Cozy Flash: “The Little Soldier”

The girl found the little man in a meadow near the pine forest not too far from her home, where she had been picking blue cornflowers. She had seen a small glint when a passing cloud moved past the sun, and when she knelt down, there he was.

At first she thought he was a toy, maybe one of her brother’s tiny lead soldiers, but when she bent closer she saw he was indeed a real man, only very small. He was dressed in shiny dented armor and grasped a little sword in his right hand. She could see he was hurt because he was bleeding from a cut in his head and blood flecked his tiny black beard. She thought he was dead because he didn’t move. But when she picked him up, he made a groaning squeaky sound.

She made to tell her Papa, who was with the mule in the potato field, but then thought better of it. Papa had told her she should never play near the pine forest. He said wolves and witches lived beneath the boughs of the trees, and they liked to eat little girls who didn’t listen to their parents. But the meadow near the pines had the prettiest flowers. She loved to watch the butterflies land on their petals to drink nectar, and to listen to birds call sweetly to one another. And so, disobeying Papa, she had secretly come to the meadow.

The little man squeaked again. She could see now he was badly hurt. She looked into the pines, but nothing but the boles of the trees and the soft brown needles that covered the forest floor met her gaze. Gently, she laid the little man into the front pocket of her white dress and began walking home.

Papa waved to her when he saw her, and she waved back before quickly going to the small barn where they kept the mule, a few chickens and pigs. She climbed the ladder into the hay loft, and near the back she made a small bed for the little man, laying him down on it.

He looked very pale and very small in the hay. Running out to the yard she grabbed the bucket near the well and filled it with some water. When she had brought the bucket to where she had left the little man, she discovered he was gone.

Looking around, she spied him weaving and trying to climb through the loft door. When she approached him, he wheeled unsteadily and waved his teeny sword at her.

He shouted something she couldn’t understand.

“Don’t be afraid, little man! I’m going to help you.” She smiled, making to pick him up. He lunged with his sword, pricking her.

“Ow, that hurt!” A rivulet of blood welled up from her palm and she quickly pulled her hand away. The little man, spent, wobbled and fell down flat on his face. She moved toward him hesitantly, gingerly poking at him with a piece of hay. When he didn’t move, she carefully scooped him up and returned him to the bed she had made.

She ripped off a small piece of her dress, dipped it into the water, and dabbed lightly at the little man’s head to wipe off the blood. His hair was long and his beard braided with what looked like small glass beads, but could have been gems and were red and blue and green. He had a squashed nose and a large brow.

She dressed the cut on his head before trying to take his armor off. She had quite a time with that, but finally managed to get it off of him. She gasped when she saw the wound in his left side. She tore another strip of cloth and cleaned it as best she could, then bound the strip around his middle.

Sitting back for a moment, she looked at him with her mouth pursed and her nose scrunched. Gradually her expression brightened and she left the loft, returning a short time later with a few crusts of bread and a thimble she had taken from her mothers sewing box. This she filled with water. Then, looking over him again, she clambered down the ladder and into the yard to feed the chickens and pigs before her father became cross with her.

When she could, she stole away to the loft to look at the little man, who at first didn’t stir. Later he thrashed and sweated in his little bed. She changed his bandages and dripped water into his tiny mouth. He looked smaller each day and she feared he would indeed die.

On Wenes morn she found him awake and sitting up. When she moved closer, he started and waved his tiny sword. She held out her hand with the small bit of bacon she had saved for him from her breakfast. Staring at her, he sniffed the air, then quickly grabbed the crispy meat and wolfed it down. She poured him some water in his thimble and he drank it.

Just then she heard her brother enter the barn and call for her. The little man grabbed his sword and backed into the hay. She put her finger to her lips and poked her head over the loft.

“What is it, Ethrom?”

“Mum wants you, little wart. What are you doing up there anyway?”

“Helping the little knight I found—not that it’s any of your business, toad breath.”

“Ha, liar! Just move your sorry bum and get down here before we both get our hides tanned.”

When she turned back to look at the little man, he was gone.

The next day the girl looked again for the little man in the loft. And the next day and the next after that. But he was gone and she was sad, but hoped he was safe.

Next Wenes, she awoke and was surprised to find a tiny bouquet of blue cornflowers and a teeny leather thong necklace strung with very small blue, red, and green beads on her pillow.

— Michael Aaron Harrington

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