Camille and Lolita walked up to a little house in the middle of the forest that rested beneath a gigantic, snow-white cherry blossom tree that stayed in bloom year round. In Fiddlewood, it is said that 5-Year-Old Con’s cherry blossom had roots so spectacular that they stretched all the way to the core of the world so the branches could reach the heavens! The house, however, was only 5 feet tall, but still consisted of two full stories, an elaborately decorated wraparound porch, light blue shutters on every window, and a small driveway. Though the curtains were almost always pulled closed the exterior was beautiful enough to persuade travelers that the interior was just as warm and comfortable. Over time 5-Year-Old Con’s little house became somewhat of a roadside attraction.
“This is where 5-Year-Old Con lives,” said Lolita, yanking her neck at the collar that tied her to the leash.
“It’s quite a lovely little place,” said Camille.
“I suppose if you’re into that sort of look . . . Now let me go, you treacherous beast,” said Lolita.
Camille hesitated, thinking of keeping Lolita for future company if just for the time being, but soon dismissed the thought and carried out her part of the bargain like Lolita had carried out hers. Lolita shook of the displeasure of having the lace tied around her neck, then straightened her posture and turned to Camille. She stared her in the eyes, blinked twice in a loving, inviting manner then swiped at Camille’s ankle with her paw. Camille jumped back with a screech as Lolita straightened her pose. “Silly girl,” she said, licking her paw as if nothing had happened. But Lolita’s petty victory was short lived. She darted into the woods once Camille twitched her body like she was going to dart towards her. With a delighted chuckle, Camille mockingly said, “Scaredy Cat,” then fixed her dress in preparation to meet 5-Year-Old Con.
She walked up to the small house, shrinking as she got closer, until she was on her knees just outside the front door trying to peek passed the closed curtains. “Hello? Is anyone home?” She waited for a response but none greeted her, so she got onto her hands and gently knocked on 5-Year-Old Con’s front door with one knuckle. “Hello…” she repeated, but there was still no answer. Then she heard an elated giggle followed by the cries of immediate regret from behind the house.
“Oh no, oh no! This is not good; not good not one bit,” said the voice from behind the house.
Camille peeked her head around the house to see what the commotion was and to her surprise was found watching a rather large young man, certainly not a little boy, romping around the grassy patch with his hands on his head as if he had made a huge mistake.
“Is something wrong?” asked Camille, as she climbed to her feet?
“Yes!” He shouted with both hands in the air. “I’ve ruined it!”
Camille made her way into the grassy patch and was shocked to see 5-Year-Old Con was taller than she and looked nothing like a little boy; and was in fact, closer to her age than his maturity showed. “What seems to be the matter?”
“I put a hole in the forest!” bewailed 5-Year-Old Con.
Pure curiosity widened in Camille’s big brown eyes. “May I take a look?”
“Oh, what’s the use,” said 5-Year-Old Con, plopping his butt in the grass. “I dropped my shovel, and then I dropped it again, and then I dropped it again… I didn’t mean to.”
Camille walked up to the hole in the grass, a plastic shovel was lying next to it and a small pile of dirt was piled neatly on the other side. She looked in the hole, which was only about a foot deep, and could not understand why 5-Year-Old Con was so distraught. She looked at 5-Year-Old Con, his head buried in his palms to muffle his worried murmuring.
“Wow!” she exclaimed, grabbing 5-Year-Old Con’s attention. She walked around the hole staring into it with her index finger and thumb on her chin like a scholar analyzing a work of art. “This is a fantastic hole.”
5-Year-Old Con got to his feet and walked over to Camille, “It is?” he questioned.
“Oh sure, I’ve never seen one quite like it,” she said.
“No, never! It’s just deep enough to do exactly what we need to do!” cheered Camille.
“It is?” asked 5-Year-Old Con, completely blown away.
“It’s the very best hole for the job,” confirmed Camille. A smile stretched across 5-Year-Old Con’s face. “You know what we should do with a perfect hole like this?” asked Camille playfully.
