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Etched in the Soles of My Shoes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

There are 567 steps between my house and the library. I walk the path at least 50 times a year, and know to duck when the neighbors don’t trim their trees, to jump to avoid where roots have lifted the sidewalk, and to move to the street to avoid the neighbor’s dog on a too-long chain. Be it spring, summer, or fall I walk that path, seeking out the books which have raised me.

I leave my house with a bagful of books I finished. I veer around the mud on my own sidewalk and step onto the street. The pavement rolls smooth beneath my feet; my flip flops clap to the rhythm of my movement. The Granges own a Dalmatian which barks too loudly, but present two beautiful stone lions on their front porch. Chipped and weathered, they easily catch my eye. The yard diagonal from theirs contains a willow tree, a small one that cannot compare to my own. The branches stretch to the ground, sighing and wavering on a breezy day, and whipping and thrashing angrily on a windy day.

Next to the willow sits a dog kennel. A ragged blue tarp barely covers the top, sheltering the sad grey dog beneath. The odor of wet dog food and feces wafts to me on the wind, and I nod sympathetically to the dog as I pass. The next house had a trampoline in front, before the kids grew up and moved away. Nothing happens there anymore. The yard remains mournfully empty, waiting for its children to return home.

The first house on the second block appears untidy, I must stoop underneath a tree that grows too low over the sidewalk. Freshly mown grass blankets the path during the summer, the owner uncaring about the soles of the shoes of those who tread over it. The tree bears one type of cherries in the spring, and smells tart yet welcoming.

The neighbor of that house sits as a grand canary yellow masterpiece. They clip their yard precisely; the sidewalk is even toned and smooth. A line of shrubbery protects the porch, standing as neat and proud as palace guards. The flower boxes grow bold, bright, and sweet flowers. The home showcases and shines far above all others.

I cross the next road, and step onto the third block. The homes look shabby, surrounded by cracked sidewalk. An ancient oak towers about midway through the block. Its bark has been worn, knobs and growths sprout from the stump. In spring the tree’s seedlings struggle to take root at its feet, but the regal veteran blocks all nourishment. Fearless it stands; the thick roots have torn up the sidewalk around it. It curls protectively over the path, sheltering me as I walk but creating a maze for my feet.

At the end of the block sits a ramshackle home, far worse than the others. It appears dilapidated, and an eyesore to the neighbors. A small mutt yaps as I pass, and I scurry under the overgrown hedge tree blocking my path. The yard fills with weeds. The ditch floods whenever it rains. The roof caves slightly, and the siding is a mismatch of colors. I hold my breath when I pass by this house. I respect the turmoils but fear the bad luck will catch me.

I gasp for air as I cross the street, arriving at the library. The American Flag clangs above me, the sound of freedom ringing in my ears. I run my hands along the rough red brick of the building, and pull the door open. The door has bells, which welcome me as the damp, crisp air conditioning hits me refreshingly. The comforting aroma of books fills my senses. I am home.



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