On the Way

On the Way

A Story by BobM
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A young person finds a way forward in a town unsupportive of personal aspirations.

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I pass a couple of birch trees, the kind that reach straight up until you can’t see them through the sunlight, and take a detour onto one of the smaller trails. The main trail, known officially as the blue trail, is paved with some sort of rough cement, and isn’t much good for anything but sore legs in my opinion. The yellow trail, the trail I’m on now, is narrow and overflowing with brush. It’s kind of a hike, so not very many people bother with it. It’s a good thing, too, because otherwise I’d have to take the red trail, which nobody ever goes on; the red trail goes all the way up the mountain and back, and includes some very involved maneuvering around certain cliff edges.

I’ve got all day, so I go at a nice leisurely pace, taking note of the clear sky above me. There are some darkish clouds over in the distance, but they’re always hanging around, and I don’t really see any reason for them to come any closer while I’m walking the trail. From what I can tell, there’s nobody too close either behind or ahead, so I just keep my easy pace striding along the path. The dirt isn’t too hard, and has a lot of moss patched up like carpet; I can barely feel my shoes hit the ground when I step. The whole experience is pretty relaxing, and I forget all about the storm behind the mountains, so I just let myself get lost in the canopy of color that covers the world below.

A group of birds- they’re black, with a red streak on the breast, but I can’t remember what they’re called- is sitting on a mottled branch way up near the forest’s ceiling. They’re taking turns singing cheerful songs to each other- happy, simple songs that break the forest’s deep silence- while a single crow flies quietly in the backdrop. Hearing my approach, the mysterious songbirds take off in a flurry- although the crow stays a while in the distance, silently observing me stumble through some brush. Taking one last look, as if to satisfy itself, the crow dips below the foliage and disappears.



I’ve been walking for awhile now, maybe two hours or so, and I can feel my feet starting to drag.  The moss is gone, and the ground has gotten somewhat uneven. My parents always complained about the way I walked, how I stumbled around on the family strolls. I never particularly liked walking before, back then it involved pushing and pulling, getting shoved around by my siblings. The whole affair was messy and loud, and I always came home with sore feet and a headache. Back then we walked along the main trail, where bicycles speeding up and down the rough cement scared off any wildlife, and crushed any flowers growing along the sides. There was nothing beautiful to see, and nothing to hear over the static of picnickers’ radios.

Once, when I was very young, I got lost after I accidentally diverted onto an offshoot of the main trail. After awhile I realized I was alone, and when I did I almost cried from fright. I sat there in the middle of that beaten road, unsure what to do, until I noticed some shouting in the distance. Getting up, I ran towards the voices I heard. Coming out of an outlet onto the main trail, I saw my family walking towards me. As they came closer they began to notice me, and I heard one them say something. “Hey,” my oldest sibling asked, “How did you get ahead of us?”



The path is getting thinner now; I don’t know many people who would be willing enough to risk squeezing through all the ivy, with all the pitfalls scattered around, but I can fit easily enough. I’ve never been very large; my parents claim I’d be healthier if I got out more. Last year they put a call through to my teacher, asked if it might be possible to talk some sense into me. My teacher pulled me aside one day after class and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I said, “I want to look after the library, and write poems for the newspaper.” Well, that’s when I got it. My teacher got this stern look, said the town already has a librarian, what we need are more able-bodies. Then I was told that I’d be better off dropping the whole thing and maybe start thinking about how I’d settle down when I graduate the next year. I don’t know what an able-body is supposed to do, or what they do when they “settle down”, but I doubt it has anything to do with books. It seems to me like the whole town has never read anything more than the yearly almanac, except maybe the mayor, who says he read Dickinson once but thought it a little over-the-top for his taste.

The brush is really fighting back now. I’m struggling to step over the vines that wrap themselves around my ankles, dragging me back towards them. A week ago at dinner I told my family I intended to leave for college. They said there was no way, I needed to help out with the farm, and anyway we didn’t have that kind of money to send me to college. I told them I was eighteen now, so when I graduate this week I won’t be under their guardianship anymore. They asked me where I heard something like that. I told them read it in a lawbook I got from town hall. Then everyone got very quiet for a long time, and after awhile I just got up and went upstairs to study for my final exams.

