Photography: Morning Walk

“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve found a new walking path near my house which is kinder to my healing hip. There are beautiful old trees, a view of the mountains, lots of birds, and a pond with ducks. I’m grateful for the beauty it contains and the gentle slopping path I can walk and think.

My childhood best friend lost her father recently. He was like a father to me too, a loving and beautiful man who loved to fix and collect things. I’m working on a poem to honor him, but it’s not ready yet. Instead, I decided to do another photo post this week and share my special place with you.

May you find a moment of peace today.


  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW

Inside the Trees | A Short Story

The orange trees killed my father. It wasn’t their fault, not really, but grandmother says she can’t forgive them for allowing her only son to fall from their twisting branches to the hard ground below. After the windowless van takes away dad’s unmoving body, she lugs a huge ax from the old woodshed and hacks away at the trees until nightfall. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. She piles all the bright, round fruit and glossy green leaves in the center of the yard and lights them on fire with a red jug of gasoline from the garage. I watch her from my bedroom window as a slight breeze licks the flames and grandmother dances around them. When the smoke clears I see a thick, fuzzy white mold growing on her skin. It spreads quickly, growing thicker and darker. I smell the sickly scent of rot and decay from inside the house, but mother won’t let me run to grandmother—even after she screams. As the sun rises and turns the sky golden pink, we hear her curse the trees with her last dying breath.

***

I didn’t mean to break free, not really. The ancient ones taught me how to flow from one tree to the next, how to coax the leaves to turn toward the light, and how to root myself deep when conditions are harsh—but I’m curious. And restless. When the fire starts, I squirm and fight. I don’t want to do the same thing as always, to snuggle deep into the earth and stay dormant in the suffocating darkness of the soil until I find another tree to crawl into. No, I want to burst free, to fly and soar, and to experience sensations I’ve never felt before. On a whim, I jump and catch a breeze and find a new home in an old woman’s skin. At first, the softness and warmth are divine. I move with her and through her. I dance and sway, but she fights our connection. Her blood boils and churns. She screams. I feel myself changing from a tiny life force of trapped light into some combination of the woman and me, but her body gives out and she falls lifeless to the hard ground. I burst forth as a crackling mist of tiny flickering particles. I move with the wind and spread myself out in all directions, becoming one with everything I touch. I’m free. I may have transformed into a killer, but it feels too wonderful to stop.

***

My grandmother is the first to succumb to the mysterious sickness, but not the last. It spreads quickly and soon it isn’t just orange trees we fear, but all trees. No longer can we collect acorns in our pockets and sit with our backs pressed against the rough bark of the towering old oaks, or listen to the golden songs of the marsh wrens while hiding beneath the sweeping thin arms of the willows. Trees are dangerous. Rustling leaves are death rattles, warning us to run. The poison travels by leaf and by seed until the tree itself becomes nothing but mold and ash—like the body of my mother, my neighbors, and all my friends from school. Those of us still alive cover our skin with thick layers of cracking mud and crawl into rock caves or underground bunkers, anywhere the tiny particles can’t find us. We learn to run and we learn to hide. I’ve gone from the loving center of my family of three to a homeless orphan in a world where shade means monsters and a fragrant breeze means death.

***

Spring becomes summer and the winds stop blowing. I settle all over the earth as a yellow dusting—a thin layer of fine pollen. The animals rush through me and I catch rides on their fur, but they always wash or shake me free and I’m left laying at the bottom of a river or on the hot ground. Stuck. Although I am abundant, bountiful and many, a singular emotion forms within me—restlessness. I want the adrenaline surge of newness again, the thrill of excitement I had when I boiled in blood for the first time. I want more. I catch a ride on the back of a tiny mouse and plan on moving into a ripe red strawberry, but on a whim, I move into the furry creature instead. Its body reacts—spinning, boiling, transforming. I sing with the feeling and rejoice. I’ve found my new playmates.

