The Walking Stick

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Chapter 12: Meeting Katherine

“Good morning, Sleepyhead,” Pearl’s mom softly said as she slightly opened Pearl’s window blinds. The light of the morning sun kissed Pearl’s eyelids, and she woke up thinking she couldn’t remember the last time she had slept so well. Her muscles ached from barely moving all night. When she stretched, her bones popped from elbow to toe.

“My goodness, someone slept well last night,” Pearl’s mom said cheerily. “You need to hop in the shower and be dressed by 9:00 a.m. That is when Todd is coming to pick you up. He has something special planned for you today, a surprise. I don’t even know what it is.”

“Good surprise or bored-out-of-my-mind surprise?” Pearl asked. She remembered Dr. Holt was picking her up and was anxious to see what exactly he had in mind for the day.

“Good, of course. Don’t be so dramatic. I want you to enjoy yourself today. It has been a long time since you have gone outside this neighborhood. Just decide to have fun!” Pearl’s mom said as she walked out of the room.

Using Braille clothing dividers, Pearl can quickly pick from her choice of shirts, skirts, jeans, and belts. She identifies most of her items simply by texture. Others, Pearl distinguishes by button size, zippers, or elastic bands. Several of Pearl’s jeans are very similar, so Grandma has tacked different shaped buttons on the inside leg so Pearl can differentiate between them. Today Pearl has decided to wear a pair of slouchy boy fit faded jeans with a white tank top, wedge sandals, and her hair in a simple ponytail. Pearl stopped bothering with putting on makeup several months ago. Makeup just seemed like a waste of time to Pearl; after all, she hardly went out and didn’t feel the need to “keep up her looks” for any guy.

Pearl finished getting dressed and reached for her walking stick on the doorknob. It was not there. She patted her desk, bed, easel, and dresser. No sign of the stick anywhere. She got down on her hands and knees and scanned her floor with outstretched arms. Nothing. “Mom!” Pearl shouted with a tinge of panic. “Did you take my walking stick?”

“What? Of course not. Are you ready yet? Todd will be here any minute.” Pearl’s mom was busy fluffing pillows and straightening the area rug in the living room. Even though she and Dr. Holt were comfortably in a serious relationship, Pearl’s mom always found herself youthfully excited and nervous right before his arrival.

“Grandma!” Pearl shouted.

“I didn’t take it, Pearl. Don’t be ridiculous. Do you need some help finding it?” Grandma asked from the couch while reading the newspaper and sipping green tea from an oversized mug.

“Yes!” Pearl snapped, angry that she had not found it on her own and now needed help.

Pearl, Susan, and Grandma searched the entire house until the doorbell rang. “Thank goodness, Todd can help us look too,” Grandma said out-of-breath as she peeked underneath the couch.

Grandma answered the door. Instead of Todd, a beautiful teenage girl stood nervously on the front porch. In her hand was Pearl’s walking stick.

“Good Lord, child. Where did you get that stick? It belongs to Pearl!” Grandma yapped.

“What?” Pearl asked. “Who has my stick? Who is there?” Pearl made her way to the front door. Grandma stepped aside, and Pearl stood alone in the doorframe waiting to be told who was before her. Pearl could make out from the shadow that the person was about her height, maybe a little taller.

“Hi, I think this belongs to you,” the girl said timidly. The girl held out the stick to Pearl, but Pearl did not see it. Pearl stood still, trying to figure out what this stranger was doing with her walking stick; meanwhile, the stranger continued to hold the stick in front of her not understanding why Pearl was not taking it.

“Let me have it please,” Pearl said softly. Pearl reached out her arm and clumsily bumped her hand against the stick. Pearl realized then that the stranger had already been holding it out for her to take. “Sorry, I….,” Pearl couldn’t find the words to explain.

The stranger then understood there was something wrong with Pearl’s vision. “Oh, that’s okay. I found your stick this morning when I was out on my front porch. I was writing in my journal. I know this sounds crazy, but when I looked up from my writing, your stick was lying directly in front of me on the bottom step. Did you leave it there?” she asked.

Pearl stepped out of the doorframe and onto the front porch. She quietly closed the door behind her. “No,” Pearl whispered, “I didn’t leave it at your house.” Pearl ran her hands up and down the stick. It was warm to the touch, like a good hug. “How did you find me?” Pearl asked dumbfounded.

“Well, I know this sounds silly, but your stick led me. Your stick led me to your house. As I said, I found it on my porch step. When I picked it up, it took hold of my hand like gum on a shoe. I swear I couldn’t get it off me. Then it started gyrating around until I finally started walking in the direction it was pulling me. The whole thing is crazy. Anyway, it led me here. When I rang your doorbell, the stick finally came free from my hand. Are you some kind of witch?” she asked.