After they finished dinner, my parents came upstairs. They wanted to know if I had any idea how much tuition cost. I told them that the city had decided to give me a scholarship on account of my good marks, and that the college had mailed me my letter of acceptance three days ago. They just got this sort of funny look on their faces, looked at each other, then at me, then back at each other. They asked me who helped to do all of this. I said no one, except maybe the postal worker who helped me figure out the forms I had to fill out. All of a sudden they got angry; they yelled and said to drop all of this nonsense, it wasn’t fair to my siblings, and that I wasn’t going and it was final. I nodded, whispered yes, and went to bed after they stormed off.

The next day, I walked into town and bought a bus ticket. When I got home my parents were waiting with the bags they found packed in my room. Before they said anything I handed them the receipt I got when I bought my ticket, picked up my bags, and walked out the door. I spent the night in the chapel down the road. In the morning I went to the bus stop, where my folks were waiting for me.

Just up ahead are some wild roses, who seem pretty nice but hurt a whole lot as I pass them by. I almost think about turning back, it hurts so much, but I push through and as I do I break clear through the forest. I’m blinded in the raw sunlight, my eyes accustomed to the calm darkness of the forest shade. I know that it won’t be long before my eyes adjust, and I’ll finally be able to see the world in front of me. I’ve been walking on this trail for a long time, but I’ve made it into the clearing; from here I can walk back home without the restriction I had walking on the trail. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see a few crows sitting together on a log, carefully studying some grasshoppers in the grass. They don’t know me yet, but soon I’ll be just like them, except working twice as hard because I need it twice as much. Deep inside me, I know that I made it- I escaped the thicket- and I’ll finally be on my way.

© 2015 BobM


Author's Note

BobM
I would appreciate any criticism, I thank you all in advance.

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Featured Review

What a great piece of writing! Your style pleasantly lead me through this passage, ensuring that even at times of ceaseless description, where there wasn't a lot of sense of the story progressing, I was so enthralled that I didn't mind at all!

The way that the two seemingly unrelated narrations met and the end was also very satisfying. So much so, that on a second reading, I somewhat wished that you'd explored the parallels of these ideas a little further - perhaps the different coloured trails could have symbolised the different choices that could have been made, with an easier trail that lead to a relatively underwhelming view symbolising the route of following the family's instruction and working on the farm, for example.

Then again, that's just my taste, and I don't want it to leave the impression of underselling your work, since it isn't a very useful criticism anyway. So I once again point out that it was a pleasure to read, and that furthermore you are clearly a very talented writer. I look forward to reading more of your work!

-eggman

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

BobM

5 Years Ago

Thanks again, eggman! Your idea is absolutely fabulous, and now I'm excited to rewrite this to refle.. read more



Reviews

Hi BobM,

I see the story as the life of person in and out of the forest. In the forest are unhappy days. Leaving the forest is a struggle to escape. Escaping the forest is the brightness of day towards this person's dream. Am I right?

Posted 5 Years Ago


BobM

5 Years Ago

Thanks for your comment.
What a great piece of writing! Your style pleasantly lead me through this passage, ensuring that even at times of ceaseless description, where there wasn't a lot of sense of the story progressing, I was so enthralled that I didn't mind at all!

The way that the two seemingly unrelated narrations met and the end was also very satisfying. So much so, that on a second reading, I somewhat wished that you'd explored the parallels of these ideas a little further - perhaps the different coloured trails could have symbolised the different choices that could have been made, with an easier trail that lead to a relatively underwhelming view symbolising the route of following the family's instruction and working on the farm, for example.

Then again, that's just my taste, and I don't want it to leave the impression of underselling your work, since it isn't a very useful criticism anyway. So I once again point out that it was a pleasure to read, and that furthermore you are clearly a very talented writer. I look forward to reading more of your work!

-eggman

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

BobM

5 Years Ago

Thanks again, eggman! Your idea is absolutely fabulous, and now I'm excited to rewrite this to refle.. read more
This story really pulls me in. The description of the past intermingling with your present trek, just, well, works! Only have two critisisms, the repeated 'trail' detaches the rythem and throws me off somehow. Maybe instead of 'while I’m walking the trail.' put 'while i'm navigating the path' or 'while striding over the beaten track'. Also at some parts I feel as if you tell and don't show. I think by going into more detail about your encounter with your parents and showing us, you could really bring this story to another level. Not that the level it's on now isn't great, haha! well done! :)

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

BobM

6 Years Ago

Thanks a lot! I will definitely follow your advice and both add more detail and fix the repetitive w.. read more
Jocie de Jaune

6 Years Ago

No problem :D Glad I helped!x

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Added on October 2, 2015
Last Updated on October 7, 2015
Tags: Short, Story, Fiction

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BobM
BobM

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