The Only Way Is Up

They were five.

Fighting their way up cold, steep slopes in snow up to their knees. Praying for the top to be close.

The wind tried countless times to punish them and send them back down. The mountain tried to swallow some of them eight times. Three ledges gave way and attempted to send them crashing into sharp rocks down below.

Nature seemed to warn them repeatedly how much inadvisable it was for them to go up there.

But they were five.

Fred, the lead climber was the one announcing good news. He kept a constant prayer, always wishing for something good to come around the next bend.

[The middle ones are the backup and the engine. When one drops down a hole, they keep him alive and haul him up.]

They rarely spoke. Only to try to keep morale up. No matter their own state of mind. A constant need for the entire team to keep moving forward until the top.

On their way toward the top of the mountain, they turned into the biggest liars the world had ever seen. Funny enough, it worked so well, that none of them thought about giving up.

Their confidence just kept growing.

For an external observer, their only reward was a high five around the highest peak. But for each of them, inside their heart, five kings were celebrating on the tallest part of the world that they could reach that day.

And then, above the clouds, bathing in the bright sunlight, the most powerful and interesting feeling was for each to witness the others’ joy. Like parents witnessing their children’s accomplishment.

Complete. Perfect. Priceless.

Back to sea level, Dave reflected on their journey, “We almost died, we should have died. Twenty-four times.” He stressed each syllable, “Twenty-four times! I counted.”

He walks up and pinches Fred, “Did you feel that? Yeah? Because you’re alive. You’re in one piece. Not even suffering from minor frostbite. I’ve never felt this way with any other team. None have shown me before how caring for each other — only for each other — guaranteed a success. And believe me, I’ve been places.”

Dave finished with his eyes wet, “I don’t know how to thank you.”

He made a short pauses, “I don’t want to go home. I don’t have that kind of connection there.”

Fred and Raymond glanced at each other, and then at the others, “You want to double down?” Fred said in a soft voice. “I’m not so happy at home either. We got the gear, right here.”

“Let’s just do it!” Dave smiled.

Rose, Raymond’s wife, could see them talk in the driveway, from over the sink through the kitchen window.

She knew something was up. Female intuition.

She rushed out when the hunch became a certainty. “Ray,” she shouted. “Where are you going?”

“I’ll be right back.” The car door closing muffled the last word.

She pulled out her phone, mumbling angrily. The car was pulling away with the five friends. Raymond picked up the call.

“You better have a good explanation.” Her voice was high and loud as when she is upset.

“You know why.” His was calm and soft.

Her hand slowly brought the phone down. The car turned the corner when the light turned green.

She heard, “I’ll be back. We both need this.” Before he hung up.