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The String-Button Bracelet
If it hadn’t been for Danny’s appetite, I wouldn’t have had to leave him there, in our small cabin, with only his pet frog. I wouldn’t have had to wonder with each dusty step down the dirt road if he was staying inside like he was supposed to, or if he was looking out the window or playing with his old tin toy soldiers or just sitting there, staring off into space and thinking. He did that sometimes, even at age four.
I had my own idiosyncratic habit.
Looking around at my surroundings, today the vibrant blue sky and the pure white clouds and the sweet-smelling summer air, I could make up a story.
Just like that.
My thoughts turned to one story I knew well.
The girl walked down the old trail. She didn’t know where she was going, but she knew one thing: anywhere but here. Her only possessions were the nuts and berries she had gathered on her way, the clothes on her back, her determination, and one other item, a peculiar little thing she’d had ever since she could remember: a brown wooden button on an old string. The string, she could tell, was once white but dirtied to a shade of dark grey. The knot was small and tight, the ends frayed. The button was a smooth, deep brown color. She didn’t know what it meant, or where she’d gotten it from, but for some reason it held a promise. A whisper. But the tongue the button murmured was not her own, and she could not read its transparent words.
I abruptly stopped. For, a little up ahead and on the left of the dirt trail, was a path.
It was magnetic, alluring, mysterious; I stood looking at it for a few moments, considering. Although there was really no consideration on whether I should explore it or not; I knew I was going to, but the consideration dealt with when.
Now? Should I go now? No, just a few more moments.
Now. No, a few more seconds of this trance…
I made my right foot take a step forward and then my left and after that it became easy. I approached the vegetation-filled path and stopped, just for one fast breath, before diving into the brambles. A breath that resembled the one before you ducked underwater; air sucked in quickly. You didn’t know when you’d get your next, so you had to do it fast.
The first few steps into the path were laborious. The thorns tried to hook into my legs, wiry vine-like tendrils held me back. I pushed with all my might and broke through them, crashing to the ground and landing in the sweet-smell grass. For a moment, I lay where I had fallen, breathing in the hay-like scent, and then I sat up.
The path ahead was clear, and after going straight for a little ways it banked enigmatically to the right. It pulled me towards it. I stood and kept going, listening to the occasional clear, high-pitched bird’s call every now and then. I turned the corner and stopped; there were was a split in the path, one part leading into a forest and one into a meadow with tall grasses. I looked at the left path, and the right. They were both alluring, and I wished I could travel both—no, I wished I could travel the most satisfying one.
I made up my mind; or, rather, my mind made up itself. My bare feet walked into the cool, shaded forest. The pine needles were soft underfoot, and I moved along silently, taking in my surroundings. A slight curve to the right; another fork. Again, I stopped and looked at both branches in the main path. One had a short, steep hill; the other banked off behind some trees. You would think having to choose from so many paths would have made me a better decision-maker, but every time there was a split in the trail I would stop and ponder each time, letting my eyes drink it all in and my soul reach out to the aura of each one, probing for—for what?
I chose the one with the small, steep hill. My feet scrabbled amongst the small pebbles and the sliding dirt; I had to grab the roots protruding from the ground. With my breathing becoming rapid, I heaved myself to the top and sat, panting. I allowed myself to go back to my previous whimsies.
I should probably start finding food for Danny now; after all, I’ve wasted time in following this path, and I don’t even know where it leads! I suppose I could follow it for a little ways more and hope to come across a lake, where I could fish, or if I lose interest I could always backtrack to that dirt trail…where would that have led anyhow?
My breathing again normal, I slid down the hill and continued on. There were many sharp turns and I was excited as the path grew more mysterious and narrow.
I still had trouble, sometimes, thinking of Danny’s image. I still hadn’t decided whether a pet frog was fit for him or not.
I let my thoughts wander and connect to other thoughts, and those to yet others, until I was on the inward topic of wild horses and, surfacing from my dream-like state, I noticed dusk was falling. I had been walking for a long while.
I wandered a little ways off the path and sat down next to a big tree trunk. I wasn’t afraid to be alone out here; I was almost every night.
Pulling out of my pocket a few nuts and berries, I could barely make out the string on my wrist. But I could see it. And that was enough.
As I did often, I rubbed the smooth button between my fingers, closed my eyes, and dreamed of little boy named Danny.