Or three feet long. They can be any length, really, as long as they are shorter than I am tall. They don't have names. And they don't love me, so I can never disappoint them.

They never give me bad advice. They never tell me things I don't want to hear, like what an awful haircut I've just gotten or that I really should have gone to college. They never say anything. They know that silence is precious.

Mostly I meet them when I'm walking in the woods behind my house. Some of them are shoulder-height, and help me up the steep rocky trail or propel me across puddles.

Some of them have pointy ends, good for poking at mossy stumps and clumps of dead leaves (or vampires, although I've never seen any of those around here). Some of them are blunt, and vibrate along their whole length when they hit the ground until my bones learn the tune and start humming along.

Some of them have a multitude of skinny arms, with or without hands, and they join me in cursing or blessing each rock that we pass, each squirrel, each toad, each memory.

Some of them are as brittle as my mother's bones, and I break pieces off them. I toss the pieces into the stream that the trail becomes in springtime, and they float back towards my house like little boats.

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