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The sun was bright and hung in the sky like another star bright and bold. The wind blew through wrapping the smell of spring around me. It was warm and fresh with new life. Fresh flowers bloomed and combined with the saltiness of the sea. It together made a sweet smell like fresh taffy. Each flower was bright and colorful, sitting tall with life, well the sea strong as ever was calm and bright blue.
“Sir, your grandson is here to visit.” the nurse came out and told me.
“Okay, thank you for telling me. Please send him my way.” I told her with a warm smile. A minute later I heard the crunching of leaves and turned to see him walking.
“Hey Gramps.” my grandson said giving me a slap on the back before slamming down into the chair next to me.
“Careful their son or you will break me.” I said with a smile. “How is everything?” I asked him watching the ocean move its way forward grabbing sand then taking it back.
“There okay, I have a paper due and just don’t know who to write about. It is supposed to be based around honor and I was thinking about doing it on someone.” he explained to me with a shrug. I nodded my head at him think it over. “Who was the most honorable man you have ever met gramps?” he asked me.
“Well my dear grandson, first you must hear the story to know the man.” I told him with a smile.
“You have stories?” he asked turning to me with curiosity splashed across his face.
“Oh my dear boy, I have tons and tons of stories. Some are good and some are not.” I said remembering all the different times.
“Now you have to tell me one.” my grandson said now moving his chair closer to hear well.
“Now don’t jump on top of me. But if I tell you one it will be the one with the most honorable man and you must listen and please not interrupt me.” I told him giving him a very serious face.
“Alright grandpa, I promise now.” he said putting his hand over his heart with a big goofy grin on his face. I rolled my eyes and shook my head at him
“Now this boy is about four years younger than you.” I started.
“So he’s what, like thirteen?” he asked rolling his eyes back trying to figure it out. I just stared with a stern look. “Right no interruption,” he said nodding his head.
“Now this boy was young and put into a camp. These camps were not ordinary. They were run down and in terrible conditions. People were packed into places at night and were forced to work hours in the day. They were only meant for certain people and these people were treated terribly. These camps were so bad that they gave you a hat and thin grey informs to wear. The hats though, were not just normal hats. They were hats that held your life, lose the hat and your life no longer goes on. It was the way of life there; it was the way to survive. Now, every man you walked by had one of these hats. Men had it kept close in every way. Some had it under their arm, while others had it curled around there entire body. One young man though had it next to him. He was young, naive as some would say, and kept it with pride next to him. His frail body turned over and his face got a sliver of light upon it. It was soft and showed a young boy no older then thirteen. He looked peaceful sleeping and he had deep bags and marks on his face from the stress he endured each day. He moved around and you could see his thin body. It was frail but strong with the work it had taken. Moments later his hand snaked into the darkness for his hat. When it came back into the light, there was nothing. He slowly opened his eyes and then disappeared entirely. The sliver of light was lonely, shining only on the hay that stuck out of the mattress. Soon the light had something to shine on again. The young face appeared with all emptiness in his eyes. The light caught what looked like a small rhinestone on his cheek and it moved down until it disappeared into the darkness. The sliver of light got bigger with the clouds moving away and his body could be seen. He was curled up in a ball with his hat nowhere around him. The night air took its course and wrapped around his body making him feel cold all over. The real coldness descended to his stomach and all over his body, making the hair stand up everywhere when he realized what he had to do.
