Samuel: An Illustrated Story
He'd followed a circuitous path home.
If he had a sense of that place anymore, it was in Boston, though it'd been years since he'd been back and no one would likely recognize him.
He could no longer remember how it came to be that he left. The details seemed irrelevant. Something had happened, to someone else maybe, and he lived with the consequences.
Sometimes he wondered, briefly, about why he kept moving forward. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. That was him. Lacking the will to stop.
The environs in which he found himself now were unfamiliar. Had he been here before?
Safest to stay on the highway, where no one would notice. Or maybe the countryside, where no one would see.
The highway was a collection of dinosaurs--tired strip malls, truck stops and little-used access roads. He needed the truck stops. Only places he could pick up a couple of dollars clearing trash, cashing in bottles.
He'd been shuffling along the shoulder of this highway for hours. His gut was riled, and explosive, from dumpster chicken he'd sampled the night before. It was the inability to control his bowel that led to his current dilemma.
He was foul. Needed to clean himself. And yet, he was starving. Cash in pocket, $13. Enough to buy jerky, biscuits and water. But would the store tolerate him in his present state? Odor, he'd learned, makes one conspicuous.
There, on the corner of a narrow access road, a convenience store. And behind it, woods, where he could hide out, and wash up. He'd quickly pick up something to eat and take it into the woods. Find a stream maybe.
Get off the road.
The store had those narrow aisles he hated. Impossible to be discrete. But he was hungry. He looked for jerky. Crackers. Water. Hurried past the bread aisle. And there it was.
He froze. Why now? Why that cake, with a Ferris wheel on top, and blue letters.
He picked it up. Realized as soon as he did he'd have to buy it. The store owner eyed him resentfully. $3.50. Would almost wipe out his cash.
He hurried to the counter. Didn't wait for a bag. Just stuffed the supplies in his roll sack and pushed through the door. To fresh air, to the border of the forest.
The forest was cool. Amazing that it was so close to the highway, and so quiet. Peaceful. He continued deeper. Higher. Climbing. Rocky. Untamed, like a forest primeval. As though no one, before him, had ever been there.
He needed a stream, a pond, someplace to wash. After that, a soft spot under the trees. Fallen leaves and debris make a nice bed. He allowed himself to fully feel the fatigue that had settled in his bones.
A murmur. Water. Unmistakable. Follow the sound. Soggy ground. Then he saw it. A stream. Clear. Crystalline. Rushing from the mountain, to a distant river.
He stripped down and took off his underwear. The water was freezing, but he scrubbed, and scrubbed until every bit of grime was removed.
He wrapped himself in his blanket and hung the underwear to dry in a spot of sun that made its way through the trees.
After a while he dressed, underwear still damp. He decided to explore the woods, to enjoy the peace, freedom from the danger of harassment, before he headed north again.
Deep, deeper into the woods he went. How far did they go?
The sun was low in the sky. Should he look for the road again, or bed down here for the night?
What was that ahead? A house?
He shrank low behind the trees. A house meant people.
Not a house. A shack. No door. No window. Surely, no people. He approached cautiously.
He ventured inside. What was this? Books? All over the floor. No, not books. Comics. Comic books. Stacks of them.
Very little daylight remained. Inside the shack, almost complete darkness. He went outside to check for signs of activity. Nothing. As undisturbed as the rest of the forest.
What a find! He organized the comics into a pile and arranged his blanket on top. He had a bed.
The cake. It was almost as though fate knew he would find this refuge. He might be able to start anew, at least for a while. A kind of birthday.
He made sure to sleep under the window opening so the first rays of light would wake him, a natural alarm. He'd clear out until he was certain the shack was safe.
The next morning he reconnoitered the area. More surprises. A raspberry patch, and wild rhubarb. The stream, abundant with fish.
Night came. And then another morning. Each day he rose when the sun woke him. Samuel never lost his sense of caution. He'd pack his things and keep a distance. Unless it was raining. Then the likelihood of intruders was slight.
He often thought in the days that followed that if he hadn't bought that cake, if he hadn't lingered in the store and then rushed into the woods, he might still be on the road, wincing with every disdainful glance, retreating from threatening gestures. It had been weeks since he had to deal with such hostility. In those weeks he'd even made a friend. A squirrel, coaxed close with berries and bits of cooked fish.
Life went on like this for maybe three weeks. Then his luck ran out. Two children, a boy and a girl, emerged from the woods and headed purposely toward his cabin. Samuel shrank beneath the cover of thick brush. This had become his customary retreat in daylight.
Their voices carried.
"Someone's been here!"
Samuel's heart sank. He was discovered.
"Who?" the second child asked, more curious than concerned. "Look, the comics are all in a pile. We better not hang around."
They left in very short order, but carried with them several comics.
The girl raised her hand.
"I just want to see what I've got."
The children paused and each perused a comic. Apparently satisfied, they closed the books and hurried off again.
Samuel knew he could not stay. The children would tell an adult and people would come looking for the stranger who was stalking the woods.
