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The Last Elf


To be the last of anything is likely to be the loneliest and the last tiny green elf living high on the hill top in Laguna was exactly that.  He lived among the grasses and wild flowers that grew on the rolling slopes overlooking that vast blue ocean called Pacific. There were sometimes bright orange California Poppies and sky blue Lupin on the hill top, but mostly tan and brown with wispy green for a few days after rain.

  Like some lizards and chameleons this elf could change his color at will.  He learned the secret of that skill while swimming in the ocean one day and came upon a young octopus with his small, but very long, body draped across two flat under water rocks.  He noticed that the octopus was partly the color of one black volcanic rock, but changed right in the middle of three of his eight arms to the light sand color of the other rock.  The elf watched in amazement as the arms of what was very large to him, but still a small baby sea creature, smoothly blended to match whatever was under them.

“How do you do that?”  The elf inquired.  “I’ve seen the chameleon change and wondered about them, too, but they won’t explain it to me.  I’ve asked and asked to no avail.”

“Why do you need to know?”  Octopus asked, politely, as that is how the young learn about things.  

“For the same reason as you always do it.  I would like to become nearly invisible.”

“Well, I can tell you that this knowledge is important to me, as it often saves my life.”  The octopus answered.  “Big fish can’t try to eat me, if they can’t find me, and even better, my favorite food, crabs, crawl right up to me and even over my arms without even noticing me, so my food is easy to get.  Are you having trouble hunting for your food?  What do you eat out on that dry land Mr. uh, uh,..  what is your name, anyway?  My name is Oscar.”

“How did you get your name, Oscar?  I might like to have a name someday, but I am only just Elf.  No one ever gave me a real name.  I could pick one but there are no other elves to call me by it, so just elf is all I have.

“Okay, Just Elf it is.  Now, Mister Just Elf, what was your question?  Oh yes, I remember you wanted to know how I change my colors to match the background so I may seem almost invisible and I wanted to know why you wanted to know and I was just curious about what you eat up on the dry land?”

“ I eat the plentiful fruits and berries that grow on this land, Mister Oscar Octopus, but I would still very much like to hide among the leaves and flowers that cover my hill.”  The elf explained.  “I really don’t think anything is going to eat me, but people are so big and I am so little”

“So I see,” laughed Oscar Octopus.  “But being so small, it must be difficult to keep from being eaten by some very large bird, I would think.”

“No the birds and most other residents of the hillsides like larger prey.  I am both small and tough to chew or swallow and best of all I’m very fast.  However, I am very afraid of people, because elves are so rare these days that we have become a thing of legends. As far as I know I am the last elf.   I’m afraid of those giant people because I would like to keep living in their colorful gardens without being seen.  The nicest ones are always tended by those very same folks who have turned my existence into a fairy tale for children, and those children grow up watching to try to find me. If anyone saw me and I was caught unaware, before I could jump away, they would very likely put me in a small jar or cage, like an insect, or a frog, just to show me off to those other people, especially the ones who have ceased to believe we elves even exist.”

“Oh my!”  Oscar Octopus exclaimed in horror. “That does sound like a very good reason to me.  Some Octopi have been even been taken and put on display in small crowded pretend oceans with glass sides and no company except boring little fish.  Do you know that we can see out at the people looking in and it is very un-nerving.  Some little people tap on the glass wall to try to get our attention.  I really don’t know what they expect us to do.  We are not circus animals you know.  And I imagine neither are you.   So, I have decided that I will gladly tell you our secret of changing our outside skin to hide from dangers of all kinds.”  He slithered over closer, so as not to be over-heard by nosey little fish. Effortlessly he changed arm colors as he moved.  “But…” he warned “You must promise to keep our simple, but secret, method to yourself.  We can’t have every critter going about and becoming practically invisible without a very good reason.”  And thus Oscar Octopus very kindly gave the actually quite easy secret to his new friend, little, Mister Just Elf.  

If fact it was so simple that the elf wondered why he hadn’t thought of it himself.  Still elf struggled to make the change.  