The boy slowly untwisted himself and peered over the board to the floor. He moved quietly with grace moving his body into a position where he could land without waking anyone. His feet sliced through the night air and hit the ground lightly. Some straw from his bed and the dust all around stirred up and made it impossible to move anywhere. The smell crossed his nose and made him drop to his knees. The smell of dirt, human flesh, and ash all kicked up making his stomach turn. It started to clear and he could see the way he had to follow. The row was narrow stuffed with beds on either side. There was what looked like million little heads popping out of just one bed. The narrow row went on forever both ways and he could only get a glimpse of what was ahead. Although it was a full moon, the small windows above only let a bit of light in. The light that shined in was crisp and full from the moon. The crystal lighting lit up every other stall and the dust was visible making small circles as it slowly descended back down to the ground from where it came. There were hats tucked in every man’s hand and they looked like they would fight for the death to keep a hold of them. His feet moved gracefully forward making less sound then the mice that ran through the barracks. Most of the men were young or in their middle years. He approached an old frail man towards the back. The man was very thin and looked beaten from the days that had passed. His hat was set next to him much like the boy had put his. The boy moved around slowly so his body was now angled towards the man’s bed. He became very still as he thought about what he was about to do. His breath was even, but heavy with guilt. His palms became sweaty, and every muscle was tense, and locked up from nervousness. He slowly bent down and froze when his knees cracked. His eyes roamed around to make sure no one was watching. All of the men were too tired to still be awake. When he finished scoping out the place he turned and focused back on the hat. It was on the outside of the man’s body but was a little wedged under him. The boy slowly leaned forward and brought his shaky hand up. His crouched legs began to slowly burn while his body felt heavy from sleep wanting to take over but his fear for tomorrow pushed him forward. His hand slowly moved towards the hat and he got his hand under one side. The old man slowly stirred in his sleep and mumbled. The boy staggered back and landed on his butt clutching the ground in fear. His eyes were wide and the blood rushed in his ears. He was cold from the sweat that broke out in the last couple of seconds. He brought his knees to his chest, wrapped his arms around his knees and rested his head on top. He closed his eyes and slowly brought himself back together.
Moments later the boy raised his head and slowly got back up. He went over to bed and crouched next to it again. His hand slowly moved to where it was under the hat and he angled his body so he could get a better hold. He slowly moved the hat back and forth sliding it out from under the old man. It finally slipped out only stirring the old man a little. The boy clutched the hat to his chest and rose slowly letting the blood rush back into his legs. His heart pounded in his ears as he moved swiftly back down the row kicking up some dust and making a few people stir. He didn’t care though; he had the hat and moved as fast as he could to get away. When he finally reached his bunk he threw the hat up and grabbed the sides hoisting himself up not taking a second more. He rolled on his back breathing hard not wanting to make a move in case someone had seen what he had done. He rolled on to his side with a smile appearing upon his face. He was proud that he had it and was going to see another day.
As he calmed down and he could only hear the night air and sound of the guards moving outside, he let sleep take him over. Even with sleep wanting to take over, the young boy stirred and could not do anything to get to sleep. Sometime passed and slowly it all sank in with the feelings of aching and guilt. He turned over feeling uncertainty and sadness. The boy knew he would see another day but not in the way he wanted to. The boy knew what he had to do. He quietly sat up and jumped to the ground making a little more noise than before. He slowly but swiftly swept past many of the bunks making a bee line for the old man. It was getting early towards morning and some people were now awake watching him move down the row. Curiosity hit most faces, but there was anger in some for they knew he could get them all in trouble. He finally came to the old man’s bunk and stared into his eyes. Everything in the young boy went cold. He turned white and took a step back not knowing what to expect. The old man quietly put his finger to his mouth telling the young boy to keep quiet. The old man sat up and placed his feet on the ground. He motioned for the young boy to come and join him.
‘I see you have my hat son,’ whispered the old man. The boy only nodded and handed it back to him. The old man took it and placed it in his lap.
‘Now why is this?’ the man asked giving the boy a cold stare.
‘Someone took mine and I was scared.’ the boy answered staring at his feet while he shuffled them around.
‘I see.’ is the only thing the old man said. ‘You know son, I am almost eighty-five now. I have seen many things in my life and not going to make it much farther.’ the old man said looking at his hat turning it every which way. ‘I want you to take it boy and make it through this horrible place free and stronger than ever.’ the old man said placing the hat into the boys lap.
The old man looked up and realized men were now awake and watching what was happening.
‘You all listen to me now. Our people have been through just as hard times and come out on top. I want all of you to make it through strong and show them we don’t break easily. I want every one of you to get out and never give up hope.’ the old man said to each and every boy or man listening.
The boy was now crying at the realization of what was going to happen. The old man put his hand on his back and smiled at him,
‘Don’t worry about me son. I am finally going to be happy and free.’ the old man told him.
The young boy nodded and clutched the hat to his chest. ‘Now leave and get rest. All of you should get back to sleep. We all have a big day tomorrow.’ the old man said.
