Mile after mile, step after step, minute after minute, there I was walking on the same dirt road I had found myself countless times before. I must have been kicking the same rock for over a mile now. I had already passed the field where Germina, my favorite cow resided. I had offered the cow my usual greeting and continued walking and kicking the rock. Now, I was nearly halfway home and found that I continued to be amused by the movement of the rock. I was intrigued that it was always a mystery on whether or not the rock would decide to go right, left, jump up, or stay down. At times I would see a target, such as a Coca-Cola can lying ahead of me and would try and see if I could hit it. I found lots of things to keep me entertained on this dirt road that was bordered by acres of field as far as the eye could see. I did not mind it, it was just the way life was. I got used to this walk. I got used to life going rather slow in the small town of Henderson.
I started to back up three steps in preparation for my biggest kick yet. I readied myself. Clutched my fist. Just when I was about to charge the inanimate object, I noticed dust gathering down the road ahead. My attention quickly left the rock and focused on a mound of dust coming towards me. “Probably, Pastor Mike,” I told myself. Pastor Mike is usually the only one I see on this road. His house, is just one mile beyond my home. As the dust got closer and closer, I could make out a vehicle. It wasn’t Pastor Mike’s vehicle. As it got closer, I could see that it was a postal truck. “That’s odd,” I said quietly to myself. “Mail should have been delivered around noon while I was still at school.”
I could hear the postal truck roaming along the dirt road. As it got closer to me, it started to slow until it came to a stop. A short, curly haired lady hopped out with an envelope in hand. Things were getting even stranger. I had never seen this lady before. With a population of 167 people, you knew everybody in Henderson. With the exception of a newborn baby, nobody new ever came to this town. With the exception of death, nobody ever left. When an unknown visitor would come through town, the three single ladies could be seen nearby hiding behind a tree, glancing to see if this might be a single man. Mayor Reynolds was usually the first person to greet newcomers. The mayor was always the first person to ask them where they came from and what their business was. It was strange that this unknown mail lady would come down this dirt road to get to town. Normally, visitors came through main street.
As the lady got closer she said with a slightly shaky voice, “Are yyou D…Daniel Brown?” I replied, “Yes, ma’am.”
“I…I have something fffor you.”
“That is strange. Mail usually comes around noon.”
“Ah, bu…but, this is a special delivery.”
“Well okay, I’ll take it then.”
I reached out and grabbed the letter from her hand. “Thank you kindly, ma’am.” “You are mmost wwelcome dear.”
And that was that. She continued on her way down the dirt road.
I stared at the envelope. Sure enough, it was addressed to me. There was no return address though. I never received mail. I opened it slowly, cherishing the moment and the anticipation of learning what it was about. I did not know anybody that would have a need to mail me a letter. I knew of nobody that would write me. I had no close acquaintances outside of Henderson. At least that is what I thought.
I slowly and carefully opened the envelope. I reached my hand inside to grab what was inside. There was just one rectangular piece of paper. The paper was thicker than normal writing paper. I pulled it out. It had a crimson red decorative border with a shiny, silver header inside the border and small finely printed text just below the large header. The header was typed in cursive. The smaller words below it were not. Altogether it had a certain glow to it.
The header stated just three words: “OUT OF HERE.” The text below: “This ticket is valid for one person. To redeem and accept this ticket, please present it to the young boy with the top hat who will be waiting with Germina at 6:07 am tomorrow morning. If you do not wish to accept this ticket, you may continue kicking rocks at soda cans.”
I blinked and rubbed my eyes. Could this really be my ticket out of here?
I thought back to the 5th grade, when Bethany Peterson said boldly, “If I ever get my ticket out of here, I am taking it!” Other people had talked about how they wanted to go somewhere else and see what life was like. To see if there really was a such thing as lions, monkeys, and alligators. I admit, that I wondered if there really was a building as tall as the great Empire State Building that King Kong climbed in the movies. Was there really a New York City? With all of its people and paved streets? Everything I knew about the world outside of Henderson was from books, TV, and school. To me, everything but Henderson was fictional.
It seemed that hundreds of thoughts came to my imagination. Would anybody believe me if I told them that I got a ticket to leave Henderson? Did it matter? Did I really get this ticket? Maybe, I am dreaming? This can’t be real? What should I tell my parents? Would I get to come back? Ah, I am only 17! What if it is a prank? A lie? A thief! Calm down down Daniel!
I did not really know if I wanted to leave Henderson. I was comfortable here. Though it was sometimes a bit slow, I liked it. My family was here and so was our farm. But maybe it was not always best to stay comfortable. Sure I could live a happy life here, but what would I become if I chose to stay here until my hair was gone and I passed on?
Though, I loved Henderson, perhaps this opportunity will never come again. With sudden courage in my heart, I vowed to myself that I would try something uncomfortable. I will take this ticket “OUT OF HERE” and go on a great adventure to see for myself what lies beyond Henderson. And then I will bring the world and my experiences with me back home when the time comes for me to return.
The next day as I walked the dirt road that I had walked so many times before, everything that I had grown so accustomed to seeing somehow looked different. It all looked so much more beautiful than I had ever before noticed. So much clearer. I wanted to retain it all. The smell of dairy, the sound of cows mooing, and the sight of the fields and dirt road before me.
With some anxiousness and homesickness developing within, I took the brave steps into an unknown. The boy was there with Germina as promised. Uncertainty, was the only thing I knew for certain lied immediately ahead, but I believed in something extraordinary in the distance. I continued to step forward.