A story is more than just an explanation of events. It reveals life. It unveils the unseen elements of everyday life that are not always noticed at the time they occur.
These are the reasons I love to write stories. I love to think back through a memory and pull out all of the thoughts that went along with an activity and recreate them on paper in such a way that even the simplest of moments seem almost magical in the way they all work together into something so much bigger than anyone could have imagined at the time of their occurrence.
It’s the bigger picture of life–the elements of life that show there is a purpose for even the most unexpected and coincidental of circumstances–that makes life so beautiful. It is the complexity of life itself that makes a story worth telling. I cherish the moments that come to me as such clear examples of this orchestration of events into a larger plan.
The morning after meeting the young stranger in the canoe was one such example.
I was moving before my eyes were even completely open.
The morning sun had just started to lend some light to my tree sheltered cabin, and, as my eyelids moved out of their sleeping rest, my eyes caught the silhouette of a fleeing intruder.
I grabbed for the large knife hidden just beside my bed, and lurched after the shadow.
“You can either stop now, or wait until I stop you!” I growled, “The former would be better for both of us.”
It didn’t work. The intruder dashed out the door, and I followed just a few steps behind him. My newly awakened body wasn’t extremely anxious about moving this much freshly awakened from a deep sleep, but I pushed forward and started gaining on him. The light was stronger in the clearing outside my cabin, and I could now see that the trespasser was none other than the young stranger I had been hosting. With this knowledge, I slowed my pursuit and changed directions. He was running toward the river, and I was pretty sure I knew why. If he was planning to lose me in the woods and then escape in his canoe, I would just beat him at his game and go straight for his canoe. I solidified my suspicion of his intent, when I realized that he really didn’t have any other options.
Why all the secrecy? I wondered again, as I jogged silently toward my writing sycamore.
I reached the canoe just as he came out of the woods a few paces downstream. Because of the darkness and the fact that he was spending more time looking behind him, he didn’t see me waiting by his canoe until he was only a few steps away. He shouted a yelp of surprise when realized my presence, but froze as our eyes connected. For a moment, the night was still again.
There was a dark stubbornness in his eyes, unlike any I’d seen before. I remember the thought crossing my mind, as our eyes locked for those few moments, that whatever he was running from had to have a real hold on him. He was a young man overcome by something he’d tried desperately to hide, and my lack of pretense was a language with which he was not familiar.
The stillness between us ended quickly, being that he was much less interested in waiting than I. Realizing that his flight instincts hadn’t helped him as he’d hoped, he went for the next best thing–fighting. He was surely a trained fighter, but I had a knife and he didn’t. Before he’d moved more than a step toward me, I gave him pause with the harshest growl I could muster.
“Don’t be a fool.” It was all I said, but the flash of steel from my hunting piece in the moonlight spoke loudly enough to convey my implications to him. He stepped back in aggitation, and threw the pack he’d been carrying down on the ground.
“Fine, if you want your junk back, you can have it. I don’t need it anyway! I can take care of myself.” He spat the words, more than spoke them, but his eyes were fixed on the ground. He was still such a kid; couldn’t even look a man in the eyes.
“If you needed supplies, all you would have needed to do was ask.” The sternness still hadn’t left my voice. “Why…”
“Don’t ask me any more questions, okay.”
For the first time since I’d met him, my young guest, intruder, thief had let down his guard, looked me square in the eye, and had spoken plainly.
“Look, I know I should have just talked to you, but things aren’t that easy. The more you know about me, the easier it will be for them to track me. I never should have stopped here, and I apologize that all I’ve been is trouble. All I really want to do is get far away from this place, and I would really appreciate it if you’d just let me go. If you have supplies that you’d be willing to give me, I would be very grateful, but I really just need to get out of here.”
He fell silent and his eyes fell too. The troubled youth that I’d seen looking through his eyes only moments ago, now enveloped his entire posture.
“You don’t need a fight. You need a friend.” My voice had softened now, and, stepping forward, I put my hand firmly on his shoulder. “I don’t know who or what you’re running from, but I do know you’re going to need a better plan if you’re going to make it in these woods. You won’t find many in these parts as gracious as I. You’d probably be dead if you’d broken into anyone else’s home tonight. You don’t know how to hunt, trap, or lie for that matter.” I waited for his reaction. “If you’re going to live the life of a loner, you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself.”
“I can take care of myself.” He interjected.
“I think tonight’s events prove otherwise.” His eyes admitted his agreement.
“Now, if you want to get in that canoe and head off into the darkness, that’s your prerogative, but these woods are not tame. The farther north you travel, the more dangerous they become. This river, for one, turns into white water just a day and a half upstream from here. Then there are the mountains, and the Namerians beyond them. If you want to survive, you’re going to need a plan. That’s just all there is to it.”
He stood looking torn for several minutes, then nodded like he’d arrived at some internal resolve. “So you’ll help me, then?”
I laughed, “Well, it appears I just volunteered myself!”
He smiled, but his determination had returned. “What do we do first?”
“I’d say we should move this canoe off the water to start with, but first things first. For the last time, what is your name, son?”
The last bit of reluctance fell away from him, as his eyes looked through the growing dawn into mine. “I am Gnamel, son of Leen, nephew of King Garman of Calderwood.”
~By C. Evans