Man with the Stick

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young girl meets with a seemingly-destroyed man. There is mystery surrounding his entire being. What is most interesting is his story and why he appears only to the young girl. In this short story, an innocent youth gets a peek at what it is like to yearn for the joys of the past and forever live with the memories without being able to have it all back.

Submitted: May 01, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 01, 2012



Man with the Stick

“I hope you know how ridiculous you look,” Lily muttered in an irritated tone, her arms across her chest. “Get up! We’re going home, Maple.”

Without the grace of my attention, I continued to watch the autumnal-colored tree sway in the cool breeze. Never did I mind Lily when she was in such an aggravated mood. It was clear as day that she was just upset because she could not find the time to enjoy the simple beauty of an autumn’s passing. Seconds of silence strolled tensely through the air between Lily’s inflamed atmosphere and my nonchalant aura. Her anger grazed my contentment and I shuttered at the thought of her yelling at me so openly in the sights of so many. With a tinge of remorse, I turned my head and looked at her blankly, blinking at her periodically, until she spoke again.

“You’re so stubborn! You always are such a hard-head!” My older sister shouted in frustration. “I’m going home by myself!”

“Never asked you to watch after me…” I sighed as I returned to my original position as Lily stomped away. She was always such a fuming teapot. When she boils, she does not whistle, she screams. “She just won’t learn.”

Looking up at the thin branches of the tree, I counted another browned leaf dancing to the ground effortlessly. The light, crisp wind rustled the tree playfully, causing three, four, five more leaves to detach from their mother to their deathbeds below. Nature’s natural life cycle is a constant reminder for me that I must remember that living is a gift. Every single aspect must be given the honor of being observed; else their existence and actions in the world would prove meaningless and they would leave the world unaccredited. I am grateful to have learned this at such a young beginning of my own life cycle, so I may give attention to the simplest beings that have been ignored. When a mere insect has climbed a mountain, I will have noticed.

Tracking time becomes a difficult task when one is engrossed in the wonders of the simple Earth. The orange sun shined harshly against my face; I could tell it was getting late. Taking a look down at my hands that slept in my lap, thoughts and plans crept into my mind like ninjas. Realizing the brilliant idea that my mind just birthed, I took one more look at the tree that stood before me. A fat red ant marched curiously on the trunk and then disappeared behind the coarse bark. It was time for me to head home as well.

“I’ll be back.” I smiled at the sun and pushed myself off from the ground, dusting my floral dress clean, and then trotted home with a light heart.

Wisps of a gentle zephyr tousled my dark hair when I arrived at the tree the next morning. The cold sting of the air and the moist, dewy grass woke my senses. The remnant fragrance of early passing showers flooded my lungs as I greeted the day with a big yawn. I decided to take a walk around the park since the ground was too wet for me to sit on. Nearing the staircase that led to another field of the park, there was an invigorating scent hanging on the occasional gust. Curious as I was, I continued on my way towards the steps to find a lone man. The young man was positioned against the metal railing, poking at stray leaves with a damp stick; the bottom tip caked in mud. Meticulously, I silently inched myself closer and kept my gaze on his actions.

“You need leaves on or you’ll be cold,” the man said as he skewered the dry leaves onto his stick. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a sorrowful look in his seemingly sleep-deprived eyes. His brown hair covered his ears snuggly and he had a disorganized, unkempt look to his appearance. “You need leaves.”

I kept quiet as I observed him inquisitively. Wrapping my arms around my body to trap the remaining warmth in my hands, I wished I had brought my jacket with me. The man tore his attention from the ground momentarily to adjust himself to the opposite set of railings on the stairs. He cleared his throat vociferously and coughed a short fit before carrying on with his business. I removed my hands from underneath my armpits and breathed life back into my nearly numb fingertips. At the moment I clamped my palms against each other, the man turned his head and his gloomy eyes met my gaze. I felt as though my heart had leapt out of my chest and was flopping helplessly before my cemented-to-the-ground feet. My mind blanked on me and I uttered a noise in cowardice.

“You look cold,” the man said plainly to me, looking back to the stick he held and the leaves on the ground. “It’s cold.”

“I am and,” I swallowed the dread that constricted my voice, “it is cold.”

After reaching a decision, I urged my legs to move forward and took a seat on the curb of the sidewalk where the stairs began. The pavement was not quite as wet as the grass, so I had no problem sitting on the ground. I shifted to a comfortable spot and folded my hands in my lap. The sun was rising higher, peeking through the grey clouds that blanketed over the sky, casting dim sunlight on the day. Nevertheless, the icy temperature showed no mercy. My eyes drifted to the clouds overhead; it looked like it would rain pretty soon.

“Looks like it’ll rain.” I said absently.

The man didn’t move or respond in any form. The creaking noise of a heavy branch accompanied by the leaves it wore were like wind chimes on a still winter night. Afraid as though I would wake a baby from sleep, I awkwardly dug into the back pocket of my jeans to find my chapstick. My lips had been suffering from the overbearingly chilly air.

“What are you doing here?” the man asked just as I finished re-pocketing my chapstick.

“Sitting,” I replied quickly. “What about you?”

“Waiting,” he began, “Wishing.”

