Clippety clop, clippety clop, clippety clop went Blurtso on his happy little hoofs as he started up the hill. The stones in the road were rough and uneven, but Blurtso hardly noticed as he skipped along his way. Clippety clop, clippety clop, clippety… clop… clippety… clop… clippety… clippety… clop… clop… clop… clop… clop… as the hill grew steeper Blurtso could feel the pull in his haunches and the pull in his shoulders and the setting sun made an orange glow on the inside of his ears. Clop clop clop clop clop… whew! thought Blurtso as he looked at the darkening road in front of him. The uneven stones cast little shadows on the other uneven stones, and Blurtso cast a big shadow that made his legs look long and slender. When the sun was gone he saw a light up the hill.
As he made his way up the ever-steepening road he could no longer see the stones that clopped beneath him, and his hoofs became less audible with the pounding in his temples and chest, and the puffing that came from his lungs. When he reached the light he discovered it was the light of a store. He paused for a moment to catch his breath and let the breeze cool the sweat on his back and his sides, then he peeked in the door and saw a man drinking a drink, and another man sitting on a stool. Just then a mule clippety clopped to where Blurtso was standing and stopped to let its riders dismount. Burtso was astonished that the animal was not breathing hard and gave off no scent of sweat. The man and woman who were riding the mule went into the shop for a moment and could not be seen. Then Blurtso saw them at the counter with a bag of potatoes and the man on the stool rose to attend them. Blurtso heard their voices and there appeared to be a problem. The coins the couple had put on the counter were not sufficient to pay for the potatoes. There was a pause as the man and the woman and the shopkeeper stared at the coins on the table, then stared at the potatoes, then stared at the coins. They stood a long time until the man who had been drinking reached out and put more coins on the table. The figures that had been frozen broke into life and began to smile and chatter and nod to the stranger. Then the man and the woman took their potatoes and said good night to the shopkeeper, nodded to the stranger, and left the store. Blurtso felt the excitement of the couple as they stood next to him, tying their potatoes to the back of their mule, but instead of mounting the animal as Blurtso had expected, the couple stood and waited. When the man who had supplied the coins emerged from the shop the man and the woman who were waiting nodded to him and said, “Gracias.” The man smiled and nodded back, then started up the hill. The couple mounted their mule and started down the hill.
Blurtso waited until he could neither hear nor see the people nor the mule, and while he waited he looked at the lights of the town in the valley below.
Hmmm, thought Ditto, would you look at that… a leaf caught in the stream. Wavering on the water, pushed against a stone. It’s a dry leaf, yellow and crinkly. I wonder how long it will remain here, softly battering the stone? I wonder what will become of it when I’m gone? I wonder if it will miss me? I wonder if I will think of it at night when I’m home? I wonder if it will still be here, softly battering the stone?