A month of Spring sunshine and showers went mostly unnoticed by Christopher. He only really left his room for school or on Saturdays, when he would go on long bike rides or walks in the country. He spent most of his time making sure the nose was comfortable, trying to tempt him with different food and reading to him. Christopher had never read so much. They were getting through about three books a week. It was the one thing that seemed to soothe the nose, his breathing would become less ragged and he would occasionally pull himself up onto his nostrils and sit quietly, like an attentive child. These occasions became less frequent, however, as Little Big Nose’s condition worsened. He spent days without moving and became very pale, his wart lost all its colour and the tiny suckers on his back turned from a dark deep red to a deathly grey.
One damp Sunday Christopher finally gave up all hope of Little Big Nose ever getting better. It was a horrible dark day so Christopher was feeling particularly miserable as he read ‘Pinocchio’ to the trembling nose. He mumbled the words half heartedly as he slowly munched a sandwich.
“OK, that’s the end of that chapter,” said Christopher trying to sound excited. “Next chapter tomorrow. It’s a good one, I can tell you. I think he gets eaten by a whale!”
Christopher smiled weakly at the pale nose.
“That crazy wooden kid!”
He gazed at Little Big Nose sadly and turned the radio on. Christopher was just thinking that the nose probably wouldn’t last the day when a small piece of lettuce fell from his sandwich and landed in Little Big Nose’s box.
The nose’s nostrils flared instantly and began to furiously sniff the air.
“You alright?” he said. “What’s wrong?”
Little Big Nose sucked in a huge breath and then blew it out again. He panted lightly for a second and then drew up another nostril full and exhaled noisily.
“Hey, its OK” said Christopher. “Just slow down.”
The panting became faster and louder however, so much so that Little Big Nose jerked violently from side to side.
As the slow seconds passed Christopher watched helplessly as Little Big Nose puffed and spluttered and trembled and twitched. Panic crept up his neck as the shoebox shook and the nose’s gasps for air became high pitched wheezes. Little Big Nose could be dying right in front of his eyes and Christopher had no idea how to save him. He felt completely useless as he watched the nose struggle for breath.
“What can I do to help?” he cried. “Just tell me what to do?”
Little Big Nose pitched frantically to and fro, his breathing fast and desperate and then, just when Christopher thought he had no more puff in him, he let rip an ear piercing sneeze that propelled him high off the ground. He flipped through the air once, twice and then landed, splat, upright on his damp nostrils.
“Bless you!” shouted Christopher’s mum up the stairs.
“Thank you!” called Christopher.
He looked back to the nose.
Little Big Nose wobbled slightly as he got his breath back.
“That was pretty cool,” said Christopher relaxing slightly. “Did you mean to do that?”
A moment passed as Little Big Nose seemed to compose himself. Then he began to wriggle.
He inched forward. Christopher’s mouth fell open.
A short pause.
Another bit of wriggling and nostril flaring moved Little Big Nose further across his box.
Christopher let out an excited laugh. “You can walk … I mean crawl … sort of!”
Little Big Nose snorted out a couple of rasping coughs.
“Take it easy,” said Christopher. “Maybe you’ve had enough exercise for one day.”
The nose wheezed defiantly as he stopped in front of the lettuce, he opened his nostrils wide and began to inhale.
“I don’t believe it!” shouted Christopher as he watched Little Big Nose suck up the piece of lettuce like a vacuum cleaner
“You eat lettuce?”
Little Big Nose sneezed and fell onto his side.
Christopher was amazed. He could just about stand lettuce in a sandwich but it had never occurred to him that anyone or anything would like it on its own. He jumped to his feet.
“Well, I suppose someone’s got to. OK, wait there, I’ll be right back!” Christopher ran downstairs and flung open the door to the larder. He hurriedly tucked a lettuce under one arm and a cabbage under the other.
His mum entered the kitchen wondering what all the commotion was about. “What are you doing?”
“Getting lettuce,” said Christopher. “Oh and a cabbage.”
“Yes, I can see that, but why?” Christopher paused. He had to think quick.
“Well you know Mum, I’m worried about my diet,” he said. “I’m a growing boy and I need to make sure I get the proper amount of minerals and vitamins.”
“So you’re going to eat a cabbage and a lettuce?” Christopher’s mum looked doubtful. “Do you want anything else with that, maybe sugared sprouts for dessert?”
“No, this ought to do it.” Christopher went to leave but his Mum folded her arms and gave him the look.
He was backed into a corner. There was nothing else for it. Christopher breathed in, closed his eyes and then took a large bite out of the cabbage.
His mother’s eyes nearly popped out of her head.
“Mmm…” he cringed. “Not only good for you, but tasty too!”
Christopher’s Mum watched in disbelief as her son ran from the room chewing a raw cabbage.
Christopher burst into his room and spat noisily into the bin.
“Eurgh!” He held up the vegetables to Little Big Nose. “This is disgusting! You like this?”
Little Big Nose’s nostrils twitched instantly.
“Clearly you do!” Christopher ripped off a leaf, rolled it into a long thin tube and offered it to the hungry nose.
With a mighty suck the entire leaf disappeared up Little Big Noses left nostril.
“Wow … you are hungry!” Christopher tore off another leaf. “Would you like some more?”
Little Big Nose let out two strange sounding sighs.
Christopher stopped dead in his tracks.
He rose slowly to his feet, pulled the windows closed on the wet day and switched off the radio.
Very carefully he leant right into the shoebox and lowered his ear to the nose.
“What was that?” he said.
The two breathy sighs came again, but this time Christopher could just make them out.
“Yes … please.”
Little Big Nose followed his first whispery words with another three husky snuffs.
“Chris …. to …..pher.”