There once was a village called Nottingham. The villagers were all just as poor as the next, so that one may think they had nothing. And yet, one would be wrong. The villagers of Nottingham were rich in their own way. They were full of hope. One could feel the hopeful sensation when walking past the village gates, which were always open to visitors. The people of Nottingham were very happy, despite their poorly state; They ate what little food they had, slept in their little heather beds, and were merry and made music.
It was Christmas Eve, and the villagers of Nottingham all gathered together around a campfire to celebrate, each bringing with them little gifts to give to their friends, for everyone in the happy little village of Nottingham were as close as family. These parcels were wrapped in the old newspapers passers-by would dump on the side of the street, and inside every little parcel was the loveliest thing, so lovely it was priceless in it’s own way.
You see, throughout the year, the people of Nottingham collected little twigs from the ground whenever they saw one fall. They never picked the twigs off a tree, as a tree was, to them, the very heart of what they lived on, a tree to them meant hope and peace. So henceforth, they never picked any leaves, branches, bark, sticks or twigs, or even the little crawly things that lived there, off any tree.
There was one tree in particular that the townspeople both admired and feared, and to collect just one of its twigs would be like finding a gold bar. This tree was called ‘Adam’s Eve,’ referring to the temptation it caused just to pluck a twig from a branch. This tree was millions of years old, named after Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God’s rules and ate from the one tree they were forbidden to. When this happened, they were banished from the garden, and angels with swords of fire guarded the gate so that no one could enter. Now, the tree was barren, and could not produce any fruit to eat, but the air of temptation surrounding the tree was intense, so that nobody dared even come close, for fear they wouldn't resist plucking a single twig from the great arms of ‘Adam’s Eve.’
Well, as the year went on, the villagers of Nottingham collected twigs that had fallen from the trees, and at Christmas time, they stitched them together with blades of lush green grass, and shaped them into a model of ‘Adam’s Eve.’ Now, gathered around the campfire, the people of Nottingham exchanged their gifts with one another and embraced and sang, and shared a dry roast chicken, since they couldn’t afford a stuffed turkey with mint jelly.
After sharing a dessert of wild berries, they all held hands around the campfire and sang songs like, ‘Silent night,’ Away in a Manger,’ and, ‘Deck the Halls.’ After a while, at midnight exactly, it began to rain. This happened every year, at midnight exactly, and was a sort of natural alarm clock to the villagers. The rain extinguished the campfire, and the people of Nottingham went to bed, humming ‘Away in a Manger.’
Yes, the people of Nottingham were very happy, but still they continued to feel a loss at being so distant from the rest of the world, but, being as poor as they were, they didn’t dare venture past the gates that read, ‘Nottingham.’
It was a storm. Thunder called out for its long lost love, and Lighting answered its calls of anguish. Huddled under an old potato sack shivered a girl named Minneolas May Mupett, or Minnie for short. Thunder called out even louder than the last time, more anxious to find his loved one. Minnie shivered at the sudden appearance of Lightning responding to Thunder’s call. There had been better days, but those days were the past.
Minnie was tired, she tried to force her eyes shut, but to no avail. Her mother’s image flashed through her mind; she was singing. Minnie hummed along with the memory of her beloved Marra, her mother. “Away in a Manger,’ she hummed. Marra had always sung this to Minnie whenever she was finding it hard to fall asleep. When Marra had finished singing, she’d always run her slim hand through her daughter’s hair and murmur; “my sweet little Minneolas, my sweet tangy treat, what did I do to deserve you?” (For Minnie had been named after the fruit her mother had craved when giving birth to Minnie.)
She had no memories of her father, Pali, as Mara referred to him as, he had died when she was three years old. Marra’s song faded into the distance, and the little girl closed her eyes and drifted off to a world where the sun shone and birds chipped, and everyone was happy.
That night, Minnie dreamt about a foreign land full of sunshine, and happiness. In her dream, there was a tree. But not an ordinary tree, for it shone brighter than any star in the universe. The tree was barren, but still covered in beauty.
Minnie dreamt that she was there, in this dream land, dancing in the leaves and racing the wind. She was climbing mountains and having fun. This was not an unusual dream for Minnie, she dreamt it all the time.
The same tree, the same people and the same joy.
Minnie knew this dreamy land more than she knew the world she lived in today. But the best thing about the land in her dream was this; Her blue toe was forgotten.
When Minnie was born, she’d been born with a blue toe. Everyone had always laughed at her because of it, but Marra always scowled at them and said that Minnie’s blue toe was special, that it symbolised something.
Everyday Minnie would ask Marra; “What does my blue toe symbolise Marra?” Marra would look at her and frown. “I don’t believe in such questions Minneolas!” And no more would be said, from either of them.
Now, Minnie wanted nothing more than to be accepted. Somewhere where people wouldn’t laugh at her because of her blue toe.
A light seemed to suddenly flicker on inside Minnie’s mind. What good was it to simply dream of such a land, when she could search for it?
And that is how Minnie set off on her journey to Nottingham.
Minnie hurried along the dusty road with her tongue poking out so as to catch the rain. The water was cold like ice, freezing her tongue in place. She continued walking with her tongue stuck out until it thawed due to the morning sunlight rising above the valleys.
She walked all day and eventually came to a small, run down town called ‘Yesterday.’
She knocked quietly on the big brass gates. Nobody seemed to hear her, so she knocked even louder.
