This story won an Artistic Merit Award in the Flash Fiction 2010 Contest, The Writer's Circle, Inc., Warwick, RI
At the south rim of the Grand Canyon, there was nothing anyone could do when Aztec Maroney, son of a divorced mother in Melanville, Massachusetts, from a running start somewhere about a hundred feet back, sprinted over the edge into the freezing dawn light.
He burst past a few scattered bleary-eyed early risers, some taking their first sips of coffee from thermoses they loaded the night before. He disappeared into a wisp of fog three-thousand feet above the floor of the canyon with no parachute, no safety net, no obvious entourage encouraging him, tucked into a ball as if he were doing a cannonball into the family pool.
A 'what was that?' rushed through the minds of the tourists as Aztec vanished. Most thought it was a crazed animal. No one got a good look. He fell about three hundred feet until, still tucked in a cannonball, he hit an outcropping. His arm bones from his elbows to his wrists and his leg bones from his knees to his ankles, shattered. He was conscious enough to wonder with his first thought after impact if he would ever walk again. Then he wondered if he would die.
Aztec's jump sucked the tourists to the edge of the canyon and they leaned over not sure what they were looking for. They squinted into the haze and heard moans from below that could have been man or beast.
At the same time, three young people backed away from the rim. They wore colorful, expensive down jackets and right-out-of-the-box L.L. Bean hiking boots. They looked like the shiny, happy faces with perfect teeth and smiles you see in private school catalogues. They were alternately wrapping their arms around themselves and each other and gyrating.
One of the tourists had the presence of mind to run to the ranger station. She rapped on the door till a ranger appeared and she had to force out the words: "I think something has happened".
The traumatized young people were the first one's the park rangers attended to and the first ones the police questioned that day.
"We don't know, we don't know, we don't know!" screamed Jenny, who was revealed to be Aztec's girlfriend early in the police interview after the rangers and the police calmed them down enough to begin their investigation.
The other young man in the surviving threesome tried to help.
"He said he wanted to get a picture of us on the rim, that's why he went back away from us."
Then he broke down, dropped his head, had a seizure of sobs and choked the words out: "He…he said he wanted something…something to remember us by."
In Flagstaff, having been told his father was en route from Connecticut, Aztec, conscious, saturated with morphine, waited in his hospital bed, wondering what was real, and how he'd explain.