***

In the middle of summer, the sickness moves to the animals. We find their bodies everywhere. Some are covered in sickly sweet-smelling white mold, others in spidery green threads that crisscross and pin the lifeless bodies to the earth. The sickness seems to grow inside and burst free, or perhaps it grows on the outside and bursts in. Nobody can tell. The occasional bird or mouse darts quickly past, but sightings of larger animals have stopped altogether. Life seems to be dying off and it makes me think of dinosaurs and extinction. Will my bones become a fossil for some future scientist to ponder? The family I’m traveling with leaves me beside the road because food is running scarce and they are scared, but I’m a fast runner and I’m good at hiding. I climb up a mountain and find an abandoned cave to make my home. Despite the soaring temperatures outside, it’s nice and cool inside. I lay as still as I can listening to the brisk silence. It’s a crisp, bare sound and I grow to appreciate how it echoes around me noiseless and clean. It’s far better than the hot silence outside the cave—the thick, deadly stillness that whispers “death is coming for you” without making a sound at all. I try not to listen to the growing panic inside me, but as my cans of food dwindle I’m finding it harder and harder to live alone in my cave of silence.

*** 

The harsh stillness of summer gives way to the blustery winds of fall. After months of being unable to dance in the breeze, I’m overjoyed at the thought of twirling through a cloud of colorful leaves. I grab hold of the first big wind and soar effortlessly across a cloudless sky looking for a tree or creature to explore. I find nothing. No birds. No trees. No sounds. The land has become barren and flat, covered only in the moldy remains of those I’ve touched. Rolling emptiness spreads off in all directions and the marred remains create an unfamiliar ache within me. It’s a conflicting sensation of triumph and loss. I’m a creature of light, but this feels more like darkness. How did I become the opposite of life? The currents lift me and I travel over the crumbling rocks remembering bird songs and children climbing trees. I search for signs of anything left, but I fear this realization comes too late. What have I done?

***

Winter comes without a sound. I watch as the snowflakes fall. I’ve scavenged everything I can and it’s not enough. I’m not going to make it. Crawling to the edge of the cave, I push my hand out into the air and a chill travels through me. Shivering, I see a fleck of orange on my palm. I scream and rub it on the rocks, but I fear it’s too late. The sickness has found me at last. A voice speaks inside me, a soft whispery sound I’m certain means madness, but I listen anyway.

“I’m sorry dear child. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”

“I’m going to die,” I say to the voice. “Like my mother, my grandmother, and the birds. I’m going to die in this cave alone.”

“You aren’t alone. I’ll stay with you.”

The voice brings warmth. It wiggles through my body and I crawl toward the center of the cave and fall asleep.

***

Redemption. The word rings through me and I cling to it. Riding on the breezes, I gather all the scattered parts of myself and cover the child with a thick blanket of life. I don’t try to become her, I try to heal her. I breathe air into her lungs and move blood through her veins. Outside the world is covered in white but inside I’m remembering my purpose and I remake things. The strength of the ancient ones flows through me and I hope it will be enough. Everything I am, all my many multitudes of particles and energy, I pour into the small child on the stone floor. Cracking the rocks, I break the ground into tiny pieces and regrow life. It ebbs out from the child and from me like rivulets of liquid stars. The earth shudders and shakes, moving with us, becoming a new land—a new start. The moon watches, winking above, singing her soft lunar lullaby and nodding her approval.

***

A honey smell tickles my nose and I wake in the cave but find it’s no longer the same. Silence has transformed into bird song, rocks into towering trees, and the bleakness of winter into spring’s happy sun. Rested and calm, I stand on strong legs and spin in a circle. The air sweetly dances with me. I’m alive. Above me towers a beautiful tree, covered in delicate white petals and round ripe fruit. I climb into the strong branches and reach through the glossy green leaves to snap off a bright shiny orange. The rich citrusy smell makes my body shudder with joy. Sitting within a curve of the tree, I peel the sticky fruit and throw the thick peels to the soft ground below. The first bite bursts with juice and it drips down my chin and through my fingers. A fuzzy yellow and black bee buzzes around my head and I think it speaks to me of second chances, but I can’t be sure as the marsh wrens are calling and I feel the urge to run.