“Eh! Go away young lass! We don’t want ya ‘ear!” a voice called out to her. “Why not?” She asked.
“We don’t take visitors, ‘specially nasty old pieces of work like you! Can’t ya see the gates are shut?”
Minnie looked down at her feet, ashamed.
“Why!” the stranger exclaimed, staring at her bare feet. “You ‘ave a blue toe! Ain’t that something to laugh ‘bout!” Minnie wiped a tear from her eye and tried to block out the mocking laughter of the strange man in ‘Yesterday.’
Yesterday’s world didn’t like change.
She kept walking until she came across another town called; ‘Today.’ She pushed on the bell outside the gate and waited. A voice came through a speaker:
“Are you human?” The voice asked.
“Yes.” Replied Minnie.
“Do you have two arms and two legs?”
“Are your fingers and toes the same colour as the rest of you?”
“No,” squeaked Minnie.
“Then you’re not welcome here.” The voice replied.
Minnie walked away sadly. The world of today is so stereotypical.
Minnie continued walking until she came to a place that read; ‘Tomorrow.’ She looked for a bell or door-knocker, but could find none. So she shouted; “Hello? May I come in?”
There was no answer.
Tomorrow started on a clean slate.
Minnie trudged slowly along the path until she found a place to rest for the night. Her dreams revolved around that same tree, the tree that was in all her dreams. Her dream about a falling bridge; the tree stood in the distance, watching her fall. Her dream about flying on a giant swan, the tree was there, it’s own leaves flew with her. In her dream about the city, the tree was there too, standing in its roots.
Minnie awoke to the sound of birds chirping. She ate some purple berries from a nearby bush and continued walking down the road. Soon, she came to another town. It had a battered sign at the front that read; ‘Nottingham.’ There were no gates. No gold coloured bells or knockers… nothing. There were little bivawacks scattered around, which Minnie presumed served as houses to the villagers. She cautiously stepped into the little village, and was immediately swept away by the beauty of it. True, it wasn’t really much to look at, But Nottingham possesed the most beautiful thing Minnie had ever hoped to witness.
Joy, hope, peace, love and happiness.
It was a wonderful feeling. Minnie felt the corners of her mouth lifting for the first time in too long. She danced and she sang.
But then her attention was drawn to a tree standing in the middle of the town. This was the town she’d been dreaming of all this time.
A voice broke her reverie.
“Hi there! Is there something I can do for you?”
There was a person standing beside her. “I would like to stay here… if I can?” said Minnie. The strange woman smiled at her. “Another settler! We haven’t had a settler since… well, before I was born anyway! What’s your name Honey?” Minnie smiled up at her and replied; “My name is Minneolas May Mupett, but you can just call me Minnie.” The stranger beamed down at her. “Minnie… what a lovely name! I’m sure there used to be a lady that lived here with a baby girl called Minnie, that’s what I think anyway. Oh well, I’m Roxanne, or Roxy as my friends call me. Welcome to Nottingham! I hope you’ll enjoy it here.”
“I’m sure I will. It looks like a truly magnificent place,” said Minnie.
“I’m glad. Now, can I find you someplace to stay?”
Minnie nodded. “If it’s not too much trouble? ”
Roxanne grinned again. “Certainly Honey! Now, where would you… Oh!” This last word was directed at seeing Minnie’s blue toe. Roxanne looked taken back. Minnie was concerned. “Are you alright Roxanne?”
Roxanne smiled meekly. “Yes Honey, and please, call me Roxy.”
Minnie found herself in tears despite of herself. She’d come to this village in hope that no one would be judgmental of her blue toe, it seemed that dream had floated away into the clouds.
“It’s my blue toe, isn’t it?” Questioned Minnie. “Well… you see Honey, you gotta understand that the last person we saw with a blue toe was here… years ago. It was just a shock, nothing to be ashamed about Honey.” Minnie was confused. “So, you’ve seen someone with a blue toe before?” she asked. Roxanne looked up, surprised. “You don’t know?” Minnie raised her eyebrows. “Why! She doesn’t know!”Roxanne exclaimed.
“Know what?” Asked Minnie.
“About your Mama!” Minnie still looked confused, so Roxanne continued.
“It was before you were born, you see Honey. Your Mama plucked one little twig off Addam’s Eve, which is that big tree over there in the middle of the town. And you see Honey, no one ever picks a twig of that tree, or any tree. But your Mama just couldn’t resist. She plucked a little twig off that tree and… poof! Your Mama didn’t know it then, but because of her greediness, her mistake caused your little toe to turn blue. Don’t ask me how it works Honey, it just does. So when your Mama found out, she ran away and never returned, she didn’t want us to know what she had done. But word got around, as it does, and soon we all knew. You alright Honey? How is your Mama anyway?” Minnie looked down at her feet and held back the tears that kept pushing their way to the surface. “My Mama, Marra… she’s gone.” Roxanne looked surprised. “Oh your poor darling. I’m so sorry Honey.”
Minnie took a while to let her mind wonder. Marra was the reason Minnie had a blue toe. She’d lied to her all this time. The songs Marra had sung to her, did she learn them from here in Nottingham? That tree that was always in her dreams, could it be because her fate was somehow intertwined with it? So many questions and not enough answers to go around.
“You alright Honey?” Asked Roxanne. Minnie looked up at her and smiled.
Afterall, tomorrow started on a clean slate, with new beginnings.