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Justin, Jake, and Elan headed northeast towards the mountains where they hoped to find the great inland sea.   The northern end of the sea fed a river that descended to the Valley of the Black Dog, their home. As they climbed out of the dense forest and into the foothills, the vegetation changed.  There were fewer trees and more grasses and shrubs.  The giant red woods gave way to smaller pines and scrub oaks.  Streams were narrower and swifter.  On and on, the boys walked, up one hill and down another, all the while, gaining elevation.

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to see the water once we are up on those heights,” Justin said as he pointed to the ridge above them in the distance.

“From your mouth to heavens ears,” Jake commented.  “Though, I am sure we are walking in the right direction. “

“I wish this rain and wind would let up,” said Elan.

It had rained for days; and, out of the dense forest, the giant trees no longer sheltered them.   They wore their blankets over their heads and draped across their backs and shoulders, but the wind-driven rain still penetrated to their skin.  The air had gotten cooler and the days shorter.  Soggy, cold, and discouraged, they continued to walk.

They climbed out of the foothills and onto the mountain.  The vegetation was even thinner, trees were scarcer, and the rocky path was steeper and more difficult to climb.  The forest below and coastal range beyond were spectacular sights from their vantage point, but the rugged mountain before them seemed daunting and ominous.  Behind them, they could see clouds move across the western coastal range and descend the slopes in long cottony wisps as rain preceding them.

They scrambled over rocks and crossed fast moving streams.  The way wound up and up until they reached the ridge Justin had spotted from below.  From the ridge as Justin had hoped they could see, off in the distance, spread out below them, a vast body of water that stretched northward.  They decided to walk on the ridge and look for a safe way to climb down to the lake.  After walking for several hours the ridge became a ledge high above the valley below.  The ledge was narrow forcing them to walk single file.   The height was dizzying but the view was awesome.  The rain had stopped, and a bright sun in a cloudless sky reflected off the dark blue-green lake below raising their spirits and infusing them with energy.

The ledge hugged the side of the mountain weaving in and out as it followed the mountain‘s contour.  Justin led the way as he turned one corner after another.  He suddenly stopped.  Standing on the ledge, not twenty feet ahead of him was a man.  The man’s appearance, so unexpected, startled him.  The man stopped and appeared equally startled.  He even looked annoyed.  Jake and Elan caught up to Justin and stopped immediately behind him.

“Hello,” Justin called to the man standing opposite the boys.  “Nice day.”

“Is it?”  The man returned.  “You are blocking my way.”

“Are we?”  Justin responded.  “I think, it is possible, you may be blocking ours.”

“It depends on your perspective.  From here you are clearly blocking mine. Unless you happen to be walking in the same direction as I am.  This ledge is too narrow to have us pass safely, ” the man said.

“Is there a place wide enough for us to pass in the direction you came from?”  Justin politely inquired.

“I don’t remember; and if there was, that would imply that I would be willing to retrace my steps.  Is there a place from where you came, where we could pass each other safely?”

“We’ve been walking on this ledge for hours.  We’d have to go back to where we started.  I don’t think we want to retrace our steps any more than you do.”

“So be it,” the man said and sat down.

“Is he going to just sit there?”  Jake whispered to Justin.

“Maybe, I don’t know.  What should we do,” Justin whispered back.

“We could be patient,” Elan whispered.

“We could starve to death on this silly ledge, too,” whispered Jake.  “I think we should force him to go the way we want him to.  In the time we wait, being patient, doing nothing, we could have walked back to the entry to the ledge and be over this impasse.  I think we should set a limit on patience.”

“You’re right,” said Elan.  “Too much patience and we might lose an opportunity to save some time.  Too little patience and we might do something we’d regret.  If we just demand he move, I don’t think he will.“

The boys opted for patience and waited as the sun rose in the sky and the day wore on.  Instead of being annoyed and venting their frustration, they enjoyed the view from their vantage point on top of the world.  Then, Justin decided he had waited long enough.

“Yo, mister!”  He called trying to engage the man in a conversation.  “Where are you from?”

There was no answer.

“Yo mister!”  Justin called again.

The man sat with his back against the mountain wall, feet extended over the ledge, and his hat pulled down shading his eyes.

“Do you suppose he is asleep?”  Jake asked.  “Maybe we could sneak over him?”

“I’d be afraid he would startle awake and knock us off the ledge,” Justin said.

“Yo, mister!”  Justin called again.  The man stirred, slid his hat back, looked towards the boys, and stretched.

“You woke me up,” the man called back not seeming at all annoyed for the disturbance. “What do you want?”

“We’d like to pass, “ Justin responded.  “I hope you are feeling better now that you’ve had a nap.”

“I must say, I do,” the man answered.

“We’re trying to get to the lake and eventually to the Valley of the Black Dog.  Have you heard of it?”  Justin said.

“I have,” said the man.  “It’s very far from here. That way.”  He pointed in the direction the boys were trying to go.  “I must say, though, I’ve never been there. “

“Would you like to go?”  Elan shouted.  “You could join us.  We have some supplies with us.  We’d be happy to share.”

“I was walking south.  You are walking north.  I’m not sure I want to walk back the way I came.   It took me a long time to decide to go in this direction.  I would have preferred to be walking west but a mountain is in the way.   East?  Well, that is straight down as you can see.   That leaves north or south.  It gets very cold in the north – winter is coming, you know.  So I finally decided to walk south.  Now, you want me to change direction?“

“Change is good,” said Elan.  “Join us.  We make good companions.  The company will be good.  Mountains shelter the Valley of the Black Dog, and warm ocean currents heat the air so that the winters mild.“

“Okay,” said the man.  “I’ll change direction and see where I end up.  By the way, you can call me Igashu. ”

The man turned his back to the boys and began to walk in the same direction that Justin, Jake, and Elan were headed.  The boys followed.

Justin turned to Elan and said, “That was just enough patience, and a better result than going back, or trying to get around Igashu on this ledge.  I enjoyed the break and the wonderful view from up here.”

Justin looked toward Igashu and called, “Igashu, where are you from, and where were you going?”

“I’m from nowhere; and, by no coincidence, I’m going nowhere in particular,  just wandering, like my name, Igashu, the wanderer.”

Once the boys caught up with Igashu, they walked on together and traded stories about where they had been.



Peter J Barbour Bio:

Peter Barbour believes that what comes from the heart goes to the heart.  He began writing fiction in the mid 1980's.  Publications include a short novel, “Loose Ends”, and “Gus at Work”, an illustrated children’s book.  Barbour likes to tell stories in the form of short stories.  He is a regular contributor to  He is a retired physician.  He and his wife travel extensively, which gives him exposure to diverse cultures and places.  He enjoys fishing, canoeing, biking, woodcarving, and drawing. His study of mindfulness inspired a series of short stories; “Out on a Ledge” is his latest.



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