The Sketchbook

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story about someone who, through revolution, learns what it means to have something to fight and die for.

Submitted: December 25, 2011

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Submitted: December 25, 2011



I remember he always carried that sketchbook, almost as if he would die without it’s close proximity. Every day we marched through that god-awful forrest, not because it was difficult, but because it was mind numbing and monotonous. And every night we would stop and make camp, the only release we had because we could dream of a better world than this one. And every night at camp he would go in to his tent and just look at the same sketches over and over, he never drew anything only looked through it. None of the men disturbed him and for a long time I wondered why.


One night around our small campfire I got up the nerve to ask. Everyone was silent for a very long time. Then suddenly a man we only knew as sarge, who never participated in the conversation, just sat and listened, spoke up. He explained that when the war reached the small town they had both come from they had only just graduated high school. They had been two of only five resistance members at the time, not serious members, mostly preachy anarchists, but they were ready to fight. The security forces ambushed their graduation. They evaded capture and struck back as the security questioned their classmates. Their band of five defeated and pushed back 20 security force operatives. “But,” he said with a heavy tone of sorrow, “In addition to the sight in his left eye, he lost the one thing in the world that still mattered to him. The sketchbook reminds him of this, and if he chooses to hang on to that memory of a better life, you should not question it, and more importantly leave him be.”


He always hiked off trail but alongside the other men. They said it was for “overwatch” but we all knew he just wanted to be alone. One day about a week after that night, on the last day before we would meet the greater force at the rendezvous, I ventured off trail towards him. he didn’t even seem to notice. I walked slightly behind him, struggling to keep up with his pace that was more like a jog over terrain, for almost an hour that felt like a month. Then without even realizing it I asked,

“Was she beautiful?” Without faltering at all he turned back to me and replied with a strange mixture of pride and loss,

“More than you can imagine”


The next day we met with the national resistance and advanced on the capital. We met a hostile security force three times larger. Many lives were lost. All traces of innocence were lost. Every man and woman struggled every second of the three day battle. And from our effort emerged a new government, in a blaze of glory and splendor. However it didn’t really seem to matter, because I realized that I was fighting just to fight the system, I didn’t have a good reason to celebrate a new government, I didn’t have a sketchbook. I haven’t seen that man since the battle ended. And it wasn’t until years later that I learned the true reason for him to fight that battle. He went to raid the supermax prison in hopes of finding her. I’ve prayed every day since the battle that he found what he was looking for, even if I only know now what that was.

So here I stand at the gate of the farm I tracked him to, breathing deeply steadying my hand to release the latch. To open the gate. I don’t know what I expect to find beyond it. I pray that it is some proof that what you seek may be found. I still don’t know what I’m looking for. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll find it there beyond that gate with the man who first taught me what it truly meant to have something to fight, and die for.


© Copyright 2018 Coop Van Auken. All rights reserved.

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