Phoenix Jackson had to travel to Natchez, Mississippi, to get the much needed medicine for her beloved grandson who had been injured in an accident. Eudora Welty in her short story “A Worn Path” describes a character much like the mythological bird in Egyptian mythology that rises from its own ashes to live again. The story’s protagonist walks a long distance especially for an eighty year old woman to get to her goal.
Along the used path, Phoenix prepares herself for any kind of danger. She carries an umbrella in case she comes across “critters” or stumbles over a bush. Phoenix has to be careful because she is losing her eyesight thinking at one time that a scarecrow is a ghost. For some reason, she suffers from blackouts…but she trudges on toward the town.
While walking, Phoenix faces a wild dog that causes her to slip in a ditch. A hunter passing by sights Phoenix and helps her up. The white hunter tries to show off his prowess by getting rid of the wild dog. The hunter drops a nickel; and without him knowing, Phoenix scoops it up.
The yellow palm of her hand came out from the fold of her apron. Her fingers slid down and along the ground under the piece of money...Then she slowly straightened up, she stood erect, and the nickel was in her apron pocket. "God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing."
Typical of the times in the southern United States, the hunter talks down to Phoenix calling her Granny and telling her to go home. He tells her that he knows that she is only going to town to see Santa Claus. The two part company, and Phoenix goes ahead on her trek.
When she arrives at the doctor’s office, Phoenix’s exhaustion makes her forget for a few minutes why she has come. The receptionist is irritated by her presence . The nurse finally recognizes the old black lady with the grandson and understands that Phoenix is there for the free medication. In the spirit of Christmas, the receptionist gives Phoenix another nickel. Now, Phoenix has a dime to buy her grandson a Christmas present. Off the old lady goes, tired but happy… and facing her journey back on the worn path.