A Gentle Whisper (part 4 of The Nose That Nobody Picked)

Later that evening Christopher placed Little Big Nose on his window sill. Although the nose was still pale and sneezed and snuffled, he had eaten his fill of lettuce and cabbage and was definitely on the mend. The rain had passed and Little Big Nose asked Christopher to place him next to the window so he could get some fresh air.
Christopher gently put him down and looked at him with quiet awe.
“I don’t understand how you can talk … and how you can understand me.”
“As you read to me, Christopher, I listened and I learnt…”
Christopher had to make sure he listened hard. Little Big Nose’s voice was a gentle whisper.
“And I would still like to know how Pinocchio ends…”
“You learnt English just like that?” Christopher was amazed. “I’ve been doing French for a year now … and I still haven’t got a clue!”
“Well, I have always tried hard at languages,” said the nose. “It can be very difficult to get to know someone if you can’t understand a word they say.”
“Can you can speak other languages too?”
“I’m proud to say that I can. I speak mole, sparrow, frog…”
“You can talk to animals! That’s amazing!” Christopher sat on the edge of the bed and stared at Little Big Nose intensely. “I’d love to be able to do that! You really are incredible.”
Little Big Nose’s pale nostrils flushed a deep pink. It was the first time Christopher had seen a nose blush.
“We are all incredible … in our own way…”
“So can you speak to every sort of animal?”
“Not at all,” said the nose. “For a start a lot of creatures don’t want to talk. Trying to strike up a conversation with a toad is a very tricky business.”
Christopher experienced the same tingle of excitement that he had felt when he first found the nose. Once again, he was being given a glimpse into a strange and secret world that no other person had ever seen.
He wanted to know everything.
“What are badgers like?” was the first question that jumped into his head.
“Lovely creatures. True gentle beasts. But ever so shy…”
“Snails?”
“Snails … snails are, in many ways, the dimmest slimers that you will ever meet.” The nose paused for a moment and snuffled thoughtfully. “But you can’t blame them. Any animal that carries its home on its back is always going to be a little simple. To never have to think about where you’ve been or where you are going maybe very convenient … but it is terribly bad for the brain.”
“Tell me more!”
So Little Big Nose told Christopher all about the garden and the animals that lived there. He told him about the birds, who always seemed to be in a rush, silly, noisy creatures who never stopped to think, and about the foxes who passed silently in the night, gently singing ancient songs about their freedom, and about the giggling newts and the babbling blue bottles, and about the chubby caterpillars who spent their whole lives looking forward to the few crazy days they spent in the sunshine, transformed into a beautiful butterfly.
Christopher sat on the edge of his bed, enchanted.
“So who are your favourites? What’s the best creature in the garden.”
“Slugs,” replied Little Big Nose instantly. “Slugs are by far the most wise, kind and noble beasts you will ever meet.”
He paused for a moment before adding, “But maybe I am a little biased.”
“How come?”
“Because my mother was a slug…”
Christopher was just about to ask how a nose can have slugs for parents when his mother shouted from the hall.
“Christopher Postlethwaite! Bedtime.”
Christopher quickly lifted Little Big Nose off the windowsill and placed him in his shoe box.
“Hold tight. I want to hear more about these slugs.” He slid the box under the bed just as the door swung open.
“Pyjamas. Now!” declared his mum.
Christopher opened his mouth to protest.
“You’ve already been up half an hour longer than usual.”
Christopher huffed and grumpily got ready for bed.
His mum tucked him in and kissed him on the forehead. A tiny smile played upon her lips.
“Did you enjoy your cabbage supper?”
“Most nutritious,” replied Christopher very seriously.
“Next time … let me make you a salad.
“Will do.”
”Well, goodnight then,” his mum stood up and ruffled his hair “… you strange little boy.”
Christopher waited until the door had closed and he was sure his mum was back downstairs in front of the TV
He reached under his bed and slid out the shoe box.
“So… Did your slug mum tuck you in at night?”
But Little Big Nose was already fast asleep. Exhausted by his long day he was snuggled in amongst the cotton wool and was snoring contentedly.

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