April 6th, 2014


LJI:4 "Nobody can ride your back if your back's not bent." - MLK

The Climbing Boy

Once upon a time there was a boy who liked to climb everything.  He climbed trees and shelves, towers and roofs.  He liked to travel high too, riding horses and dogs and the townspeople’s shoulders and he never asked permission from anyone or anything.  He was rarely seen with his feet on the ground.

“What makes you like climbing so much?” asked his exasperated mother, cleaning footprints off the dining table again.

“I like to look down on everything.”

On this particular summer day the boy was on the roof of the barn, bored because he had already climbed everything in sight.  Then he saw an old woman walking down the road, bent under a load of firewood on her back.  “She must have recently moved,” he thought, “I’ve only seen her a few times before and she’s always carrying something heavy to and fro.  I bet she’s carried so many things she can’t even straighten up anymore.  I bet she could carry me. And she’s the only thing I can see I haven’t climbed.”

Looking forward to his new game the boy scampered down from the roof of the barn and began to follow the old woman.  He swung through the trees on the side of the road and walked along the tops of fences, always staying close behind her.  When the old woman stopped at a crossroads and lowered her firewood to the ground, the boy saw his chance.

He jumped off the fence and ran straight at the old woman.  It took no time at all to mount her; it was barely a climb, more of a jump.  He sat up straight with his bum on her lower back and his ankles hooked over her shoulders.  The old woman stayed very still.  Then,

“Boy, why are you on my back?”

“I had to climb you.  And now I want a ride. All bent over you make a perfect steed, and I can look down on the world from here.”

“What makes you think I can carry you anywhere?”

“That bundle of firewood is much heavier than I am.  Please,” he smiled his brightest smile (forgetting she couldn’t see it) and made his voice all honeyed, “I just want a little ride.”

“A little ride?”  The old woman took a slow step towards no road at all.  Then she took another.  With every step she got a little steadier and once they were off the road she grabbed on tightly to his ankles.  “Well then, my boy, a ride you shall have.”

Soon the old woman was running through the forest.  The boy whooped, thrilled; the forest looked so different from this new height.  Then the old woman went faster still, the trees became a blur, and the boy tried to jump off but she was holding his ankles too tightly.  He pounded on her back but she did not slow.  He hunched over so he could grab onto her shawl, and wondered when she would stop.  He cried until he ran out of tears.

On and on the old woman ran, until the moon came up.  The boy was cold and hungry and cramped from sitting hunched over for so long.  Finally the old woman began to slow; the trees became individual things again.  He could see a light up ahead and the old woman carried him right into a large kitchen and then stopped. Once again she stood incredibly still.  The boy was scared and stayed still and quiet too until he couldn’t stand it anymore.  “Put me down right now!” he yelled, then thought better of yelling at this strange woman and added “please” with his best smile (that she still couldn’t see).

The old woman stood straight up.  The boy dangled upside down in her grip. He looked around from this new angle and said “You’re really tall.”  The old woman began to laugh as she walked closer to the fire and let go.

The boy looked up at her as the old woman quickly grabbed the heavy cover for the cook pot and slammed it into place.  She yawned and stretched and cracked her back.  She took her cookbook down from the rafters, wondering what other ingredients she needed to gather.

***This is my entry for Idol week 4, other contestants' takes on this quote are here.  I do not advocate the cooking of little boys, even if they are horribly rude.***