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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)

TITLE: The Free Climb
By Shelley Ledfors


Here I am again. Always thinking myself to be supremely capable--even invincible--I often find myself as I am now. On the brink of disaster. This time much closer to that brink than ever before.

I cannot go on. My only chance for survival is to go back. My breath comes in ragged gasps. I can hear as well as feel my pulse pounding in my ears, my head, my chest. Worst of all, drenching, terror-wrought sweat liberally lubricates my hands. Hands which need a solid, non-slip hold in order to maintain my tenuous grip on this narrow ledge. --For that matter, on life itself.

Come on, Bill, think. You don’t need to panic at a time like this.

Calling for help will do no good. I am alone. Why didn’t I listen when those more experienced tried to tell me that I was not ready for this climbing challenge? Instead, I decided to show them…in a big way! Not only would I climb, I would free climb. No ropes. No safety equipment at all.

I dare a glance down. The ground seems miles away. The cars I can see below me look like mere toys. A fresh wave of terror sweeps over me. Why, oh why did I look down? Another case of not listening, I guess.

Look around…but not down. Concentrate and come up with a plan. You can do this.

Now...how exactly did I get up here? I search my memory to recall, step by step, how I got to this point so that I can reverse my actions to get back down.

Ever so slowly, while maintaining my white-knuckled grip on the ledge, I inch my right foot out of the crevice into which I had wedged it in my attempt to gain additional height. Let’s see…I had raised it there from a position just below and slightly to the right of its current location. I wave the foot gently in the air, stretching to regain its former placement.

There’s something solid! Stretch just a tiny bit more. Don’t let fear overtake reason. You got up here, you can get down. Reach out…that’s it. Yes!

I allow myself an instant of quiet celebration.

Once again, I look around. Although I can see no one, I feel certain that I am not really alone. Strange as it seems, I can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching over me from somewhere nearby. A guardian angel, perhaps?

Okay, Bill. Onward and…well, downward. One step retraced. How many more to go? Never mind that. Just one step and then another.

My little self pep-talks seem to be helping. I continue. Left foot…right hand…left hand. Progress is excruciatingly slow, and ever wrought with the danger of falling. But I’m getting there. Each appendage moved once…now back to my right foot again. I stretch as far as I can and wave my foot back and forth trying to find a foothold. Despite my best attempt to maintain a solid three points of contact while reaching with my right foot, my left foot slips from the safety of its hold, leaving me hanging by my hands alone. Now in a panic, I swing my feet wildly in an attempt to gain any sort of footing. This is a colossal mistake. The swinging of my body loosens the grip of my hands…and they slip.

God, help me!

The fall is not what I expected. It takes a mere instant…or is it an eternity? The landing is much softer than I would have thought possible from such a height. I feel a jolt, but no pain. Perhaps I am in shock. I survey my surroundings and discover that I have landed on a reasonably wide ledge.

Thank-you, God. Show me what to do, now.

The answer comes not in an audible voice, but in an undeniable conviction to stay right where I am to wait for help. It will come…I am certain. I close my eyes and rest.


"Jim! --Do you have a minute before your meeting? …Good. I just had to call to tell you about Billy. It was so cute. He almost climbed out of his crib today! He got clear up to the top of the rail before he got this look of panic and went back. He slipped down the last few inches on to his mattress and then fell asleep. …No, no. He didn’t see me. I kept just out of his sight around the corner while I watched."

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This article has been read 1043 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld01/24/08
Ok, you got me, hook, line, and stinker.
Now, of course, I know why the cars looked like toys, and why he felt that someone was watching.
You kept me on the edge of my seat, of course, because of the deceptively grown-up vocabulary, but who knows what's going on in the mind behind that innocent sounding babbling? Very clever.
Sara Harricharan 01/24/08
Aha! I was thoroughly caught up in this delightful piece. The ending is a real kicker, I put together the little clues afterwards, but it was so much fun to read the progression and then the thoughts/prayers! Just too funny! Really great writing! ^_^
Patty Wysong01/24/08
Oh! You got me! I loved it. How many times have I seen this? (ok, lots!!) You really nailed it--good job! :-)
Dianne Janak01/25/08
Absolutely adorable... great suspense, I was there with you all the way and then SURPRISE! Made me laugh..on topic and a creative masterpiece..
Shirley McClay 01/27/08
Awesome!! One of my favorites, partly because it is so different. Very suspenseful, but the ending sets it apart and makes it different from the usual stuff. Very creative!
Betty Castleberry01/27/08
Welp, I'm a sucker. This was fun and adorable. Thumbs up!
Catrina Bradley 01/27/08
!! I was so caught up in the climb, then this ending came out of no where and made me smile wide! Great edge-of-my-seat suspense. Super!
Sherry Castelluccio 01/27/08
I love the ending! That was so awesome! Brought back memories of watching my little girl in her crib. Great work.
Dee Yoder 01/28/08
Ha-great ending! I didn't expect that at all...you were close to the vest with your clues and the "grown-up" voice disguised the true identity of the climber.
Sally Hanan01/28/08
Haha; very clever. The only thing I'd change is the name of the baby--Bill is such an old name.
LauraLee Shaw01/28/08
Brilliant. I'm usually so good at figuring out endings before I get there...smack on the side of my brain.
Debbie Wistrom01/28/08
Yeah, I love a surprise, I was scared for him for awhile, of course, agreed that he should have listened. Loved the voice and the ending. Keep it up.
Joy Faire Stewart01/28/08
Excellent opening and the rest of the story did not disappoint. Superb job on topic!
Jan Ackerson 01/28/08
Love it, love it, love it. Probably my favorite so far this week.
Gerald Shuler 01/29/08
I'm a sucker for a good twist. The ending wouldn't have worked if the beginning hadn't been so perfect and the beginning wouldn't have worked if the ending hadn't been so perfect. Face it, this was just so perfect.
James Dixon01/30/08
I fell for the twist too. I thought he was a mountaineer. Well done!
Temple Miller01/30/08
What a shocker. I loved the tension and the resolution. Terrific story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/30/08
Wow! This is a keeper. Such a wonderful twist!
LauraLee Shaw01/31/08
Congratulations on your EC!!!! I'm kinda bummed, because I was going to ask you if I could use this on my online ministry... ok, I'd rather you be published here. Was it worth the climb? ;)
Sara Harricharan 01/31/08
YAY! ***Congratulations!***
Joy Faire Stewart01/31/08
Congratulations on your EC! Fantastic job.
Beth LaBuff 01/31/08
Super cute...skillful writing!! Congrats on your EC!!
Karen Wilber02/02/08
This is toooo funny! You had me all the way up until the "end". Then it still took me a few seconds to realize what that final section had to do with the story. Great twist. Very effective storytelling. Congrats on EC.
Celeste Ammirata02/07/08
I love this, and the little twist in the end. You show things in such a fun, new light. Great, imaginative writing.