By Caroline Taylor.
Would you look at that! She’s on her knees, her feet tucked beneath her, in the grass beside the flower bed. What’s she up to? It’s a cold, raw day, and her not even wearing a sweater! You can’t help spying.
The blessed warmth of the sun penetrates your shawl, easing the stiffness in your shoulders. Somewhere in the branches of the apple tree nearby, a mockingbird is running through his repertoire. Purple and yellow crocuses toss gaily in the wind, and wispy white clouds skitter across the blue sky. Like a fairytale princess in a trance, however, the object of your surveillance seems to be mesmerized by those flowers.
Her hair, the color of wheat fields at harvest time, has been braided into two pigtails, each tied with a pink ribbon. She’s wearing a white organza pinafore over a flower-patterned cotton dress that’s the same shade of pink as the hair ribbons. She’s probably heading off to Sunday school as soon as her mother gathers up the prayer book and her gloves.
She’s got to have blue eyes, doesn’t she? Otherwise, the picture before you—remarkably like one of those you used to love to look at, over and over, in your old Sunday school book—won’t be perfect.
Then she jumps up, startling you. But she’s not looking at you. She’s twirling madly across the emerald lawn, as the wind catches her skirt and sends the pink pleats swirling up around her waist.
Just as suddenly, she stops and looks down at her chubby knees. Even from your hiding place, you can see that her legs are a bit soiled, her knees imprinted with grass stains. Somebody’s going to be in trouble . . .
She’s leaning forward now, pigtails swinging down in front of her like two pliable stalks of corn. She brushes the dirt from her legs, and then she sticks her finger into her mouth before rubbing at the grass stains. This takes a while, but she seems pleased with the results.
Oh, dear. Look at her once-white Mary Janes. They, too, are smeared with dirt and grass stains. You can hear her say, “Oh-oh.”
Crouching down, she uses both hands to brush the dirt off her shoes. But, when she tries the finger-with-spit-on-it ploy, her face darkens, and she sits back, scowling.
You want to warn her about the back of her dress getting stained. You could tell her she needs a little soap and water to get those grass stains off the shoes. But spies don’t ever reveal themselves.
Then she rolls over onto her stomach. Not the front of your dress, too! Your mother will have a conniption.
What’s she doing? Well, you can see that. She’s scissoring her legs back and forth, rubbing the tops of her shoes into the grass. Then she sits up and does the same thing to the inside and then the outside of each shoe. What you really meant is what’s she trying to accomplish?
The screen door clacks shut, and Mother, gloves in hand, crosses the lawn. She stops, hands on hips. “What on earth, Nell?”
The little girl jumps to her feet and sticks one leg out. “I greended my shoes, Mommy. Aren’t they pretty?”
CAROLINE TAYLOR’s short stories have appeared previously in A Long Story Short and in other online and print magazines. She is the author of two mystery novels,What Are Friends For? and Jewelry from a Grave. Visit her at www.carolinestories.com.