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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Microstory 789: Walking Stick

So I was thinking about how often I gravitate towards nonfiction when I’m trying to write fiction. Sometimes a topic speaks to my personal life, and I feel I need to be real in that moment, rather than leaving myself out of it, which is what fiction writers are meant to do. If you’re writing something, you need to choose one side or the other; made up, or real life. It shouldn’t be both. Only so many people can get away with writing themselves into a story, and I’m not sure I’m one of them. My Creative License doesn’t say I’m not allowed to, but it doesn’t say I am either, and I don’t keep good enough records to know whether I’ve paid enough of my dues. On the other hand, this is my website, and my book, and I can damn well do whatever I want. I don’t answer to a publisher, or an agent—though I wish I did, so if you know anyone, hook me up. When I was working on the plan for this series, I decided I wanted them all to take place in my recursiverse canon. But certain titles seemed to suggest this was not practical. Before I got too deep in it, though, I realized they could still all be canonical, but that any story could take place in any universe. I made a spreadsheet of each universe that I own, so I can keep track of it, which has made me realize that my universe is on that list. Now, I know that sounds like I think I own the real universe, but here’s the thing...I do. So when I was thinking about what story I could tell that involves a walking stick, I realized I know no better story than mine.

I come from a family of walkers. Not all of us have always done it, more specifically, so passionately, but we all do it now. During the summer before high school, I went to New Mexico with a small group of boys and their fathers in my Boy Scout troop. There’s a huge camp there for backpacking. I believe we went about fifty miles, but you would have to ask my father for confirmation. One time, we were sitting with our guide, who would only be with us for part of the trip. He asked us to go around the circle and tell the group why we wanted to do this. When they got to me, I started tearing up, and said that I just wanted to prove that I could. A few days later, I was having trouble keeping up, and my then-undiagnosed autism was making it hard for me to vocalize my feelings. I ended up flying into a rage, and throwing the walking stick my father had given me to the ground, where it broke apart. I eventually had to acknowledge that this meant I had failed in my goal. I was unable to prove that I “could do it”. Because though my fight with my father didn’t last forever, and I made it to the end, I had done it with an albatross of my own shortcomings. I’ve continued to carry around these character flaws my whole life, when I would really be better off replacing them with a walking stick. A few years later, just under the wire, I achieved the rank of Eagle, which many believe to be the greatest achievement a man can make. I do not believe that, for reasons including the fact that their sociopolitical positions stunted the exploration of my sexuality, and prevented me from finding out who I was. But still, scouting was something my father and I did together, and I do not regret it. To commemorate this milestone, he made me a brand new walking stick. A decorative one. A beautiful one. One that must not be used. One that you can see in the picture above. Though not likely his intention, his gift to me is a symbol, that no matter how many things I break, how many mistakes I make, we can always make another stick. It also symbolizes to me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned; that I can’t do this alone...that I will always need a little helping standing up...and that I deserve it.

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