The next morning Christopher strode out onto a fresh blanket of dew. As the distant morning sunshine shone through every drop the entire garden sparkled with a thousand dripping jewels.
Little Big Nose poked his nostrils from Christopher’s coat pocket.
“Spring,” he snorted. “May be my favourite season. All the wonderful new smells. The grass, the trees, the blossom.”
Christopher walked Little Big Nose around his patch of land and told him about his gardening techniques.
“Basically, I let anything grow.” He glanced disapprovingly over his shoulder at his mum’s nice neat lawn.
“I like a bit of a jumble … I mean … I think its wrong to cut your grass all the time and have perfect square hedges. Nature is meant to be wild … not neat and tidy…” Christopher thought for a moment as he tried to find the right words.
“It’s like seeing lions at the zoo,” he said eventually. “It just doesn’t seem right some how.”
“So your garden is like a wild lion!”
Christopher pointed out various sections. “I’ve got all sorts in here. Roses, leeks, tulips, poison ivy … I did have a Venus Fly Trap once, but…he couldn’t cope with the English winter.”
Christopher looked around the jumble of leaves, branches, vines and blossom.
“The only plant I don’t let grow are thistles!”
He told Little Big Nose about the screaming game he liked to play when weeding them.
“It sounds like your garden gives you a lot of pleasure.”
“And we haven’t got to the best bits yet!”
Christopher leapt into the chaos and began to point out his various ornamental displays … the swamp of no return, the baby frog playground, the doll’s graveyard…
“I think that not only are you a very good gardener,” said Little Big Nose. “You are also a fine artist,”
“An artist,” Christopher felt a bit embarrassed. “I’ve never thought of it like that.”
“Well you are. I think your work with gnomes shows particular promise.”
“Oh that reminds me!” Christopher reached down into a large grassy section.
“This is Arnold!” Christopher held the gnome in-front of Little Big nose. “Do you remember him?”
“I most certainly do,” said the nose. “And I would like to offer my sincerest apologise to your gnomey friend…”
Although Arnold smiled his usual smile, he refused to look at the nose and stared resolutely into the distance as always.
“Don’t mind him,” said Christopher with a smirk. “He doesn’t talk much … “
Christopher placed Arnold back in his usual spot and took Little Big Nose from his pocket. He wrapped him in a sock he had bought out especially and placed him on a large rock. Christopher pulled up the little stool he kept in his garden and sat opposite, looking at Little Big Nose with intense curiosity.
“So … Little Big Nose …” he began slowly. “Last night, maybe I didn’t hear right, but I am sure you told me that your mother was a slug.”
“I believe I did Christopher … yes,” replied Little Big Nose slowly.
“So …” said Christopher jiggling his knees. “What’s the story … if you don’t mind me asking …”
For a moment more Little Big Nose said nothing. Then he snorted out a hearty laugh.
“Of course I don’t mind!” he said and wriggled about in his sock, making himself comfortable. ”What better time to talk of beginnings … than on a beautiful spring day!”
Christopher sat forward and listened intently to the nose’s wheezy whisperings.
“My story begins with a full moon.”
“A while ago … long before I can remember, my mother sat all alone under the light of a marvellous full moon,”
It was the voice Little Big Nose had used the night before whilst talking about all the creatures that lived in the garden. Christopher decided it was one of the best sounds he had ever heard. It drew you in ever so gently and then painted incredible pictures inside your head.
“My mother said it was the most wonderful night she had ever seen. Thousands of stars freckled the sky and the fat yellow moon seemed bigger and closer some how, as if it were hanging just beyond the clouds.”
“I love full moons,” said Christopher wistfully.
“So do slugs,” replied Little Big Nose. “And all other creatures now I think of it. Maybe it is the one thing that all beasties agree on: That a full moon is truly a very magical and mystical thing.”
“There’s just something about a full moon that makes you feel really…” Christopher faltered, once again searching for the right words. “Really … alive.”
“For a human you are a most perceptive character,” said the nose.