“Things are always hard, Mister Just Elf, if you don’t understand them.”  Oscar told him. “However easy or not any creature not willing to give learning the proper amount of their brain power never will understand anything.  My daddy, Big Burt, taught me that.” He beamed with pride. 

   “I understand better now so I’ll just go home and practice and I promise I will keep your secret.”  Elf said and elves always keep their promises.  

Even easy, this new skill did take a bit of concentration and loads of practice.  For instance the elf was far too little to be on two background colors at the same time the way the long armed octopus was, but he gave it his full attention and soon he felt safe and comfortable living happily among the various garden shrubs and flowers using his new ability.  

A few gardens by the sea display a large variety of different colored blossoms, making it easier for elf to change colors and hide among them… even almost in plain sight.  It was fun and he was nearly happy.  If only Oscar Octopus could tell him how to find another elf to play with him.  But the octopus did not seem to be the least little bit lonely off in a snug little place of his own, all by himself.  

Elf was lonely though and began to ask the birds and the bunnies if they had seen other elves somewhere nearby where he could go find a friend.

There were many people who kept what they thought of as natural gardens. In fact there were more of them than his kind who wanted to grow what they loved and admired the colorful varieties. These folks, that elf had begun to think of as maybe just a bit lazy, let whatever native plants chose to grow by themselves without planting or watering and boldly declared the occasional flower or leaf that was even a tiny bit different from the grasses that covered the hillside to be an outsider, a non-native that must be pulled out and discarded as soon as it was discovered.  Strangely, they were not the least bit lazy about doing that job.

One sunny day a lizard, warming on a rock, told the elf that there was another elf somewhere in that nature garden on the far side of the hill. 

In those gardens elf always remained a dull, brownish, or greenish, color and had little need for changing skills.  When he lived on that other side of the hill, he felt happier when a beautiful bright green poked up and began to thrive in the brown grass, A cheerful yellow or orange was always a pleasant surprise that made his day better.  Goodness knows he considered the California Poppy to be a native, or why did it have that name?  So when he could find one, he took the tiny cones that were filled with their very small black seeds and planted them in a scenic viewing place upon the hill or down by a that single brave creek, that flowed occasionally, after a rain, from the curbs and drains down the slope to join the ocean. 

But sadly they bloomed so outstandingly bright orange in with the usually dry vegetation that the land person soon saw them and yanked the baby seedlings rudely out.  Someone must inform those people that there are some native plants with pretty colors and those were some of them.  Elf was indignant

Elf soon found that all of his work to help those people make the hills beautiful was wasted labor.  He simply could not understand this, but gave up his work and moved to a different part of the hill.  Over on the sunny side he found a place where another land person kept a yard full of flowers of all colors.  Elf located there instead and planted his new found seedlings on that already lovely, well tended, ground, helping to make it even more beautiful.  

Elf was not lazy he was happy doing this work, but had some close calls and was often nearly seen as this hard working land person worked in the garden daily.  Thanks to Oscar Octopus he could keep on his toes changing colors to hide whenever his person, and he did consider this person his,, as they seemed to like the same things, suddenly appeared to prune the same flowering geranium he was trimming.

It sat quietly, red in color, unnoticed on the geranium and watched as the person took out the non-blooming weeds and piled them into a large green container for green waste to be carried away by the noisy trucks that came weekly to empty those various containers.  

By watching, elf learned that the grey containers were for recycled papers and bottles or cans and the blue ones were for the trash to be burned and destroyed.

Elf hopped to a blue topped container and became at once the exact same shade of blue.  From that new view point, he watched land person move some cuttings into a freshly spaded space.

They would eventually grow into flat, close to the ground, yellow freeway daisies and decorate the entire slope a golden yellow when the sun was shining.  Elf was fond of those and would help as he could to see that they did well there. 

After his person went into the house, elf took some small flakes of fertilizer and scattered them around the evenly spaced cuttings to boost their growth.  He was happy to know that his work would help but still be unnoticed and not always reversed, as in that other natural garden.

“There… tomorrow I will seek out some more colorful small plants to tuck in around the edges.”  Elf thought proudly, as he settled down for the night between the sweet smelling, night blooming jasmine blossoms, for a pleasant nap.

