ASKED FOR by K. Uffelman

When I first heard the call, it sounded like it came from far away. It was so very faint that I wasn’t sure if it was for me. But I made myself very still and listened carefully. Someone was asking for me. Someone was calling to me.

I gathered up the things I might need for my journey. My heart, my tiny soul, some old memories and pieces of wisdom from other lives that I thought might be helpful. And some graham crackers, in case I got hungry. It’s hard to know what to bring with you, because you don’t know where you’ll end up. But the call was getting more insistent, so I knew it was time to go.  I rolled my belongings up in a knapsack and, because it sounded like I had far to go, I dreamed up a pony to speed me on my journey.  She didn’t have a name yet. “Very well,” I said, “I will call you Apple.”

We set off. Apple’s hooves went clippity, clippity, clippity, clippity.

I could hear the call get louder. Two voices, actually, still asking for me.  Sometimes I heard them together and sometimes one voice or the other. Sometimes they were happy, planning for my arrival, and sometimes they sounded very sad and worried. Apparently they expected me sooner.

“Where are you, my baby?”

“When will you come?”

“Please come, darling, we’re waiting for you.”

I memorized their voices – these were my people, the people who were asking for me.  And although I knew they couldn’t hear me, I promised I would hurry.

I didn’t have a map, though, and the way was treacherous. There was a great river to cross, and Apple and I rode straight past the first bridge. I urged her to slow down so we wouldn’t miss the next one, but the next one was rickety, and when I put my foot on it the bridge creaked and sagged. I lost my nerve and retreated to the riverbank. Finally we came to a third bridge, and it was sturdy enough, but it only went halfway across. Someone had run out of time or money and the bridge was never finished. We couldn’t cross there.

It started to rain. We kept on, me holding onto Apple and clutching my knapsack. Soon we became very lost.

We spent many days in the woods, searching for another bridge, or a foot crossing to ford the river.  At one point we doubled back, but the voices got fainter, so we turned around again, rushing to make up for lost time.

Apple’s hooves went clippity, clippity, clippity, clippity.

We finally came to a point where the river narrowed. I found a log nearby that I was able to drag to the riverbank and build a makeshift bridge. I led Apple to the edge and started to cross. The log was slick, so I had to be extra careful. At one point I lost my footing and almost fell into the swift current below, but Apple helped steady me, and we made it to the other side of the river.

It was quite different on this side. The weather was warmer and drier, and there were lots of new sounds. And new voices. These didn’t sound like the voices of my people. But I was very tired after my long ride and river-crossing and thought maybe I was just confused. Maybe the voices sounded different now that I was closer. But maybe they weren’t the right voices either.

Apple and I walked further down the river, but it was now very wide and the current was fast. There were no bridges we could see, and the log we had crossed on had come loose and washed away.

I ate some graham crackers and considered my options.

Apple suggested we keep on riding. Maybe the new voices could help us find my people. And so we continued on our way. Clippity, clippity, clippity, clippity.

I could hear the new voices more clearly now. I liked the way the sounded, they were kind and friendly. But they were also worried. They had not asked for me. They were not ready. And there was no turning back. Apple and I couldn’t get back across the river and I was almost out of graham crackers.

We kept on riding. Clippity, clippity, clippity, clippity.

The scenery continued to change, and I began adding things to my knapsack that I found along the way.  Facial features and brain cells and long toes and a belly button that looked like a cinnamon roll. I wasn’t sure what I would face when I got there, and so I equipped myself as well as I could. Though these new people had not asked for me, though they were not ready for me, there were lots of good supplies and I stocked up.

The new voices continued to sound uneasy, and I heard other new voices, too, also concerned. I liked all of them, however. They had not asked for me, their voices had not called me onto my journey, but I could tell all of these new voices cared about me. I knew they were trying to prepare for my arrival. They referred to me as Gumdrop. Apple thought it was a cute name.

And then one day I heard the old voices again. I was certain it was them, no mistake. The voices were of my people, the people who had asked for me. They sounded loud and clear, right alongside the newer voices. All of the voices sounded cautious now, but also hopeful. Less worried.

Apple and I picked up speed. Clippity, clippity, clippity, clippity.

My knapsack was now heavy with things I would need, and Apple and I kept riding as fast as we could, but the path had gotten more narrow. The path led into a cavern, and either the walls started to move in on us, or Apple and I got bigger, or both at the same time.

That’s when the earthquake started.

I could hear all of the voices, very close – my people’s voices and the newer voices, and everyone was nervous and excited. Apple and I pushed forward, but it was crazy in the cavern. It was hard to tell which way was up and which direction we should move, and the tremors of the earthquake were coming fast and furious. And then, suddenly, I emerged into a giant room full of light.

Apple didn’t make it. I cried.

But all of the voices were there, and they were so happy to see me. Even the voices –  the people – who hadn’t asked for me. Everyone cried, too (I think they felt sad about Apple), and then hugged me and kissed me and loved me.

They wrote my name on a big white board. I expected them to write Gumdrop, but instead they wrote Silas. It means “from the forest.” Yes, and what a forest I had come from. It also means “asked for.” I knew I was in the right place.

All of the voices – all of the people – promised to be my team in this world. To love and support me and be there when I need them. Who knew my journey through the forest and trouble at the river would turn out so well!

And then my people, the people who had asked for me at the very start, MY MAMA and MY PAPA, wrapped me up and took me home.

Sometimes I still have dreams about Apple, about riding her, and her hooves going clippity, clippity, clippity, clippity.

Boy with stick horse

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Posted on February 18, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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