The ground was cold. His stomach was empty. He wanted to give in to the hunger yet at the same time it forced him to crawl out of the thicket and stand up. He said a silent prayer thanking the deer that had made his bed. The center of the bushes had been well worn. Jonathan had been grateful to find it. Beginning the journey in smart clothes, he now found them soiled and wrinkled. His teeth chattered with no way to get warm and his stomach growled with no way to fill it.
Hope drove him forward. He was traveling towards a new life and if he died tomorrow, well then, he had lived two more days than if he had died yesterday. He had his suit and his gear which was enough to join the revolutionary army. Jonathan was marching toward General Washington and the promise of land at the end of the war. He was marching towards a future and away from a past.
With no bonds of family beyond blood, and no real place to be, two days ago had found him scouting the forest far from the house and the farm. There was a swimming hole fed by a hot spring he had found that no one seemed to know about but him. He was heading there that day to be lost.
It had seemed to be his discovery alone, but that day as he approached he feared someone else had found his paradise. Foot prints could be seen in the damp ground as well as forestry had been disarranged along the path. He approached the pond with trepidation and stopped just short of the clearing. His suspicions were confirmed by a pile of clothing on a rock near the water. But the feeling of invasion was short lived. He spied a body floating in the water.
Jonathan quickly took off his clothes and jumped in. As soon as he touched the cold body he knew the truth of the man’s condition. He was dead, but only recently so – maybe within a day – maybe even today.
He pulled the body to the shore and looked at it. He could discover no injury and he wondered what had caused his body to fail. It was a young man – older than him and better fed but no taller. Jonathan looked older than his years mostly due to his height. The body bore a handsome face. It was no one he recognized.
In the stillness of that afternoon in a blanket of forest silence, Jonathan found himself crying for maybe the second time in his life – the first time being when his mother died giving birth to his brother. He had not cried for his dad who had disappeared in grief. Jonathan found himself crying for a host of grievances dealt to him in his short life and for the shortness of life. But mostly he cried for his loneliness and this friend he had pulled from the water too late to meet.
After he had exhausted himself of tears he went to get dressed. That’s when he noticed the man’s clothing. It was a uniform. Next to it, gear. In his pockets he found money. This man was heading to be a soldier.
Jonathan did not think about if he should do next what he ended up doing. He just did it. Though they had never met, this true friend was helping him in his time of need. It was like that man from the bible the preacher was always talking about, Jesus, laying down his life so that Jonathan might live. He dressed carefully in the other man’s clothes and then laid the naked body on a rock away from the water so as not to spoil it. Jonathan turned back down the path and left him for the sun. He had found the courage and the means to live, and not just be a body – breathing.