The next day elf stood bravely on the tallest yellow Day Lilies and observed the even taller blue and white Agapanthas being set into the hill just above a long row of snow white Iceberg roses.  

Elf looked at the combination and decided that there needed to be a low row of short, orange marigolds in front and below the white roses.  He knew where he could find some seedlings and that night he brought them over and planted them by moonlight in that perfect place. 

 His person would see them and tell his friends that the birds or wind had dropped the seeds for those pretty blooms in just the right place.

Even as his person was standing back and admiring the whole effect, Elf was standing nearby doing the same exact thing.

His person spoke softly to himself, saying that the garden was so beautiful that he should share it.  That too was what Elf was thinking.  But who could he share it with?  He remembered the lizard telling him of another elf and decided at once that he would go over the hill to see if he could find other elves, although he had lived in different places on the other side but had never met even one.  I think that I may actually be the last elf.  But maybe lizard was right… maybe he had seen others like me.  It deserved another look.

With that last thought of hope, he skipped from bush to bush and cheerfully hummed as he hopped his way to the shady side of the hill.

Sunning on a rare warm rock, high enough to see the sun, he saw a lizard.  

“Hi there!” he called down as he also made his way toward the lizard.  “I was told by a lizard friend that there were elves living on this hillside.  Have you seen any little folks like me?”

The lizard was sleepy from the warmth and opened his eyes halfway to look for the source of the voice.  Seeing no one he decided that he was dreaming and closed his eyes.

Elf bounced over to the edge of the boulder and stood right in front of the sleeping lizard.  

“I say, Mr. Lizard I was wondering… hoping…that you could tell…”  At that moment the lizard opened his eyes and seeing a tiny bug thing right in front of him, reacted at once by whipping out his long, sticky tongue and wrapping the bug thing into it.

“Eeek! Help! Let me go!”  Elf squeaked out as loud as he could with his breath shut almost off by the tightly wrapped sticky rope the lizards tongue seemed to be.

The lizard’s taste buds sent back the odd feeling from the elf’s tiny rock beige suit that suggested that he was not good food.   Just in case he was wrong, he pulled the bug thing up closer until the elf was right at the end of his nose.  

“What the heck are you?”  the lizard asked.  

“Please!”  coughed out elf, “I meant to say, please,  let me loose  I am an elf and I am looking for more just like me.”   Lizard loosened his hold to hear what the bug thing had to say. 

“ Have you seen any more just like me?”  Elf asked as soon as he took a good breath.

“You are the very first.”  Lizard answered, after he rolled his tongue back into his mouth.  “Exactly what are you?  You are certainly not any kind of insect I have seen before you appeared.”

“Of course not.”  Elf explained.  “I belong to the people category… only much, much, smaller.  Only some fairies are smaller than elves.”

“Ugh, I don’t like people.  They step all over us if we are not fast out of their way.”

“Well, as you can see I cannot hurt you even if I do.”  Elf smiled.  “But I must be on my way.  I understand that you have not met more elves. “  He touched his middle lightly and looked at his fingers.  My suit is a bit sticky.  Does it come off?”

“oh easily, Just brush lightly with a dew drop on a rose leaf.  You will be good as new.”  Lizard closed his eyes once again and settled down a  bit to the left, in the changing sun shine.

Elf looked around at the all beige scenery that had changed his own look to match. 

“ Humm, how would he know that?”  he questioned aloud.  “I don’t think there us a rose bush anywhere on this weedy side of the knoll.”

“Are you asking me? Or just telling me?”  A voice came from high up.   There in the sky just a few feet away he saw a hovering hummingbird.

“Oh good day!”  he called out, “I was just talking to myself.”  The fast bird who was almost as small as the elf flew closer as the elf continued to explain. “You see, the lizard told me that a rose leaf with dew upon it will take his sticky tongue stuff off of my suit, but there are no rose bushes, and really this goop is very annoying.  When I touch it, it sticks to my fingers and leaves more sticky spots everywhere I touch. “

“Don’t you live over the hill where lots of roses bloom?”  the little bird asked, not yet understanding the problem.

