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The sharp, accusing rays of the sun tore through Scott Martin as he took his first few steps of freedom. He had been in prison for seven years, and finally he was a free man. He’d shed his prison garb, along with his prison attitude. Now he was a different, more complete person. Michigan had never looked better.
Even though he was no longer dragging around the weight of captivity, now he was pulling an even heavier weight: that of guilt. His fellow inmates certainly hadn’t helped him feel any better about himself. He had lost all contact with his parents since his incarceration, and all his friends were long gone. Scott’s biggest regret, though, was missing out on the opportunity every person should have the privilege of having—the college experience.
The sun continued to beat down on him. Its incessant glaring was driving him mad.
“Goodbye,” he said to the guard. The guard made no reply. Scott walked away, slightly disoriented. He didn’t know where to go. He didn’t have anywhere to go. All his life he’d lived inMichigan; it was his home, his partner. His only friend left.
Perhaps he would go back to his hometown, where it all started: Saint Cloud.
It was anything but cloudy today.
His Ford was returned to him. He hardly recognized it. The paint had faded, and it was making some kind of weird noise he didn’t remember it having before. It was no longer his. But they said it was, so it was.
Driving to Saint Cloud was one of the most confusing things that Scott had ever done. He was having trouble remembering the streets and the routes. And that sun, that accusing sun, the judge of the world, it kept following him. It was stalking him.
After about half an hour, he couldn’t take it anymore. He had to pull over. Maybe a stronger person could have done it, but not Scott Martin. He didn’t have the strength or the courage to do what the sun asked of him. It was too much.
But despite it all, he started the car again and kept going. He was only twenty miles from Saint Cloud now.
It was starting to get cloudy. The developing cover was beginning to obstruct the sun’s angry glare.
Like his Ford, Saint Cloud had also changed. It wasn’t at all how he remembered it. It had been completely commercialized: chain restaurants were now where bookstores and candy stores used to be, and all his old childhood hangout spots were gone. Was nothing sacred anymore?
His neighborhood was even worse. The bright, hopeful houses he remembered were now decrepit and pale. The gardens had turned to weeds, the roads were in terrible shape; his old neighborhood looked completely deserted.
Some last few rays of sunlight were piercing him still.
He finally arrived, after a slow, thoughtful drive, at his old home. The blue paint had paled and worn away in places, and the once pretty garden now consisted of overgrown grasses. This was not home. This was not his.
He knocked on the door. Unlike everything else, the door was still standing firm, still as sturdy as ever. It was as if it didn’t want him to come in. He didn’t much care what the door thought.
Nobody answered. He knocked louder.
The clouds now completely covered the sky—there was not a speck of blue. All was gray, all was sorrow.
Still no one answered. This time he pounded on the door with both fists as loud as he could, screaming, yelling. “Hello? Mom? Dad? Anybody? Please, open the door! Please!”
It was to no avail. It was now raining heavily. Anyone watching would not have noticed the tears streaming down Scott Martin’s face. They were washed away with the rain, flowing along with all the other teardrops of all the other miserable people into the river of sadness.
He floated down the river, knowing exactly where it would take him: the cemetery. It took him to a grave he knew well. It read:
Here Lies Tom Colman
A Son, A Student, And A Loving Friend
Scott Martin kneeled in front of the grave, shaking uncontrollably. He could not stop the river. The rain seemed only to add to it. Finally, he felt something deep inside himself. He felt like all the dirt and sin had been washed away, to join the tears in the river. The rain surrounded him, was part of him, and it cleansed him. He looked up at the sky, smiling, letting the rain fall over him, and whispered, “Thank you.”