And So He Went

July 3, 2008
By Becca McIlwain, Albany, IN

Our story begins in a neatly disordered study. Books, papers, pens, and prototypes are strewn throughout the entire room causing what would look like chaos to anyone other than the owner of the room. For him, everything was in its respected spot. An ancient grandfather clock rests against the far left wall; the minute hand slowly creeping towards the twelve, the hour hand almost completely upon the eleven now. A large mahogany desk, piled with papers, is the most used piece of furniture in the entire house. A man, in his late forties, is the current occupant of the handcrafted desk. His name is Jonovin Shanks. He’s one of those types you see on the street or in the grocery store every once in awhile but you never say anything to him or vise versa.

Slowly, Jonovin removes his bifocal reading glasses and lays them on the desk on top of the article he was just reviewing. Out of nervous habit and the current stress levels in Jonovin, he rubbed his eyes and slowly stood stretching his cramped legs. The years had treated Jonovin nicely but they were finally catching up to him now. Jonovin wasn’t nearly as agile as he was just a few years ago.

Looking out the window, Jonovin sees that the time has come for him to start the trip to complete his assigned task. He walks slowly out of his beloved study and down the hall. Knowing how the weather is, dreary and mildly cold, Jonovin pulls his long black trench coat and matching hat out of the hall closet. Shrugging on the essential outerwear, he picks up the hidden stash of items needed, stuffs them in a waterproof brown bag, and slings it over his shoulder.

As soon as he steps outside, Jonovin wishes he was back in his study diligently reading away at one of his favorite books. But that simply wasn’t possible. He had to do this whether he wanted to or not. He checks the locks twice before daring to venture down the street. Hugging his coat closer to him and pulling the collar up around his neck, Jonovin trudges through the mini rivers now flowing down the streets. The sidewalk would have been a much more efficient place to walk but he has more important things to be delicate about, those of which do not include the condition of his shoes.

As Jonovin walks down the wetted cobblestone street an image immerges from the shadows. Not skipping a step, Jonovin continues forward as the shadows form into a tall, thin, body and joins in step right along with Jonovin. They don’t acknowledge each other in the least, just continue on in their trek.

For three more minutes the two strangers walk until once again a mere shadow is seen, then forms, and becomes another body in this life-altering trip. Over and over again this same thing occurs until Jonovin is part of a 10-member group.

Each of the members has a brown bag exactly like Jonovin’s. Some of the bags are filled to the brim while others seemed to only have one or two items in them. Jonovin’s own bag was about half full. He glances quickly with pity at the few members with their bags completely bulging. A girl, only in her teens, next to him stubbles and falls, her bag at least twice her weight. Jonovin pauses and lowers a hand to help her up. She shakes her head furiously and pushes herself up off the ground, pain showing in her eyes. Jonovin grabs her bag and shoulders it himself, offering his hand for her to take. The girl, hesitant at first, takes his hand and continues the walk.

As Jonovin walks he wonders what this young girl could have filled her bag with. It was a strenuous task for even Jonovin to carry such a heavy load, he had no idea how the girl could have done it herself. Her grasp tightened as her limp intensified. It was almost as if she’d never had anyone to lean on before.

The group’s pace quickens as they near their destination. Jonovin’s heart pounds to where he becomes afraid of having a heart attack. The road stops and the ground grows uneven. The girl releases her hold on Jonovin and reaches for her bag. Jonovin pulls away, wanting to help her as long as he can. She insists and whispers, “I need to take it from here.” Jonovin nods and hands her the extremely heaving bag. She shudders as she replaces it on her shoulder, but a look of determination is now in place of the previous look of pain and despair.

The sky suddenly grows lighter and the chill in the air is exchanged for pleasant warmth. The constant mist stops and rays of sunlight cascade around them. Up ahead is a large hill, over it is their destination. They discard their soaked trench coats and hats, their mucky shoes, and sodden socks. All feelings of depression, despair, hurt, and anger are gone, only a happy bliss is left. Brown bags, like the ones they all currently bare, are left littered along the path. Jonovin looks at his bag with mixed feelings. He’s had it all his life. He doesn’t particularly like having it, but it’s just something he’s used to having, and he doesn’t know if he can give it up.

He looks at the young girl beside him, she’s smiling. Her eyes sparkle as she tosses her bag to the ground, shakes her shoulders, and sprints off towards the rays of light over the hill. Jonovin nods his head. It is time. The life that he’s known isn’t the best that can be offered. He lightheartedly drops his bag of burden to the ground, and runs to the hill; free and happy at last.

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