Author’s note: This piece was inspired by the orange trees in my grandmother’s backyard and was written as an assignment for a class I’m taking called “Exploring Your Aesthetic.” The challenge was to play with form and story structure. I found the assignment challenging, which probably means it was the exact thing I should be doing. Let me know what you think of this story, particularly if the format feels different enough and if you found the story engaging. Thank you for your continued support!

52 Photo Challenge: Week Five

“When I was a kid I believed everything I was told, everything I read, and every dispatch sent out by my own overheated imagination. This made for more than a few sleepless nights, but it also filled the world I lived in with colors and textures I would not have traded for a lifetime of restful nights.”
― Stephen King

Welcome back to the 52-week photo challenge. This week our assignment was to capture texture, which is something I naturally look for when taking photos. My daughter and I visited a park near our house and the sun was really too bright. While I got a variety of shots, I was ultimately disappointed with my offerings. The colors were either over-exposed or simply too bright. The images below are the ones I could salvage and edit.

I can only share one photo with the challenge group. I’m leaning toward either the lichen or the oily water shot. Which photo do you think best illustrates texture? Thanks as always for cheering me on and have a wonderful week.


NOTE: To my regular followers, life has been a bit on the stressful side lately. As a result, you may see me posting two posts a week for a while instead of three. Thank you for your love and understanding.

  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW
  • If you want to join the 52 Photo Challenge, you can find all the information at nicolesy.com.

52 Photo Challenge: Week Four

“Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” -Neil Gaiman

Welcome back to the 52-week photo challenge. This week our assignment was to photograph motion blur, which was something I’d never attempted before. I was required to get more comfortable with using my camera in manual mode and to use a slow shutter speed. Mistakes were made. Lots of them.

While most of my photos were an epic failure, I did learn a lot. Next time I’ll need to buy or borrow a tripod and perhaps a flash. So many of these images are so close to being good but are blurred in places I don’t want them to be. Not quite there. I went out twice (once during the day and once at night) and these are the best images I was able to capture. While I love the one with my daughter, I think the one with the fire is the best example of motion blur. Let me know what you think.

Thanks as always for cheering me on and have a wonderful day!



Here are some bonus photos not using motion blur also taken this week:

  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW
  • If you want to join the 52 Photo Challenge, you can find all the information at nicolesy.com.

Poetry: Strawberry Tree

You’ve lived nestled along
our side fence—undiscovered
until now. Touching your
water-soaked trumpet flowers
I marvel at how

perfect you are. Why
didn’t I see your
blushing bright cardinal-red 
berries as more than
background noise? How could

I miss your intoxicating
honey-rich smell? Ancient
Rome called you good
luck charms, could you
be what I’ve searched

for—an answer disguised
as hidden treats plopped
into my aching hungry 
mouth? Gritty, muted treasures—
arbutus gems. Help me

truly

see.

Poetry: Frosty

Crystalized tears form soft
uneven lines around youthful
forgiving skin. Bright veins 
turn brittle, trapped beneath 
unspoken truths—too many

days passed under harsh
sunlight. Hollow flowery voices
drowned out by chickadee
songs erupt into icy
frozen maps leading lost

souls nowhere. Glowing warmth
melts away glassy biting
shards—pieces of us
grown frigid. Numbed by
quiet moonless nights, we’ve

wilted.

Photography: Sunday Drive

“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.” -Jack Kerouac

Yesterday I took a leisurely drive with my daughter through the more undeveloped parts of our area. It was a clear, beautiful autumn day and I stopped occasionally to take photos when the roads provided enough space to pull over. My photos this week are the best of those images. I edited them all to have a similar tone. Is it my best work? No. Is it okay to simply like them and not love them? Sure. I’m learning and growing. It’s all part of the process.

