Nutlidge ~ Chapter Three

Chapter Three

A Nutty Discovery

All of a sudden the gum leaves parted and Sky was staring into two blinking white eyes! They were hosting a huge nose and feathery hair. Its face was kind of lumpy, and it was upside down.
As quickly as it had popped out it hid itself again. The sudden happening caused a whole pile of tiny nuts to fall on the floor at her feet. The first thing she noticed was that all the little gumnuts weren’t the same. There were a variety of them. Her thoughts on this moved fast and she realised that whatever it was had just lost half of its bagful.
“Wait! Hold on a minute!” She said, trying to gather them up at her feet. “I think you’ve dropped your nuts!”
She didn’t see the creature peering from around a bunch of gumnuts to her left. It hid again, slowly peering out from another position. As Sky stood waiting for some sort of reply, the creature changed its peeping position quite drastically, as if it was a monkey swinging around a tree. Sky caught sight of it and tried to follow its movements with her eyes.
“Hello, would you like me to help you with your gumnuts?” Then there was silence. Nothing moved.
“Are you still there?” She called again.
All of a sudden, a large gum leaf up in front of her shook once and before she could think again, the creature fell from the leaves head first onto the floor in front of her.
It looked terribly funny and Sky was half laughing and half shocked. But the little creature jumped up from embarrassment and composed itself in a very shy sort of way. He rubbed his head and put his nut cap back on.
Sky couldn’t believe her eyes!
There stood the cutest little creature she had ever seen or even imagined. He was only about eight centimetres tall. It looked like he was made up of some of the nuts and seedpods she had in her collection at home, with a kurrajong pod for his body and a cyprus pine nut for his head. He had a chickpea nose and his hair was feathery. It fluffily and floatily protruded from under a long seedpod cap, which bent over at the tip.
He had stick legs, big boat feet and a long tail. He was dressed in a feather covering his front, and had a tiny gumnut drink bottle hanging from a twine belt. She was peering down at him. He was looking up at her, and she seemed a hundred times bigger than him, and his knees began to tremble.
Sky sat down on the branch and tried to make herself smaller. “It’s alright,” she said gently, “I’m not going to hurt you,” and smiled at him.
The scared look on his face began to change to a more curious one. He suddenly got excited, realising that she was a friendly creature, and he jumped up and caught a small twig in his tail. He did a somersault or two before hanging upside down for a moment.
Sky began to giggle. “Look at you! You’re so cute!”
The little nut person somersaulted off the twig onto the bough and cleared his throat. “Wow! You are the biggest fairy I’ve ever seen! Pleased to meet you! I’m a Nutley and my name’s Curley. What’s yours?”
“Sky. Pleased to meet you.” She shook his tiny hand gently. He was only a young nut person, ‘probably only about nine or ten years old,’ thought Sky. It was a little hard to tell.
“I couldn’t help notice that you’ve lost your wings!” He said pointing to the absence of them. Is there anything I can do?”
Sky giggled, “I’m not a fairy, although I wouldn’t mind being one for a day. No, I’m a Human. I’m visiting my grandma, and this tree’s in her garden. I can’t believe this is happening!”
“But how did you get up here?” He asked.
“Well, I climbed up.” She replied, thinking this was obvious.
The little nut boy looked at her curiously. He had heard about humans but had never met one. His knowledge of humans wasn’t all that positive, but he kept an open mind.
“Um, well, would you like to come up and meet my Pop; he’s just up the branches a little.”
Sky looked in surprise, “Really! You mean there are more of you here?”
“Yup!” He nodded, picking up his gumnuts at the same time, “There are lots of us, come on, follow me, and I’ll take you.”
He got a head start, but he led her further up the tree, swinging from twig to twig like a spider monkey. She couldn’t help laughing at him, because he was very comical indeed.
They went up the tree quite a way before they stopped.
Curley scratched his head, “Well he was here, he must have gone further up,” and continued on his way.
“Curley,” said Sky trying to keep up with him, “Does your Pop collect nuts too?”
