Mini-Original I.1: “To Know Freedom”—Second Version18 Jun 2013, Posted by Short Stories in
Robert stood on what looked like a narrow stone path, only the path didn’t go anywhere. Instead, it made a hexagon on the ground.
Robert re-read the directions Grandpa had scrawled from memory.
Follow picket fence out back to white gazebo with wrought iron trim.
“Gazebo.” That was a word he’d had to look up. “A free-standing, roofed, usually open-sided structure providing a shady resting place.”
Where was that gazebo? Except for the abandoned farmhouse and the rickety picket fence, Robert didn’t see any structure of any sort.
Not being certain where he was made Robert uneasy. How much more frightening his great-great grandfather’s journey must have been to this same spot, heading north from Virginia to this Pennsylvania town.
Frustrated and hot from the late afternoon sun, Robert plopped down on the grass in the center of the hexagon. No shade here.
Shade! That was it!
Suddenly Robert realized that he was in the exact right spot. He had found the gazebo—or where it used to be. Someone must’ve torn down the gazebo’s structure. The stone hexagon was the foundation.
He leaped to his feet.
From the center of the gazebo, head due North 150 paces.
Grandpa had told him countless times the way his own grandfather had used the moss on the trees, the wind, the North Star to keep his course on his journey to freedom.
Robert looked up at the sun. At 4 p.m. the sun would be to the West. Robert turned north and started counting steps.
At 120 Robert noticed a small cluster of simple stone grave markers peeking out amid tall weeds up ahead. He broke into a trot.
Pushing aside the weeds, Robert found the headstone he was looking for. Tearing a sheet of paper from his notebook, he held the paper up to the stone and began rubbing with the edge of his pencil. Slowly, the inscription came into view:
“Here lies Nathan R. Smith,
Who by the Grace of the Almighty
Lived to Know Freedom.”
Grandpa was going to be very proud!
[Definition from The American Heritage Dictionary. Second College Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.]