With the bag on his back he walks up the road. His trousers are patched around the knees and his fingers are dirty from the marble games he played on the yard with his classmates. School is out for today, and he is on his way home. But when he reaches the meadow, he stops. What was that? He catches a glimpse of a hare which peacefully sits in the tall grass a few meters away. When the animal spots the boy, it dashes away into the woods. No, don’t go, the boy thinks. I wonder where he lives.
He leaves the road and passes through the meadow, in the same direction as the hare disappeared. He finds a small path which he starts to follow. The forest is all quiet, except some birds singing. Where did it go? Maybe he hides behind that rock? He curiously hurries around the big stone and manages with great effort to climb over a fallen tree. But instead of the hare he finds something else. Wow, what a huge ant-hill! He grabs a stick from the ground and pushes it far into the nest, and follows how the ants manage to overcome the threat. He also takes a close look at all the hard working ants, carrying food back to the nest. There are thousands, maybe even millions of them. Oh, there’s the queen. He knows this because she is the only ant with wings.
He stands there looking, excited over how so small animals can manage to build a nest as big as this. But after a while the ants start to take shortcuts over his feet and legs, and then all the fun disappears. He jumps around, rolls on the ground and starts running. Anything to get the ants off his body. And then, suddenly, he reaches a forest glade and a small meadow. It’s the meadow me and mom had picnic in last year! There are flowers everywhere and the trees stretch their branches far up in the air. It is almost impossible to see the crowns from the ground. After looking at the clouds passing by he turns his sight to the flowers again. What if I picked a bunch of flowers for mom? I bet she’d be very happy.
So he starts picking flowers, one by one. Buttercups, cowslips, daffodils, daisies, dandelions. Dandelion, that’s my favourite flower. I’ll pick as many of them as I can. He bends down on his knees to pick the most beautiful flowers there is to find, and then gets back to his feet to return to the road and home to mom. On the way back he finds a piece of bark on the ground. Look! This would be a perfect bark boat. The piece has exactly the same shape as a small sailing boat. He puts the bark piece in his pocket and walks satisfied to the road.
Next to the road there is a ditch with some water pouring in it. He puts his bag on the ground and the flowers carefully beside. There is just enough water for my new boat to be launched. I have to try it. Otherwise there is no reason to bring it home. He has some difficulty to reach down to the water without getting wet, but after a while the bark boat is peacefully going down the ditch. It floats perfectly. I’ll make a sail when I come home. A real sail, made by real fabric. I’ll ask mom if she has some I can use. Then he realises that the flowers must be very thirsty. He picks them up from the ground and carefully holds the stems down in the water. Now drink, so you look as nice as in the meadow when I give you to mom. After a while, when he assumes that the flowers have had enough water, he put his bag back on and grabs the bark boat to continue the walk home.
When he approaches the red fence he can see Mr Smith’s dog wagging its tale behind it. He walks up to the gate to pet the golden brown fur. You’re such a nice dog, Elmer. I wish I had a dog like you. He gives the dog a hug, and then moves on to his own gate. He thinks about how happy mom will be when she sees the flowers. He decides to hide them behind his back when he gets it, to make it a surprise. Then he opens the door.
- Mom, I’m home!
She enters the hallway. She does not look very happy. She does not sound very happy.
- WHERE have you been?! The food was ready about an hour ago! Now you have to eat it cold. You have to learn to not be late! Don’t you understand that I get worried? Come inside now.
She disappears into the bathroom and closes the door. The boy with the bark boat in his pocket still stands in the doorway. His damp fingers squeeze the flowers behind his back as he tries to swallow the lump in his throat. He goes out into the kitchen and throws the flowers in the wastebasket.
But when he walks out of the kitchen, heading for his room, he turns around and runs back. When he leaves the room there is a glass filled with water on the table. With a small dandelion.