Home > Gossamer(3)

Gossamer(3)
Author: Lois Lowry

"You are not concentrating!" Fastidious's voice was exasperated.

"Sorry," Littlest said apologetically, opening her eyes. "I was just thinking—"

"That's the point! You are not supposed to think! Focus on your form and will it to break down and dissolve."

Dutifully Littlest tried again—carefully not thinking, not paying attention at all to the thoughts that tried to swim into her mind, the questions about dogs, or wings, or all the many things she wondered about—and when she did that, focusing only on her own small form, she felt it begin to happen for the first time. She felt the pieces of her, the very tiniest pieces (she did not know if they even had a name) begin to separate.

"I'm doing it!" she called out gleefully. "It's working!"

Then, of course, it ended. Littlest opened her eyes, knowing she had done it, at least a little bit, and hoping for praise from Fastidious.

But Fastidious had disappeared.

"Where are you?" Littlest called in alarm. Then she realized. "Oh, my goodness! You've dissolved!"

In front of her, particle by particle, Fastidious reappeared. She had a very annoyed look.

"Two things," Fastidious said. "One, do not ever call out when you are mid-dissolving. See what happened? The instant you cried, 'I'm doing it!'—"

"I stopped doing it," Littlest acknowledged, abashed.

"Two. Never, never, never call attention to the fact that someone else has dissolved! This was only a training session, of course, but if we had been out there..." Fastidious gestured toward the larger world, the human world. "Well! The reason for dissolving is to become—what?"

"Invisible," Littlest whispered.

"And we need to be invisible why?"

"So that humans won't see us. Or know about us."

"And if I am dissolved, out there, in the human world, and suddenly someone screams"—she glared at Littlest and imitated her voice with a shrill sarcasm—"'Oh, my goodness! You've dissolved!'"

"I'm sorry," Littlest said.

Fastidious sighed. She was tired and had a touch of headache. She didn't like children and was impatient with inexperience.

Perhaps it was a good thing that now Thin Elderly would take over the training of Littlest One.

5

Now morning came. The woman rose slowly. She was wide awake—she always woke early—but her joints were stiffened by sleep and she sat at the edge of the bed for a while, moving her ankles and knees, telling them to wake up and get going.

She had a sense of humor about herself.

"You make me feel like the Tin Woodsman in The Wizard of Oz," she said to her left knee. "Rusted and immobilized. I wish I could oil you."

She stood, after a moment, and stretched. Her nightgown was flowered flannel, the small bouquets of sweet peas on it faded from repeated washings. She slipped her bare feet into worn blue slippers.

"Good morning, Toby," she said, looking down at the dog, who yawned and thumped his tail. "What about some breakfast?"

Slowly Toby roused and stretched, his nose to the floor while his rump rose. He watched while she put on a robe and tied the belt. Then he followed her into the hall, down the stairs through the front parlor into the kitchen, and stood patiently beside the cupboard where his food was stored. He watched while she filled a kettle with water and set it on the gas burner. He watched while she found a teabag in the canister, took a thick brown mug from a cupboard, and dangled the teabag in it. He watched while she dropped a slice of bread into the toaster and turned the toaster on.

Finally she filled his bowl and set it on the floor beside the stove. Then, when the kettle whistled, she poured the steaming water into the mug.

"Another day," the woman said, as she took her plate of buttered toast and her cup of tea to the table. She unfolded a flowered cloth napkin and placed it in her lap after she had sat down. Toby, finished now with his gulped breakfast, curled by her feet in a spot where sun, finding its way through the small-paned window of the old house, had outlined a square on the floor.

"We'll take a walk after I get dressed," she told him. "How about that? It looks like a lovely morning."

Toby drummed the floor with his tail. They took a walk every morning unless the weather made it impossible. They always walked to the corner, turned left, walked past the Methodist church—many squirrels there, on that large lawn, but Toby no longer bothered about them—past the house of the young couple with the new baby, and across the street to the small park with the diagonal path where sometimes they stopped beside a fountain.

Resting on the park bench, the woman would listen to the birds and watch young parents push small children on the nearby swings as Toby sat attentively at her feet. Then they would continue on, around the next corner, and then the next, making a complete square and returning home. It was a short walk, but all that she could manage.

He dozed while she ate. She continued to talk to him though she knew he was asleep. She had no one else to talk to, no one but Toby. She had outlived many of her friends, as well as several earlier dogs.

Life had become very lonely for the woman, but she was accustomed to her solitude. She sipped her tea, sighed, and fingered a folded letter and its envelope that lay on the table. With a worried look she thought about the way her existence was about to change.

6

"Whatever became of Rotund? He used to curl near you in the daytime Heap." Littlest was chattering as she set out for the evening's work with her new supervisor. "I remember that you and Rotund used to tell jokes to each other. He always told one that started, 'A horse went into a bar.' W hat's a bar, by the way? I never understood that joke."

Thin Elderly shook his head and chuckled. He did like little ones, it was true, but he could see that this curious chatterbox was going to be a handful. "Shhh," he said. "Remember that we always move quietly."

"I am," Littlest whispered. "Look! Tiptoes!" She pointed to her own transparent, delicate feet. She skipped along beside Thin Elderly.

"I was just wondering about Rotund," she added. "I liked him. And I know he was a friend of yours."

Thin Elderly frowned. The thought of it was painful to him. "He turned menacing," he told the little one. "We'll say no more about it. He is gone."

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