Anatomy of a Storyteller: Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping

            Glen rushed back to the tree on the following morning, but Aster was not there.  Apart from a brief break for lunch, Glen spent the whole day on the tree, but Aster never came.  By evening time he was half-convinced he had dreamed the whole thing.  When he awoke the following morning he found out the cousins were coming and that meant he had to be sociable and play games and keep company with the gang.

            Glen did his best, though his mind kept wandering back to his tree and to Aster.  His heart was there as well.  He liked his cousins well enough and his brother and little sister, though his sister was still too small to join in all the running around, but it was not the same.  He saw them just about every summer.  He saw Aster once.  And while his mind kept saying he fell asleep and dreamed it all, and only came awake at the sound of the dinner bell, his heart said otherwise, and he was not disappointed.

            It was the last day before they departed when Glen managed an afternoon to himself.  He hurried straight to the tree and called softly for Aster.  He called, but there was no response, and so he began to talk to the air.   “This is my last day here this summer.  I would really like to see you again.  I won’t say anything or tell anyone if that is what you are afraid of.  You see, my cousins were here the whole time and I never said a word, not to them or my family.  Please.  I need to know you are real.  I mean, you started it all by buzzing around my head.  Now the least you could do is show yourself.  Otherwise I just go home thinking I’m not right in the head, or something.”  Glen paused at a sound in the leaves further down the tree.  There was something there, and at first Glen thought it was a bird.  He started to shift away from that spot, back across the trunk in case it was a squirrel or something that might feel trapped.  He did not want to be attacked by a desperate squirrel.  Something squirted out from the leaves.  Glen threw his hands up and shrieked even as he heard the words, “I’m here.”

            “Aster?”  She zoomed behind him like she was going to hide behind his head.  She fluttered from ear to ear still wary about what was in the leaves.

            “I barely escaped,” Aster said.

            “What is it?”  Glen asked.  He was not feeling very brave, but he was determined to try.

            “My sisters,” Aster whispered very close to his ear.

            “Hey!”  Glen shouted in part because of the surprise at having a fairy so close to him and in part because he was scared.  “Come out of there and show yourselves,” he said.  “There is no point in hiding now, it is too late.”

            There was a rumbling in the leaves and Aster whispered very softly.  “Don’t believe everything you see.”

            A wolf head poked out from the leaves, barking, snarling, drooling and showing great big canine teeth.  Aster shrieked and grabbed on to Glen’s hair.  Glen jumped back and grabbed his chest, but held on and yelled.

            “Stop it.  You should be ashamed of yourselves trying to scare a little boy who never did you any harm.”  Glen remembered and named the fairies.  “Iris and Apple, stop the nonsense.  Show yourselves now.”  His words were sharp because of his fear, but the wolf head dissipated as he spoke.

            Two fairies floated up from behind the leaves.  Iris was dressed in purple which faded to blue at the edges.  Apple was pink and white, like the blossom.  Neither looked happy, but Aster simply tugged on Glen’s hair and took a seat on his shoulder.

            “I told you it wouldn’t work,” Aster said.

            “Yes it did work,” Glen admitted.  “You really scared me.  But Aster is my friend and it is not nice to keep friends apart.  It is easy to scare little boys, but that is not nice either.”

            Iris and Apple simply floated at a good distance and said nothing.

            “I bet you two are both much nicer than that,” Glen said with a smile.

            “Not Crabapple,” Aster whispered in Glen’s ear.

            “Crabapple?”  Glen said it out loud and barely avoided turning his head to look at Aster which would have simply knocked the fairy off his shoulder.

            “Hey!”  Apple objected, but Iris giggled.

            “We are nice,” Iris said quickly to cover her laugh.  “But Aster broke the most important rule.  We are not to show ourselves to mortals.  It isn’t done.”

            “Ha,” Glen objected.  He was not laughing.  “I have heard lots of stories about fairies and people.  Elves and others, too.  Don’t tell me fairies have never been seen by people.”

            “That isn’t the point,” Iris said.

            “It isn’t done,” Apple added.

            “But he looked so lonely, all by himself day after day,” Aster whined a little.

            Iris came down to a small branch by the end of the tree and sat, so Apple joined her.  “And what did you do for all of those hours?”  Iris asked.

            “My imagination,” Glen answered honestly.  “I told stories to myself, like about pirates and cowboys.  I imagined Captain Hawk of the Golden Hawk which was really the Flying Dutchman, disguised.  And Marshal Casidy, not the fastest, but maybe the smartest gun in the west.  Sometimes I imagined big Lars before the revolution, living with real Indians.  You know, adventure type stories.”

            “Stories that boys like to read.”  Iris nodded her head, but Glen shook his.

            “Brother Tom is the reader.  I’m not much of a reader.”

            “Oh, but I bet those are great stories,” Aster said.

            “Yes, they were,” Iris agreed.  She seemed to be thinking of something else.  “But we should not interfere when the storyteller is telling stories.”

            “It isn’t dome,” Apple repeated.  “It shouldn’t be done.”

            “Oh, but,” Aster did not know what else to say.

            “But you make my stories better,” Glen spoke for her.  “Don’t you see?  I mean, I would never tell stories about you exactly, but having a friend to share with and dream about always makes stories better.”

            “You dreamed about me?”  Aster sounded warmed by that idea.

            “I think so,” Glen nodded carefully.  “I’m not sure because I never or hardly ever remember my dreams exactly.”

            “But there are some things you are not supposed to know,” Apple said.

            “Far too late for that,” Iris smiled for the first time.  “He already knows all there is to know about all of us, even if he doesn’t know it.”

            “That is a silly thing to say,” Aster spoke up.

            “That doesn’t make sense,” Apple looked at her sister.

            “Come along, Apple.”  Iris let out her wings and rose slowly into the air.  “This is Glen’s last day for this summer.  There is no reason he should not spend it with a friend.”

            “But, Iris.”

            “Come along Apple.”  And Apple did, while Aster let out a cheer.

            “Hurray!”  Though as soon as they were alone, Aster flew off Glen’s shoulder and settled down on a branch just out of reach.

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