When my Imp and I realized today’s prompt for the Daily Post, we were naturally eager to participate. But our interest was in no way matched by the whole-hearted enthusiasm of my Friend. He threw himself into the creation of a planet as if it were the end of the world.
Wallie the Imp was annoyed. He is a conceited little fellow, and if he thinks his own ideas are being passed over for someone else’s, he’s apt to show his temper in squeezing out toothpaste tubes, soap bottles, and shampoos.
Wallie confronted my Friend. I remember my Friend had made my living room his center of operation, while I was pretending to sleep on the sofa. My Friend had flung himself full length on the carpet, his papers, pencils, and pens spread out around him. Brows knit, lips pursed, he barely noticed when Wallie toddled to face him. It was only when the little Imp’s shadow fell over his page that my Friend looked up.
“Wallie,” he said, “you are in my light.”
Wallie wouldn’t move.
My Friend was calm. This surprised me. Normally, he and Wallie fight like cats. My Friend has a violent temper that never expresses itself physically, but only in excess emotion. But this time he met Wallie’s gaze and looked at him so patiently, with such quiet feeling, that the Imp was almost embarrassed. The imp looked down at the page.
“Wallie want know, what you write?” asked Wallie.
My Friend looked down at his paper.
“Nothing really, yet,” he said. “There’s so much I’d like to put down and I don’t quite know where to begin. The truth of the matter is”—a strange look passed over his face. He raised his chin from his hand. “Wallie,” said my Friend, “where would you begin?”
Wallie liked this. He puffed out his chest and wiggled his toes.
“I name planet,” he said. “I name it—”
“Oh that’s been done,” said my Friend. “The Planet of the Imps.”
Wallie’s mouth fell open. I never saw an imp so astonished. If I could have done it without interrupting, I would have taken a picture.
“Come here,” said my Friend, patting the carpet beside him. “I want you to help me with the particulars.”
Wallie listened. Carefully, the little fellow crawled over to my Friend. But he wasn’t satisfied with sitting beside him. He pulled himself onto my Friend’s back and settled on his shoulder.
“Where should we start?” asked my Friend. “The weather, or the landscape?”
“Wallie like sun,” said the Imp.
“Weather it is. And ’scape. Hmm. I think our planet will be flat, at least the civilized part of it, so we won’t have mountains getting in the way of our sun. The weather is fair, not hot, not cold; with a few rainfalls now and then—”
“Wallie doesn’t like rain!”
“Well, Wallie,” said my Friend, “if there is no rain there can’t be water. Don’t you like to drink?”
“Wallie is enemy of rain.”
“Then Wallie must learn to make friends with it, for my sake. For her sake. What do you say?”
He’s talking in a whisper now. Silly boy.
I closed my eyes fast before Wallie, turning, could see me awake.
“O-kay, water,” pouted Wallie. “Wallie wants flowers, too. And a tree.”
“A tree? Very well. One great tree, to shade us from the sun and from the rain. A tree so enormous that above and below, it is the center of all life. Soft grass and moss, flowers, one tall, tall, enormous Tree—what else?”
“Planet of the Imps,” said Wallie, thoughtfully. “Imps.”
“Imps.” My Friend drew hastily on his page. “Here. The Imp Garden. The Tree is at the center, and the imps live in this lush expanse around it. Do you like it?”
Wallie concentrated hard.
“Wallie likes,” he said. “But…Wallie not know…”
“A river. One river, clear and winding, that circles the entire planet from north to south with little streams branching over here—here—and here.”
Wallie did not look happy. He nibbled his fingers, a sure sign of unease.
“What do you think?” asked my Friend.
“Wallie doesn’t know where she is,” said the imp. “Wallie also can’t see you.”
“The Imp Queen,” my Friend said, “will live here at the Tree. Her home is in the branches, in a strange little house. She is a benevolent ruler and feeds the imps cookies and milk, and makes them take baths everyday. Her servant, her second-in-command, lives under the Tree and guards her and the imps from the imp-eating wild beasts that sometimes creep out of holes in the night, to steal their cookies.”
Wallie liked the part about the cookies and milk. He didn’t like the part about the baths or beasts.
“Now,” said my Friend, softly. “This is our planet.”
The little Imp thought about this.
I was thinking, too.
“She is Imp Queen,” stated Wallie.
“I hope so.”
“You are second?”
My Friend didn’t answer.
Wallie shook his head. He climbed down my Friend’s arm and looked at the page. He frowned.
“This is a very big Tree,” said the imp. “Pish-pish?”
The Impish interrogative. My Friend nodded a little.
“Then—Tree House big enough for three.”
“For three,” repeated my Friend.
Wallie nodded vigorously. He gave my Friend his paper.
“Wallie like Planet of the Imps,” he said. “Wallie like it here, with Friend.”
Friend. Just friend. My Friend’s eyes glistened.
“Thank-you, Wallie,” he said. “You’re a good imp. Just—an Imp, alright!”
“Sh-h-h! You’ll wake her.”
I sat up, stretched, and checked the time.
“So,” I said. “Planet of the Imps. Do I really get to be Queen then? When are we going?”
Oh I wish I could show you their faces…