These next few days are the final push to finish up NaNoWriMo. I’m behind. I’ve got to write 7,652 words by Wednesday. I’ve reached the “Brain, activate Deadline mode” phase. Here’s where being an unpublished writer gets tricky. Nobody really cares if I make this deadline except me. I have to be the one continuously digging deep to make my deadlines. There are really no consequences if I fail. Yet, I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to let myself down.

To everyone giving me support and cheering me on, thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. May everyone have a wonderful week filled with the things you love best.


  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW

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Photography: Monochrome Nature

“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” -L.M. Montgomery

Yesterday I took family photographs of a dear friend and her beautiful family. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to stretch my photography skills and offer this service to people I love. What I learned was…I need to learn a lot more. Although it went well, as far as flow and everyone staying in wonderful moods, I didn’t do great with lighting or poses. While some of the photos were beautiful, others fell short. Ultimately, I failed in a lot of big ways.

When I woke up this morning I felt defeated and upset. I wanted to do so much better. While I could let this setback derail me, after coffee and a long hot shower, I’ve decided to keep going. I think after the new year I’ll enroll in some photography classes, invest in some new software, and keep trying. Everything is a learning experience and the only way to get better is to keep going.

My photos this week were all taken before the family shots and were edited to be black-and-white. I hope you enjoy them and have a wonderful week.


  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW

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Photography: Effie Yeaw Nature Center

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”―Sylvia Plath

This morning my daughter and I visited the beautiful trails around Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael. A lot of uncertainty circles us right now and being in nature provided a much-needed respite. We saw five baby deer leap across the trail. Two large bucks slam their antlers into each other until one relented and ran off. Squirrels scampering up and down the trees. Salmon jumping out of the river. It felt magical to have this time together.

I hope you enjoy this selection of images and may it bring you a moment of peace.


  • Photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW

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Afraid of the Dark | A Short Story

A long, razor-sharp claw scrapes against the round glass window sending Toothwort Button deeper into the folds of his enormous patchwork quilt. He tries to keep his eyes closed but they pop open as the wooden front door creaks within its minuscule frame. Rolling into a tight ball, he tucks his fingers and toes as close to his body as he can. His fluffy white beard tickles his knees.

Something’s in the house. He feels it inching through the room sniffing at the empty hearth, scraping by his collection of acorn caps, and bumping into his walnut shell bed. Maybe it will leave on its own, he hopes. Pressing his eyes tightly closed and covering his ears with both hands, he lays as motionless as he can, repeating silently to himself “please go away, please go away, please go away.”

When he’s certain some time has passed, he uncovers his ears and listens to the quality of the silence. The creaking of the door remains, but the shuffling and bumping has stopped. To be sure, he listens harder until he can hear the crickets outside and harder still until he can hear the faint babble of the creek.

Pulling back the edge of the blanket he peers around the dark circular room but with the thread-bare moon giving off only a sliver of light, all he can see are wispy shadows darting across the moss-covered ceiling. There’s still plenty of deep darkness where things could be hiding. He’ll have to light the lantern.

With careful, slow movements, he climbs out of bed, slips on his bright yellow wool slippers with upturned toes, and sneaks to the lantern beside the fireplace. It takes him three tries to get the match lit, filling the room with a sulfurous smell and a yellowish glow. After the shadows settle, he can see the room is indeed empty.

“Fiddlesticks and gumdrops.”

Not finding anything is the preferred outcome, of course, but it means he’s still afraid of the dark, and gnomes are not supposed to be afraid of the dark. The realization makes him feel like a silly fool. It’s a good thing he lives alone, for who would want to be friends with an old gnome with watery eyes and stubby fingers who is always scared. It’s laughable.

He kicks at a heap of dried calendula flowers sitting by the front door. In the morning he plans to use them to dye a fresh batch of wool yarn so he can knit himself a new sweater for winter. His old one is full of holes and, although it’s still comfy, has stopped keeping him warm.

Looking at the leafy shadows dancing around the walls of his house, he has an idea. What if he didn’t go back to bed tonight? What if instead, he decides to find out what’s so scary about the darkness? The idea makes him shiver with a kind of energy he finds both terrible and exciting. Maybe he can be brave. It’s worth a try.

