The dirt here was much more unstable. He was thinking that the soft rock would be a cake walk compared to this.  He could not fully weight any one point. The dirt would collapse and the root would snap.  He had to be constantly moving. He knew that if two points gave way at the same time, it was over. The fear was becoming almost constant now. There was no enjoyment in this.                                                                     He’d climbed about fifteen feet by simultaneously stepping and pulling on the roots, but it was becoming increasingly harder to do this. They were snapping quicker. Dirt kept falling into his eyes, his nose, his mouth. He was sweating and breathing hard. He finally found a bigger root to weight, and gained the slightest of breaks. He broke a section of root off, and began using it to dig out better foot and hand holds. This helped him get a few more feet, but he was tiring fast. This had become the most difficult and challenging climb of his life. He was wondering if it might indeed be his last. He was reaching the end of his endurance, and starting to think about the things he would miss.                                  In the meantime, while all of this was going on in his head, the slope began to ease a bit. This gave him no relief. With the easing slope came softer dirt. Every movement caused more and more to come down in his face. He no longer had time to dig out holds. The higher he got, the more difficult things became. A part of him wanted to give up and let go, but the better part wasn’t about to let that happen. Not now. Not when he was this close. So many times before, when situations became critical, he could find some ability within, to rise above it. He summoned it now. In the face of rising panic.                                  Large sections were beginning to give way. It was now a matter of time before one of them took him with it.He was almost to the foliage. Another fifteen feet and he was safe. But that fifteen feet was the hardest of the whole climb. This was all new- death climbing up moving dirt. Nothing solid anymore. The whole upper section of the slough was in flux. He could not stand still for a second. Every hold collapsed as soon as he weighted it. He felt like the cove itself were pulling him back down.                                   He got to the foliage just as the whole upper section began to go. At the last instant, he spied the fallen tree. Not thinking about anything else, he leapt for it. An all four points free dyno lunge. It was a good size tree. Maybe twenty feet long. He caught the top and it held. For a second. Just long enough for him to get his feet under him. Then the tree and everything under it gave way. He jumped and ran up the tree as it went down. With his last push off the trunk, he jumped with everything he had. His hands caught the base of a small tree, and he held on tight. It held. He pulled himself up to a bigger tree, braced his feet on the smaller one, and took a big, deep breath. He could not see down the slough. It was covered in a cloud of dust. Fearing his perch too might collapse, he turned and crawled tree to tree until he reached the guard rail and the solidness of the road…

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Written by kevincarman

February 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Short Stories

Tagged with , ,

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