Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Craft (as in handcraft) (02/08/07)
TITLE: The Walking Stick
By Lillian Jacobs
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He blew the dust off the final scene he was carving at the bottom of the stick. He began working diligently on what appeared to be some trees on a hill. As he worked he thought back to his childhood.
The boys in the town had laughed at him behind his back as he grew up. He had not been interested in making mischief with them. He had always worked hard and he had listened to his parents. He hadn’t cared to listen to the town gossip or court the local girls. In his spare time he would sit with the children, always the children, and show them his walking stick. He would tell them the stories that he had so carefully carved onto it, starting with Adam and Eve at the top and weaving its way down through all of the tales that the elders told. The children loved to hear him tell the stories. He told them with so much detail as if he had really been there and he could even answer all of their questions about what had happened.
The boys would listen from a far and laugh. They called him a stupid dreamer, a silly storyteller who would never amount to much; a boy of no ambition. He should be striving to be recognized and to make his mark. It was important to make money and to be somebody, they would tell him. Why was he wasting his time telling stories to children? “Leave that to the old folks,” they would taunt. He would just look at them and tell them it was okay; that he forgave them but this enraged them more.
As he grew, those who listened to his stories would always shake their heads in wonder. Such knowledge and understanding in one so young, they would mutter. His peers looked on in awe and envy at the same time. He was not like them in their nervous insecurity. He did not boast of his achievements. Some took this to mean that he was slow and had nothing to boast of; as if someone of exceptional intelligence should always let everyone know this. But he had nothing to prove to anyone. He knew who he was and where he came from. He knew that those who are truly wise and intelligent keep it to themselves. There is no need to shout it out to the world. The important ones already know.
They did not understand him, and so they despised him, as ignorant people will do; hating the unknown. They especially hated his ability to continue to care about them despite their perpetual hatred and animosity towards him. It was salt in the open wound of their jealousy. Even his presence was odious to them; the smell of death. But it was of no consequence to him. He just lived and grew and loved. He enjoyed. He rejoiced. He took walks in the outdoors celebrating the good that he saw and weeping over the sorrow. He associated with those that sought him out. He loved everyone.
The man thought of all of these things as he carved the walking stick. He basked in the beauty of life. He enjoyed the warmth and security of his home. It had been a good life, despite the trouble. He was grateful for it all. He would do it over a hundred times, no, more than that. He laughed out loud and that startled him. He stared into the fire for a minute and there was sorrow in the flames, it danced on his face as well. He sighed as he put the finishing touches on the final scene at the very end of the walking stick. The trees transformed to crosses. It was finished. The walking stick was done. Now it was time to go.
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