Once a little boy was born at the bottom of a long line of other boys and girls. Because he was the very last, all the traits, good and bad, of all the previous children funneled down to him, and filled his little body with all kinds of creativity, ingenuity, naughtiness, and sweetness.
This little boy was peering down at the concrete when we were stopped at a red light the other day. He causally remarked that the street had cracks in it. “I don’t know why it has them,” he said.
“You don’t know?” I asked. I could have told him that as the weather grows colder, the molecules in the concrete freeze, expanding and pushing against each other until finally, the road heaves up and falls back down again, divided. I could have told him that, but instead, I told him the truth. “Well, there are little tiny elves with little tiny pickaxes who come out to mine the concrete. They collect the rocks from it to build their castles.”
“Hm,” he said, accepting the truth as only a child can. He was silent for a long while, before he asked me to explain exactly how small the elves and their pickaxes were.
“Oh, I’m not sure. Pretty small, I would imagine, since we can’t see them. No one has ever seen them, you know.”
“I can see them,” he said, looking out the window and at the street.
I was surprised. I’d never known anyone who could see them before. “You can? Well, how big are they?”
He sized them up. “About the size of penguins.”
This was bigger than I had expected.
When we were leaving the store a half hour later, he stared at the ground as he held my hand across the parking lot.
“There are more cracks here,” he said, but I didn’t hear him. I was distracted by other things. “There are more cracks here,” he repeated, tugging my hand.
“Yes, the elves have been here, too.”
“Ah, yes!” I said, remembering. “You’re right. We just can’t see them.”
“Because they’re black.” He climbed into his car seat.
I thought I understood. “Oh! So they can blend in because the road is black.”
He looked at me from the corner of his eye, then double-checked the road to make sure nothing was wrong with his own sight. “No.” he corrected me when he had made sure. “The concrete is purple.”
I saw that he was right, and I shook my head as I drove home. I had thought I had all the answers, but it was clear now that he was much more in touch with reality than I.
Images courtesy of LJHolloway Photography, @mybabydom, and nos.twnsnd.co/search/child+in+car