He had known this would happen, hadn't he? It had always been the case that he would have to leave someday. But for the first time in many years he felt disappointment. Disappointment is a luxury of those who have expectations. Samuel had not indulged in that luxury for as long as he could remember.
He'd have to go further into the woods, away from the road. They'd be looking for him now. His compass would show him the way to Boston.
He threw the strap of his roll pack over his shoulder and gave one more look toward his cabin. At that moment his squirrel scurried to their accustomed meeting place.
The squirrel's expectations were too much for Samuel. This little friend of his would be disappointed. And that broke Samuel's heart. A heaviness settled on him as he passed the raspberry patch and field of wild rhubarb. As he crossed the stream and went from the familiar to the unknown, to the strange. Again.
He couldn't bear it. He was too old. Couldn't go back to that.
He thought of his cake, and his new beginning.
Who was in control of his life? Those children? The people in a community that had no regard for him? Or was he.
Samuel decided his wandering was over. He was in control.
That night he found sleep under the boughs of a weeping willow tree. The drooping limbs of the tree reached nearly to the ground and innumerable fallen leaves created a soft bed. The next morning he remained in that spot. He had run out of berries. There was still jerky in his pocket, but he lost interest in it. Later in the day he felt a mild thirst and took some of the now musty water.
His clothes were wet from sleeping on the ground, and, he suspected, from his own excretions, but he did not pay attention. He regretted only that he had failed to bring some of the comics, to use, perhaps, for a pillow or to hold by his side.
He closed his eyes and listened to the forest. He could distinguish the different aspects of the forest – the trees whispering their accord with the wind, the legions of hunters and hunted scurrying around in their eternal dance of life and death – winning and losing, contributing to the endless cycle which ensured the forest’s continuation.
His peace, the peace he had enjoyed so briefly in his cabin, returned.
“I’m not alone,” he thought contentedly. “No more alone than anyone else.”
It was perhaps two days before Samuel drifted, finally, into his deepest reverie. And when he sank into that place which is behind all dreams, the forest received him, as he knew it would, into the fabric of its life.
The following sources were used in my illustrations (to a greater or lesser extent) for inspiration, guidance or outright use :
The scene: a landscape photo on Pixabay,
The deer: a photo on Pixabay
Samuel: a photo on Pixabay
The squirrel: a photo on Pixabay
The rock (Samuel is sitting on a rock): a picture from Pixabay
Raspberries: a photo on Pixabay
The children: a picture from Pixabay
Samuel: a photo from Pixabay
The willow: a photo from Pixabay
Visit curiesteem.com or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.
Thank you so much! That is really encouraging. Easier to write the next blog with this sort of affirmation.
As kids we often saw people like samuel, having their camp in the forest. I never thought about what those peoples story was (kids just crave adventures I guess). Maybe thought, they were crazy anyway but when I read this, I guess they are not very much different, enjoying the forrest, being away from the road. Thx for that (on the first view) oddly emphatic perspective and amazing read. Who doesn't like squirrels ^^
How happy you make me with that comment. When I write, the people are real to me...they have to be. And I really like Samuel. I'm glad you did too.
My dearest friend,
It’s 11 o’clock here and I’m about to sleep. I am in bed with my tablet, and just finished reading your beautiful short story. I am going to bed with Samuel in my thoughts. He left for the the place beyond all dreams in poverty, that may be. But with dignity. He was finally in charge, he was not alone anymore. He found the trees, the forest, oh ... the forest! A safe haven for everyone!
Your characters never fail to make an impression on me :)
With much admiration and love,
From across the ocean.
Your Brazilian Friend ❤️
Thank you, my dear friend,
You know I thought of you as I "got into " Samuel's head and tried to show his motivation. The character was one I've been working on for a while, but couldn't provide a clear thread to the event the led to his ultimate decision. Then I was in the store with my son last week and saw a birthday cake. That was it. The birthday cake would be a trigger. I wondered, as I wove the cake into Samuel's journey, what
you (with your training and insight) would think of that trigger. I'm so glad it worked.
Isn't it funny, how the mind puts bits and pieces together, even when we're not trying?
I just checked your blog and see that you have a new post up. A treat, waiting for me (when I'm fully awake and have had my first cup of coffee 😄).
Thanks so much for reading and for your kind comments. These are the things that anchor me to Steemit. I love to create, but without this human connection, creating would seem like an empty exercise.
Have the most wonderful day, dear friend.
With great affection and respect,
Your New York friend,
Samuel is beautiful. My Gosh, how long he waited to finally have the cake! I do have things in common with him you know 😊 including making friends with a squirrel! In case you are wondering. Yep, that was not when I was a kid, that was during my adult years. When I was a child I thought I could hear the stars 😂
I forgot to mention how stunning the artwork you produced to illustrate his journey is. It is difficult to pick a single image out of them all. But, I was particularly touched by the one he is under the willow <3
It is possible you could hear stars, and lost the ability with adulthood :)
Some of my best friends have been animals 🐾--although never a squirrel. 😊
I'm so pleased you liked my simple pictures. My favorite is the last, also.
