A Beaten Path

The wind sang a peaceful tune as it whipped through the forest. A collage of yellow and orange leaves painted the ground.

“My mom told me we’re moving next week.” Michael said as he stepped over a log blocking the trail.

“Shut up.” Adam replied, following behind his friend. A few rays of the setting sunlight pierced through the trees. The stream next to them sparkled brilliantly as it flowed.

“Seriously. I’m not kidding.”

The two boys stopped walking for a moment.

“Where you moving to?”

“Somewhere in Illinois. I can’t remember.”

They resumed walking in silence along the trail they had carved five years ago when they met, Michael followed by Adam. They had maintained this formation since the beginning of their friendship. It was natural. Now ten years old, the boys were masters of the domain they had created for themselves. The city had begun to clear trees and build cement walkways in certain parts of the forest, but Adam and Michael kept to the unaffected areas, refusing to set foot on pavement. They dirtied their once white sneakers with pride.

“Did she tell you why?”

“We ran out of money.”

They crossed the stream on a log they had laid across it years ago. It was a balance beam routine they had performed hundreds of times. On the opposite side, their hideaway remained exactly as they had left it two days before. The boys took a seat and gazed into an imaginary campfire.

“Remember when we met each other?” Michael broke the silence.

“Yeah, my mom made me walk to your house and introduce myself. I hated her for making me do it.” Adam said, poking a stick into the fire.

“I wonder what it would have been like if you hadn’t.”

“You would still be moving.”

Michael looked at his watch and stood up.

“I have to go. My parents want me home by 6:30 to eat dinner and start packing.”

Adam let out a sigh. “Okay.” He paused and looked up at his friend. “See you at school tomorrow.”

Adam listened to his friends footsteps slowly disappear into the forest. He sat by himself for a few minutes, replaying the last five years in his mind.

He remembered the first time they stepped foot into the forest, a few days after they met. He remembered following a new face into a new world. He remembered getting lost, and once again finding his way. Most importantly, though, he remembered re-emerging from the thicket with a best friend. It was a feeling he had never felt before.

When his daydream was over, Adam stood up. The sun had almost completely set. The sparkle of the stream ceased and the leaves of yellow and orange now looked mostly brown. The initials the two boys once carved into a tree were barely visible. He turned his back to the campfire and started home with tears in his eyes.

He followed the trail until voices caught his attention. Two city workers had just finished installing a park bench next to one of the new walkways. Adam spied from behind a tree as the men smoked cigarettes. Finally, he spoke up.

“Can I sit in it?”

After a moment of confusion, the men smiled at Adam as he emerged out of the weeds timidly.

“Sure kiddo, it’s all yours. Isn’t it a bit late to be out here all by yourself though?”

“Yeah, I guess so” Adam replied.

He took a seat on the blue bench and watched as the men gathered their tools and started off down the pavement. It was almost dark now, and crickets began to chirp. Adam could barely hear the men talking now. He scraped the mud from the bottom of his sneakers with a stick and hopped off the bench. With his head down, he followed slowly behind the men.

November 15, 2005

A Beaten Path

Steven Fischer

Joined March 2008

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