Not the Ending You Expected

Sometimes you can tell how a story will end. The boy is going to get the girl. The bad guy is going to lose. Grandpa is well loved, but he’s going to die. The Sheriff retires, but no one will leave him alone. Surely we can do better! So here’s the start of a plot, and you have to come with an ending that absolutely no one would have expected.

Plot: Chuck and Suzanne, two Ph.D. astronomers are on vacation in Arizona, doing a lot of desert hiking. Today at dawn they’ve left their Jeep at a trail head near Canyon De Chelly and expect to take a ten mile circle route that should bring them back to where they started. Half-way along the well-marked trail, Chuck twists his ankle.

Now what?

32 responses to “Not the Ending You Expected

  1. Chuck and Suzanne, two Ph.D. astronomers are on vacation in Arizona, doing a lot of desert hiking. Today at dawn they’ve left their Jeep at a trail head near Canyon De Chelly and expect to take a ten mile circle route that should bring them back to where they started. Half-way along the well-marked trail, Chuck twists his ankle.

    Suzanne tries to make Chuck comfortable while she examines his ankle to see just how bad it is. Unfortunately, her medical experience tells her that is broken, and in such a way that he really shouldn’t be using it to hobble back to the car. Since there is no way she can get the car to him, she decides to strike out on her own to find help.

    Leaving Chuck bottled water and several of the healthy snack bars they’d brought with them, Suzanne starts up the trail, since she knows there is nothing between them and the jeep.

    Soon she begins to hear an eerie sound in the distance, a sort of vibration. Hiking toward the source of that sound brings her to a strange looking round building, similar to one she’s seen in the California desert.

    Looking around to see if there’s anyone there, she sees two women who seem to be working on the structure. Approaching them, she introduces herself, and tells them her plight.

    It seems these women are creating a new version of the Entegratron, a unique structure built many years ago in California to enable people to be soothed by “sound baths.” The two women, sisters Nancy and Joanne, are still involved in the original site. They bought it in 2000 and now offer tours of the facility.

    Nancy suggests they could get their four wheel drive vehicle and bring Chuck back to the new Tron. He could be the first to try it’s unique healing properties.

    Several days later, Suzanne and Chuck bid their new friends farewell when they drive them back to their jeep. Chuck asks that they keep his substantial investment in their project quiet until he can arrange a news conference for the new Tron. Climbing out of the old four wheel drive and trotting around to the other side to get their backpacks, Chuck holds up his leg and wiggles a healthy ankle.

    © gemamclean, all rights reserved

    • I certainly didn’t expect an Entegratron. I think we all might want one in our backyards! Miraculous healing has its appeal. Thanks for posting an expected ending!

    • Welcome to the group, Gema. Don’t worry about mistakes, You couldn’t possible make more than me even if you tried the hardest.

  2. Hello, I’m new here. A friend told me that this is a special place for aspiring writers. May I join you?
    Thanks
    Gema

    • Welcome! I’ll be reading your piece later tonight. I’m glad you’ve joined us and are ready to dive in and try the challenges. –Ann

  3. Wouldn’t you know my first entry has several typos, and I did edit it a couple of times.

    • No scolding here! We’re all just goofing around.

    • Gema, I call it “post haste” and I am guilty of it many times. The problem is that the brain sees what the brain expects to see, and it doesn’t see typos.

      • I screwed this first entry up so bad. I even got the name of the place wrong…it’s Integratron. For the mystics among us it’s a pretty interesting place. Not being a mystic, I’ve never been there.
        If you want to check it out, it’s in Landers, CA.
        Thanks for the welcome.

  4. I’m thinking, I’m thinking. I almost have it….

  5. Plot: Chuck and Suzanne, two Ph.D. astronomers are on vacation in Arizona, doing a lot of desert hiking. Today at dawn they’ve left their Jeep at a trail head near Canyon De Chelly and expect to take a ten mile circle route that should bring them back to where they started. Half-way along the well-marked trail, Chuck twists his ankle.

    “This rock is NOT comfortable. Suzanne, find a flatter one for me to sit on,” says Chuck as he removes his black and silver Saucony cross-trainer shoe from his left foot and massages the injured ankle.

