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Walking on Hands

There was one among the villagers in the Big Valley who was so brave he climbed up mountains on his hands.

Well, brave is what he called himself.

The rest of the villagers called him stupid.

But Luca wasn't deterred. It took him two weeks to complete a journey that most in the village could accomplish in a couple days. But that really wasn't the point, was it? Not everything was about speed, though his siblings didn't seem to understand that. His older brother and sister were always finding ways to speed up their donkeys with spells for the shoes or get through their chores faster by setting a charm to wash the dishes. Never mind they never got out the hard stains.

Luca didn't mind taking a little longer to do things. Perhaps that's why his family held out so long believing he'd develop some magical skill. He was just a late bloomer, they said. He'd get to it in his own time. Except he wouldn't. He was about as magical as a common radish and no amount of lineage would change that.

Well, he didn't mind.

He couldn't embroider scenes that moved like his father or build birdhouses that sang back to the birds like his mother could. But he did just walk up the mountain on his hands.

So, when he strolled back into town, two weeks later, now on his feet, hands all bloodied and full of stickers, that's what he boasted to the other villagers. He was right in the middle of explaining how he got over a particularly rocky part with wooden planks on his hands when his brother cuffed him by the ear and pulled him out of the crowd.

"What?" Luca said. "I hadn't even gotten to the good stuff yet."

Braylon hooked Luca's neck in the crook of his elbow and dragged him away, yelling something over his shoulder about the show continuing later. "Luca, do you realize how long you've been gone for? Mom wanted us to go looking for you. She'd gotten so worried."

"Well, it wouldn't have taken me so long but the stream was high for this time of year, and I had to figure out..."

"Why do you do it?" Braylon asked. "The mountain on your hands. Jumping across the river in one stride. Climbing up the old oak without using your hands. Why do you do these impossible things?"

Luca grinned. "But they're not impossible. I do them."

"But what's the point? I feel like you nearly kill yourself each time."

Luca held out his mangled hands. "I'm not dead, though. Need to soak my hands, for sure. But not dead."

Braylon groaned. "You're going to need a lot more than a soak for your hands." Keeping hold of Luca's elbow, Braylon dragged him toward home. "You know, you don't have anything to prove, right?"

Luca shrugged, a bit awkward with Braylon holding his elbow. "Sure, I do. What else am I supposed to do with myself while the rest of you concoct spells to change the world?" Luca could feel Braylon looking at him, but he didn't turn to look back. "Someday, I'll be stronger, faster, smarter. Maybe no magic, but strong all the same."

"Well, you don't have to kill yourself doing it."

Luca looked up at the mountain he'd just traversed. It was a small mountain, granted. Probably more of a large hill, but that didn't matter. His arms still throbbed from the walk, and he couldn't really feel his hands anymore. But they'd heal. New skin would grow and the muscle would stay.

"I'm going to travel the world," Luca said.

Braylon snorted. "Ha ha."

Luca shook his head. "I'm serious. That's the next thing I'm going to do."

Braylon stopped. "Luca, come on. What did I just tell you?"

But Luca had made up his mind now. "If I stay here, I'm just going to be the guy that does weird stunts forever," he said. "I have to go. I have to see what else I can do."

Braylon didn't say anything for a long time. He just stood there, supporting Luca's weight on his shoulder. "Well," he said finally, "I suggest you do this traveling on your feet."


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