Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 14, 2008

Snow on Apple Blossoms

Pokrovka, Kyrgyzstan. April 6, 2005.

First Flowers in Snow

Snow fell last night on the apple blossoms.

I go out first thing in the morning to brush the white clouds from the shivering petals. It’s bad luck if the flowers freeze off. The apples will be puny, and I won’t get my new shoes for school. I need them, my toes get all cramped in my old ones and if I try to wear my garden sandals to school, the Zavuch* sends me home to change and I miss English class. I like English. My favorite word last week was “flower,” because the flowers were coming out and I could almost taste all the apples and apricots and pears we’ll have next fall. Today I’ll ask the word for “snow” so I can tell the sky in two languages not to send any more!

Maybe it’s stupid to ask the sky. Chong Apa** would ask Allah and Papa would ask the weatherman on TV. But they don’t know about the secret.

I kneel down at the base of the tree, right there where the gnarled roots knocked one of the fence posts sideways. There’s a hole there, just big enough for a mouse, but it’s not a mouse that lives there.

It’s a leprechaun. I named him Kichinike*** because he’s so small and because I didn’t know about St. Patrick’s Day until English class two weeks ago. But as soon as my teacher finished drawing the little green man on the board, I knew that’s who was living under our apple tree.

Kichinike doesn’t talk much, but he told me he came from the sky. It wasn’t on purpose. He was minding his own business, mending clouds and scolding raindrops, when whoosh, he fell and bonk landed in our apple tree. Luckily, it was last summer when the leaves were big and soft.

I didn’t find him until last fall, when I accidentally wore my new school shoes out to pick tomatoes for salad and Mama came running after me screaming she’d never buy me shoes again if I treated them like that, and they were all muddy, but when she finished yelling and we both looked down, they were shiny-new again. And I thought I saw something green dart into a hole near the apple tree.

I sat by that hole every afternoon for three weeks wearing my garden sandals like a good girl and nothing happened until I thought to bring out my new shoes. Sure enough, a little green face poked out and told me to go away, I couldn’t have any gold, but could he have the shoes? I told him I didn’t want any gold, I just wanted to be friends.

“Kichinike?” I call out. The snow is packed around his doorway. I brush it away and call again.

“I’m sleeping!” He answers.

I’m wearing my garden sandals but I’ve got my school shoes in my hands, just like every time I visit.

“Do you still want these?” I ask. A tiny green hand reaches out blindly, grabbing for the shoes. “Not that fast!” I yank them back, just out of his reach. “I need your help. I need you to talk to the sky about all this snow.”

(to be continued, perhaps…)

*Vice principal (in a Russian school)

**Grandmother (in Kyrgyz)

***’Kee-chi-ni-kay (tiny, in Kyrgyz)

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