THE HIKE

a-mountain-hike

‘Oh, lone is the path that turns its head, that coils the slopes, and reaches unseen peaks.’

A ramble no more amongst congested city parks, devils careering on wheelie boards, arses slung from low-hung jeans, bins stocked full with detritus: used pampers, split micro-brewery plastic tankards and tomato splattered pizza cartons.

Out into the big sky and mountainous ranges, the air rare and tight, the urban hiker takes his beard for a wild unanswered whistle and a solitary testing climb. No mobile reception, no wifi, just him and his lightly groomed, much-coveted facial hair.

‘Beard, I like it. I like it very much,’ he says.

The beard tenses, its follicles frosting with the cold, tightening its grasp on the skin around his master’s mouth to produce a satisfying satisfied grin.

‘I want to shout “I’m smiling because I’m happy!”’

The beard has other ideas and tightens its hold further so the hiker can speak no more. He is forced to sit down with his beard at the mountain’s peak and listen and watch, the cold mist rising from the valley to join his own exhaled plumes of breath, his heart slowing to a single beat, everything laid out before him.

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About dogsbodiesandscumsters

Alan McCormick has been writer in residence at Kingston University’s Writing School and for InterAct Stroke Support, a charity employing actors to read to stroke patients. His fiction has won prizes and been widely published, including the Sunday Express and Salt’s Best British Short Stories 2015. His story collection, with micro-fiction inspired by Jonny Voss's pictures, 'Dogsbodies and Scumsters', was long-listed for the 2012 Edge Hill Prize. Alan has recently completed his second collection, Wild in the Country, as well as a memoir, Holes. See more of Alan and Jonny's collaborations at www.scumsters.blogspot.co.uk.
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