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I Know Which Road I Will Choose


Bill Keenan

"One can't make the bed and save the sheet," quoted Charlie's mother as she yanked the blue and white patterned bedspread up over the neatly plumped pillows.

"What?" demanded the skinny boy who had draped his legs over the arm of the overstuffed chair. He looked languid and disinterested, but, in fact, he was listening acutely to her soft voice.

"I said, one can't make the bed and save the sheet," she repeated with emphasis.

"Whaz 'at supposed to mean?" he asked. "Gosh, Mom, do ya hafta speak in riddles when I'm tryin' to get your advice?"

"It's not a riddle," replied his mother, "it's a proverb - American or English, I think. Actually, it may be Chinese. They're big on that kind of common sense wisdom."

"Okay, Okay," said Charlie straightening his body in the chair. "I guess you're telling me I can't have it both ways. I have to let go of something, and then I will hafta bear the burden of my choice." Charlie paused, and a long, cool silence fell between them. Charlie searched her face for some sign of her feelings about his dilemma. But, she remained non-committal as she gathered up the dirty sheets and headed down the hall.

Alone in his room, Charlie looked around. The sun which suddenly came through the window made everything in the room distinct and too bright to look at for long. Charlie laid his head back against the chair's pillow and closed his eyes. He saw a road that wound endlessly up hill and then disappeared into the distant horizon. That was one path. There was another road that forked off to the right, but it was shrouded in green darkness. The pine trees which lined that path obscured his vision of the road. It appeared cold and forbidding, but at the same time beckoning. However, in his present state of mind, he almost felt an affinity for its foreboding. He was worn out from his indecision.

"The man is best who considers everything for himself," another one of his parents favorite sayings, drifted to the surface of his mind. He angrily brushed a non-existing strand of hair from his closed eyes. "But I have considered everything," he said, rising to his feet and kicking his open hockey bag which obstructed his path. I've considered everything up one side and down the other. He threw himself face down on his freshly made bed. 

Grabbing a pillow and hugging it to his chest he rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. The myriad, razor-thin lines, caused by the ceiling's cracking paint, looked like a thousand forks in a thousand roads. Like a lifetime, he thought. Like the choices that make up a lifetime, and each choice is the sum of all the choices that have gone before. And each cold choice between two options requires courage; the kind of courage which is born out of the act of letting go. But beyond the choice itself is the question of what you base your moral, aesthetic, and yes, even athletic decisions on. 

Many reasonable people to whom teenagers owe deference adhere to the standard of the status quo. These are the people who think Dennis Rodman an anathema because he behaves in ways that are outside the norm, ways that are impolite, and maybe even crude; ways that would land you in detention or possibly even result in expulsion from school. In fact, these people who pass judgment on others are the most boring and least creative people of all. They live safely in their ivory towers feeling above it all and untouchable. They never dared to take the different path, the one whose sign is a question mark. They never even considered trying on the shoes of a person who wears a different point of view. And, therefore, they commit themselves to preserving the status quo with its concerns for good manners, neatness, decorum, and most of all, muteness in the face of enormous desire.

These views are held by people who are numb to what really goes on in the hearts and minds of teenagers - teenagers who maybe have not lived long enough to be afraid of taking the unknown road. 

The boy turned his head and looked out the window. The sun's slanting rays had been defused into a rainbow of color that stretched from one end of his room to the other. It had no distinct beginning or definite end. It was just suddenly there. That is the road I will take, he thought. The road that is sparked by the light that was ignited by a difference of opinion. In his head he heard voices like a memory; some saying, "He took the wrong turn." 

Others saying, "It was right." 

He stood up with resolve. This was an opportunity he was not going to miss. It was yesterday's dream, and it would be tomorrow's memory. He wanted that memory. He turned, and in one stroke zipped his hockey bag from end to end, and throwing it up over his shoulder, he swung out of his room.

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