the lone road


By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 7 Jan 2024




I was still hopeful that Sarah would miss us and rejoin our group as soon as we returned her way. Juliet was now in her third trimester and so our numbers were increasing, not the opposite. As the drive was a long one, with Ted at the wheel and all the women sleeping or silent, I went on in my meditations on a brighter note, counting my blessings.

“I’m a loner in personality, always have been from as far back as I can remember, when my father took the time to teach me to read quite competently, a full year before I began school. He brought me the best children’s books and I would sit in the small rocking chair my grandfather had made me, placed right beside the furnace vent in the living room so I would feel the warm air in winter and the cool air in summer, cozy, reading, while the other kids were outside playing.”

“The habit continued more or less through all my school years, which I excelled in and enjoyed, just not the clubs or the sports. I always had a few friends who shared my tastes and would spend my after school hours and weekends with them, hiking in the neighboring barren hills, the game preserve stretching for miles, building tree forts, exploring ponds, taking home samples of water to see if we could find an amoeba under the microscope my father had given me at fifteen.”

“But after dinner all my hours were reserved for books and the select magazines my father subscribed to, National Geographic, History Today, and sometimes a Scientific America borrowed from a friend. And to tell the truth, perhaps these were my closest friends as I leafed through every page with deep scrutiny and constant wonder, my father banning any computer and all but one television from our home, which was for our viewing of the CBS nightly news while we ate dinner, starting exactly at six.”

“This might seem like a strict regimen but in my university years I began to see how valuable it had been to me, how advanced I was in knowledge, how I aced all my classes with ease and could handle every reading assignment a professor could throw at me and even double his demands, while the other students groaned around me at another fat book being thrown at them. This made me even more a loner in some ways, for being different.”

“But anything that’s truly sterling will prove itself over and over again in many facets and in every age of life, and the habit of mental focus and the study of human wisdom, wherever it may lie, is surely one of them. It gave me an independence from currant events, a historical perspective, not an elevation (as that would be presumptuous), but a place to stand aside as the human herds run precipitously into battle against each other and many like so many bison fall off the nearest cliff.”

“I realized now that this same independence of character made me comfortable, even happy, with the retreat into the woods with my brother for over a year, totally sequestered from all other human interaction. And it made my life tolerable when he died, otherwise I would have never continued on another two years solitary, when the whole continent was sitting outside, one big question mark.”

“One last thing struck me like a thunderbolt in this meditation on my good fortune. What better character to have, an independence, a loner, when almost all of mankind was wiped off the face of the planet and this desolation of desert we were now driving through, the only thing left. Was my father prophetic in shaping me the way I was? He passed away a full ten years before the deluge. How lucky I was. And this is most certainly why I survived.”

I woke from this revery, this nap, with the beautiful clean air of the dessert blowing against my face. All our windows were still open. It was springtime and I could sense a strange fragrance in the air. Perhaps the cactus were in bloom. Then I thought of Ted. He was separated by the glass from our compartment yet merrily driving ahead into a deep unknown, perhaps whistling.

He was a lot like me. Science was his shell. He could immerse himself in it and most often did, his own private universe, distancing himself from all petty, human concerns, freeing himself from the tyranny of any crowd that happened to surround him and in a rabid frenzy decrying their self-inflicted, imminent doom. I concluded that we were brothers and with a real smile I took a real nap.


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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