A giant happened along while out wandering
By Tony Rauch
Things were not going well. Seemed like nothing was working out. I needed to get away, needed to clear my head. So I took a walk in the wilderness. I don’t know why I felt that need, I just did, figuring a few days or weeks away would do me some good, freshen my prospective, recharge my batteries. So I set out for a spell, and now I’m walking back home and feeling incredibly weary. Nothing seemed to work out in the wilderness either.
I can barely walk any longer. I drag my suitcase behind me on the path. Eventually I see, way off in the distance, another man walking alone too. I watch him as we are both traveling in the same direction. He seems as tall as the trees, but due to the distance I can’t tell just how tall he is. He is in the open and there is no frame of reference to compare him to just yet, nothing around to enable me to accurately gauge his height. Gradually, I notice he is walking at an angle to me, so I know our paths will soon cross. And sure enough, eventually we meet. He is very very tall. Taller than I ever thought he’d be – as tall as the trees. He looks to top out at forty feet high, but I can’t really tell. He stops where our two paths cross. He looks down both directions of the path that I’m on, one way, then the other. I call out and wave up to him, “Hey there, curious stranger,” I shout. He looks down to me. Then he smiles. He watches me in curiosity and notices that I’m very tired. He reaches and scoops me up with both hands. He lifts me to his chest and holds me close to him in the crook of his elbow, as if I were a baby.
“You look very tired,” he says kindly as he studies me.
“Oh man, I’ve been walking forever, trying to get back home. I’m worn out. I don’t think I can do this anymore,” I gasp, “I barely remember why I’m even way out here.”
“I’ll carry you for a while,” the mysterious giant nods.
“Oh, thank you,” I exhale and close my eyes, “I’m very grateful.”
We continue through the wilderness and encounter many hardships – long stretches of thickets, coyotes and wolves nipping at us, horrible wind and rainstorms, terrible sandstorms that send tiny grains of sand ripping through us. It’s no fun being in the wilderness and fighting the unknowable elements, but the very tall person puts his head down and trudges us along, holding me protectively in his arms the entire way.
Eventually the giant looks down at me. “What’s wrong?” he asks, “You still look weary. Very very weary.”
“I feel very weary,” I sigh. “Just so so very very tired and frustrated and worn out and worried. On the outside and on the inside. You wouldn’t believe it,” I exhale deeply and shake my head. “I’m just so so very very tired from it all, from walking and carrying this suitcase, from searching for a life out in the wilderness. So I’m on a journey, trying to find my way back home,” I close my eyes again, “I want to cry, but there’s nothing left inside me to cry out. And I feel lost. So very lost. I feel I have lost my way.”
“How so?” The giant’s voice is a gentle low, thick rumble.
“I don’t know,” I sigh, “I just do. Seems like nothing has been working out.”
“That is a long journey. To try an’ find your way. Sometimes it takes a long time. The path can get winding. And things can change on you. The path can split off. The woods can get so thick that you lose the road. There can be weather and attacks and all sorts of diversions and interruptions and uncertainties that cause you to lose your way, lose sight of what’s important.”
“Yes. It can be a long way, can’t it?” My eyes are closed. He jostles me along, holding me close to his mighty chest.
“It can be,” the giant agrees.
“You seem to know the path well,” I mention.
“Well, I don’t know that I know the actual path, or the way, I just know of being on the path. I know of losing your way.”
“I was out past the wilderness. I tried to make some bread, but that didn’t work out. I tried to plant some grain, but that didn’t work either. I tried to start a fire, but couldn’t get anything going. I tried to meet a mate. I tried to build a house, tried to make a home for myself. I tried so many things. I kept trying and trying, but nothing seemed to ever work out. . . . I got so very very tired of trying and trying,” I sigh.
“I bet all that trying made you stronger though.”
“I don’t know. Seems like it only made me frustrated, discouraged. It only seemed to wear me down, make me weaker, causing me to experience the futility in it all. I just wanted to be good at something, but I didn’t seem to ever accomplish anything. I didn’t seem to ever get good at anything. It’s been a long journey, but I don’t ever seem to get anywhere, don’t seem to get ahead, make any progress, get anything done. I mean, why not just give up after a while? But I didn’t want to be a quitter. I didn’t want to be a failure, but then I became one. I wanted to be a big shot. I tried so hard to be a big shot. Maybe I just tried too hard. And now it feels like I’m doomed to just keep trying, forever starting over and over again.”
“Why did you want to be a big shot?”
“Because,” I sigh, “People like big shots,” I shrug, “Society, . . businesses, . . girls, . . lots of people. I wanted to be valued. I wanted to be a success, be looked up to.”
“Well, I bet you learned a lot. Besides, failures are the ones who never try. If you try your hardest, then you’re never a failure because you’re always learning some new thing that could maybe help you in the future. Or maybe help someone else.”
“Thanks for helping me, big giant,” I close my eyes.
“Helping with what?” the giant asks.
