This is the English version of the tale „Jeder Tag ist ein kleines Leben“, written by Martin Duehning. You can also find a audiobook version of the article.
* * *
12. Every Day is a little Life
It was the time when Thassi was still small, but already big enough to whine a lot, and mother Luisa was having great difficulty balancing her important work as an ambassador, her little daughter’s needs and her own. She wore hats more often now, preferably a sun hat, because she realized that she was getting older, her hair was no longer as fluffy as it was when she was a young dwarf fairy, it was getting less and duller. And Luisa often looked at herself in the mirror for a long time, regretting that she had so little time for herself, because her job as an ambassador was very important and her beloved daughter too, of course.
„How you live here!“ said her friend Una Niva when she came over to Luisa for tea again. „One shade of gray follows the next here in your appartment, everything outside is bare, just a barren meadow and a sea of fog, no trees, no bushes, not even flowers, no wonder you get so gloomy!“ – and Una Niva recommended Luisa to the magical flower shop of a garden gnome friend, who had some wonderful, even magical plants on offer. Luisa, not exactly a diligent gardener, remained sceptical, but when she saw her completely bored daughter, who couldn’t even hug a daisy on the empty grassy hills of Mondia Island, she took what little time she could spare and made her way to the garden gnome.
The garden gnome lived in a large toadstool in the sunflower country to the north of Alexandretta. His nursery grew around the mushroom, a small garden that stretched out amidst the sunflower forests with small flowerbeds and glass houses. It was truly magical. The little runt would have loved to have a cosy chat with Luisa, but she hardly had time, as she kept emphasising. And that, she let him know, was always the case, as she was a busy and important diplomat from Emolas. The garden gnome said somewhat grumpily that horticulture requires love and patience. „You can’t have a beautiful garden without time and effort, not even a children’s play garden for little dwarf fairy daughters!“ – But Luisa was not impressed. The gnome first showed her some undemanding but boring conifers, which didn’t convince Luisa, nor did the easy-care wild roses or sea buckthorn bushes. She wanted colourful, magical flowers for her daughter, preferably ones that blossomed overnight without much effort.
„Well!“, said the garden gnome somewhat thoughtfully, he actually had a special variety of amaryllis, a truly magical flower that didn’t need much watering or care. But, he warned, these very special flowers are not exactly cheap and should never be planted individually. Luisa cringed when she learnt the hefty price: the dwarf wanted 70 silver denarii per bulb. For the ambassador, that was seven months‘ salary. The gnome remained stubborn and refused to negotiate the price down. In fact, that he even offered a single bulb instead of a pack required all of Luisa’s diplomatic skills and he was very reluctant to hand over the bulb. The flowers really weren’t meant to be planted individually, the gnome warned Luisa one last time.
The bulb of the Jolantrian amaryllis flower shimmered mysteriously in mystical colours, like a spectrolyte, it was very large and weighed so much that Luisa had to pack it onto an extra barge to ship it to the island of Mondia, and some National Guardsmen she borrowed from Viceroy Valens Palladorian helped her dig it into the ground next to her villa. They needed a small digger for this.
Tiny fairy daughter Thassi watched curiously and enthusiastically, jumping around excitedly among the strangers. Mum had told her that it would be a magical and wonderful flower that would grow almost as big as the house, like a huge, wonderful tree. And when the earth was filled in, Thassi sat next to it until the evening and waited impatiently to see if a little bud would sprout. But it didn’t happen that quickly after all, and Luisa put Thassi to bed in the evening, where she fell asleep all excited to be awake very early in the morning. Perhaps a sprout would be visible by then? Luisa tucked her daughter in with a hearty kiss goodnight, told her an bedtime story from the emolanian Oldlands, then worked long hours herself for an important speech she wanted to give the next day, a very important appointment! – and late in the evening she stood at the mirror again and mourned her youthful hairstyle before slipping into bed at night, where Luisa fell asleep tired and unable to rest.
