“…collect a few hundred leaves. See how many different colours you find and then, the most interesting part, name them.”
(Yelling, in the style of a drill sergeant) The time has come my children! Prepare yourselves for your final orders from me!
(A sound) Whoosh, clicky-clicky click clicky.
Whoa! Whah, hey! YEAH!!
(Calling out, in the style of one communicating with one far away) Well done children! You were well prepared, but a little early.
(Yelling, in the style of a drill sergeant) Next up, get ready! Go!
Yeah! Woo-hoo! Let’s Gooooooo….
(Yelling, in the style of one who is both frantic and scolding) Wait, wait! Not so many of you at a time! We must descend upon them with such ease and grace that they will not suspect a thing!!!
((So go the next days, until at last…))
(Softly, in the style of one who is hiding a sweet sorrow) you have been very patient my little ones. Go now. You are the last.
(Sweetly, in the style of a wise headed child) Goood byyee, mooooth…
(A sad smile, in the style of one who has a tear hanging in the corner of their eye)
Mother. Don’t be sad. I am still here.
(A cry, in the style of one who is shocked) Helga? Helga Bergamot Gertrude the 18th? You should have left with your group yesterday!! Go, go now quickly and no one will notice your absence.
But mother, I’m not ready!
(Confusion, in the style of one with a cocked head) Not ready. My daughter, you have had months to prepare.
I’m sorry mother, but you must understand it’s not my fault. My dressing is not the perfect color yet and my feet are stuck. You know I can’t go until they are loose!
(Flustered, in the style of one who is back pedaling) Yes that is so… Well you must leave the moment you are ready. Absolutely no stall tactics!
Yes mother, no indeed mother.
((And so 3 days pass))
(A question, in the style of one who is concerned and exasperated) Helga, my sweet, are you soon ready?
Yes mother, today is the day!
(A sound) Whoosh, clicky-click.
Oh! I must go NOW!!
(A sob, in the style of one who has realized a sudden loss) Good-bye my Helga!
“Papa, I don’t want to rake any more, I’m tired!” The purple coated child complained.
Her papa paused, resting his hands on the top of the rake handle, considered, “I suppose you’re not too tired to play in the pile of leaves…”
“Oh papa! May I??” She asked with sudden excitement filling her eyes.
“No. Not until we’re done raking.” She looked dejected as he continued. “Then there will be more leaves to make the pile bigger and less to clean up after you play in it.”
“Fine.” She said sulkily as she dragged her rake, upside-down, to the base of the tree line. She flipped it over forcefully and started raking angrily. I caught on the ground, stuck, and then bounced up missing all of the leaves in its path. She tried a few more times with the same result.
“You know,” her papa’s voice came from behind her, “if you rake a little slower, we’ll both be done a little sooner.”
She sighed, her anger dwindling. She knew he was right. She began again, and quickly made her swath along the edge of the leftover leaves. After two more passes, she had to pause to catch her breath as she stood under the arching branches.
A breeze shuffled the bare branches and she tipped her head back to watch them strike each other with a strange cliky-claky sound. As she stared upward, something caught her eye, a fluttering meandering shape. At first she thought it was a bird, but as it drew closer she discovered it to be a leaf.
Floating and twirling it descended, and so intent was her concentration on it that she didn’t hear her papa say something to her, or even realize where the leaf might land. It landed, ever so gently, right on her upturned face. She was startled and jumped back, dropping her rake. Her papa had seen it all and was laughing as he walked toward her.
He watched as she bent down to retrieve to fallen leaf where it now lay alone on the grass apart from the leaves yet to be raked. As he stepped up beside her, she turn her face back up to look at him.
“Papa,” she crooned her face full of awe, “it’s sooo beautiful!”
He looked down into her cupped hands. It was beautiful! Gradating from red to gold with the most perfect brown stem, it was the richest set of colors either of them had seen. It even seemed to sparkle, as if covered in glitter.
Slowly he pulled out his phone and silently snapped a few pictures of his daughter with the leaf, her look of wonderment and awe frozen in place. Then he moved in, getting a few close ups for good measure. She didn’t say anything but suddenly he could see tears brimming in her eyes.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Papa asked growing concerned.
“It’s so beautiful papa,” she said, her voice shaking and her words punctuated unevenly with sniffles, “but we’re going to have to throw it away. I don’t want to jump into the leaf pile if I know I might be smashing this one.”
“Honey, honey, shh. We don’t have to throw this one away.”
She looked up at him again, hope creeping into her eyes.
“You know the book your mama has with all those dried flat flowers in it?” She nodded her head. “We can put it in there to keep it. It is a very special leaf.”
A grin bloomed through the lingering trails of tears and she tackled him with a huge one armed bear-hug, the other arm held straight out keeping the leaf safe.
“I’m going to name it Helga!” The child announced, “like from that movie we watched last night.”
Her papa frowned for a moment before shrugging it off. “Ok let’s go put it in the house now so we make sure we don’t lose it.”
Together they meandered to the house to tell mama about Helga.
(Softly, in the style of one who has made a discovery) Ah ha! So that is why…
I was inspired by the idea of naming beautiful leaves (though here the ground is covered in snow). Then I came up with Helga Bergamot Gertrude the 18th. That sounded like a name you could yell alongside “ATTACK“, thus “the style of a Sargent.” And so it evolved to the story you just read.