The Man And The Shell.

I wrote this journal after meeting an older man who was obviously homeless. He passed me on the road and I asked him him where he was headed. He said, “Home.” I asked him where home was and he simply said, “Where ever you make it.”

Frank opened up his eyes and for a minute seemed to forget where he was and why there was a heavy sinking feeling in his heart. As he coughed and rolled over in his bed, his eyes fell on the manila folder sitting on the bed stand. He frowned. Untangling himself from the sheets, he threw his feet over the side of the bed and slid them into his slippers. Before standing up he snuck a glance to the empty side of the bed.  The scent of flowers filled his mind and he quickly looked away.  His heart began to hurt.  He picked up the manila folder and scuffled across the floor. Not giving a second thought, he threw the folder into the trash.  A corner of sheet of paper slipped a few inches out of the folder in the trash, revealing the single word –  inoperable.

Frank changed into his old jeans and white T-shirt, put on his shoes, and made his way into the kitchen.  He drank coffee at a small dinner table, his eyes glazing over as he stared at the empty seat across from him.  As the scent of flowers over took him again, he got up and dumped the remaining coffee in the sink. Zipping up his jacket, he grabbed a small backpack and headed out the door.  He walked down a small beaten path between two rows of trees, strapping the pack onto his back as he made his way onto the beach.  He found their rock and sat down upon it, staring at the morning sun as it slowly creeped into the sky.  His heart gave a jolt and he clutched his chest, as if keeping it in and restrained.  As the waves crashed, Frank’s thoughts drifted. He did not want to leave behind this rock and those waves. They had discovered them and didn’t want to think about some other schmucks claiming them as their own. He frowned again as he felt something bump into his bare feet.

A small hermit crab had been scuttling across the sand and was now making its way around Frank’s foot. It’s shell was old, scratched, and faded.  A few feet away, the crab came upon a much larger, shinier shell. Slowly, it crawled out of its old one and disappeared into the larger one.  For a few seconds the crab could not be seen, until finally its pincers and eyes protruded from the opening and it began to crawl away, the shell glinting in the sun. Annoyed that the crab thought it could just take what it wanted, Frank bent down and picked it up.  The crab snapped its claws menacingly as it slowly retreated to safety within its shell.  If it thinks it can just pick up and take with it whatever it wants, so can I, thought Frank. He stowed the crab into his jacket pocket.

Frank looked down at his feet, which were covered in sand.  This was the place where they had first kissed. It was theirs. It is mine, he said to himself.  He bent down and grabbed a handful of sand, then placed it in his backpack.  He began to look around for other things he could not bear to lose.  That row of trees had provide them with years of shade and relaxation. He plucked up each tree and placed them all within his pack.  Frank began to collect everything which had touched their life. He grabbed the birds they used to watch and the crickets they used to listen to and placed them in the bag upon his back. He grabbed their favorite movies and books, the rocks in the rivers and the pond they once had swam in.

Frank’s legs began to waver as he added more and more possessions into the bag on his back, but he kept on.  He snatched up flowers and waterfalls, caught airplanes in the sky.  Their old motorbike was hastily added to the pack.  As the day went on, Frank walked through the world, picking up almost everything as he went.  As the sun began to set he pulled down the scarlet clouds, which clung to the sky like cotton balls on a rough surface. As the stars began to shine, Frank ripped down their favorite constellations and stowed them within the pack. He caught the waves and then the setting sun, shoving with all his might as they squeezed into the pack.  Zipping it up, he slung it over his shoulder. He could now barely move beneath the weight.

By this time the world was pretty empty and all that remained was the ground he stood on and the moon.  As he stood up on his tiptoes and reached for the silvery moon, he heard a soft cry from behind him.  He turned around and saw a young boy who had his arms wrapped around his legs, crying.  Frank asked the boy why he cried. The boy didn’t answer, but Frank began to look around; he hadn’t realized how much he had taken and placed in his pack.  Somehow, they had seemed to touch everything in their lives, which was now all packed away into Frank’s pack.  Taking the young boy’s hand, Frank began to empty the bag’s contents. As each item was unpacked, the boy looked in amazement as Frank showed him how to use each one.

Frank taught the boy how to skip rocks on the river, how to identify birds as they flew. The boy learned how airplanes stayed in the air, how to read a map, and the joys of reading a book in a tree’s shade.  Frank put back the sun and the clouds and taught the boy how to enjoy even the smallest moments in life.  They flicked stars back up into the heavens and Frank taught the young boy about constellations and how to wonder.  The last firefly flitted from out of the pack and the last pebble of sand fell back to the earth, and finally the bag was empty.  The boy, now exhausted from the day, turned and headed back home, leaving Frank alone by the rock and the sea.

Suddenly, Frank felt a pinch at his side. He plunged his hands into his jacket pocket and pulled out the hermit crab, who snapped its claws disapprovingly. As he set the crab back down onto the sand, Frank realized he had been wrong about it. The crab didn’t take what it wanted, but made do with what it was given. And when the crab’s body outgrew it’s shell, a larger one was needed. The sea birds sang as the crab disappeared around the rock where Frank now sat. He took off the pack and set it down onto the sand. He no longer needed it. Frank watched the sky open up into a beauty he had never seen before as the scent of flowers filled the air.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Man And The Shell.

  1. Natalie Seim

    Jordan — this is a wonderful story. So well written, so thought through, loved it!

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