Jimmy Weston munched on a handful of jelly beans as he walked home from school. “Sometimes I wish Dad wouldn’t get transferred so often,” he muttered, kicking at a loose stone on the sidewalk.
Rolf rode by on his bike. “Hiya, Shorty!” he shouted.
Jimmy liked Rolf, but he hated being called Shorty. He wondered what it would feel like to be as tall as the other guys in his new sixth grade class.
He finished the last jelly bean and went into his house through the back door. A note from his mom invited him to have some fresh cookies that she’d baked. It also reminded him to stack the last of the boxes used for moving and to sweep out the garage.
Jimmy had finished a cookie and was just changing his clothes when the phone rang.
It was Mrs. Cobb, his teacher. “Jimmy, I know you’re new in town,” she said, “and you probably haven’t heard about the fall parade we help with each year.”
“No, ma’am,” Jimmy replied.
“Our class has been asked to do something special this time. I’m asking my students to try to come up with some ideas.”
“I’ll try to think of something, Mrs. Cobb. Thanks for calling me.”
Moving and stacking the empty boxes didn’t take Jimmy long, and he had almost finished sweeping the garage when his mother turned into the driveway. He gave one last push to the broom, then tossed it into a corner. As he did so, a long stick fell toward him.
“Hey, Mom,” Jimmy called as he pulled another stick from against the wall, “what are these things?”
His mother had her arms full of groceries. Glancing over her shoulder, she replied, “Oh, I’d almost forgotten about those. Here, Jimmy, help me carry some of these sacks into the house, and I’ll show you what they are.”
Mrs. Weston pushed open the back door, and they quickly put the groceries away. Then they went back to the garage.
“Those are the old stilts that your father had when he was your age. I didn’t remember that we still had them. Why don’t you try them out?” Mrs. Weston held the stilts upright. “Stand up on this box,” she said. “It’s about even with the footrests of the stilts.” She held the stilts steady. “Now, put your feet into the stirrups.”
Jimmy laughed as he fitted his feet into place. “It’s kind of like mounting a horse,” he said.
Mrs. Weston said, “Keep the stilts parallel and tight against your legs as you pick them up and move forward—it’s much like walking.” She steadied Jimmy as he moved slowly around the garage. Then she took her hands away, and he was on his own.
“Hey, Mom, this is really neat! I’m tall … like a giant!” he whooped. Clumping around the garage, then up and down the driveway, Jimmy felt like a king looking over his lands. “How do I get down?” he yelled as he moved toward the house.
“Go to the side of the back porch, Jimmy,” Mrs. Weston coached, “and get off there just like you got on.”
Jimmy carefully slipped his feet out of the stirrups, stepped onto the porch, then carried the stilts back into the garage. “Wow, Mom, I’ve never felt tall before. That was great!”
That night after supper Jimmy practiced walking on the stilts again. It was even easier the second time.
Three days later Mrs. Cobb asked Jimmy and Rolf and four other children in the class to stay after school for a meeting. “Have any of you come up with some ideas for the parade?” she asked. “It’s only ten days away.”
“We could make a float again this year,” Rolf suggested halfheartedly.
“Or we could dress up in costumes,” one of the others said.
As Jimmy sat listening, he suddenly thought of something different that they could all do. “Why don’t we each make a pair of stilts? We can wear long jackets and go as giants.”
He stopped, wondering if the others would think his idea was silly. But they weren’t laughing; they were looking at each other and nodding excitedly.
“Sounds like a great idea, Shorty, but how do you make them?”
“We can work on them in our garage,” Jimmy said, trying to forget that Rolf had called him that name again. “My dad has a pair that he used when he was a boy. We can use them for our pattern.”
Mrs. Cobb smiled. “It sounds like a really different idea, Jimmy. A good one too. Thanks.”
On the way down the hall after the meeting, Rolf playfully punched Jimmy’s shoulder. “I guess if you get up on those stilts, I can’t call you Shorty anymore.” He grinned.
Jimmy grinned back. “That would suit me just fine, Rolf,” he said.
Munching jelly beans on the way home, Jimmy realized that he didn’t feel short anymore. Maybe it wasn’t his height that had made Rolf change his mind about the nickname, but the fact that he had been willing to help the rest of the group, regardless of what they called him. He felt as tall as any of them now.
The next few days were busy with sawing, hammering, and sanding. Finally six pairs of stilts were ready for the parade.
The childrens’ mothers had all gotten together and made matching long jackets and tall hats.
The day of the annual event was bright and sunny. Bands played, there were decorated bikes and fancy floats, and marchers threw sticks of gum and candy kisses as they passed by the kids. But the biggest cheers were for six striding giants in fancy long jackets and tall hats, grinning and nodding to the crowd.