    Suzanna turns her back and rolls her eyes. He is such a baby, she thinks as she walks over to a pile of rocks near the trail. “Okay, Hon, here’s one. Even has a backrest of sorts.” She helps Chuck over to the new rock.

    “What? You want me to say it? Okay! You were right,” whines Chuck. “I should have worn my ankle-high boots. Are you satisfied now?”

    “Chuck, that’s not fair. I haven’t said a word, but now that you bring it up, yeah, you should have anticipated that’s we’d run into unstable footing. Let’s put that aside and think about how we’re going to get you out of here. Can you put weight on that foot or not?”

    “No, of course I can’t put weight on it! It hurts!”

    “Well, you certainly can’t crawl, can you?”

    “I don’t need sarcasm. I need help.”

    She looks at her cell phone. “I have zilch for bars, Chuck. Try yours.”

    Chuck takes his cell phone out of his pack, looks at it, then shakes his head.

    “I can walk back to the Jeep and go for help,” Suzanne says.

    “What? And leave me here to die alone?”

    “How’s your water? My Camelback is still more than half full. I’ll leave it with you if I go.”

    “Well, mine’s a quarter full.”

    “You know, Chuck, you can always drink your urine in an emergency.”

    “Are you nuts? Drink my urine? Oh, God, Suzanne! That’s disgusting,” Chuck says as he continues massaging his ankle. “Hey, here comes someone now. Look over there. Way over, at least a mile. Isn’t that a person? Maybe he can go for help and you can stay here with me.”

    “Oh, I see him now. Yeah, I think it’s a person,” says Suzanne. “That’s a good idea.”

    Twenty minutes pass and Suzanne says, “He isn’t moving very fast, is he? Sending him for help would be like waiting for evolution.”

    “Maybe he’s drunk,” says Chuck.

    “Something’s wrong, Chuck. I’m going to go see what’s up.”

    “Careful, Suzanne, it could be a trap.”

    Suzanne looks back at Chuck with exasperation. “He looks like he needs help, Chuck. I’m going to go meet him.”

    “Well, what about me? I need help, too.” Suzanne ignores him and walks towards the stranger. As she nears him, she can see his right arm is held across his torso and bound with a rope. She looks him over and sees a tall, red-haired man in sports gear comiing towards her with an expression of thankfulness on his face. He’s staggering, unsteady on his feet, talking two or three steps sideways for every step forwards.

    Something’s wrong, Suzanne thinks. Something’s very, very wrong.

    And then she sees that instead of a hand attached to the arm across his torso, there’s nothing but blood—a lot of blood.

    “Do you need some help?” Suzanne cries as she runs towards him. “Ohmigod, are you alright?”

    “Water,” says the man in a quavering voice. “I need water.”

    Suzanne pulls the Camelback tube from its holder and offers it to the man, who drinks deeply.

    “Oh, that’s the best water I’ve ever had,” he says. “It’s the first water I’ve had in several days.”

    “Here, lean on me and I’ll help you to those rocks over there in the shade. My boyfriend’s there with more water. And a sprained ankle. What’s you name?”

    “Aron,” he says. “Aron, with one ‘r’.”

    “I’m Suzanne, Aron. What happened to your hand?”

    “I cut it off,” he replies.

    Suzanne staggers with the horror of it. “You cut your hand off!” says Chuck who has heard this part of the conversation.

    “Water, please,” says Aron. Chuck offers his backpack with the Camelback in it.

    “Here, man. Take all you want. Damn, you cut off your hand! Here, sit down on this rock.”

    “Thanks, but I’m afraid if I sit down I’ll never get up again,” says Aron.

    Suzanne notes that while Chuck looks a little green he is standing on both feet, maybe fudging a little with his injured foot. She takes their small first aid kit out of her pack and carefully wraps some gauze around Aron’s exposed wound, noticing the shattered bone ends.

    “We need to get you out of here, man,” says Chuck. “There’s no cell service right here, but we can get you to my Jeep and take you to a hospital. Look, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll put my pack on. You put your good arm around my shoulders and that way you can reach the drinking tube. Suzanne can help steady you from the other side. It’s going to be okay, man. We’ll get you out of here. Not to worry. How does that sound to you?” Chuck unties the bandana around his neck and wraps it around his injured ankle.

