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“Malcolm, you shouldn’t do this.” Kenny Wilson said as Malcolm Stein took the coiled rope from his arm and began using the rope to tie off the handmade bag filled with bread and canteens of water. When Kenny saw Malcolm wasn’t responding he kept speaking.
“I mean, in two weeks we’ll both be sixteen. Then we can pick professions.”
Malcolm began tugging on the rope with both arms to secure his triple knot. After dusting off his pants with his palms, Malcolm pushed himself off the floor and turned to his friend.
“Kenny, look at yourself and then look at me.”
Kenny turned his head down to see his clean cotton shirt under a white silk robe. The shirt was tightly pressed against his abdomen just like his pants were with his calf muscles. Although his dusty sandals had worn out heels, they were made of fine leather. He looked at Malcolm who wore ripped and torn shirt with holes at his elbows, jeans with tears at his knees, and mud stained boots.
“I could let you borrow some clothes.”
Malcolm giggled and said, “The point is you could follow your father’s footsteps into politics. I’m just an orphan and had the first sign that I might have a family somewhere.”
Walking past Kenny, Malcolm looked around his small makeshift hut. It was very compact with only two gaping holes in the wall for sunlight to enter. Next to the one on his left was a flattened pile of hay that Malcolm used for a bed. He walked over to the hay pile looked behind it. There Malcolm saw a dagger planted point first into the ground. Gripping the exposed end of the weapon with his right hand, Malcolm tugged the blade out of the ground and began to wife off the dirt against his shirt.
“You’re not that good with a dagger.” Kyle shouted from where he stood.
“I’ve hunted with it for years.” Malcolm responded as he finished cleaning his tool.
“Those were rodents. Out there are bigger things like bears. What are you going to do if you meet one?”
Malcolm silently flipped his dagger in the air a few times, always catching its handle, while shuffling back to his roped up bag. Kenny paced the floor from Malcolm to the front door and back several times. Meanwhile, Malcolm picked up his handmade bag and used the remaining rope to secure it to his waist. Malcolm scanned his house and looked from his wooden table with a single chair by the gaping hole at his right, to the pile of hay he called a bed, to the front door Kenny was pacing from, and back to the table. Malcolm took in a deep breath and allowed the aroma of stale air and hay to enter his nostrils. The aroma he called home.
“Well I’m off.”
Kenny stopped pacing the floor and made eye contact with Malcolm. Kenny creased his forehead and took a few steps forward.
“Guess there’s no stopping you.”
Kenny sighed and dug his right hand into the pocket. He slipped out a folded yellow paper with a printed small red circle on top of a cross marking of the four cardinal directions.
Malcolm looked at the paper and gripped it with his left hand. Kenny released his right hand from the paper and began turn around. Before he could step forward, Malcolm grabbed his shoulder with his right hand. Kenny turned to see Malcolm looking down at the yellow paper, which was slightly shaking in his left hand.
“Would you have gone? If you got this map and that letter, what would you do?”
Kenny saw Malcolm lick his lips and bite down on them then turned back to the front door.
“If I was you, I would go. I wouldn’t let anything stop me. Otherwise I’d always regret not going. Just remember you will always have a family here.”
Kenny felt the shoulder grip loosen and the finger tips brush away. As Kenny kept walking toward the door, Malcolm smiled and took another deep breath of the stale air. When Kenny opened the door and left, a bright stream of sunlight nearly blinded Malcolm. Malcolm shielded his eyes with his hand as he strode forward and crossed the threshold into the outside world.