Alice, Grillo and the Arma-Armadillo
Along the road she dawdled, looking into every garden on the way. Some had dogs sitting in windows, some were full of old toys, some had cars and vans. But one garden caught her eye.
Getting down on hands and knees, she peered in through the overgrown gate, wild with ivy and brambles. The old iron fence was falling away under her fingers, and she carefully pulled back a long spiny branch to get closer to the gate. The flaky red paint showed underneath layers of purples, blues, a pink, and the rotten brown of the iron, escaping after years of paint-prison.
What had caught her eye? A bird bath, stone, aged, small and round. Inches of green water shimmered in the weak spring sun. And there at its edge a robin. Fluffed brown and crimson with stick legs just like she drew them. It sat still, cocking its head and peering towards her with one slick eye. No blinks, just a beady stare.
A twig cracked in the garden, the robin disappeared. Alice jumped as an eye met hers. Milky grey with a frame of wiry hairs, this eye seemed to see right through her and out the other side. Alice recoiled, getting to her feet, and came face to face with an old man. He was no taller than her, which wasn't much. Without a word he asked her to stay there as he shuffled back into the cottage.
Alice looked this way and that. The road was empty. The robin now watched her from a nearby hedge, but she didn't see it. Alone she wondered what was in store, what the old man wanted her to wait for.
He returned after some minutes, doddery on the path of broken slabs, holding a small blue book.
She took it from his hand and looked at the cover. "Alice, Grillo and the Arma-Armadillo". She didn't know it. She looked inside. The words looked strange. Small black letters making words and phrases still unknown to her. She smiled and thanked the man, and was pleased to see him smile at her too. He held out his hand to shake hers but she ran off with the book, to her place behind the park wall.
Sitting in the sun, away from the wind, Alice spent an hour mouthing through the first page. She didn't understand the story, but she could make out many of the words. She knew this book was going to be important to her, and that she needed to read it herself. She took it home under her cardigan and kept it under her bed in the shoebox for special things. Along with the scented rubbers, the chocolate wrappers and the tiny baby doll in a blanket the book lay. The words longed to be read, the cover longed to be opened, but life and time intervened and Alice forgot about it.
By the time she opened it to read it, her hands grown long and nails well-kept, the magic of the phrases no longer worked on her. A children's book, she deemed it, and read it with a weary eye. The words now seemed worthless, her sophisticated tastes needed intrigue and metaphor. But the old man sprung to mind, as did the robin, and the gate. And for a few seconds she was transported to a magical place, where days were long, and time seemed infinite.
(This is a title I dreamt of over the weekend, I told a friend about it, and she's expecting me to write a piece, so here it is. Totally off the cuff, so forgive me if it's crap.)