Sticks are what I use when we’ve been hiking for three hours, and occasionally as mum admires the flowers, my brother and sister sword fight with sticks. To the side I draw a sun in the dirt, dragging my stick behind me as I run to catch up with them when I notice they started walking again.
We continue like this and even cross the canal; hopping from rock to rock as my fingers tingle and my mind screams “dont get wet, you can’t swim” until my sister and brother splash each other and I have the sudden urge to dip my shoe in the cold stream.
When we get to the deep end, mum finds flat stones and skips them on the shore, and my brother even gets a few. My sister tries it too, but her rock slumps on the water with a splash which taints the cement holding the canal together.
At some point as we gaze in the distance, as mum teaches us about the birds, I drop my stick and forget to pick it up again and I’m flushed with embarrassment because I didn’t see or hear any birds. When we get back onto the path I pout as I watch mum and my brother hug each other. I kick a rock, and my sister runs after it; she laughs and looks back at me expectantly so I giddily punt at the rock and it goes flying again. The rock is a soccer ball and though my aim is off and the rock makes dirt rise, we play until my sister hears mum whistle — we ran too far.
As we wait, my sister notices the both of us don’t have sticks, but she finds two twigs and for a moment we cast spells and I laugh as she mimics herself crashing into a tree. I see my brother running up to us and he stops, drawing a long stick as he plants it firmly into the earth “you shall not pass,” he says, his voice carrying out behind us and we all laugh as he bows.
I wait for mum, and they talk about video games so I decide to sit on the path. On the ground I notice ants carrying pebbles so I picture myself carrying a boulder, and what that’d look like to a giant. On the side of the path I see a couple brown snails in the grass, and one hanging from a leaf.
I distantly hear mum come back and decide to climb up a trail up to the top. As we walk my brother says, “I wonder what’s under that rock.”
Mum quickly replies, “No! Don’t lift it,” and he snickers. When we get to the top I see plastic bags and beer bottles and even a blanket near a fallen tree and I wonder quietly, shivers creeping up my back as I see the roots of a tree curing around a rock and beside it a lighter and a crushed white and blue pack of cigarettes.
My brother hands me another stick which I lean on as they talk because I’m standing to the side so I can’t hear mum whispering. Below us, at ground level, the grass leads to a road and I count the cars as I realize we’ve been here a while.
On our way back down I use my stick so I won’t fall and mum even takes my hand a couple times as my sneakers slip on the earth and my feet tingle because my mind screams “dont fall you’ll break your arm.”
Once we get back to the canal mum bends and takes some beautiful rocks, glistening from the water, one is green and smooth and one is ridged and brown, and I stuff them both in my pocket as my brother and sister lead us to the stairs, and I fall behind again after I leave my stick for a dog to fetch and pant my way up to the car.