THE NOSE THAT NOBODY PICKED
“Most trails start in Spring…”
Famous Slug Saying
A Very Strange Thing
Early one sparkling Spring morning, the Postlethwaite’s garden echoed with cries of agony and terror.
Past Mrs Postlethwaite’s nice neat lawn, beyond the row of trees, within an overgrown jungle of plants and flowers … something screamed.
A tangle of vines and branches shook as the terrible shriek ripped through the air.
A boy’s head appeared above the chaotic undergrowth and looked around. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and then plunged back into a bush. Another cry shattered the silence..
Christopher Postlethwaite was weeding.
Christopher didn’t really mind weeds in general, they were all welcome to grow on his patch of land … except one.
“Thistles,” he muttered as he yanked one of the spiky plants from the ground. As he threw it over his shoulder the nine year old let out a blood curdling yell.
Although he hated thistles, Christopher rather enjoyed weeding them. He liked to imagine they cried out in pain as he wrenched them from the earth. It made him feel better about all the times they prickled his hands.
“Yeeeeeaaaaaghhhh!” he roared as the last thistle flew through the air.
He took off his gloves and surveyed his work.
Christopher, a keen but unconventional gardener, was particularly proud of his ornamental displays. Vicious looking gnomes guarded the entrances to mysterious caves; toy soldiers slowly sank into dark and smelly swamps and headless dolls with arms outstretched walked through the wilderness, like zombies stuck in an endless game of blind man’s buff…
“Looking good and not a thistle left standing,” he said. “Not bad for a mornings work!”
Then, a very strange thing happened.
He heard a sneeze.
This was very strange because there was no one in the garden except him and he was pretty sure he hadn’t sneezed.
“Hello?” he said. “Is anyone there?”
It was a busy Spring morning with all its usual activity. The birds were building their nests and the spiders were hanging their webs; all about him the garden was preparing for another year but Christopher couldn’t see anything that might have sneezed.
“That’s odd… I’m sure I heard something…”
The animals and insects continued busily about their business, crawling and climbing around the trees and plants. Everything seemed normal.
Christopher shook his head.
“Must be imagining things…”
He brushed himself down and looked at the pile of thistles at his feet.
“Right!” he said as he scooped up the weeds. “It’s the compost heap for you lot!”
Christopher dropped the thistles and glared around.
“Now I definitely heard that!” He stood perfectly still and listened very carefully.
A faint sound was coming from the other side of his garden.
“What is that?” He took a few steps toward the noise and then froze.
A patch of tall grass was moving in a very odd way and something or someone was wheezing. He had to strain to hear but it was definitely there: A heavy panting sound. With every huff and wheeze the grass trembled.
Christopher’s felt his heart beat quicken.
“Probably just a sick badger … maybe a fox…” he said but reached down for a gardening fork all the same. There was something about the wheezing that didn’t sound quite right. It didn’t sound like any animal he knew. He held out the fork in front of him.
“Better to be safe than sorry…”
Christopher took five small silent steps towards the rustling greenery.
“Its OK” he called. “You can come out. I won’t hurt you.”
As he crept closer he could hear the breathing more clearly. It just didn’t sound normal. It seemed completely out of place, like it didn’t belong there. Whatever it was, Christopher was sure that it wasn’t in its natural habitat. Maybe it had escaped from a zoo.
He felt the back of his legs tremble as he stood over the wheezing grass.
He steadied himself and then peered into the foliage. “Right, lets have a look and…”
Another sneeze, the loudest yet, burst from the grass blowing dandelion seeds and a wet sticky spray into Christopher’s face.
“Yeugh!” Blinded by the goo and seeds Christopher stumbled backwards into a bucket, then forwards into a rake, which flew up and thwacked him on the nose, which pitched him backwards again. He cluttered over his rockery and fell, with a heavy thump, right onto his bottom.
The rustling stopped.
The garden fell silent.
Christopher rubbed the gunk from his eyes, felt the bump on his forehead and angrily squinted at the grass which now stood perfectly still.
“Time for a change of plan I think,” he said as he scrambled onto his hands and knees. “Lets try this another way.”
The breathing began again, but quieter this time: A sad sniffling sob. Christopher crept catlike toward the mysterious sound. When he was as close as he dared he reached out and carefully parted the tall grass.
Arnold, one of Christopher’s gnomes stood amongst the weeds and small flowers.
Christopher watched him intently.
