Able

Portnoy was not in the best shape to climb a mountain. Frankly, he didn’t think he was able, but he’d packed a lunch. So, more or less, he’d made up his mind.

The first few hundred feet of the ascent were pleasant enough. The sherpa kept looking behind him to make sure Portnoy was on his feet, the dear, but, huffing and puffing, he managed, wheezing, to pull, panting, himself, with just a brief moment’s standing rest, along. They climbed till noon then the sherpa told the outfit that they would take an hour’s recess.

A grateful Portnoy planted himself on a smooth rock (it had the aspect of wear from generations of similarly shaped bottoms with similarly faltering lungs) and unwrapped his sandwich. Eating thoughtfully, he savored the meager taste on the spine of the mountain, watching it rise in his round bifocals, with a restless hope it might shrink in the climbing. It didn’t, of course; it rose. The ground, meanwhile, was so far away.

After what seemed like a paltry excuse for an hour, the sherpa came to him and said the next stretch of journey would be hazardous. Could Portnoy continue? The little man gulped the last crumbs of the sandwich and licked the wax paper. That evening, they made the peak. Portnoy vomited six times, losing lunch, breakfast, and the catalogue of suppers preceding them, but he went up and then down the mountain without expiring. It was a horrendous affair. It was glorious.

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