By H.L. Singer
Outside of the window, the wind whipped the brilliant red and orange of fall leaves through the air.
On the other side of the glass panes, Stephan Lenning, elbow propped against his wood desk, chin in his hand, sighed. The
professor’s voice faded into a slight buzzing against his brain as he watched a red oak leaf fall to the ground.
"Like me," he thought. "Brilliant, attractive, and dead… cut off from my life source—"
The sound of students shuffling out of the classroom pulled him from his reverie, and he took a last look out the window and
grabbed his books. "I have to get lunch before Economics—" He hurried towards the door of the classroom.
Stephan hated that door. Its hinges looked like they had been around since The Great Depression, and every time anyone used
it, they made a jarring noise, like a yowling she-cat.
Stephan looked away from the door.
The professor pointed a pudgy finger at the blackboard.
“Remember, your essay
on the Roman Empire is due Monday.”
“Well, don’t be late about it,” Mr. Hastings said, his pasty face screwing into an annoyed expression. He
wiped at the beads of sweat on his brow. “Just remember, if you’re late this time, you get a red F.”
Stephan nodded, and walked out of the classroom, wincing at the sound that came from the door’s hinges as he pushed
it open. He looked at his watch. 12:00. He had thirty minutes until Economics. He grabbed a sandwich at a little shop, and
headed over to the park.
He walked past the playground full of laughing children, and
into a cluster of trees on the far side of the park. They where his retreat.
In his mind he called it “Green Eden.” But he never told the
others. How they would laugh…
He collapsed in the little patch of grass, surrounded
by the strait tallness and tangy sent of the pine trees.
How he envied those trees…they
never had to sit inside those wretched classrooms, and listen to tired teachers drone on and on about the value of X and Y.
They where free.
The way he had once been free…
He had practically lived outside with his books and notepad…listing
to the birds and feeling his whole body vibrating with the sweet wonder of life… and writing…always writing…trying
to capture in a page of dead words, that elusive, quiet ecstasy he had felt in the woods, trying to imprison it in a paragraph…
Oh, he had known then that he would do it. There was no way he would fail….
Stephan leaned against an oak tree and sighed.
The Robert Frost poem about
two roads dividing ran though his mind in fragments.
He had taken the easy road... the
grassy wide road... the road that everyone around him said would make him happy. After all he would be rich, and successful—
Stephan shook his head, trying to chase away the thought as he had chased
it away many times before.
This time it wouldn’t go away. He stood up and pushed a lock of brown hair from
his face. He shouldn’t have come here. It was too painful to be surrounded by life, pulsing in the trees, and grass,
and to not be able too embrace it as he once had; with total abandon, overflowing joy.
He looked at his watch.
His Economics class was in ten minutes.
He looked at the red and gold leaves spinning through the air. A lark in the tree above him sang out joyfully.
She seemed to him to be mimicking the old stir of his soul…
"I am, I am, I am…"
Stephan paused, listening to the lark until she flew away in search of another perch. His heart sank. The beauty of the lark’s
song was gone forever. Unless….
His fingers brushed against the notepad in his
pocket. Words ran through his head. He could capture that song forever...he could capture the aloof scent of the pine trees;
the coquettish dance of the red and gold leaves drifting in the air…
In a page,
or a poem…They would be his, forever.
He looked at his watch.
Five minutes until his Economics class.
He looked up at the pines. They where not afraid
of what people thought of them. They grew strait and tall… so tall that if people laughed at them, they where too far
up to hear it anyway.
Stephan looked through the trees at the huddles of students rushing
back to class. They where all dressed alike, all nervous, all dependent on each other for their soul’s song… He
looked back up at the pines.
His green eyes flashed with a savage light, and he hurled
his textbooks as far away from himself as they would go. His fingers grasped his worn notepad.
He sank to the ground, took out an old pencil from his pocket, and began to write...
He never again turned the squeaky hinges of the classroom door.