It was a Thursday morning early in January when I returned to my room from eating breakfast downstairs and clicked on my dresser lamp–it was a very gray day–and caught a set of bones out of the corner of my eye.
“Ah, happy new year!” I said, smiling, keeping about what I was doing, which was lighting a candle next to my lamp. I moved over to my bookshelf and lit another candle. “I’ve had a lovely morning; I just made myself some eggs.” I picked up a glass of water from my bedside table and gently poured it over my peace lily, which was bursting out of its ceramic pot with large green leaves. I set down the cup and picked a pair of jeans off the floor by my bed, tossing them into my laundry basket. I grabbed a receipt from the floor as well and threw it away in the waste basket. My room was about halfway on its journey to being clean… ish… er.
Finally I turned to look at the little skeleton that had appeared with me today, to see an 8-inch Ned Theodore Ed standing on my desk, arms crossed and foot tapping.
I laughed and sat down at my desk chair, saying, “Yes, I know! I’m done with my fussing–for now. If I don’t keep up with the clutter, I’ll get too far behind!” My little skeleton friend shrugged, and I added, “But yes, hello, N.T. I’m giving you my attention now.”
He put his palm to his chest and then gestured to me with his hand held out, which is how N.T. lets me know, “Hello, friend.” N.T. is not so good with speaking, because he doesn’t have a voice box (he gave up looking for it a long time ago), so N.T. has to be creative with his communication. Usually he writes.
I hadn’t seen him since before the holidays, so I asked him how his season has been. N.T. looked around to find something to write with, and noticed he had one foot on a pad of Post-It’s. He grabbed a pencil sitting by him and started writing a response. It was sort of endearing to watch him wield a pencil almost as tall as he was, holding it as though he were in a sort of an awkward dance with someone a little too short for him. After a moment, he stepped back, and I read his message.
I HAD A NICE WINTER SOLSTICE WITH MARGARET, TALIA, AND REID. WE MADE DINNER AND PLAYED GAMES ALL EVENING. HOW ABOUT YOU?
“Christmas was good for me,” I replied, looking up at him, his bones looking grayish white in the light from the window by my desk. “I had a couple different get-togethers with all my family. Oh, Terri says hi. We talked about some of your adventures this year at one of my family parties. You know, N.T., you and I, we had a good year!”
N.T. ripped off the top Post-It because there wasn’t any room left and tossed it to the side so he could write on a fresh piece.
YES, WE DID! I MET SO MANY BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE! N.T. started hopping with excitement and tripped over a pair of scissors that were lying behind him, and then he stumbled backwards and onto (or should I say into the clutches of) the cord of a necklace. Soon, he was tangled in it.
I laughed of course, because N.T. always makes me laugh, but then he paused his struggling with the necklace cord and looked at me with such exasperated body language—-sitting wrapped up in the necklace, shoulders dropped and head tilted—-that I quickly apologized.
“I’m sorry, I told you the clutter has an agenda of its own!” I reached out to help him untangle the necklace from his bones. “In my defense, you are the clumsiest skeleton I know, though.”
N.T. nodded because he knew that was indisputable and I managed to pull the necklace away from him, freeing his limbs. I used my arm to push a pile of mail, a hairbrush, some books, pens, a cat toy, and a stress hotdog off the edge of my desk so that N.T. would have more clear surface. (Read: less items to trip over.)
When he was finally oriented and had dusted himself off, he picked up a pen and continued writing on the Post-It.
WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO THIS FEAR?
“What?” I asked. “Oh-!” There was a skeleton foot-shaped smudge on his message, and I pointed to it as N.T. looked sheepishly at the bottom of his foot, which was smeared blue with pen ink. “It’s okay,” I said, grabbing him a tissue from the box nearby. He sat down and tried to wipe off the ink, but most of it was dried blue onto his white foot. “I assume in your message you meant ‘year’?” I asked, and he nodded, still trying to wipe off his foot.
“Well,” I started, leaning back in my chair and propping my feet up on the corner of the desk, careful not to smoosh N.T. “I have a few ideas…” I looked out the window at the bare tree outside my room, and the other leafless trees beyond the rooftops. My mind started to wander as I stared into the gray sky, my eyes unblinking, and I could feel myself letting go and zoning out, willing sunshine to peak through…
There was a tugging at my pant leg and N.T. brought my focus back to the desk. “For starters, I want to spend more time with you, N.T. I think we should meet some more people. You really are special—-okay, I see you’re giving a bow for that—-and I want us to keep going on adventures together, more often. I’ve been thinking maybe we could write and illustrate a chapter book together, or something.”
N.T. nodded excitedly and gave me a thumbs up, then seemed to think better of it and gave me two thumbs up, then seemed to think even better of that and turned around and drew a thumbs up on the Post-It pad—-this time, opting for a pencil—-, then resumed his dual up-thumbs.
“Three thumbs up, that’s pretty impressive. I think I’m gonna need four thumbs up to actually convince me tho—-no I was just teasing!” N.T. was about to begin drawing again but put down his pencil. He walked over and sat on the edge of my desk, legs swinging.
“It might be a lot of work for us, but I think it’ll be fun,” I said, sitting upright again. N.T. pulled the Post-It’s into his lap and picked up the pencil to start scribbling again.
THEN I’LL HAVE MORE FRIENDS TO VISIT!
“You do visits?” I asked, giving a chuckle. I guess I never knew what N.T. did when he wasn’t hanging around my desk, or getting into adventures with his friends back at the pine grove.
ALL THE TIME! he wrote. PEOPLE DON’T USUALLY PAY CLOSE ATTENTION, SO THEY DON’T NOTICE ME, BUT I SEE OUR FRIENDS A LOT. I TRY TO LET THEM KNOW THAT THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL AND REMIND THEM TO DO GOOD.
“Really? Remind them how?”
He tore off the Post-It and started on the next sheet. SINCE THEY DON’T NOTICE ME, I HAVE TO BE CREATIVE, AS YOU SAY. I HAVE TO LEAVE HINTS, LIKE A FLOWER ALONG THEIR PATH, AND HOPE THEY PAY ATTENTION.
“That’s nice of you,” I said, smiling and looking out the window again. “I like that a lot. Beautiful people; do good…” A flock of birds caught my eye, black specks in flight. I noticed among the bare treetops one lone pine tree, dark green fir coating its tip, barely protruding from the distance. I started to feel my thoughts flutter again, and I don’t know how long I stared at the top of the pine tree before I noticed just a glimpse of sunlight slip through the clouds, before they turned gray and thick again and coated the sky.
Shaking my head, I said, “Wow, just call me a space cadet.” I looked down to where N.T. was sitting, but he wasn’t there anymore. I looked over my shoulder around my room, but the little skeleton bugger was gone. Where he had been sitting, he left one Post-It with a giant heart drawn on it, so big that the outline grazed the edges of the Post-It square.
“Fine!” I cried, to the echo of N.T.’s presence, smiling. “Go visit your friends! But don’t be too long!” I took another long look out the window before pushing some more clutter to the side of my desk. I picked up N.T.’s pencil, and then I began to write.
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