    “I think I can do it” says Aron. “I’ve already walked seven miles today. I can make it a ways farther. More water right now, though. I drank my urine for four days until there wasn’t any more.”

    “You drank your urine, huh? Good, good. A very wise lady told me that’s the thing to do.” Chuck glances at Suzanne and smiles. Suzanne smiles back and realizes that Chuck looks different somehow, maybe a little stronger, maybe determined, maybe a keeper after all.

    Three hours later, the trio drinks the last of their water as the air-conditioning cools off the Jeep. They help Aron into the back and place a backpack under his arm to support it.

    Suzanne, in the back with Aron so he can lean against her, thinks about her dad’s favorite saying in times of despair: “If everyone threw their troubles in a big pile and you got to choose the ones you wanted, you’d always choose your own.”

    Chuck starts the Jeep and heads for the nearest hospital in Chinle, Arizona.

    (Obviously I have taken great liberties with Aron Ralston’s story of survival, even placing him in a different state.)s

    • Gully, I think you have an obsession with drinking urine.
      Why did Aron cut off his hand? did he do that before or after drinking his own urine?
      Other than that, an entertaining story.

      • Lando, this is based on the true story of Aron Ralston who was trapped for 127 hours while climbing a slot ravine in Utah. A boulder dislodged, smashing his right wrist and trapping him. He was able to rig his climbing rope into a sling to support his weight. When his water ran out, he drank his urine. After several days, his hand was necrotic and he realized that the only chance he had was to cut off his hand at the forearm. This he did, with a dull pocket knife. And yes, he also had to break the forearm bones. Then he CLIMBED down a vertical cliff and walked several some distance before coming across some hikers who were able to call for help. Amazing story. The movie that was made was called 127 Hours. Google his name. But, you’re right. At one point I did have a sentence in the story about him being trapped. Apparently it got lost in the editing, etc. And on second thought, I probably shouldn’t have made him so lucid.

    • My dear Gully: I remember reading an article about this guy who had to brake his arm in order to get free from a bunch or rocks where he fell.
      Sorry for my comments I didn’t connected the dots. Thanks for your explanation.

  6. Where can I read the rest of this, Gull? It’s good stuff!

  7. The rest of this? Don’t know what you mean, unless you mean Aron ralston. Google him.

  8. It’s not every day we all have to cut our arm off and drink our urine, so this definitely qualifies as unexpected. I’m feeling inspired. I may have to find an ending of my own. Maybe with a few camels.

  9. Not the ending you expected. Octln5/14

    The planned 10 miles hiking around the Canyon De Chelly came to a sudden stop when half way along the well marked trail, Chuck stepped on a loose rock and fell down to the ground in agony.
    Suzanne, who was walking about ten yards behind him and saw the accident, hurried to his side.
    “I think I broke my ankle” he said crunching his teeth while holding his ankle with both hands.
    “It could only be twisted. Let me take a look.” said Suzanne getting his hands out of the way and his boot off his foot. “Oh boy, this doesn’t look good. It is already swollen to the size of a baseball.”
    “Well, what is it; it’s broken or twisted?”
    “I don’t know. We have a Ph.D. in astronomy, not in medicine, remember? She responded with a fastidious tone in her voice.
    “What are we going to do? I can’t take a step in this condition; we are about 7 from where we left the Jeep and it is impossible to drive it any closer throughout this rocky terrain.” Chuck was sweating profusely and, judging by the grim on his face, it was obvious that he was in extreme pain.
    “The first thing we should do now is to move you unto that overhanging rock so you could be more comfortable sitting in the shade. Then we will figure out what to do next.” said Suzanne with determination and getting behind Chuck so she could lift him from under his arms and drag him to the shade.

    By the time Chuck was finally sitting under the overhanging rock, they both were exhausted and covered with sweat and dirt.

    After few minutes of hard breathing and relaxation, Chuck initiated the conversation.
    “ I think the best way to proceed is for you, Suzanne, to walk to the car and drive to the small town we passed on our way here, which is about 30 miles back, and then convince a couple of guys to come with you to rescue me.”
    “Yes, I was thinking about the same plan. The only thing I don’t like is to leave you here alone for the five or six hours that will take me to return.”