“Oh yes!” He said, swinging his way towards her a little and speaking in between somersaults. “I am collecting things to help him make natural teas.”
“Really! You mean he’s a doctor?” She replied, stepping over a rather large twisted vine.
“Well, actually he’s a herbal alchemist.” Said Curley stopping on his feet for a moment.
“That’s even more cool! Um, hold on, what about all the nuts you dropped, don’t you want a hand to gather them up?”
“No it’s alright thank you. I think my Pop will be more interested in you than my gatherings today.” He swung himself over and around another large vine and walked with her a little, adjusting his cocoon bag as he went.
As they went up the tree’s great bough, Sky noticed that there was more and more moss. It was like walking on grass, and the walkways were lined with tiny flowers and mushrooms. Bunches of gumnuts she saw on her way were all different.
“This tree is amazing, it’s got all sorts of gumnuts and flowers growing in it,” said Sky, picking a tiny blue flower.
“It is a very magical tree. It’s older than time itself you know!”
He stopped for a moment and looked at her with a smile on his face. Just then another voice called out, “Curley! Curley where are you?” A taller and older nut man swung out from the gum leaves landing perfectly on his feet and carrying a large bag of gatherings.
He only caught sight of his young one from the angle he came in on, and came to a stop in front of him. Sky was standing behind the older nutley.
“Curley, where have you been? I’ve been calling you for ages! I was beginning to think you had missed a branch and fallen down the tree!”
“It’s okay Pop, I’ve been talking to Sky here. Let me introduce you…” He gestured towards Sky. As his father turned around he got the shock of his life and shot up the tree like a jack in the box! He came back down, composing himself and straightening his half moon glasses.
“Ahem. Well, my goodness! Er, you’re a size! Ha! Well, well! Pleased to meet you Sky. My name is Galley Mum… I mean Badly Done… Oh! I mean, Malley Gum!” As he straightened his specs up again he held his hand out for her to shake it.
Sky giggled.
“Sky’s a human Pop, she climbed up the tree,” Curley told him excitedly.
“Well. Yes! It certainly looks that way, and what an adventurous soul you are! Can I invite you up for tea perhaps?”
“Oh that would be nice, thank you,” Sky replied and followed them up the tree bough, trying to imagine what size their cups might be.
The tree had become even more like a beautiful garden with flowers and shrubs growing from the moss. It was quite bright and very lush.
They came upon what looked like someone’s garden setting with all sorts of flowers and vines and shrubs growing in a delightful manner. Then they came to the tree trunk, which had the most gorgeous little doorway. The same as the one Sky had seen her dream! The door was the shape of a big gumnut and the handle was a golden gumnut. She had been grinning and feeling so excited that her cheek muscles began to hurt.
Malley Gum asked her to wait for a moment and excused himself while he fetched something. She could hear water running and enquired about its source.
“Oh, we have our own natural streams here,” Curley replied happily. “The tree is so tall it creates its own rainfall. Over the centuries it’s gouged some great waterways into the tree. It has its own ecosystem.”
“Wow! That’s awesome,” said Sky, fully understanding what he was talking about. “We just learned about that at school.”
Malley Gum emerged from the doorway carrying the largest vessel he could find. He had used a large gumnut that was normally used for their water jug. “I hope you don’t mind drinking some tea from this? I have made it quite strong.”
It was all the same to Sky, she took the cup, which would have fit over her thumb and thanked him for the drink.
“Now,” he said to her, “I have put some of my herbal potion of ‘Changeabilitea’ in there. I’m sure you would like to be the same size as us while you are visiting?”
Sky just nodded, suddenly convinced that she must be dreaming! She did as he instructed and poured the Changeabilitea under her tongue and held it there while she thought of becoming smaller. Instantly, she saw glittering movement of circling purple and blue mist and she shrank down to the same size as Curley within seconds.
“Wicked!” She said, grinning from ear to ear as she looked at herself in amazement. Of course, the tree seemed to become even more ginormous!
Curley and his Pop looked at each other briefly at her reaction.
“How do I get back to my normal size again?” asked Sky.