The young boy stood up and nodded. He stood there for another second then leaned over and gave the old man a hug.
‘Thank you so much.’ the boy whispered to the old man.
The old man returned the hug and pulled away and nodded at him. The old man finally waved the boy away and went to lie down. The boy slowly and quietly moved back to his bunk again. Most men were awake and watching him walk back with sadness in their eyes. The boy only looked at the floor as tears streamed down his face. When he finally reached his bunk he threw the hat up and hoisted himself up. The boy kept crying with his hat tucked close into his chest. The sky was slowly getting lighter and his crying was getting softer. He knew time was getting close and what was going to happen. He knew he would never let it go, for now it was the most precious gift ever.
The sun rose and to early dawn broke through the small windows. The sun sparkled off the drops that lied on the windows making them look like small diamonds. The morning air was still and lifeless. There was now heavy fog with wind like ice that stung everywhere. Everyone slowly lined up for roll not making noise so they didn’t have to stay there for long. Each man or boy had their hat neatly upon their head. The young boy came out slowly squeezing his way in and putting his hat neatly upon his head. The hat though was big and came down so parts of his eyes were covered. He stood up straight like he was in the army, ready for the guards to inspect the line. There was a small commotion behind the men and they all turned to see the old man that had saved the young boys life. He had a smile on his face and simply got into line like another day. The guards quickly started yelling and pushed him in the direction they wanted him to walk. The old man simply started walking with pride. As he passed people in the line, they slowly nodded their heads with respect. When the old man passed the boy he nodded and gave him a smile. The boy nodded back with gratitude and respect. The old man slowly faded into the distance then disappeared into the building, where they knew he was now gone. Sadness swept over the boy knowing he would never see him again. The guards started coming down and looking at each person. The boy could not see his face but knew that guard had stopped because the guard’s whole body was now facing him. When the boy slowly looked up the guard was staring at him with a stern face that framed very dark eyes. Slowly curiosity flickered on his face and his eyebrows rose up. He took off the boy’s hat and looked inside to see the size. A smile came but went away fast. He looked up at the building the old man went into and looked back at the boy. Every man in the line was now staring with fear mixed mostly with curiosity. The guard looked around at the line. He slowly but curtly nodded up at the line and the boy. He placed the boy’s hat back upon his head and walked away while shouting at the men whom dispersed from the line to their jobs.”
I finished the story and my grandson only now stared off at the ocean. Thinking was all over him. His body was loose and his eyes stared as you knew his mind was not here but away in thoughts no one knew. I watched the ocean for awhile until he came back.
“That was a very sad story Grandpa.” He only said above a light whisper.
“Yes, but great men only come out in the darkest of times.” I told him putting my hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t know many men who would do that.” he said with sadness striking his eyes.
“No, neither do I. But honorable don’t only come like that. They can be anywhere. They can be hidden until the time when they are needed come.” I explained to him. Suddenly thought was all over him again.
“I think I know what I just might write about.” he said with a smile finally breaking through his face. “A person?” I asked. “No, instead I will write about honor itself and with honor there needs to be courage or with no courage comes no honor from the soul.” he said with joy.
“Now that sounds perfect.”I smiled nodding my head. Some time passed and finally he told me farewell. Right before he left though he asked about the young boy. I told him I believe he turned out to be a fine young man. He was glad to hear that, and finally left.
I decided to stay outside some more and watch the sunset. The weather was soft and the sun was only beginning to set. The sky was starting to be lit up with all the warm colors. The breeze from the ocean floated up to the yard and swept around me. I could smell the sweetness of the salt being pounded from the waves. I could hear the rushing waves as it took the sand away then gave it back each time to the ground on which it belonged. I could see the waves spraying the rocks it washed upon socking the life that lie upon them. Yet, every time the sea hit the rock with its force, the life still lay upon it hoping for another sweet taste of what the sea offered. When I went inside, I went over to my closet. I dug through it until I found it. I looked at it for a little while letting the memories flood back. I smiled thinking it was now funny how a hat held a life. I took the hat and laid it on my window sill letting it see the beauty of how the world is supposed to be.