Thassi actually woke up with the first song of the blackbird and hopped expectantly to the window: excitement sparkled from her eyes as she looked out into the garden: the miracle flower had actually sprouted overnight and had grown enormously, rising more than a house high next to Villa Mondia and its top was crowned with a gigantic, still closed, snow-white flower bud.
„Mum! Mum! The flower is here! Great! It’s great! Come on, it’s about to bloom!“ cried Thassi excitedly, running around the house like a whirlwind. Mum Luisa didn’t want to believe it at first, but was then able to marvel at it herself: this giant amaryllis had actually shot up to almost full bloom overnight, as tall as a lighthouse and more magnificent than any flower Luisa had ever seen before. It really was a small miracle – no, a big one!
„Mum, Mum, you have to stay until it blooms properly!“ cried Thassi, tugging at Luisa’s green fairy dress. Yes, this flower was really something special and perhaps even worth the 70 silver coins that the usurer had asked for it. But Ambassador Luisa had an important appointment today. The flower would certainly still be resplendent in the sunset when the diplomat had delivered her painstakingly composed speech to the citizens of Alexandretta and negotiated some trade agreements for Emolas.
„No, no! Mum, you have to stay!“ whined Thassi. But her mum explained to her how important her work was, she didn’t have the mercy to stay, and so Thassi had to let her mother Luisa go. She would be back in a few hours, Luisa promised her.
So Thassi decided to guard the miracle flower for her mum for so long! She sat down on the steps of the veranda, excitedly swinging her little legs around on the steps, running towards the giant amaryllis again and again, marvelling at and stroking its thick green trunk, which was so strong and wide that neither Thassi nor Luisa could have grasped it. At 11 o’clock in the morning, the blossom finally opened at the top and Thassi jumped around the trunk below, laughing. Then the little dwarf fairy couldn’t stand her curiosity any longer and she flew up with her little fairy wings, right into the centre of the large calyx, which shimmered golden and light inside, like silk in the summer sun. The dew and nectar lined the sepals like pearls, but what Thassi found at the bottom of the flower amazed her even more:
At the bottom of the flower lay and slumbered, like a sweet baby, a little elf child. Thassi was completely blown away: the miracle flower was a little friend for her. And she laughed and clapped her little hands and stroked the little flower elf, who was huddled there. Then she woke up, laughed at Thassi with her little golden eyes, held hands with her and the two of them looked at each other happily and lovingly for a while. Thassi couldn’t help herself, she began to hum a happy song – and the elf hummed along. It was so beautiful, almost like a dream.
„Who are you?“ the little pixie suddenly asked Thassi.
„I’m Thassi!“ she beamed and stroked her new little friend.
„Where am I?“ the pixie continued to ask.
„You’re here!“ Thassi laughed at her.
„It’s nice here!“ the pixie girl laughed back. Then the pixie realised that she had little arms and legs and also, as is usual with flower elves, little wings, and she stood up, a little unsteadily at first on the soft, golden floor of the flower, then stretched herself out and began to buzz her little wings. Thassi was delighted and joined in. And when the little pixie saw how to fly, she imitated Thassi and the two of them practised small hops, then higher leaps and finally they both dared to fly out of the amaryllis blossom, far into the blue midday sky. They flew up once, around the huge flower, then around the whole of the small island and finally they both floated gently down onto the roof of Luisa’s villa.
„It’s beautiful here!“ the little pixie beamed at Thassi and warbled a pretty song in her childish bell voice.
„Yes,“ laughed Thassi: „This is where we live. This is our house! And that flower is your home!“
„Yes, that’s right,“ laughed the little pixie. „Let’s play something!“ she nudged Thassi, and because Thassi loved it so much, the two of them played hide-and-seek and had a lot of fun. So much fun that they didn’t even realise it was already afternoon.
„That was nice, but I’m hungry now,“ the pixie said to Thassi later. „Yes, me too,“ replied Thassi. „Wait, Mum’s made me a snack, I’m sure there’s enough for both of us!“ she cheered and skipped into the kitchen, from where she returned with honey cake.
