Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Early Morning Visitor

I'm sitting here in my study sipping coffee in the early morning. There is real cream in it, not the powdered stuff and it slids down my throat like warm ambrosia. The garden is still damp from yesterday's rain and the sky is overcast, but it will clear soon. I can tell from the quality of the light and from the latent heat in the air that today will be a scorcher. I should be working on the latest installment in my best-selling mystery series, but I can't bring myself to focus just yet. I wonder if there are any blueberry muffins left that Bridget, the maid, baked Friday. We've been using the berries up at a surprising rate. Perhaps I can go pick some more this afternoon, after church.

My fantasy is briefly interrupted by 37 pounds of sleepy offspring shuffling into the room and climbing into my lap. Apparently I woke him up when I made the coffee, but after a few pleasurable minutes of cuddling I convince him to go back to bed. Now, where was I? Oh yes, blueberries.

One of my favorite children's stories was "The Blueberry Pie Elf" about a little elf who left blue footprints on the tablecloth after he helped himself to some pie. I've tried to find it since then, but it appears to be out of print, as well as one of my favorite fairy tales "Greenwillow" by B.J. Chute. The writing in that little book is so beautiful it made me want to cry. It's a genius of a story - a brilliant kind of old-fashioned, modern tale based on rural American life. If you can find it, read it.

Taffy the cat comes into the room while I am thinking about all this, actually getting tears in my eyes from thinking about Beatrice Chute's little book. (How many of those tears are from sentiment and how many from envy, I wonder?) Taffy has been out in the garden prowling around, which surprises me because normally she doesn't like to get her paws the least bit wet. I saw her a little while ago under the blue hydrangea, tail twitching as if she had found something interesting. I'm not too worried, though. She would rather ask a mouse to play with her than eat it, and has been known to guard baby birds until their mothers find them.

She usually doesn't bring things into the house, however, so I am surprised to see her with her mouth full of something that looks like a frog or a very large grasshopper. She is holding it gingerly, the way cats do. Rather than coming straight to me at my desk, however, she lights on the sofa and sets the creature down on the cushions.

"Taffy!" I scold gently. "Don't put that there."

She gives me a distressed look and mews pathetically. I've never seen her this upset before, and especially not over a frog. I get up and go to see what it is that she has brought into the room.

There on the flowered cushion of my sofa is a little green person about five inches long. Not actually green-skinned, but dressed in green leggings and a little green tunic, like a miniature Peter Pan. Her outfit is embroidered with microscopic stitches of shimmering thread, she has neat little brown boots on her feet with tiny buttons, and her cornsilk hair is braided back from her face under a little round hat that looks like an acorn cap, but is obviously made of something soft and water-repellent for the rain is beading on it, as on her little cape of the same material.

She looks as if she has been through some kind of accident (or perhaps an On Purpose), for she is battered and scraped and her clothes are torn. I suspect that she is a welf, or wood-elf, that has somehow ended up in our garden. She is terrified, huddled in a little ball on the cushion, eyes darting back and forth, clearly thinking that she is about to be dissected by one or both of us.

"Don't be frightened," I say very softly, afraid of hurting her tiny eardrums with my Big Person voice. I have no idea whether she understands me. I leave her with Taffy for a moment, who is anxiously guarding her like an injured kitten. I fetch a clean washcloth from the linen closet to use as a blanket (fortunately I have some new ones that are very soft and fluffy) and bring it to lay over her. She seems to relax a little, closing her eyes. I think she is in shock and should be left alone, so I pick Taffy up and take the cat firmly into the kitchen, shutting the door so that she can't return. I put the kettle on to boil and give Taffy a treat of leftover fish. She eats it quickly then sits by the door, clearly unwilling to abandon her charge.

And now I'm afraid I must leave off ... it has taken me an hour to compose these few paragraphs and there are morning duties in my real life to attend to, including the five-year-old who did not go back to sleep after all. Tune in again for the next installment....

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