The wind filled up my windbreaker, thankfully, and I coasted right along.
The valley just smelled so good. So green and strong.
And the ocean smelled strong as well. I attempted to snatch a fish, but … my arms weren’t elastic enough. Close, though.
There are many things to admire about the ocean. Besides the smell. The sound is so strong. It’s a good home, too, for so many animals that can swim.
In the middle of the ocean was a hill. There was a man on a hill. He was sitting on a tall stool. A good place to land, I thought. At just the right moment, I shut my windbreaker, and tumbled down in the grass.
The man didn’t come to help me at all, even though I moaned and groaned like I was hurt. Though in reality I wasn’t. Probably a bruise on my kneecap.
At first I didn’t recognize him, on account of the direction in which his head was turned. But then he turned it, and I did recognize him.
It was the Pedagogue.
He used to live in town but we threw him out of town. Now he lived out here.
He was sitting in the middle of the hill, looking forward, which I guess was west. The sun was setting.
He had only a tiny bit of hair, around the edge mostly, but a little on top that was wispy like smoke only it was red. It hardly seemed connected to his skull. It was like hovering question marks, like he was a mysterious person or something.
Also, he had glasses.
“What are you looking at?” I asked him.
“The sun?” I asked, a minute later, when he didn’t answer.
He just wouldn’t answer, so I sat down in the grass. And then I lay down in it.
“It’s so beautiful. It is all so beautiful. I can’t believe my luck. To have been born on this planet. Have you ever seen such beautiful grass, the beauty of it? And thickness? It feels just wonderful. I may just be a cloud.” I was lying in the grass and rolling all over in it like a baby. In the long-haired kind of carpet.
“It is velvet bentgrass,” said the Pedagogue, at last, turning his head (though not his body). “Agrostis canina. Indigenous to these parts.”
“Say,” I said. “Did you know this velvet bentgrass is full of little caterpillars?”
“Yes,” said the Pedagogue, without even looking. Then he jumped off his stool, and bent down to examine the grass. Then he climbed back onto his stool.
“These are the larvae of the Zabulon Skipper,” he said, “one of several species of butterfly which feed on Agrostis.”
The sun was almost down, now. There were some dark birds in front of it, but I couldn’t tell which kind on account of the distance.
I tried pulling grass out by the handful. Then I sprinkled it over my hair.
“Why do you live here?” I asked. “On this hill?”
The Pedagogue moved his jaw from side to side. And then he said:
“I am studying the Zabulon Skipper. Any minute now – for years, have I waited – the larvae – the caterpillars – will transform. Into Zabulon Skippers. And when they do, I shall be ready with my net, and sketchbook.”
There was a butterfly net, plus a sketchbook, plus a variety of coloured pencils, sitting in the grass under the stool.
“I shall make highly realistic drawings of the Zabulon Skipper,” moving his jaw again. “And sell them.”
“Where will you sell them?” I asked.
“Overseas,” was all he said.
The caterpillars were just adorable. Soft and green. They were eating the grass, which was also soft and green, and so they looked just like the grass. I watched one of them climb to the top of a blade of grass, then wave the top half of its body in the air, looking for more grass. I got so caught up with its cute antics that I didn’t notice, at first, that the Pedagogue had started talking again.
“My old life shall expire. I shall live no more in the skin of dead dreams.”
I imagined the Pedagogue wearing a bear suit.
I think he reminded me, in the way he talked, of my Aunt Maybelline, who died of swallowing things. She used to swallow things that weren’t to eat, like pencil sharpeners and gum erasers. Eventually that kills you.
He kind of reminded me, as well, of a teacher who’d been in the news, for doing something terrible to children.
“Are you sad?” I asked him, trying to look sad myself. But it was hard, with the grass, and the caterpillars, and the last bit of sun, to feel anything but complete joy.
The Pedagogue bent his head, and sighed.
The ocean is like a teacup that’s so large you can’t see the edges of the cup.
“I remember when you used to live in town,” I said. “Wasn’t that last year?”
I think – there may have been a tear on his face. Though it was hard to tell, with the sun going down.
The sun sank lower, lower. Just a sliver. Like if it was the last bit of pie, you’d say, “You can have this one, dear. I’ll catch the next one.”
I think … we were both thinking of something to say.
And then it happened.
It was like … someone gently shut a hundred doors at once. Or opened up a hundred popcorn bags, letting the steam escape.
For such a whirring cloud of Zabulon Skippers rose up that I was I must admit completely out of breath with astonishment. One, two million, easily. They were just all over my face, and tickling so much I was laughing. I needed to use the toilet.
Well, the Pedagogue was so eager to jump off his stool, to jump off and grab his butterfly net, that he jumped too hard, and landed completely in the sea.
I think he must have drowned. Because he didn’t come back.
So I threw his stool, and the butterfly net, and the sketchbook into the sea, too. Because I didn’t need them. Although I kept the coloured pencils.
Then I flew home.