Thank you for your kind comments and for your support. Means the world.
A great way to see children, I like the idea of illustration as if it were a physical book, will this be an evolved way of reading?
Thank you! So glad you got the feel of it almost as a book. This wasn't a conscious decision on my part...it just kind of worked out that way. Plus, it was really fun to imagine the scenes and try to create an emotional impression with the pictures.
Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by :)
Many, many sensations flowed through me as I read. How quickly it can go from being a normal citizen to becoming an outsider. But then also: how long it takes. The feeling of being rushed into a business because Samuel doesn't want to attract attention. The bad smell that makes people look up and wrinkle their noses. We have all experienced it before. Do you have to feel sorry for him, do you have to rejoice with him? Probably both. On the one hand the loss of belonging, on the other freedom. Belonging to what, to people, to civilization, or better yet to nature, birds, squirrels and the forest? It is like having to make a decision, like not being able to do both. That is a little sad. Someone like you can write this, because it seems that you have experienced both.
It is probably the best way to leave. To lie down and dive into the womb of life. Earth to earth.
Now I know what you have been dealing with all these days. A very useful matter also the beautiful fairytale-like pictures you have created.
It's great that @curie found you right away.
Finally able to upvote you with a full ($.02) vote. Ha! Watching the VP replenish as I work my way through. Whew.
Thank you for that comment. Fairy tale. You're right. I didn't think of it that way. Of course, it's kind of an idyll, even though Samuel dies in the end. And the pictures evoke that.
Funny thing--I can't draw, but keep working at a picture until it feels right, until it expresses what I feel. And you got it. Thank you !!
I think everyone feels apart, sometimes, alienated. It's just that often we fail to credit others with feeling as deeply as we do. This is the essence of empathy, isn't it?
As for the forest. I do have an extraordinary love of forests, streams and fields. It's in my bones from childhood, so Samuel's refuge is natural for me. A place of peace. A sense of the eternal, the flux of life.
Thank your for reading and for your insight. Your comments are always highly valued.
Love from New York, where we will escape that terrible hurricane,
Yes, we sometimes hesitate too much to be expressive in this way. It reminds me of mourning people who lost a relative or friend and others don't dare to give their condolences in order not to stir up further sadness. But it actually would cause appreciation and the feeling of friendship to be acknowledged in this way.
Yes, I know you come from that place and it gives this story of yours the certain deep touch.
A pleasure to have read it. Thank you!
I hope, the hurricane already weakened.
This story leaves me wanting more.
I couldn't take my eyes off the screen reading and looking for the translation of the feet of the illustrations.
I love Samuel, and love his story.
I loved his final resolution to govern his life, I think it's fair.
The illustrations are beautiful and I love being able to see the original pixabay photos and what you achieved with your creativity.
Thanks for a great story.
Thanks Curie for a great selection.
Thank you! So glad you checked out the Pixabay photos. I like to credit sources and inspirations, no matter how remote. Interesting evolution of impression, I think.
That you find my illustrations 'beautiful' is so gratifying. I love art, but lack skill. What I do have is a very active imagination, and often that saves me :))
It's kind of you to offer such a generous assessment of my post. Good for the spirit, and encouraging.
Warm regards, AG
Very nice illustrations and I like that you created such a long story around them. Samuel seems to be a very unlucky man. There are many people like him walking around.. no food, no money, no clean clothes, no place to sleep. It's nice that he found a refuge for at least some time but it's a pity that he had to leave. BUT the forest accepted him :)
Thank you for sharing and have a lovely day! Also congratulations on your curie vote!
I'm glad my illustrations were effective. So many people are unlucky like Samuel, and they are largely invisible. It's gratifying that readers were moved by my characterization. Thank you for sharing your response with me. It's the kind of encouragement that helps all of us to continue creating.
Have a wonderful, creative day.
This was a beautiful read. I especially like the way the contrast between the highway and the forest is described ... and great details, like the bed of comics and a squirrel friend. It kept me interested all the way and I wondered how will end ... and the end didn't disappoint me ... it didn't seem forced and was right for this tone and this story. Great post :) that's what I like about Steemit ... after years of Facebooking, the quality and effort ... that is visible enough, not completely buried under a mountain of irritating shallowness, the selfies inflation, and tasteless & aggressive advertising.
I love that comment. Thank you. There was much effort--you're right about that. Doing this is satisfying...But there's always a risk in offering my stuff to the public. So glad that you, and others, found the story affecting. I got to know Samuel pretty well, and really like him:)
I appreciate your stopping by and commenting--have fun with those wonderful cats:)
This post is supported by @tipU upvote funded by @lauch3d :)
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Thank you tipu! Thank you @lauch3d! Uplifting to see support. Feels kind of chilly around Steemit lately, but a few people keep the place warm :)