Walking Stick lived in the corner of the bedroom, out of sight behind the door. When Grandpa slipped on a sock and broke his hip, he carved him out of a hickory stick. He whittled his eyes and his up-turned nose. Walking Stick was so proud of his branchy arms and his four-pronged toes, that he stiffened his shoulders and walked Grandpa straight to the bathroom.
He walked Grandpa to the kitchen for a sandwich, with Grandpa moaning and groaning the whole way. Then Walking Stick stood ready at attention while Grandpa leaned back in his recliner and watched Little House on the Prairie, plus the three hour Bonanza rerun. Oh, yes, they were buddies then. One time they went to the movies and sat alone in the dark. It was wonderful because right up there on the screen people vaulted over hurdles with sticks. They skied down mountains with poles.
But Grandpa got better, got livelier. One day he walked out the door in his tennis shoes and took Martha Meddlesome to the movies. Came home with popcorn breath, and Walking Stick was stuck behind the door, seething mad, exploding mad. Worse and worse until one night when Grandpa drove off to a dance, Walking Stick snuck into the dining room. “No way,” he cried to the china hutch where the dishes lived and the cups jiggled awake in their saucers. “I’m out of here!” he shouted to the pictures on the walls and they roused alert in their frames.
“Where will you go?” the pictures asked all high and mighty because they were lofty mountain peaks with clouds and rainbows. And Walking Stick looked down the line of pictures to the very last one.
“To Beautiful Lake,” he said. Oh, it was glorious, all shimmering and shining in the moonlight and he waved his branchy arms in delight.
The pictures laughed and guffawed and got crooked along the walls. “You’ll never get there. What a twig you are.”
The cups rattled and shook in their saucers. “Don’t go. Don’t go,” all nervous and Walking Stick got so determined that he got stiff as a board and ground his teeth into splinters. Then he crawled out a heating vent and stood in the yard.
The trees waved their restless branches while the moon beamed down.
“Off to adventure!” Walking Stick cried.
The old owl hooted from the barn as Walking Stick slipped into the shadows of the forest, his original home, and sunk his four-pronged toes in the earth. The shadows wavered and called. The squirrels dropped nut shells and acorn tops on his head as Walking Stick ventured into the deepest woods.
Suddenly, a great voice growled, “Who’s there?” Evil eyes towered over Walking Stick as he gasped in terror. His knob knees wobbled and shook – it was Grey Wolf!
“It’s me, Walking Stick. I used to live here.”
Drops of drool plopped on Walking Stick’s head as the wolf licked his lips. “I was hoping for a rabbit or a rat, but there’s no meat on your bones.”
“I’m a stick! All gnarly and tough, you wouldn’t want me.”
But Grey Wolf slanted his eyes and sniffed all around. “I could gnaw your head off.”
His white fangs gleamed in the moonlight as Walking Stick’s sap pounded in his chest and his four-pronged toes spun like a whirlwind. They sizzled like hot wheels as he raced over rocks, up hills, and into the creek.
He was up to his knees in water as the creek gurgled and gushed. “Come with us,” the creek cried. “Jump in and we’ll carry you to Beautiful Lake. Don’t be a stick in the mud.”
But Walking Stick got rigid, got stiff a board. He dug his toes in the mud. “No way!” he cried. “I will not get wet.” Then Grey Wolf crashed over the hill all licking his chops and Walking Stick swooned back in the rushing water. It was like ice cubes! He shivered and shook as the creek rocked him gently down the stream, then faster and faster. Whap, splat, he smacked the rocks, then hit the rapids where the waves knocked and crashed.
Walking Stick bounced off rocks, zigzagged this way and that as this roaring came into his head. This roar like a raging lion – and he shot out over a waterfall – and landed in Beautiful Lake.
Oh, it was wonderful! He floated around all peaceful, a natural floater/boater, and the old owl flapped his wings across the sky and the grey wolf howled. The great wide beam of the moon smiled down and Grandpa limped home from the dance and came searching behind the door. “Where’s my walking stick?” He scratched his head as Walking Stick floated there all glorious. Off on his first adventure.
Walking Stick’s Adventure is written by Suzanne Mays.
Suzanne Mays is a novelist and short story writer. Her stories are about women in search of land, family, and peace in themselves. Usually set in the mountains, they possess a quiet humor. Her novel, The Man Inside the Mountain is the story of Essie Bell, a woman who believes her son has survived the Civil War and is hiding in the mountain behind her farm.