Walking

We walked and walked in those days, one foot in front of the other, the way it’s supposed to be. Through snowbanks, swollen rivers, towering corn fields, you name it we walked through it. On and on and on. When our shoes wore to transparency, we glued old tire treads to the soles and kept walking. We considered ourselves impervious, but nothing is, is it? There’s always a longer nail, a tougher thorn. Something will always get through, oh we learned that the hard way!

Not that we invariably got where we were going—we’re only human after all—but we did try. Nor was it, as some have said, aimless. We were always, from the beginning, walking toward a very specific end, even when that end dodged ahead of us like a firefly lighting and extinguishing, a period on the lip of the earth. We walked because we believed in our walking.

Initially the excursions were simple loops, out and back. Which lent each day an unacceptable uniformity no matter how gaudily dressed with wildflowers or turning foliage. We needed refreshing; we were growing stale, our joints stiffening.

One day, one of us failed to come back. Sadness, you might think, would have been the reaction, but jealousy was what reared up in its place. We each wanted to be the one not returning, the half-formed idea the others were forced to consider—a wanderer whose very future would be scripted by the acquaintances left back home.

And so we set off on our revised paths, each day a withdrawal, every mile an accomplishment. Our beards grew scraggly, our hair long and unruly. We were wide-awake VanWinkles nursing the passage of time. The world spun under us, a little faster with each step, our treads gripping and pushing, adding just a little momentum to its rotation. And how sweetly dilute we became as our imagined trajectories split and went their own way.

I myself am nearly overwhelmed at night when I make camp, spread my kit out under the stars or the clouds or a bright moon-swabbed sky and feel each possible me striding out in the morning toward Portsmouth, or Bangkok, or Sault Ste. Marie, whistling a song I learned from my father’s mistress as I feigned sleep with one eye open all those outpaced years ago.

 

Jeff Ewing is a writer from Northern California. He’s had stories and poems recently in ZYZZYVA, Willow Springs, Catamaran Literary Reader, Atlanta Review, and Saint Ann’s Review, with new work coming up in SmokeLong Quarterly, Lake Effect, Dunes Review, and Bridge Eight. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.