Pulling on his old sweater, his bright red pointed cap, and sturdy brown boots, he grabs the rounded metal handle of the lantern and presses open the bark door fully to the night. For a few minutes, he stands on the threshold shivering. This is a very bad idea. A terribly stupid idea. But he’s going to do it anyway.

Toothwort Button lives in the center of a bustling ancient forest, but he rarely speaks to anyone. The creatures he meets are usually too much in a rush and gnomes don’t hurry. This time of year, when the leaves are crunchy and mushrooms are plentiful, there’s no shortage of things to do during the day. He might take a refreshing swim in the creek, forage for rose hips or the last of summer’s berries, or take a walk through the mushroom fields. 

Looking at the darkness around him now, however, he has no idea what to do. Everything is different in the dark—the trees more looming, the air thinner and harder to breathe, and the smells mustier and sharper. He takes a tentative step. Then another.

His boots look odd in the lantern light and he watches them walk over the dark soil as if they belong to someone else. Suddenly his face smacks into something sticky and he freezes. High above, a looming shape lowers through the canopy of trees, a large shiny wet body—a killer whale leaping through the dark to attack. 

This is exactly why he’s scared of the dark. He drops the lantern, closes his eyes, curls into a ball, and screams.

“Don’t eat me!”

“What?”

It’s a thin voice, not at all whale-like, and when he opens his eyes and looks up the creature has stopped a few inches above him. Dangling from a nearly transparent string, it rotates in a circle showing off its eight spindly legs and numerous shiny black eyes. The gnome wants to scream again but realizes it would be rude and instead swallows hard and takes a step backward.

“Are you going to eat me?”

The creature laughs, a soft and not-at-all unpleasant sound. Toothwort smiles and tries to look friendly, but his feet want to run. They wiggle inside his boots.

“Of course, I’m not going to eat you. The name’s Agaric. Agaric the Spider.”

It bobs its big body up and down, and although the small gnome finds it funny, he isn’t sure he should giggle so he swallows hard again.

“I’m Toothwort Button. Toothwort Button the gnome.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, but why are you out so late at night little gnome? You gave me quite a fright.”

The idea he could scare someone else made him giggle and this time he didn’t swallow it. The spider blinks its many eyes at him and smiles widely.

“I’m sorry. I was trying to find out why the dark is so scary. Do you know?”

The spider lifts each of its eight legs as if the answer might be found beneath them, and then shakes its head slowly.

“The dark is the safest time for me. I’m far more afraid of the light, so I can’t help you. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Thank you for not eating me.”

“You’re welcome. Good luck!”

The spider waves all its legs at him which makes Toothwort giggle again. He waves back.

“Thank you!”

Picking up his little lantern, the gnome holds it out in front of him, noticing how the rays of light form a star pattern casting thin straight lines into the darkness. As he walks on, it’s hard to make sense of all the shadows. He knows the forest is filled with rocks, sticks, leaves, tree branches, ferns, mushrooms, and acorns, but in the darkness, they all become unfamiliar lumps.

Squinting hard through the thick trees, he can make out tiny stars dotting the vast blackness of the night sky. While safe in his bed he imagines them as friends watching over him. However now, in the dark of the night, they look more like balls of fire about to flash through the sky to land on his head. Feathery fear prickles across his skin as he walks a bit faster.

A rustling sound in the tree above him makes him jump and freeze in place. He wants to run, but this time his feet won’t listen and stubbornly sit still within his boots. Raising the lantern shakily upward, he expects to see twin gleaming fireballs streaking toward him, but instead finds two sharply pointed ears, two large outstretched wings, and one sniffy wet nose.

This is exactly why he’s scared of the dark! He drops the lantern, closes his eyes, curls into a ball, and screams.

“Don’t eat me!”

“What?”

