I've been trying to find this story for years. I remember reading it in Reading class as a kid (in the 1960s or early 70s). This would have been in a 4th or 5th grade reading book in New York State. It may have been in Highlights Magazine or Reader's Digest around the same time, too--I seem to recall that when I read it in school, I'd already read the story. I'm pretty sure it's an O. Henry.
The story starts with a boy leaving for work in the morning. He's been working in a factory since his father died--supporting his mother and two younger siblings. He resents it.
This morning he decides that his younger brother can take his turn supporting the family. So the older brother decides to just walk away--toward freedom. The story ends with the surprise reveal that the boy has been working so long in the factory that he is crippled (and, thus, will never be free or able to support himself any other way).
Does this ring a bell for anyone? Thanks in advance for any help offered!