In the center of each man, no matter how cowardly, is the wish for adventure. One man tries to find it in one place, one in another, some escape into their dreams and others try to find it in reality, by doing insane acts of daring-do. They do not understand that each day is a separate adventure unto itself — especially when living with God.
— “Abenteuerland” by PUR
Perhaps he should have been happy, after all it was a very nice day, but still the thunderheads loomed over Jack Temple’s private little world — over his Land of Adventure where he fled to escape the daily grind. It was gray, just like the real world. Even Annie had turned gray somehow. The spark that was in their first two years of marriage had somehow been lost and her deep hazel eyes often looked at him dolefully as he pulled himself away from her into that Land, where he was king. Oh, how he wished he could take her there to escape what was happening around him — to get out and have some adventure. That was why he didn’t notice that he sat down on an already occupied bench looking out at the lake.
The late summer wind whipped over the clear water sending sparkles from the sun through the green and blue of the wooded walk. The air was pristine, but Jack didn’t notice. He just sat, slightly hunched over, briefcase between his knees, chin resting on his folded hands and thought of his life — his career that was skyrocketing and yet so empty, his lovely wife who was miles away from him even when they were in the same room, the child who was soon to come and still that lake looked so inviting. What have I achieved here? he wondered silently. There is nothing I don’t have, I even have my own world where I can run to hide... Perhaps that was where he wanted to go again, so he closed his eyes, calling up his powerful imagination, but this time he found himself in a cold and desolate place, where he was alone. He looked at the broken, jagged rocks and wondered where the warmth and the taste of adventure was, but now it was empty, just like his life. He opened his eyes, returning to the real world and looked at the lake. Where should I turn? he asked himself. He couldn’t talk with Annie, not at this late date. He had to find some way out.
“All of Life is an adventure, son,” he heard a rough, friendly voice beside him. Jack turned his head and saw an old man sitting beside him. He was slightly bent forward and even in this heat wore a long coat. His hair was white like snow and his face was full of wrinkles, still slightly roundish, making Jack think a bit of a Native American. His hands rested on an ancient cane with a silver grip. Even his clothes were from a bygone era, making the younger man involuntarily think of the twenties. Only the eyes — the eyes were so young. Deep, brown, and sparkly they had the quality of those of a young boy, curious, and yet they had a wisdom in it that Jack couldn’t place.
“Excuse me?” he asked the old man.
“I said that all of Life is an adventure,” the old man laughed. “Especially if you live it the right way.”
“Yeah, right. My life and adventure,” Jack snorted.
“You mean it isn’t?” The question was provocative.
“Not if you grow up in middle-class America with parents who are devout Christians and always go through the same motions. You live through an expensive private school all the way to graduation. Four years of college where you are the model student. A basic romance and then marriage with a job that is the same everyday. I wouldn’t call that an adventure.”
“I would,” the old man replied with a chuckle. Jack raised an eyebrow.
“Just look at it.” One wizened hand came up and swept out in front of him. “You have — what? — nearly thirty years behind you. And you can’t remember one adventure from it? Think of your first day at school, at your first girlfriend, your wedding — all of those are adventures in their way.”
“But they don’t fill.”
“True. So what do you do?” Jack glanced at him. The deep brown eyes were serious, but still twinkling, interested.
“I go to my own Land.”
“I feel better.” It was flat, uncommented. Why am I talking to this guy? Jack wondered, lowering his chin into one hand. And yet he wanted to speak with this old man. Perhaps he would have an answer.
“You don’t really feel better, do you?” the old man asked. Jack shook his head.
“There is still something missing and I feel left alone there.” The white head went down and up quickly.
“I know what you mean.” He paused, apparently thinking. “May I help you?”
“I will show you, Jack Temple.” It didn’t surprise him that the old man knew his name. Slowly he rose, leaning on his cane.
“Come, I’ll take you there,” he prompted holding out one knurled hand. There was an inviting smile on his face. Jack hesitated and stared at the hand, before reaching out and clasping it in his own, rising at the same time. Suddenly it shifted in his grasp, shrinking, becoming smooth and a rich brown. He glanced at the old man and suddenly saw that a boy standing there dressed only in a white shirt that fell to his knees. His hair was jet black, falling to his shoulders and his eyes a deep, deep brown with that same twinkle in them. There was a smile on his round face.