If he wasn’t mistaken, Arnold was moving ever so slightly. It would have been easy to miss, but the gnome was definitely wobbling, just a little, but wobbling none the less.
Also, Arnold looked weird.
There was something wrong with his face.
Christopher crawled closer.
“What’s going on here?”
Arnold’s nose was bigger.
Although Arnold smiled on stiffly as always Christopher could tell he wasn’t happy with the situation. This was because damply suckered to the middle of his face, between his two rosy cheeks, was a big nose. A very big nose with a wart on its end. And it wasn’t a nose made out of clay, like the rest of Arnold. This was a real nose, a proper human nose, made out of flesh and bone.
Christopher’s jaw hit the floor.
The nose shivered slightly and a steady glistening flow of snot poured from its nostrils and dripped down Arnold’s red shirt. Arnold grinned bravely on, however, and looked blankly into the distance.
‘What’s a nose doing in my garden?” said Christopher.
The nose sneezed again, blowing more mucus over the gnome.
Christopher closed his eyes tight and then took another look, just to check he wasn’t going crazy.
The nose was still there … still clinging to Anold’s face.
“A nose … a living nose … hiding in my garden.” It seemed to make even less sense when he said it aloud.
Christopher glanced around and bit his lip.
“Who’s going to believe this?”
The moment the answer to his question struck him Christopher felt a pulse of excitement run through his whole body.
No-one would believe this. It was utterly extraordinary.
Nothing like this had ever happened to any one … ever. Yet there he was, Christopher Postlethwaite, staring a living nose right in the nostril.
“This is pretty incredible,” he said “I mean … YOU’RE pretty incredible.”
The nose dribbled some more.
Christopher winced, “Yucky … But still incredible.”
The nose huffed out a long wheeze.
“OK right. First things first: you don’t look very well. Have you got a cold?” The nose just sniffed.
Whatever was wrong with the nose Christopher knew that the Spring dew and chill in the air would not be helping.
“I can’t just leave you here; you look frozen to death. And besides … you’re making a terrible mess of Arnold, OK … Look, I’m going to pick you up, take you somewhere warm; don’t be scared.” Christopher braced himself and reached down.
It felt cold and damp like a frog. Christopher winced as he gave it a gentle tug. The nose came free from Arnold’s face with a long, wet, sloppy, plop.
Christopher placed the nose on the palm of his hand and lifted it up to get a better look. It was shaking, and thick green bubbles were popping from its nostrils.
“Where did you come from? Do you have an owner urm, I mean … is there a face somewhere that’s missing you?”
The nose just lay in his hand, trembling. Christopher inspected it closely. The really odd thing about the nose (apart from the fact that it was a breathing human nose that he’d found in his garden … which was odd enough), was its back. Christopher had never seen the back of a nose before, but he was pretty sure that they didn’t usually look like this one. Where the nose had stuck onto Arnold, where a normal nose would usually join a face, this one had a hundred little suckers. Lots and lots of tiny, dark red suckers. They reminded Christopher of the small sea-urchins he often found in rock pools on holiday that would stick to his fingers.
“This just gets stranger and stranger.” The nose sneezed again and although it was a bit disgusting to be holding a dribbling nose Christopher couldn’t help feeling sorry for it. It was clearly in a very bad way.
“HAVE YOU GOT A NAME?” asked Christopher slowly and loudly, like he was talking to his deaf granddad.
The nose let out a damp sniffle.
“Well, you’ve got to be called something, I’m going to give you a name even if you haven’t got a clue what I’m saying. Let me see … How about Nosey! No, umm OK Warty-Tip! Oh no … oh dear, that’s terrible. Urm…”
Christopher wrinkled his forehead.
“Right, let’s think about this properly. You’re a nose … you’re a big nose. No offence.”
The nose spluttered weakly. Christopher didn’t think he had hurt its feelings. He continued with his train of thought,
“But really, even though you’re a big nose you’re still just a little thing; look, you can easily fit on my palm.” Christopher looked to the sky for inspiration. A tiny sparrow with a big twig in its mouth darted across the blue in a flurry of wings and chirps.
“I know!” he said. “Little Big Nose, we’ll call you Little Big Nose!”
He smiled and then stared at the nose with a firm determination.
“Come on! Let’s take you inside and get you warmed up! Arnold, you stay where you are, I’ll come and clean you up later!”
Christopher put Little Big Nose in his pocket and ran through the line of little trees, over his mum’s nice neat lawn, through the back door and straight up the stairs and into his room.