Writer’s Quill Winning Story!
Congratulations to Maria Simmons on winning this week’s Writer’s Quill contest! We thoroughly enjoyed her entry, Lost!
by Maria Sammons
Alfred Stanford was exceptionally good at getting himself lost.
Alf look at his first sentence and laughed. It was a good start to his paper. Mrs. Felix, his old English teacher, had always told him that to start a story, he should write a statement at the top of the paper and then either prove it or disprove it. Alf intended to prove this statement.
The first time he remembered getting himself lost was when he was six years old. At a grocery store, with his mother, just like always. And he wandered off. She was busy with his little brother and he walked away without her noticing. They found him crying in the kitchen supplies aisle. (On a side note, he found that kitchen towels were good at drying tears.)
When he was nine years old, Alf was sent to a summer camp where everyone was bigger and more talented than him. He was lost from the moment he saw them all. So he walked away, deep into the woods, and found an old fallen tree to sit on. He wished he had a kitchen towel with him. The camp staff members, of course, were not impressed. They told his mother, and she asked him about it when he came home.
“Why would you wander off like that?”
“I was lost,” he replied.
But his mother did not understand the answer. She did not know that he was lost before he ever entered the woods.
One summer, when Alf was twelve years old, his family went to a fairground. It was supposed to be a fun time, but his parents would not stop arguing. When his father raised his voice, Alf walked away.
They didn’t notice.
He took as many turns as he could and eventually stood behind a food cart with no idea where he was. It took his parents 27 minutes to find him. They were still angry, and now they were angry with him, too.
When he was fourteen, Alf entered the Academy. As soon as he arrived, he thought of that summer camp. The school was huge, and everyone there was bigger and more talented than him. Alf was already lost.
In his first couple weeks there, Alf spent a lot of time in dark closets and empty rooms, sometimes clutching towels. Occasionally people would find him there and ask what he was doing.
“I’m lost,” Alf would always tell them.
And then they would give him directions or show him a map, but they never helped the fact that Alf was lost.
But by the time Alf was fifteen things were different for him. He had two best friends, Melanie and Elijah. They had found him in an empty classroom in some forgotten corner of the school grounds once, and instead of simply giving him directions they stayed and talked. They walked back with him. They became Alf’s favorite people, always finding him and inviting him to sit and talk with them. The three of them did everything together.
Until they didn’t.
Until Melanie and Elijah started doing everything together – but just the two of them. Suddenly Alf’s friends only wanted to talk about the other friend. They would still sometimes try to include him, but they didn’t understand why he was silent as they talked and laughed and held hands.
It was time to lose himself again.
Alf wandered around the academy, but suddenly the huge school was too small for him. So he walked away, towards the stores on the outskirts of the dusty town. He walked until he found streets he’d never been on before. He wasn’t sure he knew the way back.
It was five hours and twelve minutes before someone found him. Melanie. Alf wasn’t sure if she had been looking for him or just going into town, but when she saw him in a store she hurried over and grabbed his arm.
“What are you doing here? Where have you been?! Alf – we were worried about you!” Melanie glared at him and waited for an answer.
Alf tugged at his shirt collar. “I’m sorry, Mel,” he said, but he didn’t feel sorry at all. “I’m…lost.”
She crossed her arms. “No, you’re not. You’re moping.”
“Some would call it coping.”
“Coping? From what?!”
“From being lost all the time.”
Melanie threw up her hands in frustration. “You know what, Stanford, I don’t care. I can’t keep chasing you, and neither can Elijah. Keep running, if that’s what you want, and maybe you’ll find yourself someday. I hope you do.”
Now Alf was eighteen, and he was lost.
He had done it again, and this time even he was impressed with how lost he had gotten himself. He was in a different country now, a different continent. When he left the Academy he had set out for Europe, a new place where nothing was familiar and it was easy to get lost in the busy streets. Here in this new place Alf often found himself wondering if this was his end or his beginning.
He stared down at his paper and knit his brow. Mrs. Felix had also taught him that he always needed to tell why. Why did Hamlet kill his uncle? Why did Roland wait to blow his horn? Why did Frodo persevere?
Why was Alfred Stanford always getting himself lost?
Look at the intent, look at the outcome, find the pattern, find the motive. The intent was getting lost, and the outcome was inevitably being found. But why would he want that?
Alf picked up his pen and then out it back down. No, he would not write that he wandered off for the sole purpose of being brought back. He would not write that he got himself lost because it was the only way he could get people to notice him. That it was to make sure anyone cared enough to look for him. Alf wouldn’t write that, because he didn’t want it to be true. He didn’t want his life to be about seeking validation from other people. Because what was it Mel had said? Not that she hoped someone would find him someday – she said she hoped he would find himself. So what had he been doing all his life? Losing himself in the hopes that someone else would find him and find meaning in his life?
No, the truth had to be simply that Alfred Stanford was exceptionally good at getting himself lost.
Alf studied that sentence for a while, then frowned and shook his head. He quickly turned the paper over and wrote another sentence, a message only for his eyes:
You will be found.
Maybe all this time he had been running for nothing. Maybe what he was really hoping to find was within him, not in the forests and empty rooms and new countries.
He would be found.
He would find himself.
~ The End ~