Henry had enjoyed a good day fishing midge patterns to spooky fish in clear water, the fish had been difficult enough to make it interesting and active enough to make it worthwhile and as he walked back to his car he whistled quietly to himself, a sign of a level of contentment that rarely came to Henry these days, except when he was fishing of course. He mostly was too busy with his business to get out on the river, so today was a special treat.
Walking along the river bank, still eyeing the water for signs of feeding fish as he went Henry spied an old crayon box partly sunken and spinning in a back eddie. The cardboard was a little tatty from scraping on the boulders and the seams were beginning to fray as the glue dissolved, but the box was still instantly recognisable for what it was. The colours of the crayons in the image still bright and shiny, protected perhaps by the wax that had permeated the cardboard over time.
Picking up the box with a view to removing the offending litter from his favoured trout stream Henry gave the box a firm shake, hoping to work out most of the water before putting it into what was soon to become a damp pocket in his fishing vest. As he shook it though a single bright red crayon flew from the disintegrating packaging and plopped loudly into the water at his feet.
Being a diligent fellow with a strong aversion to litter Henry put the soggy box into his pocket and bent over to recover the now bobbing crayon from the current. As he reached for it he noticed that it hadn’t apparently been used and wondered how that could be, surely a child would have worn down the red one first? Red being a favoured colour for most youngsters, at least to Henry’s mind.
He picked up the crayon and examined the tip, yes, as he had thought, virtually no wear on the point all rather odd, thought Henry. “What on earth is a crayon box doing in a trout stream?” he commented to himself in the hushed tones reserved for those given to talking to themselves out loud , it is after all generally perceived as slightly strange to converse alone. To Henry’s great amazement there came a reply from the undergrowth on the river bank. “It’s not a normal crayon, it’s magic”…
Henry jumped slightly, rather startled by the intrusion, there wasn’t anyone obviously in sight and anyway there were not any other anglers due to be on this section of the stream. The small and slightly squeaky voice came again, “Seriously it is a magic crayon” intoned the voice.
Henry now more startled than ever lay down his rod and set about searching the underbrush for the source of the comments, feeling rather self-conscious, after all it wouldn’t be the done thing for anyone to see him talking to the bushes now would it? People have been committed for less.
“Who said that?” enquired Henry, feeling doubly foolish now for even considering that there could be anyone there. “I am over here” replied the little voice,”Under the dog rose”. Henry carefully moved some of the trailing brambles, not wishing to prick himself and at the same time feeling really rather daft, and there in the shade of the bush stood a tiny little man, perhaps only six inches tall and dressed for all the world like an angler, wearing a minute vest its pockets bulging with tiny fly boxes, his lanyard jangling with the minute tools of his trade and on his feet sturdy little wading boots, fashioned from some fine thin leather, shining as though newly polished.
“Who are you” asked Henry, expecting all the time to be awoken from what he now considered a rather strange dream. “I am Ignatius Highwater” replied the little man, “and I am the keeper of the stream”
“What do you mean the keeper of the stream ?” enquired Henry, now more perplexed than ever, “I have never heard of such a thing, I mean what do you actually do here?” he asked.
“Well” replied the tiny river keeper, “I am one of a family of river elves who look after the trout streams in these parts and this river is my responsibility”
“Mostly” he continued, “ We tidy up the place, remove bits of nylon that have been carelessly left in the trees and nurse trout hurt by barbed hooks back to health”, he continued” but then we also sometimes have a bit of fun and grease the rocks, that makes for some grand entertainment on a sunny day I have to admit” It didn’t escape Henry’s notice that the little elf developed a distinct grin at this point, and his mind flashed back to those occasions when he had taken an unceremonious and rather chilly dive into the river on account of losing his footing.
Now entirely convinced that he must have dozed off Henry carried on with his imaginary conversation, “what is it about this crayon that you think makes it magic?” asked Henry.
The little man in the bushes went on to describe how it was that the crayon was indeed possessed of special powers. “You see” said Ignatius, “this crayon only reveals what it writes to its owner and not to anyone else, nobody else needs to know what you write with it.”
“I don’t really understand” said Henry “how does that help anyone to have such a crayon, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to me”, mind you by this point there was really quite a lot that didn’t make sense to Henry. After all he had been fishing on his favourite stream having a pleasant day in familiar surroundings and now he was having a conversation with an imaginary elf under the shade of a dog rose. It was, thought Henry, all more than a little odd.
“Don’t worry” shouted Ignatius the elf, as he started to skip away along a tiny path in the undergrowth, “you will work it out”.. and with that he disappeared from view all together.
Henry searched a while to see if he could find where the little man had gone but then popping the crayon into his pocket he continued on his way back to the car, he had a long drive ahead.
Once home Henry unpacked his fishing gear, stowed the rods in their rack and hung his fishing vest in the airing cupboard to get rid of any dampness and headed for bed. It had be an enjoyable if certainly somewhat strange day.
Dozing off Henry couldn’t help but to keep thinking on his experience, and as sleep took hold and his mind wandered he dreamed fitfully of trout and clear streams, of little elves and red crayons.
On awaking though these thoughts had passed by and Henry set about his normal busy working day, what muddled memories he did have of Ignatius and the crayon we written off as simply a strange dream.