5-Year-Old Con’s tongue shot out of the corner of his tightly sealed lips and began to squirm up and down while he considered the options. As if a light bulb had went off, his eyes shot wide and he exclaimed confidently, “We fill it back up!”
Camille squealed a giggle so pure that she got the hiccups, so when she tried to say, “Exactly, but first we should plant a seed in it,” she was constantly interrupted by her hiccups. 5-Year-Old Con could not help but fall to the grass in laughter. Camille began to laugh with 5-Year-Old Con, joining him on the grass, but 5-Year-Old Con’s attention quickly shifted to the wonderful surprise that Camille had found a shoe without a lace! “Where did you find that shoe?” he marveled.
“I didn’t find it. I had two but I lost the other,” said Camille.
“My shoes ran away when I was a kid. Still haven’t found em,” said 5-Year-Old Con, as he wiggled his toes for Camille to see.
“You know what?”
“What?” asked 5-Year-Old Con, excitedly.
“I think this shoe is going to run away too,” and with that Camille pulled it off and flung it into the woods. “Much better,” she declared, while wiggling her toes with 5-Year-Old Con. “A Cherry Blossom seed should be a perfect fit for your fine hole,” she said from behind her wiggling piggies.
“You seem to know more about planting seeds than me, so I’m sure you’re right,” said 5-Year-Old Con.
“There’s some right there. Should we pick one?” asked Camille.
“Yes, but under one condition,” said 5-Year-Old Con.
“And that is?”
“First one to pick up the best seed with their toes and put it in the hole, WINS!” said 5-Year-Old Con, before shooting up to his feet and racing over to the tree, closely followed by a giggling Camille. 5-Year-Old Con picked up seeds one by one with his toes and brought them to where he could see them before discarding them and moving on to the next. He moved with lightning speed, filing through dozens of seeds before Camille could even manage to pick up three with her toes. He was looking for the biggest seed of the bunch, because what his toys had taught him is that the bigger the better. However, while he was stuck in this linear form of thinking Camille was simply looking for a pretty seed to plant; and once she found one that matched the color of the leaves she hopped over to the small hole with the seed wrapped in her toes. “I win!” she exclaimed, as she spun around to 5-Year-Old Con with her skirt twirling about her.
“No way, how’d you do it so fast?” said 5-Year-Old Con, as he hopped over with his seed still wrapped in his toes. He brought it up to eye level after looking at the seed that Camille had chosen and said, “Mine is so much bigger. There’s no way that’s the best seed.”
“The biggest seed isn’t always the best. It’s what’s on the inside that counts most. That’s what makes us special,” said Camille.
“Are you sure?” asked 5-Year-Old Con.
“Of course I am. You can’t judge a book by its cover; sometimes they just call you to their shelf and you open to the first page without a second thought. This seed called to me,” said Camille.
5-Year-Old Con picked the seed out of the hole and began to inspect it like the scientists he had heard so much about. “Yes, I think you’re right. This seed has perfect weight . . . and it’s certainly round enough, not to mention the color,” said 5-Year-Old Con, as professionally as he could muster.
With a little giggle Camille picked the seed from 5-Year-Old Con’s open palm and said, “Well let’s not waste any more time in planting it then.”
“Together?” asked 5-Year-Old Con.
“Together,” agreed Camille. They gently lowered the seed into the hole, both of them keeping two fingers on either side of the seed’s body, then pushed the pile of dirt back into the hole with their bare hands and patted it down.
“Now what?” asked 5-Year-Old Con.
“Now we let it grow,” replied Camille.
“How long will that take?” asked 5-Year-Old Con.
“As long as it needs,” replied Camille.
“That sounds like it could take a long time,” said 5-Year-Old Con.
“It’s a mystery,” said Camille, while drawing a smiley face in the loose dirt.
