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Story Time: Solitude

This month’s story is a little bit short. Just like Tode. Who it’s about.

I’ve been very busy! Who hasn’t! So I find my mind turning to Tode, the king of disappearing for years in the woods. Until, of course, he doesn’t. Enjoy!

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“Cousin Tode, do you like parties?”

Tode wasn’t surprised by the appearance of little Helix on his stroll through the woods; he knew he was being followed, and she was not very subtle. He was surprised by the way she just appeared beside him and started asking questions. Questions were, he suspected, her thing.

“I don’t know,” Tode said. “I’ve never been to a party before.”

“Never?” Helix gasped. “Not even one time?”

“No,” Tode said, amazed once again that this was unusual. “Do people really have parties that often?”

“I mean, not like every day,” Helix said. “I think Owen would die.”

“Why would Owen die of parties?” Tode asked, genuinely curious.

“He doesn’t like it when it’s too loud,” Helix explained.

Tode understood that very well. “How many parties have you been to, Helix?”

“Um?” Helix started counting on her fingers, and then ran out of fingers, and then said, “A lot.”

“You can’t count them?” Tode was actually shocked.

“Well there’s birthday parties, and town festivals, and stuff like your party coming up, for stuff that just happens!” she said excitedly. “There’s holidays and when someone moves house and when there’s a new baby or a wedding—”

“That is quite a lot,” Tode said, frowning.

“Mama says it’s important to celebrate,” Helix said sagely. “It makes you stop and pay attention to good things.”

Tode considered this. He generally had no problem existing in the moment, but it occurred to him that since he had been with his friends, stopping to appreciate things didn’t come nearly as easily. There were things to do, after all, people’s thoughts and feelings to address and consider, conversations to have, things to participate in. It was gratifying in a different way, but he still valued the moments he could go outside and find a tree to curl up in, by himself.

Now, though, his…his father insisted he sleep inside, and the man seemed so ebullient that Tode could hardly refuse him. Tode had never had a father before, and it had been a long time since he’d felt small and cared for, but his father managed to cause that feeling in him effortlessly. He wasn’t quite calling the man Papa yet, but it was only a matter of time.

But because he was sleeping indoors and spending nearly every waking moment with Cybilene and his father or his friends or all the various family members that he was just now meeting, he was almost never by himself.

“Cousin Tode, where are we going?” Helix asked presently.

“There’s a large hollow tree nearby that I think would be perfect for sitting in,” Tode explained. “I was hoping to be in nature for a while.” And if he was very still and quiet, eventually Helix would get bored and wander off.

“Oh, Owen’s already in there,” Helix said offhandedly. “I don’t think he’d like it if you tried to be there with him.”

Tode stopped. Of course, he should have realized that such an excellent tree wasn’t unknown to the nearby villagers, but he couldn’t help but be disappointed.

“Why do you want to go be in nature?” Helix asked.

…Perhaps the impulse to trick this child into being too bored to stay wasn’t very kind.

“It’s a bit like a party,” Tode said, after a moment of thought. “The purpose of a party seems to be that you take the time to appreciate what is good. But I need time to take note of everything else as well.”

“Oh, you want to be alone to think,” Helix said cheerfully. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”

Tode was taken off-guard, surprised by her understanding. “Is…is that unusual?”

Helix shrugged. “That’s why Owen’s in the tree. I’ll leave you alone.” She threw her arms around his waist in a hug. “Bye Cousin Tode!”

“Oh!” Tode hugged her back, bewildered but with fondness. “Goodbye Helix. Be safe in the woods!”

She waved to him before going back the way she came.

Tode waved back as he watched her go until she was out of sight. How wonderful to know that even in his wish for solitude, he was not alone.

Feeling welcomed all over again to his family, Tode set off to find a convenient tree to nap in.

Published inStory Time