Anatomy of a Storyteller: Psalm 23 continued.

            The loneliness rose up from the back of Glen’s mind and covered him like a shroud.  He had no one to hold him up, to hold his hand, to help him along the way.  Not one would reach out in his time of need.  No one was there for him.  He looked to the sky and felt the crush in his soul.  “Jesus,” he cried out, but he only heard the wind and felt the scratch of a thorn against his hand in response.

            Glen paused when he saw there was no escaping the shadow of night, and worse, with the night came the rain.  It started out soft, but it was enough to halt his progress and drive him back to the edge of the trees.  As the rain and wind picked up steam, he found several smaller trees grown close together.  He prayed that their overlapping leaves might deflect the worst of it and that they were not tall enough to attract the lightening.

            Glen squatted down and washed off some of his own caked on blood.  He opened his mouth and looked up like a turkey in the hope of slacking his thirst.  He closed his eyes and tried to think of nothing.  He prayed for sleep.  By the wee hours, the lightening was constant and the roaring never ceased and he was afraid – afraid of everything that night.  He was not ashamed to say it.  There were sounds and shadows that danced around him in one horrific flash of demonic shapes after another.  He wondered if God might take his soul that night.  It was not the first nor the last time he wondered such a thing.

            When Glen woke, the sun was already up for a time and he was surprised he had actually fallen asleep.  Then again, exhaustion can do that.  Glen found he was still squatting, though leaning on a tree, and he was still damp everywhere, and stiffer than ever.  He moaned as he stood and straightened his legs.  Then he sighed.  God had not chosen to take him, yet.  Such a thing might have been a blessing, he thought.  He wondered if he might ever know what a blessing was, if he might actually experience one someday.

            Even if it was a decrepit and impossible path, you would think getting out from beneath the trees and into the sun would have helped.  You would think walking might have alleviated the stiffness as well.  In truth, Glen eventually felt better, but that feeling came imperceptibly slow.  Nothing ever came easy.

            It was not long after his staggering forward became more of an actual walk when he heard a loud crack and crashing sound in the forest to his left.  He leapt back just in time as a great, old elm tree toppled all the way across the path so it stuck out over the chasm.  The tree had been stuck by lightening and noticeably, not for the first time.  He imagined any number of trees came down in that storm in the night.  Curious that this one should happen to fall just when he came into peril. 

            He stared at the tree for a bit before he realized it was sticking about half-way across the gorge.  He wondered if he could crawl out on it far enough to make the leap to the other side.  He stared at it a bit longer.  He did not like heights.  At last he mustered the courage to get up on the trunk, thinking that only a quarter or less of the tree was sticking out over the drop so all of the weight was on solid ground.  He could not imagine his weight would make much difference.

            Once up, Glen noticed that the path on the other side was not only free of brush and brambles, it was actually cobblestone paved, like a road.  What is more, there was no dark and threatening forest over there, and he felt the strong urge to try and reach it.  He was careful to step out on the tree, held tight to every branch he could and watched where his feet went so as not to stumble.  He reached the edge of the chasm before the tree began to side.  The mud under the fallen elm was giving way.  He panicked. 

            Glen tried to run back, but that was not quick enough so he jumped off, only to be caught by a big branch and dragged toward the precipice.  He rolled over the branch, ducked under the one that followed, ran straight out and prayed, only to be whacked as the roots slid past.  He was spun around and dropped, back to the ground, and hit his head on the dirt which did not feel very muddy soft.

            He watched the tree as it slid toward the other side.  He saw when it stopped.  It pressed its top into the far cliff face about three yards down into the chasm.  The roots were still on Glen’s side, above the hole.  Glen looked more closely.  He was tempted for about one second before he spoke out loud.

            “No way.”

            Nine feet to climb was too much to expect even if there were rock outcroppings on that jagged cliff for his hands and feet.  Besides, Glen felt somehow that the stoppage was only temporary and this time the least little weight would send the tree plummeting to the river below.  Glen got to his knees to look.  The river appeared to be a small, thin blue ribbon, but he knew down there it was at least as wide as the chasm above it.  As if in answer to his thoughts, there was a loud snap and the tree finished sliding over the side.

            Glen scooted back from the edge, and just in time as the tree began to spin and a long root rose up behind him.  It surely would have pushed him over if he had stayed where he was on his knees.  After a moment, he thought he heard the splash from down below, but he could not be sure since it was so far away and the tree took such a long time to fall.  Besides, Glen was busy pulling the splinters out of his hand and listening to his stomach grumble.  He would have been happy with bread and water, or since all that rain, even just bread would do.  There was none to be had, so when he finished grimacing as he bloodied his hands removing several sharp bits of wood, He stood and continued on.  He tried not to think about bread, but it was not easy.

            Glen paused again when he heard the sound of voices up ahead.  He almost scooted into the forest, but then he recognized laugher and singing.  It was a party of some sort and his stomach immediately thought of food and dragged his feet forward. 

            It was on the other side of the chasm.  Glen fell to his knees and fought back tears.

            The place looked like a rest stop along the road, with plenty of picnic tables, all covered with massive amounts of food.  The people, men, women and children all looked normal, happy and well-fed.  Glen cried out in a loud voice.

            “Please.  Help me.  Might I have a piece of bread?  Or a chicken leg?  Please, something to eat?  I am starving.”  His voice softened.  “Help me.”  Glen could not imagine the way he must have looked or the look on his face, but the look on the people’s faces, those few who looked up spoke volumes.  One man looked ready to reach for a gun.  One woman gave Glen such a wicked stare, he could only imagine her prayer was that he go away, curl up and die.  One young boy spit in Glen’s direction, though of course he was much too far away, being on the other side of an impossible chasm.

            Glen wept.  He could not help it.  But very quickly he got back to his feet and continued on.  Perhaps he felt ashamed, though he had nothing to feel ashamed about.  Perhaps he was afraid to let them see him cry, or simply did not want them to see.  Perhaps he felt there was no reason to stay and beg since his experience of begging was it never gained what was wanted or needed.  It is hard to say.  What he honestly felt at that time is still clouded in tears.

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