It’s a squeaky voice, not at all fire-like, and when he peeks through his fingers at the figure above him he finds it hasn’t moved any closer. In the darkness, he can make out soft brown fur and round black eyes. It wiggles its outstretched wings and yawns making a strange high-pitched peep. A red liquid drips from its furry chin.

“You…you…aren’t going to eat me?”

The thing blinks its watery eyes and Toothwort worries it might be crying. Did he hurt its feelings? Before he has a chance to apologize, the thing swoops gracefully and lands on the ground beside him. Toothwort yelps and closes his eyes again. Why must it be so close and why won’t his feet run?

“Of course not.”

It’s making a wet, slurping sound and talking with its mouthful. Toothwort slowly opens his eyes to see it taking bites of a mushy raspberry sitting beside the lantern. There’s sadness in its wide black eyes.

“I’m Puffball. Puffball the Bat. Sorry if I scared you. Everyone is scared of me. Some rabbit called me a ‘depraved monster of the night.’ Can you believe it?”

Toothwort can. Despite being furry, it’s kind of scary with those veiny wings and strange big eyes, but it’s clearly hurting. Brushing himself off and standing he remembers his mother always said “the cure for sadness is praise.” He clears his throat.

“Well, I don’t think it was nice of that rabbit to call you names. You are beautiful with those wide, thin wings. I bet you can fly super fast too. Also, you must be good at finding things because I’ve not found any raspberries for weeks.”

The bat stops eating and stares at Toothwort blinking for a minute until a huge smile bursts across its face. It makes him look a lot less scary and the gnome smiles back.

“What’s your name?”

“Oh, sorry. I’m Toothwort Button. Toothwort Button the gnome.”

The bat pushes a piece of raspberry toward him, but he shakes his head.

“No thank you. I’m not very hungry.”

“What are you doing at night if you’re not eating?”

“Oh, I’m trying to find out why the dark is so scary. Do you know?”

The bat looks around the forest for a minute and shakes its head.

“The dark is the safest time for me. I’m far more afraid of the light, so I can’t help you. I’m sorry.”

The gnome nods. It’s the same thing the spider told him. He wonders if anyone will know. Picking up his lantern he gives the bat a final smile and waves.

“Well, I better keep looking.”

“Bye! Good luck!”

The bat grabs the rest of the raspberry with its feet and swoops into the trees with a graceful back-and-forth motion. He’s scary, but nice too. Pressing the lantern up a bit higher in front of him he continues through the forest.

All around him are unfamiliar shapes and fleeting sounds. Scuttling sounds. Whooshing sounds. Big dark shapes. Small thin shapes. It seems the further he walks from the bat the more fear clings to him. It’s like a rumbling inside, a thunderous feeling climbing up and up from his wee toes to the tip of his bright red cap. Toothwort doesn’t like this at all. He hates it.

Although his feet are still moving forward, he wishes he’d never left the warmth of his bed. Why did he think the answers to why he’s scared of the dark would be found in the dark? All he’s managed to accomplish is finding new things to be frightened of. What if he meets a spider who isn’t nice? Or a bat who isn’t sad? What if he meets something far far worse than both.

Toothwort has always been fond of his ability to play make-believe and imagine things, but it’s not a worthy skill when you are in the dark. He puts together creatures he’s seen in new and frightening ways. A large warty frog with bat wings. A scuttling ladybug with huge rabbit feet. A firefly with spider legs, spitting flames.

It’s at this exact moment when all the fears inside him seem ready to rip through his body and come pouring out into the night, he hears a rustling sound right next to him. Freezing, he moves the beam of his lantern slowly to the left and finds a large, dark bush mere inches from his face. And it’s moving.

This is exactly why he’s scared of the dark! He drops the lantern, closes his eyes, curls into a ball, and screams.

“Don’t eat me!”

“What?”

It’s a soft voice, not at all monster-like, and it ramps up immediately talking faster and faster. Toothwort isn’t sure what to make of this rapid-fire voice in the bushes, but by the time it’s done talking, he’s standing and brushing dirt off his yellow sweater.

