In a dirt pile, at the edge of the playground, the little girl sits with bits and pieces of stuff piled to her side. She must dig with her hands to find the other pieces, for they are buried. Gently she removes the dirt like an archeologist uncovering a find. When she finds a piece she claps her hands in glee and carefully places it in her special pile.
The pile is small, just fragments and pieces of commonly found items that would need to be pieced together if a it were ever to resemble what it once was. The going is slow because some pieces are buried deep. Getting up, she dusts off her light green dress and searches near the trees. With an, “Aha,” she picks up a stick and then an old soda can and returns to the dirt pile to continue digging.
An older lady, stooped a little walks with a cane slowly to a nearby wooden park bench. She pulls her black coat tighter around her body. And sits carefully on the bench. She notices the jagged wood edges and reminds herself not to run her hand along it for fear of splinters. They do hurt something awful and with her arthritis, they are impossible for to remove.
Once she had one that got infected. She didn’t have money for the doctor and the little thing nearly killed her. She worked at it until it finally came out but it was a long time coming. No, avoiding splinters was definitely the best choice.
It is a spring day but a brisk breeze is blowing. Out of her pocket, she pulls a scarf. Its faint purple and red flowers blow in the breeze. She wrestles it from the wind, folds it into a triangle, places it over her head and ties it around her chin. She watches the little girl now as she gets sheer joy out of each discovery. The old lady sits back, closes her eyes and turns her face to the sun, her head leaning against the back of the wooden park bench.
Suddenly the little girl shrieks with delight and holds up a small sliver of wood. She turns and sees the old lady, looks at the sliver again, then with understanding in her eyes, runs to her.
“Lady, Lady,” she says, tugging at her coat. “Lady, Lady, wake up.”
The older lady slowly raises her head and looks at the young girl’s dress blowing in the breeze, her blonde bangs falling across her eyes.
“I have a part of you,” she says holding out the small wooden sliver.
“A part of me?”
“Yes, it is a part of you and you must have it.” With that she places the piece in the lady’s hand and runs back to the dirt pile, digging more furiously.
“Little Girl, Little Girl,” the elderly lady calls.
The girl puts down her tools and runs back to the bench.
“What is this?”
“It is a splinter.”
“A splinter is not part of me. You are crazy. Why would I want this?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe a small problem will keep you from having a bigger one?”
“Look, splinters hurt and I have arthritis. I can’t remove them and if I can’t remove them, they become bigger problems. I don’t want this.”
“There is another part to it, I just haven’t found it yet. When I do, I’ll bring it to you. It will make sense then.” She smiles as the old lady stares at the wooden sliver.
“I could throw it away,” the old lady says.
“No, it is part of you. You cannot throw it away.”
“Why do I need it?”
“You need it to be whole.”
“But it will hurt.”
“Then you must go through the pain.”
The old lady shook her head. She was familiar with pain in her life. “It will cause infection and I have no money for a doctor.”
The little girl patted the old lady’s hand. “I will find the other part.” And with that, she ran back to the dirt pile.
The old lady looked at the piece of wood, shivered, and then sighed. From her pocket, she took a handkerchief with a pink flower embroidered in the corner. Carefully she wrapped the wooden sliver in the handkerchief and held it tightly in her hand.
The little girl was digging furiously now. Though she found various things, she shook her head at each discovery and placed it in her special pile.
The old lady’s eyes were closed again. Her head was laid back against the bench. Her eyes were lifted upward to the sun once again. In her hand she still held the handkerchief wrapped package.
“Yes,” the little girl shouted. “Yes. I found it.”
Grasping the small object she ran back to the bench.
“Lady, Lady, I found it.”
The old lady raised her head to look in the little girl’s bright blue eyes now wide with excitement. The little girl thrust the piece toward the old lady.
“It will help you with the sliver.”
The old lady carefully placed the handkerchief in her pocket. She opened her hand to receive the little girl’s find.
“Why this is nothing more than a common, ordinary straight pin,” the old lady said.
“No, it is THE pin that will remove your sliver when it becomes a splinter,” the little girl explained. “It is what you need to survive the splinter. It is necessary.”
“But this sliver will not become a splinter if I simply throw it away.”
“You cannot. It is part of you. You must experience this little pain now. See, He’s even given you the way to remove it. A small pain now may keep you from a bigger sorrow later. It is part of the plan. It is part of what will make you whole.”
“His plan is not a very good one then. I think I can make a better plan than that.”
She laughed as she pulled the handkerchief from her pocket, found the small wooden sliver and laid in on the bench. She folded the handkerchief and put in back in her pocket.
“Please you must take it or His plan will not work and…”
“…And what? Will the sun refuse to shine? The moon turns to blood?”
Tears formed in the little girl’s eyes as the old lady laid the pin on the bench, as well. Because she was a little unsteady, she used her hands to push off the bench as she stood to grab her cane, leaning slightly on the bench before beginning to walk. When she had put her hands on the bench, the sliver imbedded itself there. She felt a little twinge but thought nothing of it. When she had leaned against the bench to steady herself, the pin had fallen through the wooden slats of the bench to the weeds below and bounced into a crack in the ground.
The little girl knew many things and instantly she knew the sliver had imbedded itself in the old lady and she knew the pin had been lost forever in the earth. Which made her sad for the thing designed to remove the splinter was gone, lost to the old lady.
The little girl watched the old lady walk away, leaning a little more heavily on the cane. She stopped and rubbed a spot on her hand and then slowly continued on her journey. She turned back to the little girl, snickered, shook her head and walked on.
Silently, the little girl’s tears fell on the ground beneath the bench watering the weeds and the cracked, dry ground.
©2009 by Teresa Parker