Tim was the eldest of ten kids born to a pair of wilderness-loving hippies in the northern woods of Maine. They were raised without television in the home. Their only electronic escape was a radio tuned to NPR. He was an avid reader who showed gifted potential by the time that he was in kindergarten. Tim graduated high-school at the age of fifteen as the class valedictorian. He was courted by several good universities, Dartmouth among them, but Tim showed no interest in attending. He’d never shown the slightest interest in school, or much of anything else, other than reading his books and writing in his journals. He’d gotten the good grades for his parents but he hadn’t tried much at that either.
Tim wasn’t what you would call a hard-worker. Hard, wasn’t an adjective anyone would use to describe him. Everything about him, including his Jimmy Stewartesque affect, was delicate and gentle. He never resisted, never confronted, but rather flowed like one of the many streams that meandered through the very same woods in which he often wandered. He was pliable but never compliant. For all of his easy ways, Tim bore a subtle steadfastness which granted him liberty in all things. He was excruciatingly aware of this, his greatest flaw. He was a dreamer, a romantic, a poet who yearned for an odyssey to pen. Where was his Scylla? His Charybdis? His Circe? Could he summon good fortune or would he toil perpetually like Sisyphus? And so, at the tender age of sixteen, Tim decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, whose lore he’d devoured through the countless words he’d read.
Tim awoke on the morning of his 16th birthday at 5am. He rose out of his bed, laid his bare chest against the cold, oaken floor and pushed feebly against the timbers. His arms strained mightily against gravity to no avail. Undaunted, he slipped past his four, slumbering brothers and headed down the hallway past his five sleeping sisters, and finally his parents’ bedroom. Cocoa, the chocolate lab, snored, unbothered by the creaking of the opening front-door. Once outside, Tim stretched his gaunt frame and propelled its 90lbs forward in a stork-like gate. Tim covered a quarter mile before his pounding chest, throbbing temples, burning calves, and an unfamiliar acidic taste forming at the back of his throat, compelled him to stop.
Hands on his knees, he smiled, and ran the path back to his front door. Tomorrow he would go further. His morning routine remained until the morning of his eighteenth birthday. By then he barely acknowledged gravity’s press and his morning runs were limitless affairs. Tim awoke on the morning of his eighteenth birthday, slipped past his siblings, and silently crept into his parents’ room. He walked over to his father and thanked him for his love of Homer and Joyce. He glided to his mother’s bedside and expressed his love as only a son could. Wiping a few tears from his cheeks, he placed a sealed envelope on her nightstand. Tim blew the pair a silent kiss and crossed the threshold of the front door for the last time. He paused by Cocoa’s headstone, left her his first copy of The Iliad, and broke out into a jog.
He ran the ten miles into town as he had every morning for the last year. His slender, wiry frame of gnarled muscle covered the hilly distance in under an hour. He made the 6 a.m. bus from Caribou to Portland with a few minutes to spare, his destination, the United States Military Entrance Processing Station. Two days later he’d be on his way to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.
A few hours later, his mother opened her eyes and saw the envelope on her nightstand. Inside she found a farewell note and a few choice poems that Tim explained would help her in her time of need. She also found a small calendar with the date August, Friday the 13th, circled in crimson ink and the words, always faithful, written underneath. She smiled, turned, and threw her arms around her husband. They had done well.
© J. Manuel Writes