„It tastes great!“ the pixie praised the sweet cakes and devoured one after the other. „Your mum is really good!“.
„Yes, mum is great!“ laughed Thassi, „But Auntie Una brought us the cakes. Auntie Una is great too.“
„You know a lot of great people!“ said the pixie. „It’s a shame they’re not here, I’d love to meet them!“
„I’m sure they’d like that too! Mum will be delighted when she sees you! She’ll be back tonight! I’m sure you’ll like her! And we can visit Aunt Una tomorrow!“ Thassi said happily.
„Yes, let’s do that!“ said the pixie happily and hungrily polished off the last of the cake – leaving Thassi with almost too little. „That was great, you really are a great friend!“ beamed the elf and hugged Thassi tightly: „Let’s become best friends!“
And so Thassi and the elf Amaryllis became best friends.
After dinner, Amaryllis wanted to play with Thassi again, but not hide and seek. „Let’s play something else! What else do you know, Thassi?“ she asked her best friend.
„We can play ball!“ Thassi beamed and rushed into her nursery to fetch her little golden rubber ball. They then played ball throwing together in the garden. Thassi was better at first, but the elf learnt quickly and after an hour she was much faster and more agile than Thassi and when she saw that little Thassi could hardly keep up, she put her gentle hand over her shoulder and said as if in consolation: „Let it go, Thassi, I think we’ve played enough for now. Let’s hang out together like good friends do.“
„Okay,“ said Thassi and looked up at her best friend in a friendly manner. Only now did she realise how tall, beautiful and graceful the elf was. She had delicate, lovely little arms and legs, a slender body and a beautiful face with small, golden eyes and pretty red lips. Silky, golden curls flowed from her head. The two of them sat down on the hill behind the villa and gazed at the blue sky and the clouds.
„What do you want to do when you grow up?“ the elf asked her little friend. Thassi didn’t know. She was still quite small and hadn’t thought about adult life yet. „I don’t know,“ she answered truthfully. „I want to be like mum and have lots of friends, like you.“
„Yes, friends are important. How do you imagine your dream friend?“ the pixie wanted to know from Thassi. „I don’t know,“ replied Thassi, „what do you think?“
„Oh,“ enthused the pixie, „he should be funny, with beautiful eyes and freckles, maybe a little strong, but not a show-off – a really nice guy, maybe an adventurer or even a prince,“ she sighed romantically.
„Then I want a boyfriend like that too,“ said Thassi, somewhat perplexed. She had never thought about such things before. But in the meantime, she had changed her mind: „I know what I want to be when I grow up!“ she said to the elven girl with determination.
Then the pixie straightened up and took Thassi’s little hands, looked at her attentively and said: „Tell me, Thassi, that’s our big secret. I’ll keep it to myself, like a best friend does.
„I want to be a great sorceress one day,“ little Thassi beamed at the elven girl.
„That’s a lovely wish,“ said the elven girl mysteriously, hugging her tightly and giving her a kiss. Then she stood up, left Thassi standing there and wandered to the beach, lost in thought.
Thassi was speechless and puzzled at first, but then she simply hopped after the elf, who was now sitting on the beach, close to the water, watching the waves melancholically.
„Why do you think we’re here, Thassi?“ she asked the elfess seriously, a shadow flitting across her face.
„We’re here because we’re here and so that we can have fun!“ Thassi replied: „Let’s play together again! Let’s play hide and seek again!“
But the elfess didn’t want to play hide and seek with Thassi any more. They had been doing it for so long and it was too childish for her in the long run. So the two of them played ball again, but Thassi could hardly compete with the skilful elfess and Thassi didn’t enjoy it at all.
„I’m sorry, Thassi,“ she comforted the elfess motherly, „Let’s do something else together, what do you fancy?“
„We can swing!“ Thassi said, pointing to the veranda where Luisa had hung up a children’s swing for her. Thassi swung in front of the elfess, but the small children’s swing was too narrow for the elfen lady, so Amaryllis was content to push little Thassi along. She had a lot of fun, but as time went on, the elfess became increasingly quiet and somehow sad.
