What Pegman Saw: No Distractions

Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout, Big Sky, Montana | © Matthew Kennedy, Google Maps

The ranger smirked at the sight of her store-fresh backpack and then eyed her tennis shoes. “You want me to check back mid-week?”

No distractions. That had been the point of this whole week. No kids, no husband—no interruptions. “I’ll be fine.”

She lugged the five-gallon water jug up the fire tower stairs as the ranger rumbled away on his AWD. She didn’t notice the leak until morning. By then, five days’ worth of water had spilled across plank floor.

That was four days ago. Her parched lips cracked as her mouth tightened in a grimace. How long could a person go without water, anyway?

She thought of Tilly, sticky fingers tugging at her sleeve: Tell me a story.

She thought of Robert, popping in her office for the hundredth time: Would you like a cup of tea?

What she wouldn’t give for such sweet distraction now.

148 words

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  1. Wow, that’s a real cautionary tale about the perils of naivety and ignorance. Her lack of survival skills has put her life at risk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Penny, it’s great to see you!

      I wasn’t really happy with the grim tone I landed on. My concept was ‘what if someone wanted to escape distractions, only to find themselves longing for those same distractions when faced with more dire circumstances.’ So I put my character at a remote fire tower for a seven day stay and left her with two days’ worth of water. The ranger will come back by in a week.

      But it ended up sounding more cautionary than I planned. I wasn’t trying for ‘careful for what you wish for’ either. Maybe more like ‘your distractions are your blessings’. Maybe the fix will come to me, but if you have ideas, I’d love to hear them!


      1. Hi Karen! Thanks for the welcome back to Pegman!
        I certainly got the ‘your distractions are your blessings’ angle, but five days without water is dangerous. If the ranger had said he was coming back mid-week that would have been more plausible as two days without water would be unpleasant but not life-threatening.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, I was definitely going for ‘discomfort but not deadly’. I had her bringing five gallons, and losing all but two-days’ worth. So she’d have to make a gallon and half of water last a week. I don’t know if that would kill a person or just make them miserable. Just writing this is making me thirsty!


  2. Poor thing. You capture the thirst well. Five gallons of water weighs forty pounds, too, so she carried all that weight for nothing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is what keeps me from renting the fire tower… the hauling five gallons of water plus a pack. This story is making me very thirsty.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Always bring extra water! The story definitely made me feel thirsty, so well done there! It’s clear that she doesn’t know much about survival skills either, since she doesn’t even seem to consider going to look for a creek. There must be a creek somewhere, right? But the other message is even better: getting away from it all can starkly illuminate what you most appreciate and miss about “it all.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joy, that is definitely what I was going for. Thanks for reading. Great to see you this week! Hope your work calms down soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Work will be nuts for a while yet, I’m afraid.
        We are over-committed and understaffed until at least April at this point. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yikes. Well don’t forget to take time to recharge!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m spending a week with my family for the holidays, and am considering not even bringing my laptop. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the complete avoidance of distractions can hurt us more, especially when we are put in dire situations. The intensity of the grim circumstances is felt more and we can’t focus on our aim, and as you said, would long for distractions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, I like how you put that. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A tragic error with dire consequences. I hope the ranger will check back anyway, since she clearly pegged the woman as a newbie. Sometimes our best allies are the people who doubt us. Otherwise the ending will be grim, indeed.

    I also thought this location looked very remote.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Sometimes our best allies are the people who doubt us.” Wow, that is a great line. A person could write a book on that!

      Garnet Mountain is a 3.5 mile hike from ‘civilization’. The fire tower, and many like it, are available for rent. Most have no electricity or water. Some are more remote than others. https://www.firelookout.org/lookout-rentals.html

      I love the outdoors and often daydream about doing it myself. Then I think about lugging a weeks’ worth of water up there and change my mind!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Occasionally, I feel like getting away from it all in a spectacular way, such as how Astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) was stranded on Mars in the 2015 movie “The Martian.” It’s funny the stories such feelings inspire. For me, it was this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice take James. Love The Martian too, but I don’t think I want to get away quite that far.


  7. peterkirsch

    Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…

    If you think it went too far, perhaps something less drastic/life-threatening would be more effective. Perhaps the isolation alone would be dire enough. A seven-day deluge, early blizzard, or windstorm, or a forest fire (oh, the irony). Perhaps an illness comes on strong and knocks her out in bed for the stretch.

    In “Into the Wild,” Chris McCandless recognizes his need and longing for those he rejected before he discovers his looming peril. Such is true: one does not have to face death to realize they’ve been short-sighted.

    FWIW, I agree, the lesson I got here (as I did in “Into the Wild”) was, “Don’t place yourself in life-threatening circumstances for which you are not prepared.”

    Still, I liked it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, that is why I never venture far. Thanks for reading!


  8. You see, this is why I never venture into wilderness – that would be me, dying of thirst up a tower! It might have had a more extreme ending than you were aiming for, but her desire for those little distractions came through very strongly. I felt that tug when she remembered her little girl. Nicely done

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Awww, bless her. Her writers’ retreat sunk on day one. Loved the way she realised how much she really loved those distractions after all. We have to lose them to miss them. Great that she can return to reality, refreshed by her love for her family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading Kelvin! Yes indeed, our distractions are something to love. So often I find myself exhausted and scattered with all the kids’ stuff, but I know I will miss it when they’re all grown and gone.


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