Well all right ... only because you’ve asked. What I personally think it is, is miraculous. And honestly, I do understand it’s one of those things you wouldn’t – couldn’t – possibly believe, unless of course, like me, you’d seen it with your own eyes but I can assure you it’s absolutely true.
Some say miracles only ever used to happen in times past, before people began recording things properly and before magicians and illusionists were a thing. You know, like Jesus turning water into wine? I’d be interested to know your thoughts on that, by the way.
I must say, I did once see a clown pour a jug of clear water into a sheet of newspaper that he folded into the shape of a cone then, presto jingo, poured the cone full of water back into the empty jug and it had turned into bright green cordial. I know how he did it. The clown; not Jesus.
You’re not the first to have asked me about the leaf episode. That’s why you’re here. You’re no different to anyone else I’ve told. You may not be laughing in my face like some have done, even so, I can see it in your eyes you think I’m a nut case. It’s not like I’m telling you I was abducted by aliens, you know.
I'd been lying on the semi-damp afternoon lawn for a while, tucked against the fallen tree, admiring the many different colours of autumn leaves and thinking how beautiful the garden is at that time of the year and how lovely and cool the grass felt against my face. Shane would have loved it. I wasn’t crying or anything; in fact, it was quite a serene moment. I’d merely gone out into the garden to escape the hubbub inside the house – you know how people get when there’s a free feed to be had – circling around the buffet table like scavenging sharks.
I saw movement out the corner of my eye. I watched for quite a while until I saw the leaf move again. Strangely so. Purposefully. Not like a small gust had blown it. I reached out and turned it over and there he was, the tiniest person hiding beneath it, using it as a sort of cover sheet. When I gently picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand, it didn’t move. Not so much as a breath or a squirm. It was wrapped, or possibly clothed, in a leafy-type material of reds and oranges similar to what it had clung to moments earlier.
At first, the little man played dead as though it thought that by lying completely still I’d take no notice, that I’d think it was simply another piece of foliage and discard it with the rest of the leaves. Only, I could make out that it had arms and legs, a body, and an ugly, pointed little face. At least, when it had been moving that’s what it looked like. Although twig-like in appearance, it was most definitely not a branch, nor a stick insect just in case you were about to suggest it.
You don’t have to say anything but please don’t think that by staring and not reacting, you’ll guilt me into telling the so-called truth, that’ll I’ll slip up and be all, like, ‘Oh whoops, you caught me out. LOL. I made the whole thing up.’ I didn’t.
I don’t know what the actual name of the thing was, wood nymph, pixie … call it what you will, but the tiny stick man must have realised I wasn’t putting it back and that’s when it stood bolt upright on my hand and attempted to dive off, back into the big pile of autumn leaves from where I had plucked it.
I caught one of its skinny legs between my thumb and finger just as it made the leap and I may have hurt it, or possibly frightened it, because it let out a shriek, the likes of which I’d not heard before. If I had to describe the sound, I’d take a stab and suggest it was somewhere between the screech of a hungry night bird and a baby’s cry, only, because the thing was so small, you see, the squeal was much quieter. And oh, how it initially struggled to break free before falling flat on my palm and going completely still again, one leg still caught between my fingers. On a positive note, it didn’t appear to want to bite me so I was pleased about that.
Now that I had it, though, I had no idea what I should do with the thing. Shane would have known. He was marvellous at making decisions on the hop. Anyway, as much as I wanted to, I could hardly take it back to the house and show it around. Not then. A dozen or so mourners still lingered about, some primped stoically upright along the settee in the lounge or sat on dining chairs with their faces contorting in that awkward, consoling way as people tend to do at funerals when they’ve lost their words. There were others, distant relatives, or perhaps acquaintances, not knowing how to politely leave but well aware they’d already overshot the appropriate hour to have said their goodbyes and who now felt obliged to hang out in the kitchen washing dishes or continually putting the kettle on to give the impression they were helping and had deliberately meant to still be there.
What would those folk have made of my discovery? If I’d shown them the stiff, woody little man, they would surely have dismissed him as a bit of branch. They’d have brushed the episode off as me being in shock and ushered me upstairs to bed with a couple of sleeping pills and told me I’d soon get over it, that in time I would heal. And with absolute certainty I can guarantee the hushed conversations downstairs would have begun in earnest. Sad nodding heads looking sideways, and at walls, everywhere but at each other. There would have been whispered chatter about freak winds, shallow tree roots, and how awful it was that Shane had been in the wrong place in the garden at the wrong time and how Gemma, poor thing, was letting her imagination run away with her, you know, because of the trauma and the shock and everything, and that of course it was only to be expected a breakdown would follow.
So, I made the decision I thought was the best at the time; I crept quietly in the back door with my precious cargo, took it upstairs and locked it inside my jewellery box, the one with the clear glass lid, so that I could keep an eye on the little man. I hadn’t figured on feeding it. It never crossed my mind, to be honest. I was just fascinated that I’d found it. A shining moment in a dark day. A gift.
The thing never moved again after I brought it inside; except for the journey here but that could’ve been the motion of the vehicle. Naturally, its demise became the burning question on my mind for a while. Why do things have to die, anyway? What’s the point of caring for anything if it’s going to turn toes up just like that, far too suddenly and without so much as a word of warning?
Had I killed it because I hadn’t fed or watered it? I didn’t even know what stick men ate. Who would? I mean, did they get by on vegetation alone or did they chow down on wood borers and termites? Shane would have known the answer. Shane knew everything. But I couldn’t ask him, could I? To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not entirely certain he’s really dead. The stick man, not Shane. I’m not a nut case. If you’d seen what I had in the garden, you’d believe it too.
There’s a small part of me that suspects he may still be pretending to be a twig. You know, so I let him go? Of course, I have to agree that it must look rather like a stick to anyone else. They’re made that way so random people don’t go picking them up and taking them home. I’ve learnt that lesson the hard way, haven’t I? LOL.
When I was in the other room, the one with the windows facing out to the garden, I swear I saw a whole lot of others watching me. Waiting for their little friend, probably.
They moved me to another room.
They didn’t like me shouting through the glass at the little ones. Apparently, I unnerved the visitors. That’s a laugh, isn’t it? All those little stick men outside wandering the grounds and they’re worried about *me*.
Anyway, if you don’t mind, it’s about time for my tablet. The doc says I must take it at the same time each afternoon. I have to say, it’s just nice to be here. I’m most delighted at how lovely and comfortable these walls and floors are. Sooo soft. No view to speak of but when I close my eyes it’s almost as though I’m lying down in the garden, my back nestled into the fallen tree, face cocooned against the soft green grasses, and Shane by my side staring up the sky. Shane would love it here.