One Step at a Time

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George stood at the bottom of the stone steps leading to the top of the grassy hill. He looked up toward the top and started counting the steps, reaching twenty before he had to stop, as the steps above the twentieth were difficult to individually discern from his vantage point.

He sighed, remembering when, in his youth, he would have been able to vault up these steps and reach the top without even breathing hard. But that was then. These days George knew that he would be winded before he reached the twentieth step, realizing that even then he would barely be half-way to the top.

“You can do it, George,” he said aloud to himself, as no one else was within ear shot. “One step at a time, George. No rush. No records to set. No pressure.”

Taking deep breath, George lifted his right leg, pushed down with his left, and almost willed himself forward to scale the first step. He continued this process in a slow, deliberate, and determined way, one step after the other, counting each step until he reached the twentieth, where he pause and looked back down the hill.

George paused on that twentieth step, breathing deeply and trying to calm his rapidly beating heart. As he looked up toward the crest of the hill, he sensed that the incline had become even steeper than the portion he had just completed. “One step at a time, George. No rush. No records to set. No pressure,” he repeated as he started the next part of the ascent.

He stopped counting each step as he conquered it, concentrating instead on managing his heartbeat and controlling his breathing. He didn’t know how long it took to get there, but he finally managed to make it to the very top step.

As he stepped onto that final stone at the top of the hill, George saw a little figure running toward him. “See Grandpa, I told you could do it,” shouted the little figure, who ran up to George and hugged the old man’s legs.

“Anything for you, Tommy,” George said, patting the head of the boy who had vaulted up the steps without even breathing hard just moments before.


This post was written for this week’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) challenge. Thanks to Michael Morpethroad for turning me on to this weekly challenge.

Image: JS Brand

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30 thoughts on “One Step at a Time”

  1. Well it’s a great story and one I do relate to, that notion of determination to get to the top and remembering what it was once like to be as your grandson and run up said steps without a moment’s hesitation. I try and walk often for no other reason than it makes me feel good and I can walk up stairs without puffing.

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      1. Do you know the 10,000 step thing is an arbitrary number? Someone thought it a good number for reasons that escape me now. The truth of your walk is in your enjoyment, that I think is most important.

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    1. No worries. I agree that that sentence was awkwardly structured. I probably should have said “patting the head of the boy who who had vaulted up the steps without even breathing hard.” Good, constructive observation, Sight.

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      1. Delete this comment after reading it. I just realised you can’t end a sentence with ‘before’. How about this, ‘who just moments before (had) vaulted up those (or the) steps without breaking a sweat..

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    1. I’m a few years past “middle-age,” so yeah, I can relate, too. That said, I think I could still manage the climb a little better than George did in this story. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Lovely story! I kept thinking that maybe he only had one leg and prosthetic. But age can certainly do that too! I saw several areas where you could have shortened your story without interfering with the story and make it less bulky. Please keep your stories to 75-175 words. Thank you!

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  3. crest of the hill, – I was trying to think of another word to insert in my writing! There it is “crest of the hill” – Great story! I would have been worried about looking back, losing balance, and with no rail to hold – get vertigo –
    & TUMBLE down the hill. NOW, I understand why Jack-n-Jill fell down the hill! That used to annoy the hell out of me as a kid. Stupid nursery rhymes. How, the heck, did Jack break his crown falling down? And where were their parents?

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