2011 HASA Birthday Stories
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Nath's 2011 Birthday Presents: 1. Mrs. Parish Remembers Mr. Niggle - Aiwendiel
(inspired by "Leaf, by Niggle")
Mrs. Parish frowned out her side window at the overgrown tangle that had once been the garden of her neighbor, that odd little man, Mr. Niggle. She sighed, for Niggle was gone now, and while he'd lived there she hadn't really appreciated him for the good neighbor he'd really been. She and old Parish, her husband, had gotten many a good laugh over the strange little fellow's attempts at so-called 'art.'
"Amateurish," Mr. Parish had scoffed. "Dreamy, that's what he is…"
"Not a practical bone in his body," she had agreed, "and has the garden to prove it, all gone to seed again, him neglecting it for that silly painting…"
Her man Parish was an excellent gardener, and she prided herself on her ability to put up green goods and jams and things for the winter months. But Parish's lame leg had gotten worse and worse, and their own garden began to look a bit more like their neighbor's.
Then the bad year came, when she fell ill with a fever, and the storms kept coming and coming, and the roof leaked and the window wouldn't fasten properly. Parish did what he could, but he was lame, and always in a foul mood when the weather turned, for after all his leg did pain him so in the damp.
She had to admit that Niggle had been a right good neighbor then, getting a good soaking when he rode his bicycle to fetch the doctor for her, and climbing about on ladders in the chilly rain to help Parish fix the roof. Then things had gone from bad to worse, for though she had recovered quickly from her little case of the grippe, poor Niggle got sicker and sicker. Parish was frantic over it, and when the little man finally died, her husband took ill himself. About the only good thing to come of those terrible months was that their roof was finally repaired—though it still made her feel a bit guilty when she gazed up and saw the faint reminders of Mr. Niggle's canvas up there by the ceiling, with those silly twisting branches and little fancy leaves he used to spend so much time perfecting.
Then Parish was gone, the lame leg having somehow gotten an inflammation in it that turned into a sickness of the heart. Mrs. Parish lived in the old country house all by herself. She missed Parish something awful, and found that she missed odd little Mr. Niggle as well. The new neighbor was downright unfriendly in comparison. He was a sour-faced gentleman who claimed to be someone 'important' in the township, not that such things impressed Mrs. Parish. All she knew was that the grumpy fellow never said so much as hello, never offered a hand when she struggled to keep the country house from falling into ruin, and was even a worse gardener than Niggle had been.
One night Mrs. Parish fell asleep in a chair in the corner of the sitting room where the ceiling and roof had been patched with a piece of Niggle's canvas. Her eyes drooped, and she slid right into a sort of a waking dream. It seemed to her that she was floating up toward that small patch of painted canvas, and then the paint disappeared and the twisting branches and fancy little leaves were real and shifting in a pleasant breeze. It wasn't late evening any more; the sun was shining, and she was walking in a lovely forest. She stopped and looked up in amazement, for there before her was a beautiful Tree, the one that Niggle had been painting for all those years and had never finished!
She stood looking up at the Tree, smiling happily to herself, when in the distance she heard the hoot of a train whistle. She turned, and looked down a little green slope—one that she was fairly certain hadn't been there when she'd started on this nice little walk—and right at the foot of the slope, a bright shiny blue train engine sat at a railroad platform, with a single carriage behind it. Now she was absolutely certain that a train and a train station hadn't been there before; she could hardly have missed seeing it! But that didn't matter, because she was curious, so she walked down the hillside to the platform.
A very nice man stepped out of the small building near the platform.
"Good morning! I am the Porter. When you are quite ready, I am here to take you on to the next place…"
"The next place?" she said hesitantly. "Why, I don't even know what this place is called, nor how I came here!"
The Porter's pleasant face was creased with a smile, and he laughed, and Mrs. Parish thought it was the most delightful sound she had ever heard.
"This place?' he said. "Why, this is Niggle's Parish, by the Bay! The train will take you right into the heart of it… and they'll be waiting for you, I'm quite certain!'
Mrs. Parish looked up the green slope and at the lovely trees with their twisting branches and tiny, ornate little leaves, each one unique and as beautiful as a tiny jewel—and she thought about her old neighbor, and her husband…
She smiled as she stepped into the carriage. "I'm ready, Mr. Porter! I'm ready!"
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