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In the shadows of an apple tree, a man knelt with his dog, a bent crooked stick lying next to him. He was listening -listening for something although he wasn’t quite sure what. He heard the wind whisper through the flowers and felt the breeze brush his cheeks. He heard the soft babble of the brook that twisted its narrow course behind him and could almost feel the cool water against the tip of his fingers. He heard the song of a merry bird twittering back and forth between the branches. But he didn’t hear it. Yet he knew it was there. He knew that once he found it, it would connect that last strand of memory, that memory that was so important to him, and then he would find it. The truth. And so his heart thudded, as if it was urging him on. Thump, thump, thump! Truth! Truth! Truth! Anticipation.
He rubbed his dog behind the ears. His dog. A truth. And his dog would not leave him because he dwelled in his memory and he would not let go of the truth that was, and the truth that yet to come but hadn’t been found yet.
The man picked up the stick and walked, beckoning to the dog. The man with the crooked stick had a limp. A truth. The man knew little about himself except his name his age and that he was searching for something. No. Not something. The truth. And he would never forget the truth that would lead him to remember.
He did not turn to see if the dog was following him, because the dog was a truth and it would always follow him. He headed towards the brook, its babble getting louder, its strange language something he could not understand. But yet, its sweet serenade still called to him and drew him closer…closer…closer.
And then he heard it- the truth. At first he heard only the soft babble of the stream. Then, his ears opened and he heard a soft plop! as he began to run. Towards the truth. Towards everything he had ever lived for.
The truth’s music wrapped around him enveloped him. It was unusual. It was a harp. So it’s true, he thought; it’s really true.
The shop was lit with candles. His father had told him that candles make a room more inviting. He suspected, however, that it was just an excuse not to pay for electricity, something his family could not always afford. He was ashamed of his father. His funny haircut and odd clothes, and inherited accent were justifiable reasons why he should not be expected to act like his father. When he had voiced his opinion to his younger compassionate sister, Vehlia, she had scoffed, in the female version of her father’s accent, “Jeremy. It does not matter what you think, it will never matter, unless you become like your father,” and she laughed a bitter laugh.
Now, as he stood in the doorway of the shop and heard his father play the harp, his face shadowed in the flickering of the candles, he was ashamed of himself. He knew that his father’s instrument shop didn’t pay well, and that his dad’s tattered clothes couldn’t be helped and that he had no right to criticize his father for that, but he simply couldn’t help it. Then it came to him. He would leave. And he would leave. And he would never come back.
He was close. The Truth was close. Yet it was eluding him. He hopped the last few rocks and peered in the water’s edge. His face contorted; ruined by the ripples of the stream. The Truth was calling. And he remembered.
A woman’s hand on his cheek. His mother. Her voice like the whisper through the flower’s, quiet and calm. A hand. On his shoulder. A voice like the soft babble of the brook, rising and falling. Father. Finally. Three children. Their faces are dirty, their eyes alight. Their voices like the twittering of birds. All of them held something. A promise. “We will always love you,” they said.
His life was full of broken promises.
The man knelt on both knees and wept. He did not want to remember. It was not good to remember. He did not have the Truth, because the Truth was love. As his shudders subsided, he realized that that was not necessarily true. He lay there. Waiting. If he had love, then it would come. He did not know how long he lay there, only that it could have been days and nights, or just a few minutes. But love did come.
A cold nose poked up against his shoulder, and soon a little wet tongue was licking him all over. And he did have love, though it was not human, the love of a dog. It had dropped something before him, a bent crooked stick, before it had proceeded to lick him all over. Renewed with the energy of love, the man picked up the stick and followed the dog.
He crept slowly out of bed, not wanting to wake any of his three sisters who all shared the same room as him. Their heavy breathing was only disrupted once, when his feet touched the cool bare floor, but that was only for a few moments as his bed creaked and groaned. Slowly, he reached under the bed and grabbed a satchel filled with clothes and a few personal belongings. “Goodbye!” he whispered to his younger siblings as he crept out the door… and right into the belly of his father. He gazed up, surprised and angered, only to meet his father’s rather calm face. His father’s face was always calm before a beating.
It had been two weeks. He had been following the dog for two weeks. Its gait never altered, it pounded forward, its nose bent downward as if following a trail. As nightfall outlasted day, he began to see light up ahead. Then, at daybreak, he began to see the tops of chimneys and finally, at mid-afternoon, he entered the town. He had never looked in at the town from the tops of the hills but had always looked out and up at the hills. He was a prisoner and this was his prison. He had escaped, but now he came back. To do what was right. As if his feet were guiding him, he walked to the shop that he knew so well. Stood in the doorway that he knew so well. Looked in the face that he knew so well. It was older, and more tired. The line of ager carved deep into his skin. But he could not have been any happier to see the unusual haircut and tattered clothes. And the accent. He had not heard anyone speak for over a year except himself, when he called to his dog. Now his father called to him. One word. Son.
His father had not beaten him. Instead he had asked him to follow him. They went into the shop and sat down in the two rocking chairs his father had constructed. They wobbled horribly. “I wanted to give you this,” his father said as he handed him a stick that was crafted just as well as the chairs, “for your journey.” Jeremy noticed a tear leak from his eyes. “I hope your journey leads you to the truth,” the tears came faster now. “And that the truth will never hide from you as it did for me,” although the tears still flowed, his voice was stronger. “And when you are older you will come back and visit me and tell me what you learned?” It was a question.
“Yes, Papa, I will.”
And so he did.