“Want to play a game with me while we wait?” asked 5-Year-Old Con, excitedly.
“We certainly have the time,” said Camille, with an interest that made her forget about the music, if just for a little while.
5-Year-Old Con grabbed Camille by the hand and they ran over to the little house under the cherry blossom tree. He opened the top of the little house slowly, like he was revealing the grand prize of Camille’s day, then as the first few toys came into view he swung it open as fast as he could saying, “Tada!” Wooden toy cars, plastic tools, balls of all shapes and sizes, action figures, building blocks, toy swords, and so on were piled on top of one another until they were nearly overflowing.
“Oh my, what a collection!” said Camille, as she picked up the first toys she could see: a large bouncy ball. “But how do we get at all the toys at the bottom?” asked Camille.
5-Year-Old Con took a step back and said, “Lift the latch and pull.”
Camille looked at him, her big brown eyes burning with excitement, then whipped her head back to the latch and yanked it loose without a second thought. Camille’s pleasure radiated in her startled eyes as the back of the house swung open and a wave of toys poured out onto the grass. She squeaked a squeaky squeak that awoke the kid inside her, and for the first time since she bloomed in Fiddlewood she felt like she was there simply to play with a friend and enjoy every day as if it were the last. She plopped down on the ground at the edge of the toys, where they had finally stopped overflowing, and picked up a coloring book.
“She looked up to 5-Year-Old Con with wide yes, “What now?” she said.
“We play!” said 5-Year-Old Con, diving into the toys. And play they did. 5-Year-Old Con and Camille colored in the coloring book of dragons, fairies, stars, planets, and all sorts of images of the cosmos until they could not resist picking up the kaleidoscope to look at the trees like they were distant worlds. It was not long before they found their way to the yoyos and began to twirl them as fast as they could in big circles, which naturally came to an end when 5-Year-Old Con bonked himself on the forehead. At any rate, it was on to the next game. A sword duel ensued under the cherry blossom tree to decide who would pick the next game. A mighty contest of agility and skill played out until 5-Year-Old Con was reduced to one leg and a missing hand. He admitted defeat, but Camille stabbed him anyway, giggling while 5-Year-Old Con acted out a long drawn out dramatic death of loud cries and squawks. Camille decided that they would play kick ball with one another, which just so happens was one of 5-Year-Old Con’s favorite games. They played for hours until the game stopped without a word or a winner. They dismissed the ball and simply decided to climb the cherry blossom tree together.
“I like you,” said 5-Year-Old Con, as he hung from a branch above Camille.
Looking up to him, his curly hairs falling toward her, she said, “You don’t even know my name.”
“A name is a name. It is how you play that makes you who you are. And you’re good at playing,” said 5-Year-Old Con.
She did not know what to say. Her eyes remained locked on 5-Year-Old Con’s and his to hers. His eyes told her that they did not expect anything from her, nor were they promising her anything outlandish, like the sun or the moon. He, in the simplest of terms, liked Camille.
“My name is Camille,” she said.
Smiling at her, 5-Year-Old Con said, “Care to hang on this here tree branch with me, Camille?”
“You’re one of the strangest people I’ve ever met,” said Camille, as she climbed up to the branch 5-Year-Old Con was hanging from.
“Peculiar,” corrected 5-Year-Old Con, as Camille swung upside down with him, falling down to his eye level.
“Is that why Lolita was calling you 5-Year-Old Con?” asked Camille.
“I love that Kitty Cat!” said 5-Year-Old Con through a fit of laughter, “and besides everyone calls me 5-Year-Old Con.”
“Why? You’re not even five years old,” said Camille.
“It’s because I’m a kid at heart. It’s in my nature. Kind of like your being beautiful is in a flower’s nature,” said 5-Year-Old Con. They hung side by side simply taking in the others company in silence. Camille felt differently about this boy, and was beginning to roll the words “I like you too” over in her mind. “Can I show you something I’ve never shown anyone before?”