    “Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine. Just get ready to go as soon as possible.”
    ***

    The sun was already approaching the horizon when Suzanne parked her Jeep in the same spot where she and Chuck left it when they came in the morning. A dusty and cranky pickup truck which once was red, parked next to her car. Two cowboy looking individuals came out of the pickup truck, both wearing stained and out of shape big gallon hats, a discolored and sweaty handkerchief around their necks, faded jean and cheap dirty boots.

    Wasting no time, Suzanne beckoned the two cowboys to follow her and they started to walk at a briskly pace towards the place where she left Chuck six hour ago.
    By the time they reached the overhanging rock, the shadows were elongating everything that was standing upright in the desert harbinger the approaching of the night.

    Suzanne stop right in front of the spot where Chuck was supposed to be waiting, but, to her great surprise, he wasn’t there. She checked around making sure that that was the right place. There wasn’t any question: that was the place where she left Chuck but, where was he now.?

    “Lady, where is the guy we were supposed to rescue? Asked the cowboy who seems to be the youngest of the two, apparently mortified by the fact that there wasn’t anybody to be rescued.
    “I don’t know. I’m certain that I left him here. You got to help me find him.” responded Suzanne with apprehension in his voice.
    “Oh no, no lady. The deal was that you will pay us for carrying a guy, who is not here, out of this place and not to go around trying to find him. Who knows where is he now?” said the cowboy. “Besides, we are not planning to spend the night in the desert and you shouldn’t either. You got no jacket or blanket to stay warm, no food and nothing to build a fire. And another thing, the desert looks empty of animals during the heat of the day, but at night, there are lots of animals looking for food, and frankly, you look very appetizing. Doesn‘t she, Tom?” concluded the cowboy looking at his friend with a sarcastic smile allowing his tobacco stained and crooked teeth to show up under an ill maintained black moustache.

    “I recon that she does look appetizing” said Tom. “ ‘Matter of fact, she looks so much so that I’m willing to stay the night here and give her warm and protection. What do you think Willy? I think we should have a party”

    “Yes, good idea, let’s have a party. Wouldn’t you like to have a party with us, lady? Here, I brought the liqueur.” the young cowboy said pulling a pint of whiskey out of the back pocket of his jeans.

    “Now boys, wait a minute. Don’t do anything stupid. Just go and don’t worry about me. I’ll manage by myself” said Suzanne, backing up trying to put some distance between her and the two cowboys who were taking menacing steps towards her with lust in their eyes.
    “No, my beautiful lady, we have decided to stay here and have a party with you” said Tom.

    They took a couple of more steps toward Suzanne and were about to reach her, when, out of nowhere, three Indians mounted on small ponies appeared behind the cowboys.

    The two men and Suzanne froze in their place and looked at the three Indians in awe.

    The Indian who appeared to be the older of the three addressed the cowboys in an authoritarian voice “You better go back to your truck now and leave the woman here before you had an accident and disappear in the desert.”

    “Okay, chief, take it easy, we are leaving this minute” said Tom who started to walk away followed by his friend.

    Once the two cowboys were out of sight, the Indian addressed Suzanne in a gentle and friendly manner. “Don’t you worry Suzanne we will not harm you. We will take you to our town, where we took Chuck early in the afternoon after we found him here all alone in a great pain.”

    “Thank you” said Suzanne, now more at ease and confident that she was in good company. “but tell me, how did you happened to appear at the precise moment when those two villains were about to jump on me?”

    “It was no precision but anticipation.” said the Indian. “Chuck told us that you were coming back and we were waiting for you. When we saw that you came with those two good for nothing individuals, we just hid behind the rocks until we considered that you were in danger.”

    “Well, thank you again. Could you take me now to see Chuck?”

    “Of course, jump on the horse behind me and we will take you there. It is just three miles away”

    Suzanne did as he said and the three horses started the march.

    “By the way, what’s your name” asked Suzanne.

    “Right on Time” answered the Indian.

    • Good ending. I bet his day job is with UPS. I also like the twist on all the old cowboy movies where it was the cavalry to the rescue. Now it’s the Native Americans coming to rescue people from the cowboys. Unexpected!

      • Ann, so if the Indian’s name is Right-on-Time, his day job should be with UPS. That’s what I call imagination and the ability to connect thoughts.
        I wish I could’ve think about that. Impressive.

