She peeked over the edge, hoping to count the rings in the stump and figure out how old the tree had been. She never expected a goblin to be staring back at her. With a shriek, she ran and hid behind the nearest tree.
“Wait! I’m sorry! I know I’m spooky-looking, but I never meant to scare you!”
The girl poked her head out from the tree, taking another look from her safer distance. The monster’s mouth opened into a terrible, splitting gash, but she supposed it wasn’t his fault. “Have you ever lived under a bed?”
“No, just this old stump.”
“Do you know the boogeyman?”
“Never heard of him.”
She took a step towards him. “Promise you won’t eat me?”
“Okay, then.” She hopped over and grinned into his horrible face. “I’m Paige.”
“Dad, how come some trees turn red like that?”
“Yeah. It’s autumn, and everyone knows all the leaves fall off the trees in autumn. Look, some of them have already started.”
“So, the trees know they’ll be naked soon. The shy ones are blushing.”
The man peered at the mushrooms with his magnifying glass, his cloak tossing behind him in the breeze. “Hmmm. An eruption of mushrooms can mean only one thing.”
“That it rained yesterday?” asked the boy.
“Of course not. It means dragons, or faeries, possibly a goblin.”
The boy crossed his arms. “What kind of a detective are you?”
The detective straightened, pocketed his magnifying glass, and winked. “The very best kind.”
“Mummy, does that frog look like a dill pickle to you? Do you think it tastes like one?”
“Mommy! I think that tree is growing fairies!”
His mother’s jaw dropped when she saw the little boy’s stash of maple samaras hidden under his bed. “There’s an entire generation of maple trees here,” she said.
The boy gathered them into his arms and shook his head. “No, mom, don’t you know they’re helicopters?”
“Don’t worry, little fella. My feet are wet too. I never could resist a mud puddle.”
The little boy screwed up his face as he looked at the pussy willows. “I just don’t get it. How can something start life at the end of a tiny branch and grow up to be an animal that purrs at our feet and chases mice in the basement?”
His sister shrugged. “Maybe that’s where the stork finds them before he brings them to their mommies.”
He stared at them a moment, considering. “That makes sense.”