Friday, April 20, 2018

The Best Stick Collector

"I'm the best stick collector." He said it to me earnestly, as if telling me something I didn't already know. His cubby, the place designated for his personal belongings, is always overflowing with sticks. His mother tells me that he has a similar collection at home near their front porch. Yesterday, he was wielding a length of bamboo, which had looked from afar to be a copper tube. When I remarked on it, he informed me that one of his friends had found an identical one, but that he had lost it, while he, the great stick collector, still had his.

He brings sticks from home. He finds sticks on the way to school. He finds them on the playground. The world is covered in sticks and he, the best stick collector, has an eye for which are worthy of his collection and which are not.

At any given moment, he has a stick in his hand, an extension of his body, a fantasy ninja weapon, a tool, a pointer, an instrument of science. He waves his sticks around, flourishing them in sudden bursts according to the script that is always playing in his head. Sometimes adults who aren't aware that he's the best stick collector will warn him to be careful not to poke or hit his classmates, but I never worry about him. He seems to always be aware of his body in space, including those sticks which are mere extensions of it.

The best stick collector focuses on relatively short sticks, typically not longer than 12 inches, leaving the longer ones to the amateurs. He favors ridged sticks because, it seems, he prefers precision tools. Upon occasion, I've discovered sticks that I think he might like, offering them to him the way one might an unusual stamp to a philatelist. Most often, he rejects them with only a glance, but every now and then he'll take a closer look, studying it for a time. Once, and only once, he accepted my find as worthy, although it wound up in his cubby with the back-ups, never entering the rotation of favored sticks.

He is a connoisseur, a prodigy, a master. He is the best stick collector and he is my friend.

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