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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Walk (07/20/06)

TITLE: The long walk home
By Sue Dent


Mark entered the room his father had occupied for the last few years of his life, looked at him as he sat on the edge of the bed, a bed that would be replaced very soon with the desk he'd run across at a garage sale. With his father gone, he would finally have the office space he needed.

"You ready to go, Dad?"

His caring, almost worried tone drew a content smile from the older man. "Yes, Son. I’m sure I am."

Mark walked over and leaned down. "I'll carry your bag."

The Cherokee Indians were a proud bunch though and no one was going to carry this Indian's suitcase. His father took it up right away, firmly stood.

"No, I've got it."

Frail though he was, his strength did not betray him. Yet there wasn't much in the suitcase anyway, just a few changes of clothes.

The day was warm, the pine trees towered. Mark led the way, off the porch and onto the footpath which led up through the woods. The retirement home the state had set up for the elderly Cherokees wasn't that far away. Mark was glad. This meant he could go visit his father often.

His father stopped a few feet off the porch. Inhaled deeply.

"Smell that," he said. "Smells exactly the same the day my father and I made this walk. Crazy thing, isn't it?"

A tight smile, "yeah, Pop. It's crazy. Now, come on."

A bird sang, a squirrel scampered. His father took note. “I’d swear that was the same squirrel I saw that day too. But I’m sure squirrels don’t live that long. What are the odds?"

“Yeah, Pop. What are the odds? Now, come on. You wouldn’t want to be late. They’re expecting you for lunch.”

A little further on and his father stopped again.

Mark stopped.

A leathery hand reached out to get something off the ground.

"My father's pipe!” he gasped, “after all this time. He left it here the day we made this walk. Said he was going to quit smoking. And did!"

Mark stared long and hard.

"You might as well leave it here. You know they won't let you keep it at the home. Now come on or you'll miss lunch."

They walked on.

"You know, Pop, they're really good to people up here."

His father chuckled.

"Of course, they are! Don't you worry."

"Oh, I'm not worried. I just wanted to make sure you understood."

"What's there to understand? My father made this walk, my grandfather made this walk. Even his father made this walk. They lived out their lives right up there on that hill and enjoyed it."

Not much further and his father stopped again. Pointed. "See that?" he said, stared at the carving of initials on a tree. "My father put that there. This one here--my grandfather. And this one--"

"Yeah, Pop, I know Great Grandpa." Almost agitated now, he looked at his watch. "Come on, it's just a little further."

The building coming into view, Mark's father stopped at a log. "I'm going to rest her for a minute, if you don’t mind."

"Sure." Mark sat beside him.

His father chuckled lightly. "You know, you're sitting right where I sat the day I made this walk with my father."

Mark stared helplessly into his fathers eyes. “Really.”

“Yes, really and I’m sure my grandfather sat there once and his father too.”

Mark stood. Took up his father's suitcase and started to walk. But not toward the retirement home, instead, he walked the other way. He stopped after a few steps and turned.

"You coming?"

"You're going the wrong way, Son."

Mark sighed. "No, Pop. I'm making a new way."

"What about your office?"

"Somehow it's not that important anymore."

Back at the tree with the initials, Mark stopped to stare. He then pulled out his knife and scratched through what his father had carved on their way up.

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This article has been read 912 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Craig07/27/06
Oooooooooooh, this is beautiful. I'm crying. You have conveyed a beautiful lesson, interlacing the topic with such great dialog. It reminded me of tying a pair of shoes, one suttle revelation at a time until just the right loop was made,forming a perfect bow. Awesome! bjc
Rita Garcia07/27/06
Hold on let me get a tissue, okay. You had me right there walking with this father and son, I am so glad you ended it the way you did. Beautiful story!
Dr. Sharon Schuetz07/27/06
This is wonderful. It's rich in sad family tradition and love. Well written. I loved it.
Joanne Sher 07/28/06
Your dialogue is wonderful - I felt like I really knew both characters. What a wonderful story and lesson!
Virginia Gorg07/28/06
This is really good. Not the ending I expected, and that's a good thing. Well done, flows nicely, and gives a strong message.
Kenn Allan07/28/06
I was able to visualize the entire story - even the weathered face of the old Cherokee. The path finally chosen was not new, but the old tradition of respecting elders for their wisdom ... Mark realized this before it was too late. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 08/01/06
Great job with the dialog, and with giving us a glimpse into another culture. Very tender story.