His reply hushed me and threw me into a state of insane curiosity. I was never the type to pry into a stranger’s business, but I felt like there could be much more to his story. I scooted closer and perched my arms against the railing, ready to absorb his words. With an eager look, I urged him to continue.

“When she was still with me, she would speak to the trees and the birds and the sun. She would run and play and laugh. She would smile and cuddle and kiss. She was the sweetest thing.” The man said melancholically. “When I brought her to this park, she would help the fallen branches find leaves again. She would tell them ‘you need leaves, you’ll get cold’. Then she would place the branches right by the bases of the trees. When seasons were melting away, she would ask me to see the trees before they changed. She would stay and watch the trees change.”

“Who was she?” I asked, propping my elbow up against the railing, wondering if I had just asked a stupid question.

“She was my…” His voice trailed off, fading into a hoarse coughing episode.

Maneuvering from the ground to aid the man, Youth Group’s “Skeleton Jar” began to play from within my pocket; it was my phone. Without having to check the caller ID, I knew it was my mom calling me home. I groaned slightly as I fumbled for my beat-up Samsung cellphone. Guilt placed its hand on my shoulder as I walked away from the man to take the call.

“Where are you? Come home right now. It’s too early to go outside,” my mom said groggily over the phone.

After assuring that I would be home within five minutes, I hung up and looked to the man who apparently had been preparing to leave as well. Replacing my phone into my front pocket, a discerning feeling washed over my sunken heart. At that moment, I realized this was not the first time I had seen the man in this park by these stairs. I remembered that this was the same feeling I had always felt whenever I had seen him during past visits to the park, the man with the bedraggled coat and unshaven face. That small pinch of sympathy and the suppressed wish to give my time to learn his story; that I had shrugged off because I would much rather spend time with friends than hear an aged man pour his guts on the pavement. I sighed involuntarily at the thought of taking another rain check on an inviting opportunity to bask in the enlightening sunrays of understanding and connection to yet another simplicity of the world: the human heart. My feet suddenly became apparently interesting as my gaze fell to the ground. I stared at my shoes, too ashamed to bear my face to the world. I had felt as though I’d failed one of life’s purposes.

“She was the sweetest thing.” The man murmured as he started down the stairs.

“I’m sure she was.” My voice came out as a susurrus; a soft, steady stream midst a thick growth of forestry during a seemingly silent spring morning.

My eyes followed the man’s retreating back as he stepped soullessly down each step. I felt ashamed at how heartless I must have seemed. After giving myself a mental scolding, I figured it was time for me to head home. One may cry for another’s tragedy, but what good would tears do for a loss? No matter how much one may lament, the lost will not return. Truth is a forceful, modest friend that remains when all else has deserted. The inevitable also claims the title as the undeniable in this world. With a thoughtful breath, I took one more look at the rising sun and began to exit the park at a lethargic pace; Death would’ve been able to catch up to me.

On my way home, I pondered deeply about the eventful past seven minutes that had just gone by. I jammed my hands into my back pockets and exhaled heavily through my nose.

“I’m sorry.” My thoughts had found a way to become verbalized on their own.

I tried hard to come to understand the man, but found that I could not. If a human’s heart and the emotions that fill the corners of it are supposed to be a simple mystery to be excavated by other people, why is it so hard to find the reason to a certain feeling one experiences? If all humans are given life and put in the world to attain a common goal, which is happiness, why must there be complications faced when one is attempting to see from the eyes of another? What is this invisible barrier that hinders me from viewing this man’s life as it is in his eyes?

The answers are so close, but evermore intricate.

It was a state of knowing, but not knowing at the same time. I knew how the man felt and I understood why he would do what he did every day by those stairs at the park. At the same time, I did not see why he would need to do something like that. It was about understanding what it was that caused the man to do what he did that I needed to understand but unfortunately could not understand. It was making the decision between simple ideologies and complicated theories. Everything is simple before one chooses to explore it and create it into something difficult to grasp. Right now I was faced with a situation where I could not decide and could not know if I wanted to transform something simple into a labyrinth of confusion.

At the same time, the decision was not mine.

“The world may never know…” I chuckled to myself.

Arriving back at my home, I entered through the front door using my old credit card trick. I was welcomed by dormant noises and urged in further by my bed whispering my name. At a slug’s pace, I dragged my tired feet to my room. I felt as though I had walked an entire journey, though it was only a simple walk to the park. My reflection caught my eye as I stood motionlessly, realizing how my age had finally begun to take its toll on me. As the years passed me by, dark circles had formed beneath my once bright, wide eyes. My face was not as radiant nor was it glowing with joy just as it used to in the past. Studying my body, I no longer saw skinned knees from falling off my bicycle or the floral-patterned Band-Aids my mom would put on my elbows and fingers if I had managed to get cuts or scrapes. The youth I once had was fading away, like the seasons throughout the year.

“She was the sweetest thing.” I murmured as I continued to my bed.

Without warning, my body fell against my mattress, attracted to it like a magnet. I pulled the sheets over my shoulders and stared at the ceiling blankly. Like a predator stalking its prey, sleep leapt on me and devoured me whole.

Another simplicity solely created for people to indulge in.

© Copyright 2020 Liesel Hartz. All rights reserved.

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