A Fine Stick.png

A Fine Stick

Tom squatted and examined the pile of fallen broken wooden branches around the Bitternut hickory. The stick was not proper, too thick and curved in the wrong manner. It would be unwieldy and awkward. There were all sorts of trees around him, and when he turned his view circle-round he was able to see from his squat much more clearly what moved and who was where. His uncle had taught him how to survive and observe in the wilderness. His headache had subsided a bit, but he still hurt.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

He stretched his leg over the tiny brook that flowed beneath him, its clear water quietly gurgling. The leaves and the branches along with brown-black of soil and fallen tree-trunks littered the floor of the forest in a good way. They fell apart and decayed, and so fed the living things around and about Tom. He liked the destruction of it all and its revivification. Some green leaves popped up in front of him unexpectedly, a shoot growing from a fallen trunk. He thought this one fell of its own accord: death and later rot. Some fools with axes had fallen others, only just to make them tumble.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

So many branches spread themselves across the ground that Tom had difficulty choosing which one to examine. Many lie there undisturbed for a dozen or so years. These were too thin or rotted. He picked up a gray and blackening option, sunk its tip into the ground. The olden branch snapped immediately – too rotted. He needed a stick that only recently resided on a tree, something whose life remained, but dying. Maybe the correct kind of stick would be less than easy to find. He picked up another: too thick and heavy, though it may have sufficed otherwise.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

He reached excitedly towards an arboreal appendage with a light gray color. He could break off the smaller branches and remove the nodules he didn't like. It was long enough and not curved. Its caliber seemed a bit low, but it may be acceptable. Off with the nodules and cumbersome leaves and

“Snap.”

It broke as soon as he applied pressure between branch and ground. Drat. It had been an excellent candidate.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

Undeterred, Tom walked longer into the woods and away from the house, which he now was barely able to see. He had been in the small valley for an hour or so, he felt. Perhaps time had passed longer, but he didn't care too much. The longer he stayed away, the better. He thought to follow the brook, which always took him home. He remembered that about these woods. The only problem was direction. If he headed wrong, not only would the brook not take him home but it would lead him farther from it. Further too, but further came good.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

As expected, it happened. He was hopping slightly on top of rocks in the brook when he sighted it. It was a dark brown-black color and about the caliber of a nickel. Almost charcoal. It appeared to be rotted, but when Tom picked up this worthy specimen, he could tell it possessed strength still. There were no leaves on it and only one branch needed to be removed. He braced the tip on a large rock in front of him and bent the stick. It yielded and curved, slid back into its old position quickly. This deep gray, old appendage of ash tree was perfect. He bent it once more and began walking with it, not leaning but using it to tap trees and rocks as he returned.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

The living room was occupied by twenty persons and the dining room housed four. The small house comfortably kept three to five persons, depending on where everyone slept. Comfortable and well-built – cozy even – its fireplace gathered many. A television mesmerized three pre-teen girls and one sullen boy of perhaps fifteen years, all seemingly bored and waiting for something to happen on their hand-held computers, but it wasn't mere boredom that occupied them. They nudged one another occasionally, yes they did, and they deliberately provoked one another with mockeries and threats as children do. Yet, even these things did not occupy them as much.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

Tom didn't know what breed it was, some cross between a poodle and dachshund maybe. He had no idea if those two breeds of dog could produce anything at all, let alone something like this. It wasn't an ugly animal and to its owners it seemed well-disposed. Sedate even. Yet, when strangers occupied the home, Ralph would not, could not, refused to, shut up. The festivities had gone on for not only several hours, but almost an entire day, and still Ralph had trouble getting others quietly into his head.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

Ralph nipped constantly at most guests when they arrived, only held back by a leash. The owners of the house – their names not terribly relevant to our soon-ending tale – sequestered Ralph in a bedroom until he made squealing sounds, which were a sure sign that he would soon angrily defecate. Where he would defecate was irrelevant. It only mattered that he demonstrated displeasure. Sometimes, he would do duty on the garage floor and the owners would leave the feces to harden, a stain remaining, steeped into cement like the worst kind of aboriginal tea. Sometimes, on their bed. Other times in the bathroom beside the commode.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

Tom was unable to understand why they wanted guests. It was fun to be around the house, sure, but.... The three women awkwardly and badly playing volley-ball in the front yard were accosted. When anyone approached Ralph the barking would stop, but just as soon as the game resumed the noise once more arose. Still and incomprehensibly no-one said a word and Ralph seemed to have endless energy with which to drive these interlopers away. At least he had no opportunity to chew on the wood furniture, or wrestle down a plant.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

Tom sat on the sofa deliberately. Ralph currently pursued a couple who had only just arrived, but Tom knew what would happen. He had experienced it many times. Yes, many times indeed. The new arrivals were only just that: new arrivals. As Ralph followed but did not physically engage them, they didn't know precisely what to do. The male turned around and approached Ralph and the dog quickly scampered away. When the couple resumed their walk, a not-so-surprise greeted them.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

Now don't take the wrong impression from our tale. Tom loved dogs, as they say. He cared for two mutts and a dachshund at home. They were friendly, affectionate hounds and he delighted in their walks. Tom would never harm a dog. In fact, he liked every animal he ever met. He volunteered at animal shelters and made his home available to convalescing animals of many sorts. Yet,

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

The recent arrivals didn't interest Ralph for very long. He soon followed after the boy of fifteen and one of the girls who had been in the television room. The guests spread out thinly around the yard and house and it seemed as if the threat in every part of the house as well as the yard had a strange calming affect on Ralph. Don't get it wrong; he didn't cease making noise. But the need to bark everywhere made it impossible to approach everyone. He was confused and overwhelmed. His god-given task was in jeopardy and he had exhausted himself. That and his master taking him into the living room toned down yapping Ralph. Edward held Ralph's collar as he took away the leash. He and the four kids sat near the fireplace, staring into the wide screen attached to the boy's video-game unit, which he had brought with him. Edward wanted desperately to release Ralph, but he knew better. Though the leash had been removed he held the dog near to him, arm wrapped around the dog's midsection. Ralph occasionally sounded off.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

And gradually the dog calmed, largely because there were no intruders within his line of vision. But Ralph was unable to sit – too excitable – and Tom knew it. Tom had known this dog for its whole life, and he liked the animal, but he felt a strain in the back of his head, as if he had been awake too long and though thinking clearly he did not think quietly. He sat in the recliner behind the gathered children and watched the figures on the screen dance through what looked like a maze first and then a field of grass. He had snapped the stick into a proper measure that extended perhaps almost a meter. He kept it with him even in the house; it gave him comfort. Tom liked watching video-game play. He didn't like playing, but watching. Ralph seemed to enjoy the game as much as his care-giver. In fact, he calmed to the point of near silence. An occasional “grumph” alone came from the animal. There arose a resounding silence that would gradually spread throughout the home. Fun was now much more possible and relief in sight. Tom looked behind him to ensure no-one was watching. Everyone in the room concentrated on the video-game. He grasped his stick thick end in hand. He stretched long in extending his reach with his ash appendage, and with a jerk up and a tap lightly jabbed Ralph on the scrotum.

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.” “Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

“Yap yap YAP yap yap YAP YaP yaP YAP.”

It was a fine stick.

© 2014 by Kirk A. Shellko a.k.a. Lucian Whyte