Monday Stories: Leonardo

Leonardo looked up, and then looked down. Above him he saw plump, glistening, round blueberries all sweating in the morning sun. Below him he saw dirt. Dirt and leaves and a strand of grass that was weighed down with a drop of dew so that it hunched over like an old man carrying his life in a satchel across his back. Leonardo always shivered in the morning. He was still small, and a bit purple, and all the way down on the big blueberry bush he had to wait patiently for a bit of the sun's heat to reach his teeny, tiny belly. His parents named him Leonardo because they knew he'd be small, and felt like he needed a grand name to boost his sense of self. It didn't really work, because Leonardo knew he was small, and knew he should be more blue and less purple because he watched as his friends grew round and jolly and full of sugar.

His parents worried, but they never told him. They knew that his position towards the bottom of a bush was a disadvantage in the wild woods, as human hands could easily pass him over while foraging, but he could more likely be snatched by the jaws of woodland creatures hungry for a sweet treat. Growing up Leonardo had heard tales of blueberries grown in giant patches, harvested regularly by human hands. He felt lucky to be hidden in the woods, nestled among evergreens and oaks and breathing fresh air instead of the kinds of sprays allegedly used to make the confined berries grow big, blue and blistered. When he was younger he used to dream of this life, thinking that a magic spray could make him big and blue and strong too, but as he got older and the days got longer, he more appreciated the silence of the forest, the stories of his elders, and the way the woodland creatures sometimes brushed against his taut skin with their soft fur. Still, he hoped one day someone would find their wild patch, because he knew the most coveted fate of a wild blueberry was to be gently pried from the woody branch and brought home for transformation.

Transformation was a word his parents used often. But nobody said more than that. It was the final part of life that each blueberry looked forward to. It was preferred to being left to shrivel and wither away while family and friends were collected for better uses. When he pushed and asked his parents what "transformation" and "better uses" might mean, they told him not to pry, and just be happy for what he had now. Still, Leonardo couldn't help but wonder what was beyond the wild woods. And what, if he was a blueberry now, he might become later. 

For this reason, when the sun reached the top of the sky and he was warmed from the morning chill, he would take deep deep breathes, puffing his chest out, hoping it might make him more attractive to whoever might stumble upon their blueberry patch in the midst of the wild woods. While the other blueberries his age spent the day joking and laughing and playing silly games, Leonardo waited patiently, purple and round, trying to look his best and knowing he'd most likely only have one chance to impress those strange creatures that came to collect the berries of the wild woods. 

One morning he woke late, tired because the full moon had kept the rest of the berries up late, and noticed that a hush had descended upon the patch. There was still a bit of dew on his belly, and he could hear a crunch crunch in the distance. It wasn't the pitter patter of a squirrel, or the silent steps of a fox. This was loud and sporadic. There were big crunches and then little crunches and then weird squeals that sounded not unlike a tree branch breaking or a lost fox looking for his mom.

This is it, thought Leonardo. This is the moment! These are the people and this is the time! And here I am, groggy, purple, a bit chilled and a little wet. He tried to shake the dampness off his belly but it wouldn't budge. He wiggled and breathed and looked up at his mom. You'll be great, she said. Two pairs of giant shoes came into view. One was massive. Enormous. The size of the moon it seemed, and dark like the color of dirt. The others were large. Big enough to crush him and 20 of his friends in one step. They didn't crunch like the big dirt colored shoes, but instead wobbled and wove, unsteady here and there, and were accompanied by shrieks that Leonardo realized were squeals of delight. The shoes were pink and had tiny holes all over, so he could see the human colored chubby toes peeking through. He could hear way above him, echoes of their voices but couldn't understand anything they said.

So he breathed and he puffed and he waited. The bush rustled and rumbled and he could hear a consistent, plip, blop and knew that one by one his friends and family were being plucked. He waited. He waited and he breathed and he puffed. He saw next to the big boot a container, and inside he watched as it filled with his companions. Me me me! he wanted to scream, but no one heard. The rustling became less and less, but the squeals of delight continued. He looked up. Mom was gone, dad was gone, and even Julia, the skinniest of the berries his age had been stripped from the branch.


Then for a moment the sun disappeared. He looked up. A huge hand hovered over him. He looked down. The pink shoes covered the dirt below him. And then, it was night. He felt a slight pinch as he was plucked from his branch and all of the sudden he was warm all over, completely covered by the soft, doughy hand. Slowly the hand opened and the sun shone again. He was higher than he had ever been before! He was free! Off his branch. He knew he would make it into the container now, and finally find out the secrets of transformation. But instead of the hand taking him down and dropping him with the rest of his family, it continued soaring through the sky. Up, up, up. Until he could see a deep dark cave. He realized the squeals and giggles (What was a giggle? Leonardo thought) were coming from this cave, but only when he too was inside the cave. It was hot, and wet, not like the morning dew that was cold, or the rain that was refreshing. This was sticky, wet, and humid. 


In an instant Leonardo collided with the tiny teeth inside the little mouth and splat, he was no longer round and taut and purple. Now he was just sweet and tart against the tongue of the little girl. His transformation wasn't into a jam or a cake, but instead Leonardo became a moment of joy. He was transformed in an instant from a blueberry to a giggle, in the mouth of the little girl with pink shoes. Leonardo never had a chance to understand what transformation really meant. He would never realize that his tiny, tart, purply blue belly brought the loudest laugh and the strongest smile the wild woods had ever witnessed.