To the Mountain

To the Mountain

by Erik Raschke

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Overview

"A mercilessly taut, relentlessly thrilling tale of heartbreak and survival. Raschke writes with humanity and grace about the challenges of parenthood, and the rigors of the natural world."
—JONATHAN EVISON, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving


Eleven–year–old Marshall lives in a remote juvenile center in Colorado
, where he is bullied by the other boys, misunderstood by all of the staff except Leslie, and so overwhelmed by the sounds and smells in the cafeteria that getting his lunch is a daily terror. During a blizzard, an unexpected mishap for Marshall and Leslie leads to Marshall's disappearance into the wilderness. His father, Jace, knows that Marshall has gone searching for a secret on the mountain. To save Marshall, Jace must overcome not only the winter elements, but his own self–doubt in this tale of sacrifice, hope, and the bond between father and son.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781948814324
Publisher: Torrey House Press
Publication date: 02/16/2021
Pages: 175
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

ERIK RASCHKE received an MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. His first novel, The Book of Samuel, was translated into Italian and nominated for the prestigious Printz award. His short stories and essays have been published in, among others, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Hazlitt, De Volkskrant, and Guernica. His short story, "Winch" (Portland Review), was nominated for the 2018 Best American Short Stories.



As a reporter in the early nineties for The Newsletter and Belfast Telegraph, Raschke covered the bombings, shootings, and assassinations that marked the end of The Troubles. Later, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia and at a certified New York public school teacher working with lower–income students in the upper–Manhattan/Bronx area. He became a dual Dutch and American citizen in 2013. He lives in Amsterdam with his wife and three boys and teaches writing at The University of Amsterdam.

Read an Excerpt

When Marshall awoke, the light angled across his bed, sparking the dust. Out the window, only a few miles away, the mountain was enveloped by clouds.



The mountain was simply called "The Mountain." His father had told him that Spanish explorers came this far north, to southern Colorado, and had named the two adjacent mountain ranges, the San Juans and the Sangre de Cristos respectively. However, "The Mountain" was part of neither range, but a lone volcano that sat between both. It stood alone and therefore appeared taller than the rest.



Marshall flopped in his bed, turning away from the window, held his breath, shook his head from side to side, closed his eyes, and exhaled through pursed lips.



Three attendants, Randy, Bernice, and Francine, were talking in the hallway, and as they spoke, Marshall could picture the way Randy's left top lip twitched when he laughed, Francine's teeth flashed when she made a point, and Bernice's nose flared when she came to punctuation in her sentences.



Their gossip was halted by something that Marshall could not see or hear. The attendant's feet pulled away from the circle. There came a light knock on the door, two hesitant raps.



"Marsh," a voice said, stern, but patient.



He clambered out of bed, feeling as if he were an oak plank floating upon a foamy tide. When he opened his eyes the ground swayed. He clamped his eyes closed, plugged his ears, snatched at the clothes in his drawers. He dragged his pants and shirt on, patted his body with his hands, pushed himself to his feet, stumbled toward the door. Remembering Suzy, he called out her name, rushed to the bed, patted it down, ran his hand under the pillow, and found her wedged between the mattress and the bed frame.



There was another knock on the door, one determined strike of knuckles against wood. He stepped into the hallway and an attendant emerged from an adjacent room and blocked him. The man’s lips and cheeks were chapped and sunburned, shreds of skin peeling away. His eyes were olives behind thick glasses. Marshall had never seen the man before.



"How many times we gotta knock?" he asked.



"One,” Marshall said, because it was the only number he could remember.



"Don't you be a smart–ass," the attendant said, thin lips stretching into thin cheeks, punctuating the threat.



Marshall steered himself around the man, gripping the railing, but was crippled by sharp pins in his feet. His shoes were on the wrong feet. His clothes were inside out. But he couldn't stop or he'd get in trouble.



He weaved down the hall and eventually made it to the dining hall. He peeked in and looked for Leslie, but through the fuzz of the crowd and the sounds and blinding lights, his equilibrium tottered and he had to close his eyes to keep his balance.



As Marshall entered the dining hall, he turned this way and that, trying to orienteer for himself. Suzy pinched his elbow with her plastic hands, ordered him to go to the other end of the hall. He followed the steel railing, grabbed some the silverware and a dish, and drifted toward the food line. A man serving potatoes ordered him to get a tray. When he turned around, a boy brushed past, and they knocked elbows. He dropped his dish and it shattered into two moonlike pieces. He had no control over his muscles. He screamed and threw his cup. One of the attendants shouted. Marshall gave a conciliatory smile, but the attendant misinterpreted it as mockery. He jabbed his finger and barked, "The bathtub is a mean cat."



He knew bathtubs were not cats. Before he could ask the attendant for clarification, a second attendant, a woman, began talking excitedly, asking Marshall the kind of questions that were not questions, but accusations ending in a question mark. The grating tone of their voices made him squeamish and he put his hands over his ears. The female attendant yanked them down, splotches of red appearing on her neck. She was shouting indecipherable words; puts, and tuts and shlluppp. Marshall pressed against the wall, trying to hide between the bricks.





***





The director was a bearded man with soft, sympathetic eyes and thick lashes; he walked the halls with a modicum of authority, but avoided the boys when they roamed in packs. When Marshall entered, the director studied him, scratching at his beard.



"You’re here why?" he asked.



Marshall knew the director's name, had repeated it many times, but now, it was lost. He searched the tidy office for a clue. There was a photo of three dogs, blue ribbons hanging on the wall, a rubber tree fading in a corner. He closed his eyes and dug for a visual association, but the man's name remained elusive.



"Shrink them purple?" the director said.



Marshall did not know how to answer the question. He was not even sure if it was a question at all. He wanted to please the director, but he did not want to say the wrong thing so he scrunched his forehead and pretended to think of a response.



"You hear me?"



"Why?" Marshall asked.



The director stared at him with the kind of calm expression that could easily tip into anger. "I'm asking you."



The office was narrow and the walls constricting. When the director leaned back, his chair groaned. When he leaned forward, it chirped. The fluorescent lights roared. In between Marshall's ear and his brain the director's words tightened into a visible cube and the sentences hurled through context.



"Making changes near the front," the director said, then concluded with, "Even flies will be getting stuck."



Marshall nodded enthusiastically, praying that this was the right response. The gesture seemed to work because the director stood and held out his arms. Marshall did not want to do anything wrong, so he stepped forward, but when the director grabbed him tight, he was suffocated not only by the constricting embrace, but by the smells of menthol cigarettes, crusted sweat, blueberry muffins, and coffee.

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