The Road Through the Trees
Moral Short Story
My father used to tell me that working hard was the most important part of life. That a hard working attitude was the most important attribute in a man. I used to love that. Made me believe that as long as you worked hard, everything would work out. That I could climb my way to happiness through brute force. It always comforted me. Now I’m not so sure what I believe. That’s nothing against hard work. I just think you have to be smart where you apply it.
I drove over the soggy pavement and crested the hill. The firs and hemlocks lined the one lane road. I came over the hill I saw the evergreens stretched for miles. And below was the next town. A resupply.
My Vanagon hummed down the hill towards the town. It was a small town with a couple old buildings lining the main road that snaked through the trees. I’d guess a town of 283. I don’t know if it was the soggy overcast day, but as I approached the town, it had a somber feeling to it. As if it was hurting. I came up to its small welcome sign.
Welcome to Cascadia
“Eh I was close.” I had learned to talk to myself over the past year. I pulled up to their gas station and filled up Nando. I drove over to what looked like Cascadia’s one store, parked, and went inside. There was an old man by the register.
“You own the place?”
“Yes, my wife and I do.”
“Are you still open?”
“You’re the last one today, I think.”
I was planning to supply for three weeks so I was hoping Cascadia’s one store could take care of it. I grabbed a cart and began to make my rounds. It quickly became clear that the only two people in the store were me and the old man at the register. The store was able to take care of my supplies for the three weeks and I went over to the old man with a full cart.
“That’s about a weeks worth of business right there, son. Might want to leave some for the locals.”
“I’m sorry. I can put some-”
“-I’m pulling your leg.” He smiled and began ringing up the first items. “We’ll be happy to take your money and see what we can do. What do you need all this for, son?”
“Supplies. Won’t make it to the next town for a few weeks.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s that far away.” He kept ringing up my pile of goods.
“I won’t make it to the next town for a few weeks on purpose.”
He looked up at me with a sly smile, “Ah, so you’re wandering. You lost, son?”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
He smiled again as he kept moving through the pile. “I’m just pulling your leg. That yours out front? She’s a classic. Good to see them still running. How long you been at it?”
“About a year now.”
“Has it helped?”
“Is it better than what you were doing before?”
“Yeah, I’d say so.”
“Well that’s half the battle, isn’t it.”
He had finished ringing up my items and placed them in the cart, but I wanted to keep talking and, by the looks of it, he did too. “What’s the other half? Of the battle.”
He had his hands on the counter now and was looking at me. “Well, finding what your searching for.”
“Happiness of course. Have you found it?”
I had both hands on my cart and suddenly wanted to leave. “I see it. I sit with it. Then it takes off down the road through the trees. So I chase it.”
The man nodded with his eyes closed, as if he had said it himself. “Are you with anyone?”
“No it’s just me and my car.” I nodded out the window to where I was parked. “Having someone would just distract me.” I started to push my cart towards the door.
“Never underestimate the power in shared emotions. A man is not complete when he is alone. We are social animals not meant for solitude.”
I continued toward the door. “Thanks for the supplies.”
“Well I hope you find your happiness.”
I stopped and looked back at the old man at the counter. “Did you?”
“Yes. We ran this store together for 35 years.”
I walked out and loaded Nando up with the supplies. I continued down the road, meandering through the trees. I left Cascadia and before me were miles of wilderness and solitude. The way I liked it. As Nando hummed along, I looked at the empty passenger seat to my right. Then back to the road and continued to drive through the trees. I looked to my right again, a little longer, and Nando hummed along.
more by KRAMER LINDELL
photograph by Jens Lelie