  10. Great punch line, Lando. I liked your story.

  11. Chuck and Suzanne parked their Jeep on the North rim of the Canyon De Chelly. It is the only national monument entirely owned by the Navajo. The only trail rides and hikes allowed into the canyon are lead by a Navajo guide. It is a rule that Chuck and Suzanne have been ignoring for the entirety of their vacation.

    Chuck pulled the camouflaged canvas tarp over the top of the Jeep after they donned their gear.

    “It’s a ten mile hike Sue. We should be back before noon.”

    “Not with your sissy stride.” She looked over her shades, shrugged on the CamelBak and checked the water flow from the bladder.

    He loved every bit of her, especially the taunting. Chuck pulled the map from his leg pouch with the handheld GPS, laid it on the hood of the Jeep and marked two spots on the map. He then rolled it up and tried to put them back into his pouch as he ran to catch up to Suzanne.

    “You are always run’n off.” He tied his favorite bandanna around his head and looked at her beautiful shape walking ahead of him.

    “You are always try’n to catch me.”

    The first hour of the hike Chuck and Suzanne found nothing that they hadn’t seen already on this vacation. Willows, Cottonwood, Russian Olive, rocks, sand. Suzanne and Chuck planned the route they were taking the night before in between calls from the Observatory. It was roughly a ten mile loop with the apex nearing an abandoned archaeological site.

    “This place better be as good as you said it would be Chuck-E-Boy. And we better not get caught.” They slowed their pace to work their way down the talus slope onto the canyon floor.

    “It’s over 130 square miles of canyon. Believe me, it isn’t patrolled nightly, like your apartment in Sells.” Loose rock shifted under Chuck’s feet and he fell. Tumbling through the scree he cursed loudly.

    Suzanne rushed to reach him at the bottom of the slope. “Are you okay?”
    “Yeah, I just twisted my ankle. I guess my sissy stride will slow us down even further now.” He grinned up at her.

    “We should make our way back.” She reached down to look at his foot.
    He pushed her hand aside, “No. We are almost there anyway and it is roughly the same distance back.” He stood on one leg and tested his weight on the injured foot. “I think it is fine anyway.”

    “Are you sure? I don’t want to have to carry you out of here on my back.”

    “Don’t worry, that won’t happen. The dig site is just around the bend anyway.”

    “The Lost Well isn’t that important.”

    Already walking toward the ruin he said, “Yes, it is.”

    Suzanne and Chuck peaked around the entrance to the shallow cave. Chuck clicked the flashlight on showing the petroglyphs of hands, animals, men and women that lined the walls. At the back of the cave a dark hole blew cool, damp air into their faces. They walked carefully to the edge of the well.

    “How did you find out about this place?” Suzanne whispered to Chuck.
    He pulled her close to his face and looked deep into her eyes. “The name of the well is actually, Lover’s Well. Before the Navajo settled here, this place had a magic about it. It was said that a man could bring his love to the well and divine her intent and their compatibility.”

    She removed her backpack, grinned slightly and kissed him softly on the lips.

    He lifted her in an embrace, turned and pushed her into the well. Tears poured over onto his cheeks. He loved her entirely. But, the magic of the well knew best. He kicked her backpack in after her, walked out of the cave, and looked at his watch. “I guess you were right, Sue. It will be after noon before I get back to the Jeep.”

    • A creepy but truly unexpected finale. What a nice guy this Chuck turned out to be. I hope the Indians catch up with him and make him paid for his crime.

      • My wife thought the ending to be unexpected as well. In fact she was mad at me the whole evening after she read it. 🙂

        I am truly digging the flash fiction scene.

  12. I really got into this piece, Walter. The ending was pretty unexpected for me.

  13. I like how accurate you are with the setting. I also didn’t see that ending coming! He starts out sounding like the wimpy one. Guess not!

  14. Chuck and Suzanne, two Ph.D. astronomers are on vacation in Arizona, doing a lot of desert hiking. Today at dawn they’ve left their Jeep at a trail head near Canyon De Chelly and expect to take a ten mile circle route that should bring them back to where they started. Half-way along the well-marked trail, Chuck twists his ankle.

