Prompted by something my dad recalled hearing ...
I picked up a sub-sandwich cut into thirds, for I knew he would not accept half – and a six-pack of lemon-aide – safe. He must have known, as I found him in a natural stone seat with another in opposition. A waterfall played nearby to shield our conversation. Lunch was grand, and he had two packs of potato-chips to contribute. Not that he was derelict or seedy – just disconnected – and perhaps often forgot to eat, but had pockets full of random stuff. No one else wore a top coat in July. I waited.
“He carried me twelve hundred miles, they say. Possible. We were way up near the Artic Circle. I broke my leg. Fatal. Wolves. He found me. Fevered – don’t rightly remember.” He handed me a newspaper clipping. Yellow. Frayed.
OTTOWA EXPRESS May 21, 1938
"Amazing rescue! A staggering man found his way to the local hospital today, carrying on his back a corpse. He said he had found the man in a ravine up north and had brought him home. Sadly, the man was dead, but his companion was not told. The hero was suffering from such frostbite and exposure as to be placed in intensive care. Receipts for mining claims and identification support the incredible possibility that he carried the stranger more than twelve hundred miles. There is no evidence except that he was there, and now here, with no human in between. Pray that if you are ever injured such a friend will find thee."
I reached in soul and spirit to explore his burden and grief. What would one say to a man such as this – the courage, endurance and faith beyond reason. To carry a stranger – a brother – I cannot imagine the pain! This gentle, lost man extended a hand with missing fingers – his face disfigured and twisted – to seize my hand and eye.
“They have it wrong,” he cried. Two men lay there in the snow – one dead – one alive. I was the one delirious with a fractured leg. I did not know until later. Their false conclusions – not wishing to believe. He carried me beyond existence – beyond belief. When I was safe, he walked a final step and died – a last knowledge that others were rushing to my aid.”
I held his hand, and wept with him – as all men should, who do not understand that we are one. “What troubles you then, my friend?” asked I.
“I do not know his name,” he whispered as he rose to leave.
“Oh,” I murmured. “My dad told me that story years ago. I have done some research. His name was Sam Thompson – no kin. Your search is over.” He smiled and shuffled off – a little less stooped I hoped.
This is the only lie I have ever told.