“Yes, but I want to stay here and look on this side of this hill to see if I can find some more elves like me.  I am all alone over there.  But I can’t find any new friends looking like this?”  He held his messy fingers out to prove it.  Little bits of grass and gravel were sticking to his small hands.
“I wish I could help you.  I don’t know any elves myself, but if you go to the bottom of this hill, where the little brook flows, you will find some moisture and some sort of leaves that may help, and more little fellows most likely live there too, as it is very pretty by the stream as shady plants grow around the water.   I’ll keep a look out for elves as I fly about looking for flowers with nectar, but I didn’t know any elves until I found you.  So if I find another one, I’ll tell him you are hoping to find him…  bye!”   The hummingbird disappeared as fast as he came.

“Thank you.  Tell him I am going to hunt in the brook area.”  He called back, but he was too late and the bird was too fast.  Elf shrugged and turned to hop away down the dry grass, trying to not let his suit or fingers touch a big boulder or anything for fear that he would stick to it and be unable to get down to that water to wash.

He stumbled and almost fell but caught himself just in time to keep from landing upon and sticking to a big gray rabbit.  

“Oh pardon me, Mr. Rabbit, I was trying to hurry and get down to the water and didn’t even see you.”

“An elf?”   The startled rabbit exclaimed, “I haven’t seen one of you guys for years.  Where have you little people all disappeared to?”

“I wish I knew.  I am here trying to find some more elves and get myself some little friends.  Mr. Lizard says he thinks there are some elves on this side of the hill.”

“I have not seen any, and I know this hill pretty well.  However my house is underground so I could miss something living on top.”  Rabbit made his excuse for not knowing any elves.  “Keep on looking.  If I meet one, I will tell him you are anxious to find him. “  The curious rabbit looked the elf up and down.  “What is that sticky stuff on your hands and clothes?”

“Oh this is such a mess.  A very large lizard wrapped me in his tongue and left me all tacky like this before he discovered I was not a juicy bug.  Fortunately he didn’t harm me… just let me go.  He did tell me that dew covered rose leaves would remove the stuff, but I haven’t seen any roses, so I am heading for the brook.”

“Good idea!  A nice swim in the fresh cool water will do wonders.  I do it myself to help keep my fur nice.  Living underground is a rather dusty place, but safe from those huge falcons that fly overhead showing off their enormous claws.“   He shuddered at the thought, then looked up and all around before daring to go out onto the field to continue on his way.

Elf continued on his happy that falcons didn’t worry him.  Being small had its advantages.  Down below he saw that the lovely green things growing around the water were a welcome sight.  He was almost there.  He skipped down carefully, watching this time not to trip over a creature in his path.

It was cool and damp under the plants.  Some of the leaves even had dew like bits of water sent up by the splashing of the water over the larger rocks.  Of course there were no roses, but he chose a few leaves that were small enough for him to handle as he wiped the goop from his fingers.  Sure enough, it seemed to leave him clean and able to use those fingers to begin to work on his suit.  Once the suit was clean he took it off and set it on a rock to dry a bit more, while he jumped into the smoothest pond and began to swim and play.  Rabbit was right it was fun and refreshing.  After a few deep swims without meeting any fish, he took time to practice some fancy dives from the ledge.

Tired and feeling clean all over he lay out flat to rest on a rock near where he put his suit.   But where was his suit?  He left it right there with his hat sitting right on top.  Or was it over there? No this was where he had put it just a little while ago.  It had disappeared.  He began to walk around in his shorts trying to see if the wind had blown his suit away somewhere nearby.  But not even the hat could be found.  He left the close little forest of green plants and peeked out onto a low green grass area that surrounded the tall things.  

To his surprise he saw a child.  Not an elf but a big people child.  She sat happily putting his suit on a little doll she held up to admire as it just fit her doll.  It had become a very cheerful green when he had removed it and was still green just like he himself was now green only now with a slight bluish tint from the clear water.

The child picked up his hat and it looked so nice on the doll that she smiled and kissed the doll on its cheek.  Then she put the doll down to sit and watch her as she picked up another toy, this time a bigger, sweater clad teddy bear.  She rocked the teddy as if to sooth it to sleep.  As soon as she saw that it was fast asleep, even though its eyes were always wide open, she laid it gently down to rest.

