May 10, 2006

Looking for a Short Story

There is a short story I read as an early teen that made a profound impact on me, and I've never been able to find it. I've tried various internet searches to no avail. Part of the problem is that I only remember glimpses of it, and no details.

Essentially, it is a coming of age story. A young boy returns to the farmhouse from his duties tending the herd (of sheep I think). He realizes that one has been lost, and goes back out in search of the sheep. The main of the story is his retrospective, reflective thought process as he journeys over hill and vail in search of the animal. Many of his internalizations have to do with his relationship with his father. "What will father think?" "How could I be so irresponsible?" "Will I ever amount to anything?" "I can't give up... I can't, I can't!"

This last sentiment repeats throughout the journey, coupled with the growing annoyance of a pebble in his shoe. Instead of stopping to remove his shoe and the stone, it becomes symbolic of his perseverance. He thinks that to be a man means to stubbornly press on through the annoyance and eventual pain.

Night begins to fall, and by this time, the pebble now feels like a boulder on his foot. And then, not in an act of giving up, but around some other epiphany, he does stop and remove his shoe to extract the stone. He thinks that perhaps becoming a man means more than being stubborn. After removing it, he is, of course, amazed at how teeny tiny the pebble was, given how much pain it had begun to cause.

And then, after resuming his search under the dark sky, as if the clearing of his shoe has also cleared his mind and senses, he finds the lost sheep.

Don't recall many details, as I said, and I'm probaly misremembering a fair amount of what I claimed. Perhaps if I could find it, the story is better in my mind than it ever really was. But I sure wish I could find it.

Anyone know the story? Anyone have ideas on how to locate it? Maybe I should try emailing the National Radio Selected Shorts folks.

(Photo courtesy of someone named Bagryan.)

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