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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1701314-The-Steps
Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1701314
The steps are the gateway to a meadow; they argue with each other about their true value
The Steps

         The steps had been in place for over fifty years now.  From the back of the Smith’s yard, the eleven of them lead up to a small landing with an arch off to the right side.  Beyond the arch lay a meadow, a duck pond centered in the middle of it.  The walls on either side of the steps sheltered them from blowing winds and weather.  The walls and the arch were granite, taken from a quarry a few miles away.  Moss covered the tops of the walls; lichen grew in the cracks between the granite slabs.  An overgrowth of trees completed the scene, giving an old world look to an area centered in the middle of a modern city.

         When the steps were initially set in place, they felt neglected, as if they were not good enough to be used in the building of the house.  They had developed a bit of an inferiority complex as a result.    The arch was built of the same stones used in constructing the house.  Original plans did not call for the arch, or the steps, but someone had made a mistake in their calculations, and there was quite a bit of stone left.  Rather than throw it away, they had built the arch on a high spot in the backyard, making the steps necessary to get to the arch.

         “You know, when they first created us back here, I felt we were being slighted.”  Step Eleven had always been the most outspoken of the group.  The steps, arch, and walls had always talked amongst themselves, wondering why they were not used as part of the house.

         “Eleven, we’ve talked this over for over fifty years now, don’t you think we should move on to more pertinent topics, topics that affect us today?”  Step Five was the quiet one of the group, yet when he spoke, the others listened.

         “Pertinent topics?  What could possibly be pertinent to a few steps, an arch, and a stone wall?”

         “There’s nothing pertinent to us if you ask me.”  The deep baritone voice of the wall was unmistakable.  “What could we possibly have to talk about, other than the weather, or the growth of vegetation as it tries to choke us?”

         “Well for starters, maybe we could think back a little.”  For the first time, Step Eight spoke up.  “I remember a time when there were young humans all around, they ran up and down us so often that I thought for sure one of us would get worn down to nothing.”

         The sound of chuckling was heard as the arch responded, “Yes that’s true.  Little Tommy seemed to love playing out here.  And his friends?  Some of them were afraid of the shadows we cast in the dark of night.  That always amused me; I always wondered what made them think there were evil things out here.”

         “I heard Gloria talking to Tommy about that once, she mentioned a thing called imagination, and that Billy’s was overactive, whatever that means.”  Step Two had joined the conversation, eager to show the others that he could add a valuable contribution.  As the newest of the steps, he hadn’t been around as long, and didn’t know the entire history of the area.

         “Two, we know you are new here, but relax man, we’re just sitting around chewing some moss here.”  Step Nine had always been the leader of the group, and never failed to show it when required.  “We know your predecessor was damaged severely as the working stiffs carried the portable stage for use in Tommy’s wedding.  You are his replacement, but you’ve been here a mere twenty five years.  How could you possibly know that when we don’t?”

         “No, no, it’s true.”  Step One now spoke up.  "Tommy and Gloria were a little ways off from us; it was hard to hear what was being said.  Two being newer may have better hearing than the rest of us.  I barely heard it, and he managed to hear it clearly it seems.”

         “You know, a lot of things went on because of us.  If we weren’t here, how would they have climbed to the meadow area?”  Step Three was the historian of the group.  It reveled in remembering things that some would rather forget.  “I remember the kids playing hide and seek around here.  Arch don’t you remember how Rudy loved to hide on top of you, lying flat in the dark so he couldn’t be seen?”

         “I know, kids were always climbing over me, playing around, y’all just got walked on some as they went up and down, but I’m the one everyone played on.”  One could almost hear the petulance in the Arch’s voice as he talked about the kids.  “When he got older, Tommy tried to show off to his friends once, and swung off me on a rope.  He broke my top off; it took them weeks to get me fixed properly.  It seems that they couldn’t find a mason who could do it right.”  Now the Arch sounded a little bitter as he said this.

         “Arch, the important thing now, is that you’re fine.  In fact, we’re all fine.”  Step Seven finally spoke up.  “Think about what’s gone on around us.  Sure the house has sheltered them all these years.  Given them a place to live, relax, and grow.  But who’s been here all this time also, giving them access to the meadow beyond you Arch.  And who’s been trod on by countless small feet?  But because we were made by craftsmen who knew their trade so well, not one foot was ever cut by one of us, and no one can say we weren’t able to do the job when asked.”

         “Wait a minute Seven, are you saying we’re more important than the house there?  That without us they would not have survived?”  Six’s sarcasm filled the air.  “They don’t need us, they never did, and the minute they realize that, we’re doomed!”  Step Six was always the one to cry wolf at every turn, his glass was never half full; it was usually empty.

         “Six, must you always go on like that?  Why do you have to try and bring the rest of us down to your pitiful level of existence?”  Step Ten spoke, and as usual, Ten and Six were on opposite ends of the discussion.  With Six being a pessimist and Ten being an optimist, it wasn’t unusual; they were natural antagonists.

         “Every one of you is wrong, yet each of you has a valid argument.”  Step Four finally found the chance to jump in with his remark.  “We are no more important than the house, nor should anyone ever think of us as something easily thrown away.  Arch will agree with me I’m sure in what I’m saying.  That meadow over there has a lot of memories for them.  Tommy was married there as Nine has already said, but think about the picnics they had there.  The family gatherings on holidays, the parties that Tommy threw while in school.  If we weren’t here, they would not have been able to do those things in the meadow.  So while we may not be as important as the house, we are important in their lives.”

         Suddenly, silence filled the area around the Steps and Arch as each one reflected on the wisdom of Four’s statement.

         “You know, I think you’re right Four, we are important, just not as important as we’d like to be.  But then, we can’t always be what we want, can we?”  Step Eleven seemed to sigh in contentment after saying this.  And the meadow, listening in on all the conversation, just grinned a Cheshire Cat’s grin, reached out his grassy arms, and hugged each of them.

Jim Dorrell


Word Count 1,310
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