It was more than a few days later when Henry was packing away his now dried out fishing vest that he felt an unfamiliar bulge in the fabric and on investigation found a bright red crayon in the top pocket. All the memories of his day on the river came flooding back and he stood more than a little confused as he stared at the crayon in his hand.
He headed off for work, putting thoughts of the crayon to the back of his mind but during the course of a busy day a picture of the little elf under the bushes kept coming back to the fore and reaching into his trouser pocket he would gently rub the crayon between his fingers. “you will work it out”, what did that mean exactly?
The weather forecast for the following Wednesday was looking perfect for the rivers, the temperatures were due to be warm and the breezes light and Henry thought that there may well be a hatch of blue winged olives if the conditions held. But he really couldn’t get away, he was busy with his business and there were always people demanding of his attention. The phone would ring all day long and sometimes, to Henry’s mind even worse, it wouldn’t ring at all and he would worry that perhaps the phone wasn’t working.
Darn it he thought, “I really would like a day on the river” but he couldn’t see how he would manage to find the time and once again his mind returned to the crayon.
He pulled it out of his pocket, where it had remained since the first day and wrote in big bold letters on his wall planner “Gone Fishing”
Then the phone rang, one of his suppliers wanted to see him, could they make it Wednesday? Henry looked up at his planner, sadly imagining that he would now be forced to rub out his newly scribed intention to take a day off, took a deep breath and said rather sheepishly, “Can’t do Wednesday, I am out of the office all day” and quite to Henry’s amazement his contact simple said “Oh, OK, well let’s make it Thursday then”
The phone rang again, this time a client who was in town on the Wednesday and wanted to meet up, “What about ten o’clock?” enquired the client, but emboldened now Henry responded “can’t do Wednesday, I am out of the office all day”, “OK” replied the client, “it wasn’t that important I will catch you next week when I am in town”..
And so the day continued, it seemed as though everyone wanted to see Henry on Wednesday, but each time he told them he was out of the office they simply made an appointment for an alternative time. “This is great” thought Henry “There really must be some magic in that crayon, and I am going to go fishing again”, he started to whistle quietly to himself as he continued with his paperwork, feeling really rather content with things.
Tuesday Henry arrived at the office early, he drew up a spread sheet of all the things that really needed to be done and worked steadfastly towards completing the list. Many of the things on the list had been there for some time, but motivated to clear his desk before he headed for the river on the morrow Henry ticked off the tasks: phone calls, payments, emails, letters, appointments for next week and the rest. Buoyed with enthusiasm of his coming trip he dealt with the difficult customers that he had been putting off, booked his car in for a service, something he should have done 1000km ago and although he worked well into the dark of the evening and had to eventually put on the office lights to see what he was doing by the time he headed home his desk was clear for the first time in months.
He whistled to himself as he packed his fishing gear, made some sandwiches and put all in the car ready for an early start in the morning. He slept like a baby, the alarm set for an early start, content that the office was cleared of its backlog and that he was heading for the river.
The day proved wonderful, his head cleared of the clutter of work commitments Henry fished to rising trout, all coming up to the sparse hatch of Blue Winged Olives that he had predicted. He caught some beautiful fish, adorned with spectacular red spots, and when he inadvertently hooked his fly in a tree he was diligent in removing the nylon, his thoughts wandering to whether Ignatius was perhaps watching.
“What a wonderful day” thought Henry, “ I shall do this again” and he resolved to get out his magic crayon and write “Gone Fishing “on the wall planner in the office, just as soon as he got home.
This continued for the rest of the fishing season, each month Henry would write “gone fishing” on his Calendar for one Wednesday when the conditions looked good, he would work like a Trojan to clear his desk and enjoy a free day out. On his return from his fishing trips he was always in good humour and worked doubly hard on the Thursday to catch up. His clients commented that he seemed better organised and more cheerful these days and business boomed. His clients and suppliers got used to the fact that Henry would always make the effort to see them just as soon as possible but they knew that he was sometimes tied up with other things. After all one couldn’t expect a busy and successful man like Henry to always be available at the drop of a hat.
As the summer turned to Autumn, and the leaves were changing colour to the russet tones of the season Henry had one last day on the water. The river was chill and the skies a little gray but the fish were there and Henry, now after months of regular visits knew the water and the fish rather well. Able to predict where they would be and what they would be feeding on both his success rate and enjoyment had soared.
The day drew on and the sun began to slide behind the mountains as Henry caught his last fish for the season and slipped it gently back into the water, it gave a sturdy wave of its tail as a final goodbye and disappeared into the cold clear flow as Henry wound in his line and started his walk back to the car.
“Had a good season didn’t you Henry?” came the squeaky little voice that Henry had all but forgotten. Turning about he saw Ignatius the elf, sitting on a broken branch. Once again Henry felt dreadfully self-conscious and looked about to see if perhaps someone was playing a prank on him, but there was no one abroad but him and the tiny man in the fishing clothes.
“Well yes I did have a rather good season, thank you” said Henry “That magic crayon is fantastic”.
The little elf laughed so loudly that he nearly fell from his precarious perch on the broken limb and had to grab wildly for a hand hold, “The crayon isn’t magic you fool, it was just a joke” said Ignatius.
“Well” replied Henry “it worked magic for me, that’s for sure”.
“I think that you will find that you worked the magic for yourself Henry” said the elf, “Oh and by the way, thanks for picking up your nylon”, and with that he bid Henry a brief goodbye and scuttled off to his home under the now russet coloured brambles..