    Upon examination it appeared not only broken but swelling at an alarming rate. Only one solution. Suzanne had to go to the jeep and get help so Chuck could be carried out and get the necessary medical attention. Chuck would get two of their three water bottles, and all the snack bars plus two apples. Suzanne took off her wind breaker and backpack to give to him, not sure how long he’d have to wait. She took off her bandana and handed it to Chuck for –whatever. Luckily they weren’t actually in the canyon but on the rim, so there was no danger of flash floods. A handy rocky overhang made a shady spot for Chuck to wait.

    “We can do this, right?” Suzanne said, giving Chuck her we-defended-dissertations-so-we-can-do-anything stare.

    Chuck took a deep breath and tried to hide his pain. Waiting was not his forte. “Absolutely.” And so Suzanne headed off.

    Chuck began to rearrange the sand and small rocks at his back to make them more comfortable. It actually was a good spot. He faced northwest, so it wasn’t hard to see the sun, but he was well-shaded. He took a sip of water and decided to bury the plastic bottles to see if he could keep them cool. A flat rock made the digging an interesting project.

    Must be early afternoon, Chuck speculated. It would take Suzanne around two hours to get back to the car, at least an hour to get help, then another two hours back. Five-six hours. He should probably have a fire, but then neither of them ever carried matches. Okay, he’d seen that movie with Tom Hanks: Castaway. Time to try the friction on sticks trick. Happily, there seemed to be a lot of dry bushes around, some with rather heavy stems. Good thing he had the small Swiss Army Knife on his key chain. Pulling himself around by his forearms and one leg wasn’t much fun, but the bandana around his ankle seemed to help keep the swelling down. He got to work. At least it was something to do. Within two hours he had a small fire crackling.

    Needless to say, pretty soon he was roasting cactus to see if it was edible. He even tried baking a small bug on a rock to eat. He saw a mouse scramble through the brush and wondered if he could make a trap. It took three hours—he had to weave some twine out of reedy twigs and bind up a trap baited by apple–but all he had was time. Pretty soon he was sucking mouse meat off tiny little bones. Maybe he should work on a crutch?

    Meanwhile, Suzanne had started off at a good pace, remembering to husband her energy, since this whole rescue depended on her arriving at the Jeep in one piece.

    Suddenly a crazed-looking, bearded man jumped out from behind a rock and shouted at her. “Who are you! Did you escape from the aliens?”

    Suzanne swallowed. Best to be calm. “No. I’m hiking back to my Jeep to get help. My husband broke his ankle back there. I, uh, haven’t seen any aliens.”

    The bearded man came closer, circling her, examining her up and down. “You look like an alien. You have the wrong eyes. You’re one of them!” He tackled her, knocking her on the head with a rock, and tying her up with ropes much like you would tie up a beef roast. Very unfortunate, because he left her there, in the sun, roasting, unable to move at all as he ran off to escape from the aliens.

    And so the story ends. Suzanne died of sun stroke, thirst, exposure, and also small persistent mouse bites that were so antagonizing that she just gave up. As the sun rose next morning, her last, semiconscious words were, “I think that’s Venus rising, but then again, it’s probably just the aliens.” Maybe this was all for the best. Chuck had the only set of Jeep keys.

    Meanwhile, Chuck’s ankle was getting better. There was something medicinal in that cactus he was eating, and it has also hydrated him nicely. He spent a comfortable night by his fire, wearing two windbreakers, and eating desert creatures. He found all kinds of goodies in the two backpacks that he’d been so thoughtfully left by Suzanne—a silver plastic cloth that kept him warm, a cell phone (no signal) with a flashlight app on it, a baseball cap, and a book of short stories by a man named Waldo who lived high in the Adirondacks.

    Chuck wondered if anyone owned the land he was resting on, and decided if he ever got out, he was going to buy it. He settled in for the night, feeding his fire, listening to the fascinating desert noises and watching a star show better than he’d ever seen. Suzanne would come in her own good time, and if she didn’t, well, he was fine.

  15. Ann: Suzanne’s death in such unexpected circumstances was really unexpected. And Chuck’s resignation to patiently wait for Suzanne to come back at her own good time or not at all, as long as he could eat bugs and mice for the rest of his life was also unexpected.
    A truly unexpected ending.

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