The Long Way Home

Alvin Stone is headed home, walking slowly along a strangely empty street. When he
turns the corner, he notices another person coming straight toward him-on the same
side of the walkway. Since he's already on the right side, he expects the other man
to move to his right. But as this guy comes on, Alvin can see the man intends to
remain on a line that will keep them on the same path.

Slightly annoyed, Alvin adjusts his position-moving to the left. Immediately the
stranger makes the same move. Once more, Alvin shifts, and once more the man moves
directly in his way.

"What the fuck is going on?" Alvin thinks.

A few more steps and they are face to face.

"Excuse me sir," the man says, "you're going the wrong way."

"The wrong way?" Alvin mumbles, slightly shaken.

He moves around the odd character and continues on his way.

Today is colder than usual-no warmth in the sun, and strange music, like an
amusement park, is coming from somewhere in the distance. It grinds on Alvin's
nerves and he hopes it will end soon.

He notices, on the wall just ahead, a picture-maybe painted by a street artist. As
Alvin comes alongside, he recognizes the painting as a rendering of "The Prodigal
Son," one of his favorite bible stories from Sunday school-back when he was a kid
and went to the Baptist church every Sunday and sometimes, even on Wednesday night.
The father standing in the door weeping, overjoyed to have his wayward son back

He wishes he could remember the son's name. Alvin almost starts to cry himself, but
manages to catch himself. He knows he cannot be seen crying. They're always
watching. He wonders what time it is-what day-what month, but he cannot pin it down.
He turns the corner and there again is the same man coming towards him. "How can
this be?" he thinks. This time he doesn't bother altering his path and soon he's
again face to face with this ubiquitous shadow. Again the same message: "Excuse me
sir, you're going the wrong way." This time Alvin completely ignores the man, steps
around, and moves on down the street. From now on, he will avoid talking to anyone.
He will not be distracted.

He finds it impossible to make any speed wearing these paper-thin slippers someone
gave him. They're too flimsy for walking and keep coming off his feet. "Next time, I
must remember to put on my good shoes," Alvin reminds himself.

It starts to rain hard, but Alvin can't tell if it's real, or only in his head. He
steps up the pace. It's getting late, and he wants to get home before nightfall. He
looks up toward the sky, rain pelting his face. "This time," he promises some
invisible authority, "I'll follow all the rules. I'll take my pills, and try to do
better. I swear, this time, I'll be good."

Then suddenly, there just ahead, he spots his house. He halts in the pouring gray
rain and stares.


The other patients seated in the ward look on as the old man abruptly stops
wandering the walls and gazes intently into the distance. First he runs his right
hand down the right side of his pajama legs, then his left hand down the other.
Pulling frantically at his non-existent pockets, searching for a house key.

D.B. Cox is a blues musician/poet, originally from South Carolina. After graduating
from high school in 1966, he did a four year stint with the U.S. Marines, then moved
to Boston to attend the Berklee School of Music, where he eventually found the blues
circuit. He loves writing for the same reason he loves playing the guitar-a way to
communicate how he feels at a given time, on a given day. He now resides in
Watertown, Massachusetts. His writing has been published online in Zygote In My
Coffee, Remark, Underground Voices, Dubliner Quarterly and others, and in print in
Aesthetica, Snow Monkey, My Favorite Bullet and Open Wide Magazine.

2005 Underground Voices