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The Slant Of Sunlight

A grasshopper landed on my windowpane and stayed there. He seemed to me to be a happy grasshopper. His left front leg was bent in a way that made it appear as if he were waving hello. He peered into my place with big eyes. I imagined he was wondering what was going on, what I was doing. How could he get in through the window to be a part of things on the other side?

What the grasshopper saw was different. He jumped to the glass to avoid a snake. The glare off the glass from the sun was warm and made him feel good. The other grasshopper in the window was friendly and attractive. They danced together as the music from inside the building created a soothing vibration along the windowpane. This, the grasshopper thought, is the most perfect place in all the world.

The grasshopper stayed there for hours, watching me. Then one moment he was gone, disappeared. Probably, I thought, he got bored because he couldn't get in. I continued doing my artwork. How strange, this grasshopper, wanting to come inside my studio, watching me.

After the long dance the other grasshopper had to leave. The sun no longer held enough height to reflect off the glass. And with the light fading and the warmth dissipating, the grasshopper jumped from the windowpane and went back to his home.

The grasshopper returned to watch me the next day, his arm still raised as if saying hello. I paused for a few moments to observe him, but he just stayed in one place on my windowpane.

The second day as the sun climbed high in the sky the grasshopper tired of leaves and baked concrete and jumped to see if his friend was still there. She was. They bonded, melted into the vibrations from the music, and danced again for hours. The sun's warmth, the vibrations, their movements, it was a synchronicity and harmony that knew no time. The grasshopper didn't want it to end.

I woke early on the third day. A soft rain patted the roof and the surrounding trees. The air smelled of ozone and peat and freshness. The rain let up a few hours later, though the clouds still hung heavy and low in the sky. The grasshopper, silly that I should have thought of it, never showed that day. Probably holed up somewhere. I continued with my painting.

Grasshoppers don't go out in the rain, this is what he told himself. Still, he found himself leaping to the window. It's surface was too slick to hold on to, and, more importantly, his partner wasn't there. He sat in the corner of the window for a long time, but she never showed. Eventually, he jumped away, asking himself a thousand questions and fabricating a hundred doubts as he flew through the air.

I awoke on the fourth day in a raucous mood. After a brief walk in brilliant sunlight I decided to tune the music to a rock and roll station, you know, the one that plays big-hair bands from long ago. I was excited to see how this would affect my work, if it would change something in my painting, which I felt wasn't going well. I was beginning to doubt this painting, and my art in general. My confidence was low. Perhaps I wasn't really an artist.

The grasshopper returned that day, but he was different. He jumped and jumped but couldn't hold onto the windowpane, always crashing back to the ledge. He was energetic, that grasshopper. He didn't stop for at least an hour.

The grasshopper leaped. She was there! His first touch to the windowpane was difficult. He couldn't hang on. Too excited, he mused. He tried again and again, desperate. Then he noticed it, the vibrations. They weren't the same. They were loud, inconsistent, abrasive. She was angry. That had to be it. What had he done? Why was she yelling at him? How to make it up to her? Eventually, he grew weak and exhausted and he left. Dejected.

I worked through the day and most of the evening on the fourth day. When I woke on the fifth day I was not happy with my painting from the day before. I decided there wasn't much art to be found in big-hair bands. I had to think about my direction and where I was going with this piece of work. I decided to take the day off and go into the city. Perhaps time away would clear my head. Maybe some shopping or a visit to the zoo.

He stood proud, determined to set things right. He jumped high and beautifully, as only grasshoppers can. She was there and he stuck to the windowpane on the first try. She was silent. There were no vibrations coming from within. None at all. They didn't dance. They simply stared at each other for hours and hours. The sun was still warm, though lower in the sky. The season was coming to an end. Eventually, she had to go, and with her leaving the light faded and the warmth went with it. Again, he left dejected, questioning his worthiness.

I decided the next day that I had to finish this piece, no matter if I liked it or if I thought it was garbage. I needed to work and I needed to acquire the discipline to move forward, even when at odds with myself. All good artists must find a way to work through their own limitations and quell their demons and find their truth. The only way to find that truth is to believe in and trust yourself. I think you have to accept what you are and you have to become comfortable with it.

The grasshopper was back again. I thought of him now like an old friend. It was good to see him on my windowpane, waving hello. I smiled and waved back to him. Then I laughed at my self for doing so. But every day after I would look for him and wave when I saw him.

It was a glorious time - warmth and dancing and her. Whatever had angered her was gone. He should have never questioned her. And he was surely the luckiest grasshopper to ever have lived. The vibrations were melodic and subtle and they got lost in them day after day after day. This dance could not be broken.

Summer had lost its steam and was quickly turning to autumn. My painting progressed and became quite a bit more than I thought it ever would. In truth, it was magnificent. My friend was still returning to my windowpane, though he came later and his stays were shorter with each passing day. I felt I owed him much, this silly grasshopper that liked to watch me work.

As the days grew shorter and cooler the grasshopper found he had less and less energy. He was growing weary, tired. He struggled one day to make the jump to see her. He could tell she too was struggling. Time for the long sleep was coming, was, in fact, here. The next day he could no longer make the jump and he couldn't keep his eyes open. All of the other grasshoppers were asleep. Now he would join them. He wondered, would he remember? Would she? Perhaps he would dream and find her there. Then he was enveloped by the long sleep and faded away.

I woke to an uneasy feeling one day. I could not explain it. I made tea. I took a short walk. It was cold that morning. My breath misted in front of me as I stepped through the wood. When I had returned I looked at my painting, my masterpiece. I realized it was finished. There was nothing more I could do to it or offer it. To paint more would only subtract from its beauty.

I looked to the window. My friend was gone. He too had moved on. I missed him at my window, along with the sun, and the long days. I realized I sleep a great deal more in the winters and I have less energy. I found I was already looking towards Spring. I raised my hand to the window one more time. But instead of saying hello, this time I said goodbye to my friend. It seemed only fitting, almost a salute. After all, the painting was as much his as it was mine.

This story also appears on Medium
Author Note

I am no expert on the genesis of stories, except perhaps my own. How they come to life, how they develop, why. I suppose this is as varied as there are authors. As for me, ideas form around images and concepts that get stuck in my brain and continuously loop. From there things start shooting off in all kinds of directions, like a plant in springtime, or an overflowing stream during a rain. Eventually, my scrambled brain begins to organize things. Then I need to write them out of my head. Otherwise, the place becomes a cluttered mess.

But it isn’t always like that. This story came about in a different way. I received an email newsletter from John Scalzi. The newsletter was a photo of a grasshopper that had jumped up onto his window. I thought nothing of it at first. Cool photo. But …

Whenever E. and I are not together she asks me to text her a story before bed. Usually I limit them to two messages - what’s that, 280 characters? They’re short. This story started like that but then evolved and took on a life of its own. Before I knew it there was a grasshopper, the universe teaching - with a wink and a nod - about perspective, and someone learning self love. And big-hair bands. Because there had to be big-hair bands! (I don’t even listen to that music. Nothing against it. I grew up with it. I just don’t listen to it now.)

Anyway, I started writing a simple message and then a story got in the way, asking to be told.

in category Fiction

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Tags for this article

grasshopper, short story, fiction