The Slow Journey (Long Version)

The wind blows as the two men step into the cold October morning. Tom pulls his coat tighter as the door closes behind them. He straightens the older mans hat and asks, “Are you sure you’re up for this? I know you had a hard night last night. We can skip it today if you want.” The old man smiles at Tom and shakes his head, “Don’t try to get out of our morning walk. You haven’t gone all soft on me have you?” Both men laugh as they start their daily journey.

They have been doing this for weeks now. The path out back is a little long, but it’s an easy walk. It leads past a small pond before it winds back again to the beginning. As they pass through the gate that leads to the worn brick path, Tom realizes how much he has come to enjoy these outings. He never paid much attention before to the pond or the trees and bushes that surround it. The trees aren’t much to look at and the bushes are more like scrub really. But Tom has come to appreciate the “serenity of nature” as the old man calls it. He’s not sure where the serenity comes in, since the old man spends most of the walk telling his life story. The details change from time to time; the old man’s memory isn’t always reliable these days. He talks about the war, his children, and his wife, who “went to live with the Lord going on ten years now.” Tom has heard it all, several times. But he doesn’t mind. As one tends to do when hearing a story for the tenth time or so, Tom loses the actual words. They all blend together into one continuous beat. The sound of the old man’s voice, the subtle cadence of his words, mesmerizes Tom as they stroll down the path. He find’s himself walking to the rhythm of the raspy voice.

At first Tom was frustrated with the slow pace of the walk. Which is funny really, how the old man can walk so slowly but look as if he just set out for a cross-country race. Viewed from a distance that warps perspective, and without the trees on the horizon for reference, one might think the old man was moving along at a break neck speed. He walks with a sense of purpose, head up, eyes forward. His gait is even. The soft tap, tap, tap of his shoes on the bricks (he never wears proper walking shoes) helps keep Tom in the rhythm the old man’s voice created.

His arms swing slightly at his side; the cane in his right hand prevents that arm from swinging as much. He is never without his cane, though Tom can’t remember him ever using it on these walks. Tom jokes with him, tells him he looks like he is getting ready to run a marathon. Although for each three steps the old man takes Tom only has to take one. It is a race to the finish line – in slow motion. But Tom has grown to appreciate this slow pace. As the rhythm of the old man’s voice moves them forward, Tom has begun to notice the things around him.

It’s the little things that fascinate him most. Like the crunching sound the leaves make underfoot as the two men walk into the cluster of trees just beyond the gate. The leaves cover the brick bath, hiding it from view. He loves the damp earthy smell they produce.

It is here where the old man starts his story. He talks about how he met his wife so long ago, how they fell in love at first sight. As they pass through the trees into the sunlight, the path slowly returns to view. A few blades of grass still poke through here and there, but it is mostly dirt now that shows between the broken edges of the worn bricks.

As the path curves, the old man’s story turns toward the war. He talks of brutal battles. He tells how scared and alone he felt, even among all the soldiers. Here the pond comes into sight. It is not a particularly large pond, but the water is clear and inviting. Tom always has the desire to throw a penny in and make a wish. But he doesn’t want to interrupt the old man’s story and break the rhythm of the walk.

They usually get to the spot where the sun hits the water and bounces onto the worn path when the old man starts to talk about the birth of his first son, James. It is this place where they turn to walk back. The path continues on around the pond, but it is a wide loop. The old man has begun to tire by this time, so they never make the full loop.

The pace slows even more as they walk back. The old man pauses now in between sentences to catch his breath. As the brick path slowly disappears again under the heavy leaves the old man looks at Tom. “You know Tom, I won’t be able to make these walks for too much longer. It seems to get tougher every day.” Tom shakes his head at the old man and asks, “You haven’t gone all soft on me, have you?” They both laugh, but this time there is an uneasiness in their laughter. By the time they walk into the cluster of trees where the scent of leaves is thick in the air, the heaviness of the old man’s breathing takes over the rhythm of the walk. The stories end. The rest of the walk is made in silence. Tom looks back to the path where they have just come. It amazes him how much there is to see in what he once considered scrub. Tom’s attention turns inward now. His mind slowly returns to the “real” world as they pass through the gate and onto the concrete sidewalk which leads to the door.