“Here we are!” he laughed and pointed. Suddenly Jack noticed that they were standing in a field of golden grain. The wind rushed over it, rippling the long stalks, making them bounce against his dark blue suit pants.
“Come on!” the boy prompted and pulled on his hand and they ran together through the field. Slowly he felt a warmth rising in him. This was what his Land had been like before. It was good to be back — or was it? No, that ache was still there as they left the field and entered a small wood. Suddenly the boy stopped and knelt beside a small basin of water.
“Look, it’s a mirror!” he called. Jack knelt beside him, not heeding the spots the moss made on his clothes. He stared back at his own haggard face with the well-kept moustache and brown hair. The blue eyes looked sunken and tired and try as he might he could not remember what he looked like before that.
“Look in deeper,” the child ordered in a strangely authoritative voice. Suddenly something in the pool swirled and he could see his own job, the desk, the computer, the telephone and the project he was working on. He could see himself sitting there, hard at work, looking — well, looking as if he was having fun. Then he saw himself with his boss.
“It’s a challenge,” he heard himself say, “but I can do it. It will be an adventure!” He repeated the words silently and the pool swirled again. There he was with the smiling and shining Annie at his arm, her chestnut hair carefully pinned up under the flowing white of her bridal veil. He could hear her whisper.
“Now, hon, the adventure is really beginning.” Again the picture shifted and Jack saw himself hanging on that rope off that cliff, reaching down to rescue his kid brother. Then they were sitting by the fire, still shaking from the shock of that fall.
“That’s an adventure that I don’t want to repeat!” Jack told his sibling. Then he saw himself in high-school and relived the stomach-twisting pains of asking Donna Lempkin out to the junior dance. The image shifted again and he was playing in the grass, following that toad, trying to catch it. Each event was an adventure of everyday life. He glanced at the boy.
“I think I understand now,” he said slowly.
“Do you really?” the child asked and then jumped up. “Come on, I’ll show you.” Jack rose and followed the boy out of the woods and suddenly they were on a plain and there was a lone tower standing there. Suddenly the boy knelt down.
“Get down or they’ll see us!” he whispered. Jack obeyed, pressing himself into the grass which now stained his white shirt.
“We have to get in there and get the princess out!” the boy whispered. The man nodded. It was important.
“Use your imagination!” It sounded almost indignant.
“Okay, let’s say we have our swords and shield and armor. We’ll break down the door.” The boy nodded and got up, suddenly clad in chain mail, a sword in his hand. Jack followed suit and realized that the same change came over him. They rushed at the tower and battled the black guards at the entrance. The door gave way to their combined effort and they rushed up the stairs, felling another guard on the way. Jack’s hand closed around the ring in the door and he pulled it open. A girl was standing in there, looking out the window. Now she turned back to him.
“Jack, you came!” she laughed. It was Annie, standing there in a medieval dress, her hands folded over her rounded tummy where their unborn child slept. Slowly he lowered his sword. And shook his head.
“No,” he whispered, “it’s not real. I’ve got to stop these games.” And suddenly Annie was gone and along with her the armor and the weapons.
“So you do understand, Jack Temple.” He turned and saw the old man leaning on his cane in those same clothes and with a smile on his face.
“I think so.”
“Good. Come, let’s take care of the second problem.” He turned and opened the door. Jack followed him through it into a giant library.
“Here, Jack. You may choose one book from among the books here. Whatever you take, that will become the answer to your question in its own way — be it positive or negative.” The younger man stared at the giant shelves and slowly wandered among them. Finally he stopped in front of one. There was a little black book lying in on top of the others. With shaking hands he pulled it out and weighed it in his hands.
“You have chosen well, Jack Temple,” the old man said. The younger turned and saw a smile on his face.
“You really do understand.” The bushy white eyebrows went up for an instant and the library melted away. Then he turned and walked back down the pathway between the trees, along the lake. He left Jack there in the open nature, the little book in his hands. Slowly he turned it over in his hands and opened the cover to the title page. It said “Holy Bible” and there in the upper right hand corner in his own childish handwriting was his name — Jack Temple. And now he realized that this was where the answers to his emptiness were...