Plank

The ten-year-old boy with no friends finds an old board out in the shed. At first he looks at it shyly out of the corner of an eye. Then he circles it, stepping carefully around the wheelbarrow and the small pile of rusty nails. He squats down, picks up one end of the board in an experimental kind of way. Ah! He smiles, now – something few people have ever seen.

I don’t know what he is thinking just yet. I’m back in the corner, behind the woodpile, spying. I feel I have the right to. It has been many months since he so much as acknowledged my existence.

He squats, very still, for about ten minutes. Then he picks up the board in the middle and goes off with it. Later in the day, when his parents find him and ask him if he is ready to go to dinner yet, he asks if his new friend can go along. “Who’s that?” they wonder. He produces the board. He has taped a piece of paper to one end and drawn a face on it. “This is my friend Plank,” he says.

His mother smiles sweetly. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Plank,” she says, reaching out to shake an invisible hand. His father is speechless. Anger and bafflement wrestle for control of his face. He shoots a dark glance in my direction.

“Woof!” I say. It’s the only word I know. For once, it seems just about right.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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