Elf had his eyes on his suit, which was still on the doll, wondering how he could get it back.  As he clung to a green leaf, watching as the child got up and began to walk away.  Good now he could get his clothes back.  He followed her with his eyes, trying to decide how much time he would need to recover the suit and hat.  He watched as she joined her parents, who were having lunch at a picnic table set on the edge of the grassy park.  

Now, he thought, if I hurry I can get that suit off of the doll.  He dashed over and began to undo the buttons when he heard her running steps coming closer, he couldn’t get the top off before the child appeared to snatch the doll into her hands from where he dropped it, as he hid close by and could only watch, frustrated as she ran off again to show her Mom the cute doll clothes she found just sitting on a rock.  Elf observed the family as they admired his outfit on the doll while he shivered with the late afternoon cooler weather, which he felt especially now, as his hair and shorts were still wet from the swim.

The teddy bear was wearing a sweater he noticed, so he walked over and took it off with some great effort.  The soft bear was still much larger than an elf and so was his sweater.  Elf climbed into it anyway and dragged it as he walked to take his place to watch the family while wondering how he could get a new suit if he could not get this one back.

Back on the other side of the hill he had a second suit, but he doubted he could drag this heavy sweater that far.  So he stood in the plants and watched.

The child handed her doll to her mother, who put it on the table to give her child some lunch.  No chance of reaching it from there.  He’d have to be patient and wait. 

  It made him hungry to watch them eat, but looking around he saw no fruits or berries on this side of the hill, so moved a little closer to the table and blended in with a colorful blanket they had spread on one end of the wooden picnic table.

When no one was looking he slipped to the blanket’s edge and reached for some crackers that were in a bowl next to it.  He tipped it a bit to get one cracker and the bowl fell over spilling most of them out.   He snatched a broken piece before he was caught and sat back to enjoy it, when he heard the child squeal and cry out, 

“Did you see that mommy?  An Elf tipped over the cracker dish!”

“There are no elves darling,” her mom explained.  “ They are only in fairy tales.  The wind blew it over.”   Even the mother looked around to notice that there really was no wind, but she shrugged it off and went back to eating her lunch.

“But I saw it!  I saw the Elf do it.  It looked exactly like the one in my story book.”  The child tried unsuccessfully to convince her parents.  “Did you see it Daddy?”  she asked “You are sitting closer to it.  Right over there by the blanket.”  She surprised the elf as she pointed right at the intruder that only she seemed to be able to see.  

Elf took the hint and scurried down from the table and dashed across the grass back to the safety of the tall plants, but to his dismay he heard the child’s running footsteps following him.     

Once in the thick greenery he sank down and caught his breath.  That was what he was doing when the child parted the leaves and said,  

“There you are.  I knew I could find you.  I saw you tip over the crackers, so you must have been pretty hungry, here, I brought you some more.”   She held out a handful of crackers she had gripped so tightly, as she ran, that they were now a bunch of crumbs.   However they were large enough for an elf to enjoy, so as long as they were being offered, he accepted them.  She laid them on a large leaf like a platter and sat back to watch him eat a couple.  Then she noticed that he was wearing a sweater just like the teddy had on.  She glanced over at the teddy bear and saw he was bare.

“Hey you have on my teddy bear’s sweater.”  She exclaimed.

“Well your doll has on my suit,”  He answered through the mouthful of crackers.

“Oh , My, Goodness!  I thought they were some child’s lost doll clothes.  Kids do that you know.  Doll clothes get lost all the time, as they are much easier to get off than back on again.   That’s kids for you!”  she laughed.  “Wait here.  I’ll go get them.”   

Elf couldn’t believe his eyes as she ran quickly back to the table, snatched up her doll and came running back as she looked over her shoulder to explain to her mother that the clothes belonged to the elf who had tipped over the cracker bowl.  Mother just laughed and said to her husband, 

“My goodness, but that Beverly sure does have a good imagination.”

Elf, who had very good ears, heard what the mother said and thought, so the child’s name is Beverly, nice name.  I wish I had a name to tell her is mine. 

