I decided to walk home. I told my wife.
“You can’t go home again,” she says.
“Says everyone. ‘You can’t go home again,’ that’s what they all say, and if everyone says it, it must be true.”
“Well, I reckon I’ll have to show everyone, won’t I just?” says I.
And I left home. Our home, that is. To go back to mine.
I set out walking.
After a considerable amount of time had passed, I saw my friend Phil. He was standing under an oak tree, smoking a cigarette.
“How ’bout ye, mucker?” I said. “Got any?”
“None so much,” he replied, shaking his head. “Listen, though; I need you to do something for me; I need you to go home.”
“I am going home.”
“Aarrgh!” He threw his cigarette on the ground and crushed it out with his boot. “You can’t just say it like that! This is the part of the hero’s journey where an older, wiser friend/mentor figure gives you a quest to go on, and you’re supposed to be reluctant.”
“But I’m not a hero,” I said.
“Now you’ve got it, that’s better. Go home, Liam.”
I set off walking again slightly annoyed. He called after me—
“You’re going to meet a beautiful woman up the road supposed to symbolise temptation! Don’t fall for it!”
“I’ll be sure to miss her every chance I get!” I shouted back without looking over my shoulder.
Phil was always saying things like that.
And there was no beautiful woman up the road.
Soon things began to look familiar. The road became gravel, and then only just dirt. Bit of a goat path, really. The ditches were overgrown with nettles and wildflowers. I came to the old fork in our road. My father was standing there. He beamed when he saw me, but there was also a look in his eyes. He was amused by something.
“Hi, Dad. What is it?”
“Why are you carrying that heavy load?”
It was then that I realised that I was shouldering a boulder the size of a beer keg. My father laughed at the look of astonishment on my face.
“You can just set it there,” he said, gesturing to a ditch full of nettles. I hesitated.
“Are you sure? It seems important.”
“Am I sure?!” He was suddenly very angry. “It’s only slowing you down!”
I dropped the boulder into the ditch. He just stood there and stared at it, and didn’t seem to notice me watching him thinking , so I went on my way.
There never was any telling what he was thinking, anyway.
Around the bend not far from home, I saw my grandad sitting on a stump. He looked up at me, not a word by way of greeting, and said—
“God damn it, Liam! Where the fuck is that boulder I gave you?!”
I was very taken aback by this outburst, so much so that I staggered back a few steps.
“Well hello to you, too! Dad’s back the road and told me to drop it!”
It was the wrong thing to say. He stood up in a red rage, looking twenty years younger and alive to boot.
“That boulder has been in our family for centuries! I gave it to your father to give to you! You’re supposed to carry it for your whole fucking life and when the weight of it kills you to leave it to your son!”
This was too much for me. I attempted to appeal to his sense of reason.
“It’s a rock, Grandad.”
“It’s the only thing they can’t take from us !” he roared.
I saw his point, and all thought of returning home left my mind, even though I could see it from where I stood.
According to Joseph Campbell’s model of the “hero’s journey” as it occurs in mythology, it is at this point in the story where the hero, or in my case, central character, having travelled to the otherworld and obtained some precious and magical item/power/knowledge, must flee back to the land of the living with his treasure. He is usually pursued by the inhabitants of the otherworld and the pursuit is sometimes comical.
So all that happened.
It was a very long and weary way back to our home—my home and my wife’s, I mean, what with me carrying the boulder and all.