"In The Bag"
An unexpected Story
by Jon McGowan

Their heels digging into the sloping gravel, elbows peeling, palms grinding, holding themselves back as they slide towards the edge, finally suddenly, heaving as a cloud of dust catches up to them, they stop.

Ahead a chasm yawned waiting to bash them back into clouds of dust and dirt.

The canyon echoed with the tumbling rocks and pebbles kicked ahead of them, while the river far below twirled past, the hot desert sun overhead not caring.

They looked at each, catching their breath, glad to be alive.

His relief quickly turns to panic.

"I got it, I got it!" he said reaching behind him to feel if his backpack hadn't been torn off him as he fell, slid and tumbled hundreds of feet to escape the road far above.

"Take it off," she said with urgency.

"Why? We have to go?!"

"Let me check it," she said pulling the straps off his shoulders.

"Is it there?" he asked leaning in to look.

Without explanation, she pulled her arm back in a long arc and threw the empty sack with all her strength high into the air over the cliff.

"NO! What are you doing?!" he exclaimed instinctively reaching out like a second baseman to grab a line drive hurling past.

But all in one swift motion, as he leaned over to make his catch she pushed against him, hard, turning his reach into a shove as he lost his footing and tumbled over the edge of the cliff, slowly realizing he'd lost the bag, his footing, then in a sudden flash of dread, his life.

He plunged down still reaching, still not quite believing the rocks were killing him, the trees impaling him, the ground unwilling to break his fall.

The canyon echoed darkly and she felt exposed.

Looking up behind her she could see the trail of scramble and debris they had cut as they slid down the mountain side.

The trail ended here at this sheer cliff, and clearly they had gone over. Far below on the rocks the evidence was leaking into the raging river already carrying half of it away.

She felt it in her pocket again, dug deep into the back of her leg as they fell, it would leave a scar, large, painful, valuable lesson.

Time to go.