“When you are ready, I shall give you another drink of this and you only have to think of being your normal size and it shall be so… Now Sky, may I invite you in for a more sociable cup of tea?”
“Yes please! Oh this is so exciting,” she replied, and followed her new friends into the tree house, hardly being able to contain the excitement she felt.
Sky took a deep breath when she got through the doorway. It was just incredible.
They had walked into a huge round room with poles, or tree veins, left here and there in between the different sections of their house. She saw a food preparation area with a cutting block near the front doorway. Surrounding it was net shelving crammed full of fruits, nuts, berries, and all sorts of teas. Countless little bags hung from the netting with labels on them. The table and chairs in the eating area were made from bark and sticks, all exquisitely carved and designed to accompany their tails as they sat. The wooden shelves along the wall both sides of the doorway were packed with gumnuts of all shapes and sizes. There were bottles with caps, cups, dishes, mugs, teapots and urns, and more food stocks. There were also dried flowers and herbs hanging from the ceiling, and an array of dried roots, seeds and green gumnuts of all varieties. The windows were carved out of the trunk also, and you could see a little way up the branch from the washbasin near the front door. The place was crammed with nutty cupboards and drawers spilling over with alchemist’s tools and paper scrolls. There were beautiful pot plants everywhere.
They led her into the sitting area where the lounge chair was a silkworm cocoon stuffed with feathers. A few smaller ones were made into cushions. There were sketches in round frames on the wall capturing elder relatives and special people. They also had a piano of sorts, a writing desk, and half dozen quills in a pot on top of it and little ornaments of crystal and stone decorated the room.
“It’s just gorgeous,” said Sky as she walked around the circular house. The three bedrooms all had their own four-poster beds draped with spider webs and beads. They were separated from each other with beautifully painted silk hangings. There were matching side tables and chairs, clothes hanging behind curtains, and a variety of feather attire. The mirrors in each room were made out of beetle wings and there were various pictures on the walls.
The curtains and cushions throughout the house were a variety of fabrics, from silk curtains which had also been hand painted, to woven feathers, to what looked like thick cotton type prints. Sky was mind boggled with all this. She pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Curley came running around the curtain, swung onto his top bed frame bar and somersaulted onto his bed. “You can stay with us for the night if you like.” he said excitedly.
“Thanks Curley, but I must get back, my grandma will wonder where I am.”
“Aw nuts.” said Curley, disappointed for just a moment before letting her know that tea was served. She was led back to the eating area where she sat down and thanked Malley for her drink once again.
“Sorry to have left you halfway through the tour, my last herb batch has just finished brewing.”
“That’s fine really! I love your house, it’s gorgeous!” Replied Sky looking around still and trying not to miss anything.
“Ah well, we have to give Florrel the credit for the trimmings. That is my partner, and Curley’s mum. She is off out collecting mushroom at the fungi farm, and won’t be back for a while,” said Malley, putting his cup in front of him and sitting down to join them.
“Well Sky! This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often. It must be like a dream to you. How are you feeling?”
“Oh I feel great! It’s the best dream I’ve ever had. I finally got to go through the door!” She beamed.
Malley could see that she hadn’t realised yet that this wasn’t a dream! He was keen on introducing her to his friend, Yellow Flower.
“Well, we don’t get too many humans up here,” he said. “The last one was a young boy back in the 1800s. He spent a few years coming up here as a child but the older he got the less we saw of him until he stopped coming altogether. We never saw him again. Pity, he was such a nice young lad. From what I remember, he was quite brave too.”
“That might have been my great-great-great-great grandfather, Edward Lawson! He brought the land all those years ago when he grew up and it’s been in the family ever since.”
“Well I must say your family has done a great job in keeping this forest together all these years. It’s a great thing that they have done for our people and the animals.”
“Are there a lot of your people here in the tree?” Sky inquired.
Malley Gum looked at Curley and said with a smile on his unusual face. “What do you say Curley, should we show our guest around?”
“Great idea! Let’s go!” He flipped himself over on the spot to show his excitement. He took off outside and whistled an unusual tune while Malley grabbed his cocoon bag and showed Sky out the door.

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