“Well, with carrying me all this way. With listening to my troubles. I don’t like to rely on the intercession of others so much all the time. I shouldn’t burden others or bog people down. I really should be doing things myself, to get stronger. Although that gets tough and lonely at times.”
“I suppose it does,” the giant agrees. Then he draws up a breath. “Don’t worry about all this. This is nothing. It’s been my pleasure. Besides, I should really be thanking you for keeping me company all this way. It’s no fun to walk alone sometimes.”
“Often there isn’t anyone to help out, to help carry some of the load. . . . What were you doing all the way out here?” I ask.
“I guess I was out trying to find some peace. . . . I’m on my way back, too. . . But it was nice to have some time alone away from everything for a while,” mused the giant.
“I was also out trying to do something. But I kept having to start over and over and over again with everything. I just got so tired of starting over all the time. I just felt like giving up. Nothing was working out. Nothing. I didn’t know what to do. It all got so discouraging and frustrating. It got to be no fun. No fun at all. It got to be too hard. And no one was there to help me with any of it. No one. I couldn’t do it all by myself. This is embarrassing to say, but I guess it all just got to be too much for me.”
The giant holds me closer. We continue over a rolling expanse of jumbled rocks, boulders and downed trees. We traverse long stretches of mud and swamp. We climb a series of steep mounds and forge a mighty river by holding onto logs and swimming and kicking our way over to the other side. It gets very very hot, then very very cold, then rainy, then windy, then snowy, then hot again. We encounter a legion of little slippery green cyclopes. We fight them off with branches and continue on. We go through several long dark forests, then through some rolling grassy fields. The giant fights off a great big snake with a large stone. We encounter some terrible storms. We walk and walk, all the while the giant is holding me. Finally he sets me down at a crossing in the road.
“I should be going that way,” the giant nods in one direction, towering above me, his shadow casting a long, dark mass. “I need to go back to where I’m from. I don’t think you can come along. Besides, you need to find your way home, find your own path.”
“I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know what to do,” I sigh, as if talking to myself. I stare off into the distance, to see what’s out there for me, but all that’s there is more wilderness, more emptiness. I shake my head and look down.
“You just do it. You just continue,” the giant shrugs thoughtfully, “You just keep going. You just don’t stop. Just keep moving, keep meeting people and being nice to them. Maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do – be nice and supportive. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? I mean, so many people need to get their energy directed in a positive direction. Seems a lot of people focus a lot of negative energy inward instead of projecting positive energy outward.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I breathe out a deep long breath, “I don’t rightly know just yet.”
“I should be going,” the giant announces from way up in the air. “My home is this way,” he gestures. “Looks like your land is over there. Off that way,” he nods.
“You’re lucky,” I say, looking down the path, “You’re a giant. You’re solid. You can see a great distance. You can see a lot of things coming up ahead.”
“Yeah. Maybe,” he says. “But you’re lucky too. You’re a giant on the inside. You have great, deep feelings. You have depth of character. You didn’t just sit there, you went out and did something, tried things, learned things.”
“Yeah. Maybe. I guess. . . .” Finally, I gaze up to him. “Thanks for the lift, big guy,” I sigh in relief and shake my head, “Thanks for the helping hand, I really appreciate it. You really saved me, man,” I exhale and wave with a quick, tight gesture.
The giant smiles, “Aw, don’t worry ‘bout none a that. That was nuthin’. Really. . . Don’t worry ‘bout it.”
I turn and set out on my way up the sandy path. I walk and walk. The trees drop off until they are very far away, becoming mere sage lines on the gray horizon bordering golden fields of grass. I step through a narrow stream. I walk through a brief, low clump of trees, almost like a mini forest. I cross a field of rolling grass. Later on I come across an even narrower stream, then a clump of low bushes, a stretch of sand, then a stretch of short grass. More and more as I continue things seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I step over a pile of rocks. I step over a slight gully. I walk around a small ravine. I step over a long ribbon of bushes, almost like small trees. Finally I meet another path crossing the one I’m on. It crosses at an odd angle. This is a new path, not one that was out here the last time I was here when I first set out on my journey into the wilderness.
I stop for a moment and look down each way. I consider what’s down one or the other direction - wondering where either direction would take me. Suddenly there is a little voice from down below. I look down and there is a little man standing in my shadow. I reach down and pick him up so I can hear him better. I hold him in the crook of my arm like a baby and look down on him. He is about eight inches long and clutching a worn suitcase. I study him, looking him up and down. “Where are you going?” I finally ask.
He stares up at me, finally breaking his silence, whispering sadly, “I don’t know. . . . I’m so tired. . . And . . . I think . . . I think I lost my way.” He looks weary, as if he’s been walking alone for far too long. Then I notice that in his arm he is holding an even smaller person.
- - -
Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published – “I’m right here” (spout press), “Laredo” (Eraserhead Press), “Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again” (Eraserhead Press). He has additional titles forthcoming in the next few months.
Labels: Tony Rauch