Crosses Short Distances
The man took a step.
The man stood on the side of the road and he took a step. He took a short step toward the road and reminded himself that the straightest distance between two points is a short step.
The man had taken many short steps. He was half-way between the place where he lived and the town by the sea, the far off sea. Half far off now that he had taken many short steps. Many short steps from the place where he lived toward the town on the sea, the half far off sea.
The man took a step, but he was not sure how straight his step was. Then he decided it did not matter. Then he took another short step. The man liked crossing short distances.
The sun was high and bright and warm, and the man took his many short steps under the sun. The man could walk in any weather, but he particularly liked walking in the high, bright, warm sun. The weather was ideal for the man to cross many short distances.
A child stood on the side of the road and watched the man cross his short distances.
The man said hello.
The child did not reply. The child stood still at the side of the road and watched the man. The child had big eyes as he watched the man take one step and then another step, crossing short distances.
The man asked the child if he lived nearby.
The child pointed to the house near the road.
The man asked the child if he ever crossed short distances.
The child said even shorter than the man’s short distances.
The man said probably straighter too.
The child asked what that had to do with anything.
The man shrugged and said nothing. He passed the child and continued down the road toward the sea, the half far off sea.
The child watched the man cross more short distances, and he watched in silence.
The man looked down into the river. The river moved swiftly. Then it moved slowly. Then it moved swiftly again.
The man knew there was some kind of puzzle about how a river moved and what a river was. But it looked simple enough to the man. A river was a thing that crossed a long distance all at once without having to take any steps. And the long distance was so long that it could not be a straight distance at all. The river was never straight.
The man tried to cross a very short distance without making it a straight step. He moved sideways, but it was still a straight distance sideways. Then he turned in a circle and found that the had not moved at all. Having finished the circle and ending up where he started, the man began to doubt if he had made the circle at all. Maybe he had only dreamed it or imagined it. But maybe he had done it after all.
Then the man took a short step down the road. His short step went straight toward the town by the sea, the half far off sea. A short step straight down the road away from the child.
The road was like the river. It had too much distance to cross, and it could never be straight. It never could be, and it never was. Sometimes it conformed to the bend in the river, and sometimes it conformed to the hills of the valley, and sometimes it conformed to both. But it was never straight. It was never straight, so it could never be short.
But the man’s steps were short, and so they were straight. Straight toward the town by the sea, the half far off sea, along the long and not straight road.
The man approached an old woman. She also was walking toward the town by the sea, the half far off sea. The man approached the old woman who took shorter steps along the road than he did, but her distances were not straight even though they were short, shorter than the man’s.
The old woman carried a large bag, and it weighed her down as she crossed the longest distance between two points with her short steps.
The man caught up with and drew alongside the old woman, and the old woman pulled away in fear. The old woman thought the man was a robber who had come to take her large bag. Her large burden.
The man said hello. The man said what a fine day it was. The man could see the old woman feared him, so he tried to calm her with his simple words. Straight words. The straightest words between two people. And they crossed that short distance together.
The old woman asked the man where he was going.
The man told her he was going to the town by the sea, the half far off sea. Then he asked the old woman if he could carry her bag for her.
The old woman clutched at her bag and crossed more long distances with short steps. She asked the man what he would be doing at the town by the sea, the half far off sea.
He told her.
The old woman said it was not very interesting even for an old woman.
The man asked again if he could carry her large bag.
The old woman again clutched the large bag and crossed more long distances with short steps. She asked the man where he had come from.
The man said he had come from the place where he lived at the top of the hill in the town where he lived in the land of his homeland’s allies to the south.
The old woman asked him where his homeland was.
The man said it was gone.
The old woman said she knew what he meant, and her steps became straighter, and she crossed shorter distances.
The old woman gave the man her large bag, and her short steps crossed straighter distances.
The man carried the old woman’s large bag, and his steps did not change. The large bag was not a burden to him, and his short steps still crossed straight distances.
The old woman said she used to work in the town by the sea, the far off sea.
The man knew what she meant.
The old woman said it was still far off to her because the place she had come from was half-way closer to the town by the sea than the place where the man had come from. So while the town by the sea was half far off for the man, it was still fully far off to her.
The man asked the old woman where she had come from.
She said she had come from the house by the road a ways back.
The man said the one with the child out front.
The old woman said yes, if indeed the child had still been there.
The man said the child had been there when he had passed earlier.
The old woman crossed many short distances. She crossed many straight distances with short steps.
The man and the old woman crossed many short distances together until they arrived at the town by the sea, the nearby sea.
The man gave the old woman her large bag, and she thanked him for helping her cross the many straight distances along the long, not straight road.
The man said goodbye, and only later did he wonder why he never asked the old woman why she had left the house with the child in front to cross the many short distances to the town by the sea, the nearby sea.
To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.