He had finished the crackers when she returned and they sat and talked as she took the suit carefully off of the doll, being gentle with the tiny buttons.   As soon as the elf had his clothes back on, Beverly admired him in them and put the sweater back on the teddy bear. 

She asked his name.  He was afraid she would and had been trying to decide what he wanted to be named, but had not chosen one.

Finally he just admitted that he had never been given a name and as he was the last elf, as far as he knew, he didn’t really need one.  Although he was here looking for some friends he had only heard might be here.  Then he asked,

“You are able to see me.  Have you seen any others like me?”  He waited hopefully for her answer.  This very alert child would know if anyone would.

“No, honestly you are the very first elf I have seen that is not in a story book.  But if you want a name I can let you have the name of the one in my book.  He is a very cute elf and his story has always been one of my favorites.”  

“What is his name and will he mind?”

“He is just a fictional elf.  Not a real one like you, so he won’t care if you take his name for yourself.  I think he would be pleased… if he were real.  His name is Jake.  What do you think?” 

Elf mulled it over,  “Humn, Jake.  It has a nice ring to it.  Try it on me and see if I remember to answer to it.”

“Okay… Hey Jake, would you like a drink to go with those crackers?”

“Come to think of it I am a bit thirsty.  What do you have to offer, Beverly?  Yes, I think I would like to named, Jake.  How do I make it mine?”

“That’s easy.  All I had to do was learn to spell mine.  I can teach you.  I know… you come with me to my house when we leave here.  I have paper and stuff so you can learn to spell Jake. It’s easy,  just four letters.”

“What will your parents say if I go to your house?”  That thought worried him a little he didn’t want to just walk in a get put into a cage or jar for viewing.

“Oh they won’t even ask.  I’ll tell them and they will say, ‘Beverly, you sure do have a good imagination.’  You can ride on my shoulder until we get there.  I don’t think they will even notice you.  I see that you change colors.  I noticed that you matched our picnic blanket when I first saw you.  So, Jake, we won’t worry about it.”

“Beverly, you are very smart for a people child.”  Jake remarked, “However, I was here to look for an elf friend, perhaps I should stay and do that first, then go to your house sometime later.”   

“We could leave your friend a note and tell him where to come find you.  I live pretty close to here… in one of those houses beyond the hill top.”  She pointed in the direction of the street with lots of homes.”

“Oh my,” Jake told her, “I didn’t explain it very well.  I don’t have a friend, yet, I am all alone and was lonely so I came to try to find a friend.  I may be the very last elf and not find anyone to be my friend ever.”

“You found me.  I can be your friend if you let me.  Ride on my shoulder to the table and we will try it.  I’ll ask mom to give me two drinks one for me and one for you and we will see what happens.”   Beverly got to her feet and picked up all of her toys, then I hopped to her shoulder and she walked us all back to the table.

“Mom,” she said, politely, she was a very polite child, “May I have two drinks, one for me and one for the elf, his name is Jake and he is thirsty too.”

“I brought a small carton of milk for you, Bev, but I can pour a bit into a paper cup for Jake and give you a straw for the rest.  Is that okay?”  Mother took the milk from the ice chest and did as she said.  

Beverly walked to the other side of the table and sat down next to her dad.  She put the straw into paper cup and held it up for me to sip from, then, she drank from the carton of milk.  Her mother laughed and reached across the table to hand her a second straw.

‘Sorry, Bev, I didn’t know the elf wanted a straw also.”   I knew she really hadn’t noticed me next to Beverly’s thick, dark, curls, slurping up some milk.  I guess it would be alright for me to stay and be her friend… at least while she taught me how to spell my new name.  Then someday, I would teach her about my garden.  Maybe if her house had a nice garden I could stay and work there.  Time would tell.  

Then I heard her father say to mother,

“Why do you humor her imagination that way?”  But Elf noticed that he said it with a pleasant smile.  He did like mother’s answer best, though.

“She will only be young once, dear, and a good imagination can take a person very far in real life.  This will probably be her last elf.



By Beverly Mosier – JULY, 16, 2013