“Eat you? Eat you? What are you talking about? You are about to eat me? I can tell with your light…your stomping…your breathing! Let’s make a bargain. Okay? We can do that, right? Right?A deal? You don’t eat me and I don’t eat you. What do you say? Deal? Deal? Deal?”

As it repeats the last word over and over Toothwort sees a small nose poke through the bushes twitching wildly. It’s quickly followed by two almond-shaped black eyes, two small ears, a long slender body, and an enormous bushy tail.

“I’m Truffles. Truffles the Squirrel and I hope you don’t want to eat me. Do we have a deal?”

It thrusts a furry paw out toward the gnome.

“We have a deal.”

They shake enthusiastically until the squirrel, overcome with excitement, sweeps Toothwort up into his arms and swings him around in circles. It’s a bit scary, but also fun, and Toothwort laughs and laughs. They spin so fast that the gnome’s boots fly off his feet disappearing into the night.

“Oh, I’ll get ‘em! Sorry!”

With a bouncy leap, Truffles scurries around in the dark, bumping into things and rustling leaves. In less than a minute the boots are back on the gnome’s feet, but Truffles mumbles quietly under his breath hopping from one foot to the next.

“What’s wrong?”

“You don’t like me. I didn’t even ask you your name and now….”

The gnomes thrusts out his hand.

“I’m Toothwort Button. Toothwort Button the gnome. And I do like you.”

Truffles sniffs loudly.

“You do?”

“I do.”

“Wait? What were you doing before you came across me? Did I stop you from some big quest? I did, didn’t I? I ruined your quest. I spoiled your fun. I’m always doing that. I’m such a silly fool!”

Toothwort is smiling again. There’s something so enduring about this new friend. He’s comfortable around him. It’s as if the broken parts inside him, the things he doesn’t like about himself, don’t matter as much. Taking Truffle’s paw into his hand he wonders if maybe he has the answer he’s been searching for.

“Actually, I’m trying to find out why the dark is so scary. Do you know?”

Truffles jumps into the air, spinning and leaping.

“I do!”

Toothwort jumps to his feet and the two of them dance together, holding hands and moving in a circle, but this time Truffles is careful not to spin him so fast that his boots fly off. When the celebration winds down, Truffles gives him a hug and steps back.

“You are scared of the dark because you are alone. You need a friend and now you have one.”

“I do?”

“You do.”

For a moment Truffles and Toothwort simply smile at each other in the pale golden light of the lantern. Neither of them jumps when an owl hoots in a tree above them or when they hear the sound of a mouse scuttling nearby. They are simply content to smile at each other in the dark.

“Truffles, I have an idea! Do you want to come live with me?”

The second the words come out the old fears inside Toothwort spring forth as well. He was so certain a second ago of everything, but what if this new friend doesn’t want to spend all their time together? What if he already has a friend? Truffles has a strange look on his face.

“Do you need help cleaning? Like a janitor?”

“Oh, no! I mean…like so we can be brave together. So the dark isn’t scary all the time…We could live in my house…together…”

Toothwort feels tears about to spring from his eyes, but before they do Truffles pulls him close whispering “yes” into his bright red hat. Hugging, they stand in the dark for a long time both thinking about what it’s like to not be scared anymore and to have a friend.

Author’s note: This week’s story is dedicated to my darling daughter with big feelings. It might be a silly little tale but it’s full of lots of heart. Sometimes the darkness is shadows across the wall, but most of the time it’s dealing with loneliness and scary thoughts of not being good enough. May you find something here you can cling to.


Short Story Challenge | Week 42

Each week the short stories are based on a prompt from the book “Write the Story” by Piccadilly, Inc. This week’s prompt was to write a story with a good reason to be scared of the dark. We had to include the words a killer whale, depraved, janitor, bargain, dye, fool, heap, kick, praise, and quilt.


Write With Us

Prompt: A deal with the devil
Include: Regime, album, torch, lodge, highway, sandy, rune, contract, taken, suit


My 52-Week Challenge Journey