A Long Way Home
William Choy, Grade 9, All Saints Anglican School
Finalist in the 'Summer Holidays Writing Competition' competition
The shafts of fading sunlight had penetrated the cloud cover, transmuting the normally dull fields of cotton into an immense artist’s canvas, painted by the marvellous hues and tones of dusky light, and framed by the tender brook that flowed gracefully in the background.
It was a remarkable sight to behold, and it never failed to leave Darnell Martin breathless.
He was, finally, home.
As he descended from atop the ridge, the beads of sweat rolling off his ebony skin, the sight of the windblown, rust-covered shack greeted him, its dusty embrace a sight for his lonesome, weary eyes, tired of the endless asphalt and fetid octane that had engulfed his senses for nearly as long as he could remember.
His journey along the road, he now knew, would never be complete, though, momentarily, it was halted. It had begun long ago in this place, though in what seemed to be another time.
Younger, more innocent, almost three brace ago he had left, abandoned his former life and hit the road, in search of a better hand, charred by the hardship that had been his reality for much longer than he cared to think about.
He had left Alabama with just the clothes on his back, driven away by the hatred and injustice that had sweltered to a boil in the summer of ’47, after Uncle George and Auntie May were lynched by those white fellas in Georgia.
He had headed away in fear - North first, through Tennessee and Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio, before he had stumbled into the Tri-State with nothing but the clothes on his back, and the flask in his jacket.
He shuddered as an agonizing memory crossed his mind, of a day long ago, when he had first crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to head into Manhattan. The world had seemed to be laid bare in front of him, his oyster, ready for the taking. He had bumbled into town, oblivious to the steely path that lay ahead of him, and lurched across the city, not a penny to his name.
In dark alleys he had slept, the winter nights so bitter and unwelcoming, it was a miracle that he had survived. His dreams of change, of a better life, quickly turning to dust, shattered by the reality of those early days in the city.
He had forgotten much of that time, or had at least, purposely tried to shed the memory, but clear as day, he could picture the mad look that had radiated from Dexter Mayhew’s eyes the first time they had met, and felt the hunger for life he then possessed, a hunger that Darnell himself had once craved.
What happened before that night did not matter, for it was there and then, in that god-forsaken place, that the real journey had begun.