“No,” Pearl chuckled. “No, I am not a witch. I am not much of anything these days, actually. Thanks for bringing the stick back to me. Sorry for the trouble. Sometimes this old thing has a mind of its own,” Pearl said as she slipped her hand through the strap on the stick. “By the way, what is your name?”

“Katherine. Katherine Sparks. I live on Hickory Street.”

Pearl’s mind rushed with thoughts as she tried to piece together where the stick had gone. “Uh…were you by chance crying yesterday morning outside of your house?” Pearl was embarrassed to ask but wanted to know if her assumption was correct.

“Yes, I saw you. You had the stick in your hand. I thought you were having a fit or something. I am sorry I didn’t help you. I didn’t know you were, you know…,” Katherine said awkwardly.

“I am blind, but that was not my problem yesterday. Let’s just say the stick wanted me to help you and I didn’t listen. I’m the one that is sorry. I should have at least asked if you were okay. By the way, I’m Pearl.”

“I know. I read it on the stick. That is a really cool stick, by the way. Did you paint it?” Katherine felt she was bumbling. She had never spoken to a blind person before. Yet, she was amazed at how much Pearl appeared normal.

“Yeah, I used to paint a lot. Anyway, thanks again. This stick is very important to me. I don’t know what I would have done without it. It seems like it’s my only friend these days.” Pearl didn’t seem to mind that she spoke so openly to Katherine. Instead, she was surprised by the truth of her own words. Pearl had never really articulated her isolation until now. Pearl slowly turned towards the door.

“Wait. I have cheer camp this morning, but maybe I could stop by afterward?” Katherine had no clue why she was reaching out to Pearl. Katherine had more than enough girlfriends, boyfriends, plans, parties, and problems. She did not need one more relationship. And she definitely did not have time to be volunteering to keep a blind girl company. Regardless, Katherine spoke the words from deep within, a place that ignored common sense.

The rapid beat of Pearl’s heart revived the stick: Pearl had to hold it tightly to her side to keep the stick from echoing her pulse. She did not know if Katherine was asking to spend time with her out of charity or because she needed a friend. Regardless, Pearl surmised that both intentions came from kindness. And Pearl welcomed the kindness of a stranger. “Okay. That sounds good. I’ll be here,” Pearl chuckled. “See you later.”

As soon as the door closed behind Pearl, both her mom and Grandma huddled around her like kids around Santa Claus. “Who was that, Pearl?” her mom asked curiously.

“Katherine. She lives over on Hickory Street.” Pearl headed into the kitchen for a glass of orange juice. She could hear her mom and Grandma hovering behind her.

“What was she doing with your stick?” Grandma asked.

“Not sure. I must have dropped it on my walk yesterday. I had forgotten I misplaced it.” Pearl did not like lying to her family, but she also knew they would never believe that her walking stick is magic. If she told them the truth, Pearl knew with 100% certainty that she would be sitting in a shrink’s office by lunchtime. She might be already, as she did not know where Dr. Holt was taking her this morning.

Pearl’s mom and Grandma exchanged looks. They both thought Pearl was acting quirky, but they were not sure how to help her. They hoped Dr. Holt would be able to make a difference today with his surprise. “Where is Todd? I thought he was going to be here at 9:00 o’clock. It is almost half-past,” Grandma said looking at the large kitchen clock.

Before Susan could reply, the doorbell rang. Pearl remained seated at the kitchen table while Grandma and Susan hustled towards the front door. Pearl knew that her mom and Grandma were anxious to tell Dr. Holt about what had just happened. She also knew Dr. Holt was respectful enough to not mention it to Pearl unless she brought it up.

After a few minutes of hush-hush conversation, Dr. Holt finally made his way into the kitchen. “Hello, pretty lady,” he said with a smile. “Sorry, I’m late. I just had to stop off at the coffee shop and get everyone a caramel latte and a cream pastry. No sense in us starting off the day with a just boring, but absolutely healthy, glass of orange juice,” Dr. Holt grinned as he saw Pearl’s glass.

“Thanks,” Pearl said. Pearl really liked Dr. Holt. She especially appreciated the way he adored her mom; in fact, Pearl suspected her mom and Dr. Holt would be engaged by Christmas. “Having Dr. Holt as a stepdad would not be bad,” Pearl thought to herself as she watched Dr. Holt pass out the pastries and lattes. In actuality, Pearl thought it would not be bad at all. A mix of cologne in the house would be a nice touch.

“Let’s eat and run, Pearl. We have a great morning ahead of us!” Dr. Holt beamed with energy and genuine interest in Pearl.

Pearl grabbed her walking stick and followed Dr. Holt out of the house and into his car. “Where are we going?” she asked reluctantly.

“City Animal Shelter,” Dr. Holt replied as he started up the car.

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