„Do you think I’ll ever find a friend for life?“ the elfess asked Thassi in a wistful voice.
„But I’m your best friend!“ protested Thassi in surprise.
„No, that’s not what I mean. A friend for life, one to marry!“ the elfess complained.
„Of course!“ Thassi snorted. „I’m sure you’ll meet someone in a few years, you’ll see! But first we’ll go to school together, go on trips with mum and have lots of adventures!“ Thassi imagined their future together.
„Do you think so?“ asked the elfess sadly, „I don’t know,“ she added bitterly.
„I’m sure you do,“ said Thassi, realising that her friend looked serious and sad. And now it was Thassi who sat down on the elf’s lap, stroked her and gave her a kiss: „You’re my best friend!“ Thassi promised, „And we’ll do everything together from now on.“
„Let’s watch the sunset,“ the elfess said tiredly and stroked Thassi’s cheek. „I would have loved to dance and party and meet other faeries like me“, she whimpered.
„But you can still do that!“ said Thassi defiantly. „We’ll just ask Mum where there are some left and then we’ll go there tomorrow! And if you like, you can see them every day from then on. And maybe your dream friend will be there too!“ Thassi comforted her friend.
But the elfess looked pale and haggard, her hair waving shaggy and silver in the evening breeze.
„I’m sooo tired, Thassi,“ she said quietly as the sun disappeared into the sea of Ninda. „I need to sleep now.“
Then Thassi became worried about her friend, because she didn’t look well either: „Yes, perhaps it was all too much for you today!“ she hurried: „You need to rest, then you’ll be fit again tomorrow!“ And she helped her exhausted friend up and they walked very slowly to the flower, but as weak as the elfess was, they probably wouldn’t make it to the top of the blossom, because the elf’s wings hung limply from her.
„Why don’t you sleep inside with us?“ Thassi suggested, but her friend was already lying down at the feet of the giant flower.
She was so tired that all she could say with a soft and exhausted voice was:
„Good night, my dear Thassi, good night, you are very sweet!“ and „I’m sure you’ll become a great magician one day…“
Then she closed her golden eyes and slumbered away.
This frightened Thassi. Her friend would catch a cold there under the flower, and she ran into the house and fetched all her fluffy bedding and pillows and made a cosy warm resting place around the elfess. She kissed her goodnight on her cold forehead, squeezed her little hands and told her the bedtime story of the Tatzelwurm. But the elfess was barely breathing.
Thassi cried and ran anxiously to the veranda, where she waited fearfully for her mummy for another hour until she fell asleep herself.
Very late in the evening her mummy came back. Luisa Amiratu had had a very stressful day. Her speech had been a success, but the trade agreements had taken longer to finalise and so she returned home much later than planned. She was pretty stressed. From a distance, she saw the giant flower in the twilight, but its petals had faded in the meantime. On the porch steps, Luisa found Thassi curled up asleep, but she immediately woke up and told her mum about a new friend she had been playing with all day, but who had fallen ill and fallen asleep under the flower. So Luisa lit a lantern from the veranda and took her and Thassi to the flower stump. There, however, they found only Thassy’s bedding, sofa cushions and withered old petals, most of which had already been blown away by the night wind. A cold draught blew down on them from above, as if it were already autumn. And in the far distance, a pale moon rose over the sea of South Ninda, reproachfully.
This made Luisa feel quite different and she quickly took Thassi into her warm flat, switched on the lights everywhere, locked the doors and lowered the shutters. And before Thassi woke up the next morning, Luisa had the National Guardsmen remove the remains of the withered amaryllis, a flower that Luisa has never been able to stand since.
For her own life, however, Luisa Amiratu resolved to prioritise things differently in future and to live each day consciously – with her daughter and her friends.
Because every day is a little life, and the hours we don’t spend together are gone and never come back!
And once our day is over, it’s too late…