The Tempest

June 23, 2011
By , Livingston, NJ
The boy ran quickly, but not fast enough to avoid adding a few more words to his already impressive arsenal of “colorful” language. His hands, clamped tightly over his ears, couldn’t block out the sounds of the tempest in the house. He would probably ask for earmuffs after the ordeal was over and the house was filled with a quiet, albeit tense, peace. He would’ve liked to run faster, but the last time he tore blindly through the woods, he had sustained multiple injuries. Besides, the sounds of his blundering feet would’ve scared the forest into muteness. That would allow traces of the thundering shouts to reach his ears and scar whatever shreds of his innocence were left.

Soon the raging storm was quieted by the forest. He allowed a slight smile to steal across his face. Experienced senses hungrily drank up the familiar, yet strange sensations. His eyes took in the sight of his shelter. His ears rejoiced at the symphony of sounds. He could smell the scent of the old, dead cedar. It had been his favorite. He paused for a moment, remembering the time it had been friended by Zeus. Stealing further on, to his favorite place, he heard the singing of his brook; saw the tears of Myrtle, the only weeping willow in the forest. He plopped down upon a mossy rock, slightly worn out. Big mistake. It took only a few seconds for his mind to return to the fallout in the house. A single tear slipped out of his eye, despite his attempts to hold it back. He stood up suddenly, and made haste to his shelter.

After double checking to make sure a badger hadn’t settled in during his absence (now a habit after receiving multiple scars), he crawled under the shack/lean-to. It was sturdily constructed (considering his skill), and well camouflaged. Almost too well. Chuckling as he reminisced yet again, he picked up a bow and a quiver of arrows, prized possessions of his. The arrows were a diverse group, some store–bought, some hand-crafted by his uncle or older brother , and some made by himself, held together with duct tape. Their aerodynamics weren’t affected as much as you’d think.

The bow was store-bought. It had served him well many times before. A kind gift from his parents. More tears soon stained the bow. He impatiently wiped away the next few. God, he’d be like Myrtle soon, a stooped, defeated looking thing, constantly weeping. He was too young to be defeated, too young to become cynical, too young to follow his parents’ path. He scorned their foolishness. One can fight fire with fire, but everyone knows that tears cannot be quenched.

Again, his thoughts returned to his “home” as he went to the hunting grounds. He had stopped calling it home a long time ago, preferring the forest. The forest always welcomed him warmly, always comforted him, protected him during the storms, provided for him, and taught him how to survive. He was quite young when he learned that it was safe to venture alone into her arms. He had already known, since forever, that the forest was nothing to fear. His father, uncle, and brother had taught him, coached him, and accompanied him day after day. But it was one thing to trust wilderness with a skilled guardian and another thing entirely to wander there protected only by your untrustworthy wits.

He walked farther, to the far fringe of the forest where the deer roamed. He wasn’t actually going to kill a deer. That would be foolish, seeing as he had no way to store the meat, and he couldn’t possibly eat it in one sitting. He would have to fix that problem someday, if he ever needed to truly make the woods his home. But for now, the deer territory would remain only a place to test his skills, a way to keep the terrible thoughts away.

He walked around slowly, finding a suitable place to hide and wait. Hunting demanded patience, and he used up most of his daily amount in the woods, leaving little left for school, giving his mother more reasons to whip his sorry behind. Grunting in disgust, he focused himself on hunting. When a doe finally wandered into his field of vision, he took careful aim. The arrow flew, straight past the doe’s face. She turned and fled. He smiled at his skill, but chastened himself for taking such a risk. Someday, he’d accidentally wound one of his targets, and then what would he do?

After “killing” three more deer, he fetched his arrows. The sun, which had been sailing serenely across the solemn sky, was now reaching the western coast. And even skilled woodsmen know better than to stay out of shelter when the sun set. Yet the boy was still reluctant to return “home”, unsure if the storm had passed. Gathering his courage, he stashed away his precious weapons, said farewell to his home, and returned, reluctantly to his house. As the looming structure appeared in view, his thoughts took a darker turn. Unprintable words crossed his roiling mind.

He was five seconds from actually saying one of those “colorful”, hateful words when he caught himself. The realization of what he had nearly become broke the dams, and he shed more tears than a weeping willow during the fall. He stopped walking, and curled up on the soft ground, sobbing silently, cursing his plight, lamenting the faults he had been burdened with. Some of the kids his age were walking from the playground nearby, their joy making them oblivious to his pain and tears. The laughter of his carefree classmates laced through the air, making him cry ever harder. If only he could’ve known love, if only he could’ve kept his shattered innocence.

The hooting of an owl broke his concentration and chain of self-pity. It was the forest, sending him a wake-up call. He smiled weakly, still not quite believing that he had forgotten one of the forest’s first lessons for him. He could almost hear the forest whispering it to him. Wishing never gets you anywhere. He stood up, wiped the flood of tears from his eyes. He took a moment to compose himself, rebuilding the dams of his eyes, fixing the cracks in his normally impenetrable shell. He would have to endure, become smarter and better. Then he could finally escape his sorry hellhole of a house and truly go home.

He took one last, loving look at the forest, his mentor, his foster mother, and his dearest friend. Then, he turned and walked back into the house.





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