The nurse is waiting at the door to take the old man back to his room. He always needs a nap after these outings.

As Tom heads for the front door to the parking lot the old man calls out, “Same time tomorrow?” “Same time tomorrow,” Tom calls back.

“I love you Tom,” the old man says.

“I love you too Dad,” Tom answers as he steps into the cold October morning.


At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Dragon said...

Wonderful story...I fear I may become addicted to your site...more please

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonimo said...

Great story - again I feel like I'm there watching these people and almost as though I know them! But it made me sad because you know old age will be what takes away those walks eventually ...precious memories that you can never get back. I believe a great writer is in the making!!!!! R

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonimo said...

Good ending, although I read the short version first.
Mist - the Star formerly known as M
Can we have a funny story next?

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonimo said...

If your a CU-Denver student, why don't you ask your professor for comments that's why he their, or you can ask your classmates. I think your an idiot!

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Sharron said...

Ah, my first flamer. I'm flattered. But you are off a little with your grammer and spelling. "If your a CU-Denver student" should be "If you are" or "If you're." Unless you are talking about my own personal CU-Denver student, in which case you could say "your" but would need to remove the "a" as you did with "your professor." "that's why he their" should be changed to "that's why he is (or he's) there." "I think your an idiot!" needs to be changed to "I think you are (or you're) an idiot!" Please correct and re-post.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Gary Norris said...

Unfortunately, Sharron, this is probably one of your classmates. Ignore it.

Jealousy marks itself. But you're right: a flame should be as intelligent as it is insulting. And that one is neither.

keep writing.

At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Shane B. from Ault said...

Ditto to the keep writing part.

I first heard about your site from your husband, B.J., on the radio. There is definitely talent in what you write. Loved the bird interview. As far as handling Mr. Grammar up there, I commend you. Most writers I know that have barely started to let others view their hard work would have handled it with a lot less class than you did. I started my own writing course (don't laugh) through the mail, due to obstacles along my path. So I now how it feels to be on the receiving end of critiqueing(sp). You are great with describing your surrounding areas and with handling your characters thoughts. One thing I noticed though was that there wasn't really any suspense built into it. I know stories like this don't really need the suspense aspect but it may be something to work on for later stories. Imagine how better the story would have played through if you could've aroused some more suspicion between how these two are related and why they do these walks or even more of a twist hinting at how far his mind has gone. For example: Even though the old man always remembers it's time to go for his walk, he often has trouble remembering Tom's name or what there conversation was about the day before; or ending it with: "Same time tomorrow, young man." The old man called to Tom.

"Same time," Tom replied and then whispered a barely audible "dad" as the nurse led his father around a corner and back to his room.

I look forward to more of your stories in the future. Remember to always take criticism with a smile. Some are only trying to help and the rest only want to see the smile falter.

At 6:55 PM, Blogger Sharron said...

Thanks. It rattled me a bit at first, but I did expect some of that. I see it on other blogs I read. It's unfortunate but a fact of life on the internet I guess. I have three boys so I'm pretty used to nonsense!
I honestly don't mind critical comments, but only if they contain something that I or anyone else can benefit from. I appreciate everyone's suggestions. I can't say I always enjoy it, but I do use it. I think we are too close to our own writing to see some of this stuff ourselves. That’s what I have found when I read these comments - It gives me new eyes. Thanks for your support. Are any of your writings posted anywhere?

At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonimo said...

I very honestly enjoyed this story!! I was surprised to find out that this was a father and a son. That brought a whole new emotion to me at the end. Being a great writer means that people keep coming back, and look forward to, reading your work. But having critics..... wow that means that you have truly arrived. Of course, I have just enough red neck still in me to want to beat the "far" out of anyone who would dare to call you an idiot. Good thing one of us has class!!! Love ya, Nelle


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