Once there was a ladybug, a trout, and a hummingbird.
All three of these little creatures lived in a humid, sweltering hot place called simply “the middle.”
None of them had ever gone very far from home (once, the hummingbird beat those tiny wings as hard as she could and rose rose rose up into the sky and craned her neck very hard stretching her muscles to see what there was beyond the middle. What she saw: more middling, and above, one white cloud). Because none of them had seen anything outside of the middle, there was never very much news to pass between them. One conversation could easily be confused with another, the previous with the next, the past with the future. And so on. In spite of this, the ladybug always insisted upon hailing the hummingbird whenever she spotted her, zooming along the little trails of nectar in the air, a wisp of smoke darting into and above and under and sometimes even through. And when the hummingbird would finally slow down and spot the little ladybug, sitting so far and lonely down on the grass, she would fly down and say
Why hello sorry I didn’t hear see you at first I do apolo-
It’s OK hummingbird!
I just wanted to tell you what a lovely nectar trail that is you are following!
Well I think it is
I’m so glad you noticed, it is quite-
Have you heard from trout lately?
And so all of their conversations went. Sometimes reversed, sometimes forwarded, sometimes upside-down, sometimes rightside-up. You see, ladybug was very fond of trout, but at the same time had lately become deathly afraid of water. And finding it very difficult to convince trout to spend an afternoon above the water, ladybug had slowly lost contact with her old friend. Once, long ago, when ladybug was still merely a babybug, trout had taught her to float on little dead orange yellow red leaves that drifted in the stream; and together she and trout would spend their afternoons on the water. Their talk then was very much like the talk of the hummingbird and ladybug now, which is to say it was never and was always, could and couldn’t, or did and didn’t. But eventually the babybug became a ladybug, the trout became a trout, and the little dead orange yellow red leaves that drifted in the stream no longer seemed safe to spend an afternoon upon.
The trout was very put out by the loss of his ladybug friend. Almost every afternoon he would shoot to the surface of the stream and for one brief instant be free of the water. In that instant he would look frantically in the direction of ladybug’s favorite blade of grass, which lay over the bank of the stream and up on top of a small hill. He never saw her. Then again, he wasn’t entirely sure that he was looking at the right blade of grass. It is very hard for trout to pick out pieces of grass while shooting through the water and air and being unable to breathe. Still, he decided that it must be the right blade of grass, because it was very green and very thick and luscious and it had the appearance of having first been planted in another age, an age when such strong fine grass could have picked up its roots and walked from place to place and sun to shade and hill to gully. Trout decided that the grass could walk, and had, and would again sometime when it became bored of being ladybug’s favorite. He told no one of his thoughts on grass. Instead, when hummingbird would careen over his stream playing dodgeball with the dandelion puffs, he would gurgle out a greeting like
What a charming morning, hummingbird, don’t you agree?
Startled (always, by the gurgling) the hummingbird looked down and replied
Is it still morning down there trout?
Well I think it is
Up here I would have said good afternoon.
Do you think it will be a good afternoon when it comes down here as well?
It seems very favorable to me, if I had to guess.
I must make plans for a very pleasant afternoon then. I wish ladybug could see it.
Quite often this conversation would repeat itself but inverted, or reverted, or converted, and when all was said and done neither the trout nor the hummingbird changed any plans whatsoever. And so the ladybug never found out that her afternoons and mornings and midday’s and evenings and midnights could all have been spent in either the stream’s waters, floating upon the little dead orange yellow red leaves, or in the sky’s nectar trails, zooming upon the mist and scent of a sweet thing.