“The Backpack”: An Original Story

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Jessica Cook, Contributing Writer

A gust of icy wind rocks the leafs of the old maple tree from side to side.  A young man walks among the fallen leafs on the frozen concrete. His face is dusted with dirt, and his clothes are torn with age. He takes off the dirt covered backpack and throws it to the ground, and opens it, taking out an orange quilt filled with memories and tears.

It is the only item that gave off the scent of home; the scent of his grandmothers lilac perfume, his wife’s vanilla shampoo, and his daughters cherry lip balm. He holds it close to his chest and then lays it down on his legs. He reaches to the bottom of the bag again and pulls out a picture frame, made by his father. He remembers the day that his father took him into the middle of the woods and gave him an axe. His father motioned for him to take a swing, and he did. One chop after another he swung until the tree thumped to the ground. “Great job Son!” His father’s words rang in his head…

The man gently put the frame on the ground, a sigh releases from his throat. Down the street, a small cat strolls casually. Spotting the man, it loops around and falls down on his lap. The man takes half a loaf of bread from the backpack and splits it with the destitute feline. The bread was sweet relief to his empty stomach. When the bread was gone; the man reached in the backpack once more, this time with a photograph.

Pictured in the photograph was a young girl with chestnut brown hair in braids and sky blue eyes. She held a doll in one hand, and a flower in the other. The haggard man remembered this day clearly, he had taken this girl — his daughter, to the park to play. She played on the swimset with him, picked flowers, and danced in the sunlight. She was his pride and joy, always happy and graceful making her way through life. Tears fell from the man’s eyes, leaving a streak of skin visible.

A bus roars down the road and stops at the streak of road in front of the man. He looks up and sees a figure, a man dressed in a suit. “Are you Mr. Simón Lucio?” The figure said. “Yes, sir.” the man answered. “Well, I have been looking for you for ten years,” the figure laughed to himself before continuing. “Simón, as I remember you lost your family and home to a fire in 2008. You left after you heard from a nurse that they had passed, but a doctor with further investigation, found that during that time your wife was pregnant. Before she passed from blood loss she gave birth to a baby girl…”

The man gave Simón time to process the news. “ But sir where is she? What’s her name? When can I meet her?” Simón was filled with curiosity. The man climbed back up the bus stairs, made a gesture, and returned with a girl. She wore braids in her hair and had tears in her eyes. Simón ran to her, and before she reached the last step she was in his embrace. “¡Mi hija!”