An Excerpt From Sticks and Stones


Ian trudged up the driveway, carrying his latest stick behind him.  Perhaps the word “carrying” should be changed to “dragging”, as his latest acquisition was actually a log.  He was beginning to realize the full load capacity of my truck, and with that realization came a whole new world of potential in his eternal stick quest.  He leaned his find with the others beside our front door and went inside.

I stood there for a moment gazing at his collection.  Ian didn’t play with toys like other kids.  Due to his autism, his favorite “toys” at the moment were the washing machine, our vacuum cleaner, and these sticks.  In Ian’s mind, they were much more than just sticks.  Swords, boomerangs, antlers, horns from fearsome dinosaurs- they jostled for position next to the french door.  A whole imaginary world leaning there against the house.

The pile was starting to slide towards the door, so I began to gather them into a more orderly stack, and as I did so, I thought of my own collection. 

I have stones that I have collected over the years from various times and places in my life.  They are tucked here and there throughout our yard, in the house, even in my truck.  Like Ian with his sticks, I find comfort in them. I like the cool weight as I roll them about in my hand, and for a while they take me away from my cares… they even calm me on the dark days when my anxieties scream away in my head.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones” went the childhood chant in my mind as I stood there in the cold winter afternoon as the light faded away.  The wind was coming up; the scent of rain was in the air.  “But your words will never hurt me.” I turned and entered the house.

My wife, Michelle, was out, and our daughter, Kaylee, was at a friend’s for the night.  I’d promised Ian a movie, so soon we were in the truck again heading up to the video store, winding our way out of the hollow in which we live. 

The store was crowded, a storm was on the way, and people were ready to settle in with a video or two.  Ian headed off to the children’s section to look for his movie as I searched for a film for Michelle and I.  

Through the noise of the other customers, I could hear Ian muttering to himself as he looked for his video, quoting lines from the movie that he intended to rent in a sort of monotone.  

 “Kevin, you’re all right kid… all right kid… kid… kid.”

He rambled on contentedly to himself, and I smiled as I listened.

He’s got that movie memorized, and he wants it again, I thought to myself. 

It was the giggling that made me turn.  Two boys, roughly Ian’s age, were standing nearby mocking him.  My happiness of a moment ago turned to cold ash. I quickly got Ian, paid for the movies, and hustled him back to the truck.  The wind was up, and the last leaves of fall skittered across the parking lot as the first drops of rain pattered against the windshield.

Ian happily chattered away about his movie as we wound back down into the safety of our hollow.  Michelle was home, and light spilled from the French doors, catching crystal raindrops in midair.  We climbed from the truck and ran to the house through the soaking rain.  Ian’s sticks stood there in the moist light, the rain dripping from them like tears.

For Ian and I, sticks and stones are a balm to our souls in a world that is all too often cold and cruel.  Sticks and stones don’t break our bones… it’s the words that hurt.  They bite deep.