Christopher smiled shyly.
Little Big Nose continued, “Anyway, on with the story … so there was my mother … crawling along, enchanted by the night’s spectacle. She crept for hours, just looking at the sparkling sky and taking in the smells of the evening, lost in her thoughts. Eventually she realised, however, that she had travelled a little too far and had no idea where she was.”
“Was she scared?”
“Not at all. She was a slug remember … Here is a little riddle for you: Why is a slug never lost? “
Christopher thought hard for a moment.
“Because of their trails!” he shouted feeling very pleased with himself.
“Precisely,” replied the nose. “Wherever a slug wonders in the whole wide world … there is always a shining silver path just behind them, ready to lead them all the way home.”
“That must be very handy!”
“Yes, indeed it is,” said Little Big Nose. “My mother was just turning around to trace her trail when she saw the most unusual thing … a glowing bush.”
“Glowing?” Christopher looked doubtful. “She really saw a glowing bush?”
“Although this story is true it does not mean that all of it happened,” said the nose with a chortle. “My mother, like all good story tellers, was prone to exaggeration. And anyway, it wasn’t the bush that was glowing really.”
“What was then?”
“I was,” replied the nose. “My mother said that when she looked into the branches there I was: covered in green glowing goo.”
“Well, you were pretty gooey when I met you,” grinned Christopher. “But you weren’t glowing!”
“Apparently I was an incredible but sad sight. I was small and pale and I sniffled and snuffled. My mother said she had never seen a beastie look so alone.”
“So she took you in?”
“Yes she did,” said Little Big Nose. “She adopted me as a slimer of her own and I grew up as a slug … as part of the herd.”
“Didn’t you stick out?” said Christopher. “I mean … wasn’t it odd, being the only nose?”
“Not at all. In fact for many years I thought I was a slug.”
“But surely you must have noticed something was different.”
“Not at all. In many ways I am just like a slug. I trundle along slowly, I sometimes leave behind me a glistening trail just as they do. I was brought up exactly the same as all the other baby slimers: on a healthy mix of riddles, philosophy and greenery.”
“So that’s why you like cabbage and stuff?”
“Yes, and thank you by the way for that delicious meal last night,” said Little Big Nose politely. “I always knew I was not my mother’s birth child but I had no reason to think that I wasn’t a slug.”
“So you were a bit like Tarzan growing up with apes.”
“I have no idea who or what Tarzan is, but I’m sure your probably right.”
“So how did you find out?” asked Christopher. “That you weren’t a slug I mean. It must have been a bit of a shock.”
Little Big Nose fell silent.
After a long pause he said quietly, “Well, that Christopher, is another story entirely. And one better left for another day.”
“You don’t have to tell me at all if you don’t want to,” said Christopher. “I understand.”
“There is an old slug saying,” said the nose solemnly. “Given time … a sad story will tell itself.”
“OK … “said Christopher not really understanding but eager to change the subject. He jumped to his feet and was just about to continue his tour of the garden when he felt something prickle his leg.
He looked down and there was the thistle that he had poured Little Big Nose’s snot over a few weeks ago.
“So it doesn’t work as weed killer…”
“I beg your pardon?”
Christopher laughed to himself, “Oh never mind … it’s a long story, and I’m not as good at telling them as you are.”
He reached down, grabbed the thistle and yanked.
“AAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!” The cry echoed around the trees and bushes sending birds flapping into the air.
“That really is a gut wrenching thistle scream you’ve developed there,” said Little Big Nose.
But Christopher didn’t reply.
“What is it?” said the nose.
“That wasn’t me…” said Christopher in whisper. “It wasn’t me that just made that horrible screech.”
He looked around the garden nervously.
“And if it wasn’t me. What was it?”
Little Big Nose, sniffed the air. “I can’t smell anything out of the ordinary.”
Christopher looked down at the thistle in his hand. He was sure it twitched a little.
“Why do I get the feeling that I’ve just done something really terrible?”